From Nerve: "I started browsing the personal ads, hoping to find something like "Hot, nurturing, extremely patient woman seeks obese, self-loathing virgin who masturbates too much." Instead, I found an ad for the Institute for Sexual Surrogate Therapy." Same diff?
Here's the deal: two guys, both virgins in their 20s, decide to use a "sexual surrogate." What is this? Well, it's the sort of gray-area that Nerve often covers - in this case, losing one's virginity under the auspices of a therapist - for pay. Sex surrogacy was invented in 1970, by the Masters and Johnson sex research team, as a means of treating sexual dysfunction, but has largely fallen out of favor.
In a profile of a sex surrogate, New York Magazine described her work thusly:
Rita Bell is a sex surrogate, which means men pay her to have sex with them as a way of resolving their sexual problems. Though she doesn't have actual intercourse with every client, there is usually some form of sexual contact, since the men come to her with specific difficulties, like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, or its opposite, "retarded ejaculation." There are several differences between her work and prostitution: She talks to her clients at length about their dysfunctions, and she looks less like Julia Roberts than like a zaftig hippie aunt. But she advertises in the same publications prostitutes do, and her married clients never tell their wives.
In a recent interview, one venerable sex-surrogate, Linda Poelzl, expresses pride in her work but also describes the confidentiality agreement that all clients are required to sign:
CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT: I understand that the surrogacy sessions are for the purpose of expanding my ability to feel physical pleasure and emotional fulfillment through greater intimacy and increased sensation and to overcome sexual dysfunction. I acknowledge this session series is not for the purpose of sexual gratification or entertainment and may or may not include sexual intercourse, manual, or oral stimulation. I understand and will abide by the above agreements.
Nevertheless, it must be said that the author's motivations seem fairly uncomplicated - and that the service seems to accept his "dysfunction" no questions asked. First, he meets with the "supervising" therapist, who gives him masturbation homework.
"You've got to learn how to control your penis," he explained. "Work the penis, using short strokes, in three discrete sections." He demonstrated. "Don't spend too much time on the head or you'll get too excited. If you feel like you're losing control, simply stop, pull your hand away completely, and let yourself go soft." He let the phallus droop in his hand. "You need to learn to last at least twenty minutes. I suggest you buy some sort of egg timer."
Then, the sessions with the surrogate herself. These involve increasing "comfort" with nudity and contact, leading, eventually, to sex. Weirdly, not only do the two friends have the same "surrogate" but she plays them off against one another to arouse their competitive instincts. That's all it does arouse; the pressure means that the author can't perform and has to take a second round of sessions to achieve his goal.
Ironically, the "therapy" element seems not to have done a lot for either dude by the end - maybe because they essentially treated it as a means of getting off?
The thing was, surrogate therapy taught us how to have sex, but not how to get laid. Or how to get into a relationship. Or how to maintain a relationship. (I'm still working on that.) Who was the first to be in a relationship? Scott. The first to get married? Scott, which meant he was also the first to get divorced. We weren't sure if that counted as a win or a loss.
While I'd hesitate, based on this piece, to make any sweeping generalizations about what Poelzl admits is a "dying" profession, it does seem like these guys, at least, were using it as prostitution - and, in fact, grew attached to their surrogate in a way that was ultimately more hurtful. One can't help think that in the absence of the sexual openness movement that birthed "sex surrogacy" in the first place, it's hard for clients and pros to be on the same page. The agency may have considered the work therapeutic, but these guys were there for the sex. And ironically, it sounds like it was the "therapy" part they needed more.
True Stories: A Helping Hand [Nerve]
Healing Hands [New York]
My Life as a Sexual Surrogate: It's More Than One Big Sex Party [The Faster Times]