Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sex Surrogacy - Therapy or Prostitution?

So, the reason I'm in graduate school right now is to eventually become a sex therapist.  I'm really good at talking about sex and also at talking to people and I figure it's probably a good match.  As I talk to people about this, a surprising number of them have asked me if that means I'd be, "you know, having sex with people?"

Well, sure, all of us do.

Ok, but actually not.  Licensed sex therapists, in fact, are ethically forbidden from having any kind of sexual contact with their clients, even after therapy is complete.  Couples and Family Therapists are within ethical boundaries if they wait 5 years after completing therapy before beginning a sexual relationship with a client, but clients of sex therapists are off-limits for good.  So no, a reputable sex therapist does not have sex with his or her clients.  

Howevah, there are people some sex therapists work with that do sometimes have sex with clients.  These people are called Sex Surrogates.  They are a part of a 3-person team comprised of the client, the sex therapist and the surrogate, that work together to overcome sexual dysfunction in the client.  Common clients of sex surrogates are middle-aged virgins, disabled people and survivors of rape or incest.

Where was the surrogate that could have ended this crappy movie faster?

People are always referred to surrogates from a sex therapist, most often as a last-resort measure. There is actually, I was surprised to learn, very little intercourse that goes on - they mostly work on communication skills, emotional intelligence and sex education.  Most of the touching that goes on is non-sexual in nature, but everything is open to possibility, should the surrogate feel it is in the best interest of the client.

Surrogates (who are mostly women working with men, but there are male ones, too) are highly trained, not only in communication and counseling, but in how to set and maintain strong boundaries.  These relationships rarely last more than a few weeks, and while the sessions are not clinical by any means, there's no moonlight and roses either - these are not romantic interludes.  There aren't many documented cases of clients becoming attached to their surrogates, but it has been known to happen, despite the surrogate's best efforts to keep things professional.

The practice of sex surrogacy is only 100% legal in California, where they say that people using surrogates are not paying for sex, they're paying for therapy that may or may not include sexual contact.  Which brings me to a point - sex surrogates are not just a way to get laid - if you're looking to pay for sex, a prostitute is going to be a LOT cheaper (though, for the record, I am NOT suggesting that people rush out and sleep with prostitutes).  Sex surrogates charge therapist prices, will make you talk about your feelings, and still may not sleep with you.

Anyway, The legal issue usually means people travel to California for treatment, but not always.  Surrogacy isn't outright illegal in most places, but there's always the possibility of trouble with the law.  

Will I use sex surrogates in my future practice?  I don't know at this point, honestly.  Let's just say I'm not ruling it out.  I can say, however, that I don't consider it to be prostitution.  You can read an account of one man's experience with a surrogate here.  And here is the code of ethics for the International Professional Surrogates Association.  What do you all think - is this legit therapy for the right person?  I'm curious to know how people feel about it - let me know in the comments!!


  1. i wish i could find the hooker, er, "surrogate" who worked with my husband and ruined our marriage. you can fool yourself into thinking these women are "helping" married men but they are simply a hooker by another name. If these men really wanted to deal with their issues, they'd do it with their WIVES not prostitute recommended by a sex therapist aka pimp. Do surrogates give kickbacks to therapists who send them clients? Which HMOs cover "hooker assisted sex"? Well know this - once my lawyer, and the judge, heard of the "sexual surrogate", I not only won my divorce on my terms, but the judge berated my ex for adultery and illegal prostitution. YAH WHAT SURROGATES DO IS ILLEGAL. So tell me again, how "therapeutic" is this to marriages when its a) illegal and b) adultery? Please also know I'm a sex writer myself, and have looked very hard at this issue. Sorry, there's no rationalizing it - they are hookers, its prostitution, and any woman whose husband does this will win a divorce very easily when they go before a judge. And ask your clients - how many of them are now divorced after surrogate "help"? Or do they just leave the money on the nightstand and keep the wife out of the conversation?

  2. Hi, Miixxy -

    I'm sorry this happened to you. It sounds like an incredibly painful situation that left a lot of people extremely unhappy.

    As it said in the post, the only state in the US where sex surrogacy is 100% legal is in California, so in most places, sex surrogacy is seen more as prostitution than therapy.

    However, I think it's important to make a distinction - it sounds like what your ex-husband was doing was visiting prostitutes and calling it sex surrogacy to protect his interests in a divorce (or to rationalize cheating on you), as opposed to actual surrogacy itself.

    Legitimate surrogacy is intended for unattached or non-monogamous people, not people in committed relationships. An ethical sex therapist would never, ever suggest using a surrogate without the knowledge and consent of the person's partner. If a licensed therapist suggested that line of "treatment" for your ex-husband, it's grounds for disciplinary action.

    Again, I'm sorry you had to go through such a painful ordeal (though I would argue that it was your ex-husband that ruined your marriage, not the prostitute he frequented), and I hope you got a SWEET settlement, because, seriously, sounds like you're better off without him!