They are sex workers, but not sex workers.
Sex surrogates work closely with sex therapists to help clients overcome sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction or sex trauma through actual physical intimacy — that means sex — with people who are suffering in their sex lives.
They make good money (comparable to a sex therapist), and the laws are strict as to how sex is handled so their career isn’t confused with prostitution. They talk to clients extensively beforehand, find out their attitudes towards and experience with sex and collaborate with the client’s sex therapist to come up with the best plan of action to help them overcome whatever is blocking them from a happy and fulfilling sex life.
People suffering from sexual disorders have turned to sexual surrogates to solve erectile dysfunction, shyness, and have helped older virgins understand why they aren’t having sex.
But, when you are paying money to have sex, you have to make sure a sexual therapist is involved for it to be considered legal. Sexual surrogacy has been legal since 2003, although it has remained pretty much unregulated. It has been defined by the state of California as: “If it's between consensual adults and referred by licensed therapists and doesn't involve minors, then it's not illegal.”
Regulating the industry has mostly been up to the International Professional Surrogates Association (IPSA), and credit themselves with helping (mostly men) with physical disabilities, psychological traumas, or sexual shame overcome their issues.
Lauren Eavarone, who offers sex therapy and relationship counseling in NYC, says, "A sex surrogate is a useful tool to consider if one is experiencing intimacy complications. They act as an aid and guiding professional specifically there to assist you with the difficulties you are experiencing."
This may help reduce the pressures of, for example, mind reading (am I doing it right?) involved in intimacy with a romantic partner, Eavarone adds.
"They act as a buffer to what is referred as cognitive distortions by removing the pressures of unrealistic expectations that you may be experiencing. In letting that wall down, the individual can bring focus back to the experience and really work on what it is they would like to achieve in the bedroom. That is not to say that complexities that are challenging the individual leading to bedroom difficulties would magically disappear. However, the surrogate experience may shine some light on the possibility of achieving their ideal sexual experience and hopefully this will aid in motivating the individual to address their concerns and unrealistic expectations in their everyday life."
The one thing all clients have in common, is that sex is a burden, and is never enjoyable. Surrogates are trained in “proper communication, relaxation, sensual, and erotic touching,” and the therapy process is expected to take several months in order to see results. Sessions are usually once a week or more intense, such as every day for two weeks to overcome a very specific problem.
Sex therapist Carolanne Marcantonio tells Personal Space, that, yes, it is in fact a very real career, and sex surrogates have helped people overcome problems they never dreamed they could get over.
“There are laws around sex surrogacy so that it’s not [considered prostitution]. In order for it to be the difference between a sex surrogate and a sex worker is a sex surrogate goes through a training program or an agency and works with a sex therapist and they work together to contract goals and be on the same page to see what the client needs,” Marcantonio says. “A sex therapist is working with a client and decides a sex surrogate would be beneficial, and then everyone works together.”
She adds that a good example of when one would be needed is when someone is suffering from erectile unpredictability and has grown uncomfortable with sex.
“That’s the perfect case for using a sex surrogate — sometimes people feel very vulnerable dating, can they get or maintain an erection? To have someone who is trained on what to do sexually in that one situation that can be beneficial.”
It’s important to also be working with a sex therapist though to understand what’s going on mentally and what’s leading someone to certain thoughts.
“Through talk therapy they learn more about what’s normal, and with a sex surrogate they are working with their own bodies to figure it out,” Marcantonio says.
In terms of how it works, the person, or client, often goes to where the sex surrogate has their location/office and the whole process is treated very clinically.
“It can be beneficial — from other therapists who have used this, it has been beneficial for their clients,” she adds. “If you’re a certified sex surrogate, I look at it as something that is a respected career and maybe it’s something somebody does part time or full time and I would look at as something that is real.”
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