Sexual surrogates, sometimes called surrogate partners, are hired by individuals experiencing sexual dysfunction to provide direct sexual activity, with the goal of improving the quality of the client's future sexual experiences.
Masters and Johnson introduced the practice in their book Human Sexual Inadequacy, published in 1970. They believed that people could only learn about sexual intimacy by experiencing it. They promoted a model where the surrogate worked under the direction of a trained therapist and acted as a form of mentor for the client. In their research, all of the surrogates were women who were assigned to work with single men. Today, most surrogates are women, but a few are men.
Training and certifications are available, but anyone can call themselves a surrogate without credentials. The International Professional Surrogates Association, founded in 1971, establishes professional and ethical standards for its members and advertises itself as a resource for traditional therapists looking for potential surrogates for their clients.
Patients frequently present with these specific problems:
There are people who have experienced a change in sexual lifestyle due to an acquired disability (accident, paralysis, disease, trauma), and a surrogate can help them explore and develop sexual potential. The causes of sexual dysfunction are numerous and the methods a surrogate might use to help improve sexual function are varied.
Some couples attend sexual surrogacy sessions together, while some people (either single or in a couple) attend them alone. The surrogate engages in education and often intimate physical contact and/or sexual activity with clients to achieve a therapeutic goal. Some surrogates work at counseling centers, while others have their own offices.
Since many sexual problems are psychological rather than physical, communication plays a key role in the therapeutic process between a patient and the sex surrogate, as well as between the surrogate and the therapist. Surrogates offer therapeutic exercises to help the patient. These may include relaxation techniques, intimate communication, teaching social skills, and some sexual touching. Sex surrogate and tantra sex educator Mare Simone says that physical intimacy is a rare occurrence between her and her patients, and she will not engage in intercourse with those in committed relationships.
- The 1985 documentary Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate explored the relationship between a sex surrogate (Maureen Sullivan), her clients, and her clients' therapists.
- The National Geographic show Taboo's episode "Forbidden Love" (Season 7, Episode 6, first aired 2011) featured a professional sex surrogate (Cheryl Cohen-Greene) in one of its segments.
- The Discovery Fit & Health documentary "My Sex Surrogate", first aired in 2013, follows a woman and a man as they each work with a sex surrogate. The sex surrogate who worked with the man was Cheryl Cohen-Greene.
In popular culture
- The TV series Boston Legal featured a sexual surrogate named Joanna Miller (played by Jane Lynch) as a recurring character. The show explored her professional relationship with two of the main cast, their sexual problems, and how a surrogate can approach treatment. The show further drew attention to the problems that can face those who offer sex surrogacy services. The character Joanna appears in the episodes "Can't We All Just Get A Lung?" (Season 3, Episode 1) and "The Verdict" (Season 3, Episode 6), which were both first aired in 2006.
- The American movie The Sessions (2012) stars Helen Hunt as Cheryl, a sexual surrogate who helps polio survivor Mark (John Hawkes) lose his virginity at the age of 38, based on the true story of Mark O'Brien and Cheryl Cohen-Greene. O'Brien wrote about his experience in 1990.
- The Israeli movie Surrogate (2008) is about a female surrogate (Lana Ettinger) treating a man (Amir Wolf) who was sexually abused as a child. The film was directed by Tali Shalom-Ezer and is based on research at Dr. Ronit Aloni's clinic in Tel Aviv.
- In an episode of Anger Management, a friend of Kate (Selma Blair) is a 32-year-old virgin who is looking for her first-time sexual encounter with a man. Charlie Sheen (Charlie Goodson) decides to be her first encounter as a faux sex surrogate (not being professional or licensed), and she becomes attached to him. Later on she finds out that he (Charlie) was taking the place of a professional sex surrogate for a real one provided to her.
- My Therapist (1984) starring Marilyn Chambers
- In season 1 episode 10 of Backstrom, "Love Is a Rose and You Better Not Pick It", the S.C.U. investigates when a young female sex surrogate is found dead.
- The American movie She's Lost Control (2014), treats about the professional and personal life of a sexual surrogate.
- Masters of Sex episodes 03-07 and 03-08, TV-series based on the work of Masters and Johnson.
- Franklin & Bash: the character of Peter Bash's mother, played by Jane Seymour, is a sex surrogate.
- Freckelton, Ian (2013), "Sexual Surrogate Partner Therapy: Legal and Ethical Issues", Psychiatry, Psychology & Law, 20 (5): 643, doi:10.1080/13218719.2013.831725
- De Boer, Tracy (2015), "Disability and Sexual Inclusion", Hypatia, 30 (1): 66, doi:10.1111/hypa.12118, ISSN 0887-5367
- Rosenbaum; et al. (2014), "Surrogate Partner Therapy: Ethical Considerations in Sexual Medicine", Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11 (2): 321, doi:10.1111/jsm.12402, PMID 24261932
- Kelly, Glenn; Simpson, Grahame (2011), "Remediating Serious Inappropriate Sexual Behavior in a Male with Severe Acquired Brain Injury", Sexuality & Disability, 29 (4): 313–327, doi:10.1007/s11195-011-9213-9
- "Sex surrogates: an alternative type of therapy". http://al-hikmah.org. Retrieved 2014-03-03. External link in
- International Professional Surrogates Association. "Surrogate Partner Therapy". Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- Muller, Robert (2013-05-27). "Sexual Surrogates Help Many Who Suffer Alone". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
- "Better-Sex Secrets from a Sex Surrogate | Women's Health Magazine". Womenshealthmag.com. 2012-10-15. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
- "Certified Sex Surrogate Partners". Sexsurrogateofla.com. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
- Burford, Michelle (September 2009). "Is a Sex Surrogate Right for You?". AOL Health. Archived from the original on February 12, 2010.
- "Taboo: Forbidden Love". National Geographic Channel.
- List of Anger Management episodes