Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy modeled after psychotherapy, but is problem focused and not the same thing as surrogacy. In sex therapy, it is not unheard of that individuals come for treatment of some sexual difficulty, but at the same time don’t have a current partner. Since sex therapy is an attempt to improve sexual difficulties and dynamics between the couple, this creates significant limitations for these individuals. For some, it becomes a double-bind of not being able to get a partner without solving their sexual issue, but not being able to solve their sexual issue because they don’t have a partner. This is where sex surrogates can play a significant role in treatment. Recently, this has been featured in the movie “The Surrogate”, where a man with a long-standing disabling illness wants to lose his virginity but has no current partner.
Sex surrogates are people specifically trained to help others work on issues of sex and sexuality. Their activities can range from touching and holding exercises to different sexual activities with the goal of helping their clients work through any difficulties. Many people assume that it is just paying for a sexual partner, but there is so much more that goes into sex surrogacy. In fact, many surrogates never even have sexual intercourse with their clients, instead having therapeutic effect with just conversation, touching and holding, and emotional connection.
As you can imagine, sex surrogacy is not without controversy. Most states consider it tantamount to prostitution and therefore have not legalized the practice. The IPSA is currently the only place in the country where surrogates can be trained and certified. It is currently very difficult to regulate, and with the short period of time involved in training, it is difficult for mental health professionals to be assured that a surrogate is psychologically and emotional appropriate with a client. Also, it is up to the individual surrogate to be free of any communicable diseases.
Conceptually, the idea of a sex surrogates helps solve multiple problems – dealing with anxiety in the moment and the experience of a knowledgeable and encouraging partner who is not judgmental or gives destructive criticism. The real question is does this translate into better sex with a partner? Can the client transfer this behavior, feeling, and response to the experience of sex with their partner once the work with the surrogate is done? This will probably vary from person to person and their own level of anxiety and block. Although society and medicine is placing more and more importance on the individual’s sexual health and acknowledging how satisfying sex contributes to quality of life and even to increased life span, it seems like some time before we will have legalization, standardization, and regulation of sex surrogates. It will also require a great deal of open-mindedness from a great many people.