The 7 Questions that Tell the Truth of Surrogate Partners
What happens if you are experiencing sexual issues or barriers of sexual knowledge, yet you need more than the process of talk therapy?
Here comes in a very special line of work, one that likes to get quite personal and “hands on”… Surrogacy partners.
Many of you might see the word “surrogacy” for the common practice of another person (usually) being paid to carry someone else’s child, yet surrogacy is also another profession that one might say it a lot more personal and intimate. These are people that are trained to deliver the model of a healthy sexual relationship, education, and healing towards clients that may suffer from problems in their sexual life or lack of knowledge about sex and the human body. They do not work alone however- commonly these professionals restrict their clientele to those who have been referred by a professional therapist.
One of the main questions is… Is it legal?
Some turn to the idea that these professionals evolved from the sex work industry, however it was not created by them! In fact, the International Professional Surrogates Association (IPSA) makes that distinction quite clear with stating on their website,
“The legal status of surrogate partners is undefined in most of the United States and most countries around the world. This means that there are generally no laws regulating the profession.”
Because there is no law that regulates it, the IPSA has been created to provide proper training and standards to this profession to help create the difference of those who are invested in helping heal others and someone who tries to take advantage of the professional job name for unethical reasons, which, you can imagine, the amount of people who would be keen to try this occupation for solely experiencing their own intimate pleasure.
2. Though it is undefined in the law, getting paid to be intimate with someone is a form of prostitution, no?
Compare it to the factor of people using drugs, such as Xanax. Some use it as prescribed by a medical professional to help deal with any anxiety issues that may arise in their daily life, while others seek out the drug from a non-medically professional source to simply enjoy the effects of said medication without the intention of “healing”.
Surrogacy is in the same way. While prostitution focuses on the pleasure aspect of sex and the frivolities of simply feeling good, surrogacy is a structured process of curing a barrier someone is facing in their sex life through emotional, cognitive, and physical awareness and exploration.
3. How did this profession even start?
Chalk it up to Masters and Johnson’s, who were pioneering psychologists in the realm of sexuality! Back in the 1970’s, they took the risk of extending a call for female-identified volunteers to be involved with the process of helping single men with sexual barriers. This ended up being a risk that worked, especially in the problematic area of erectile dysfunction!
There has been a decline however of surrogates in practice. Dwindling from 200-300 surrogates as part of the IPSA in the 1970’s to about 50 in 2011, surrogate partners have somewhat been replaced by pharmaceutical companies in ways of helping those overcome any sexual barriers, such as erectile dysfunction (though Viagra helps the physical body, the emotional and mental barriers remains untreated).
4. Why do you call them “surrogate partners” and not “sex surrogates”?
Though they are commonly referred to as a “sex surrogate” in media, Andrew Heartman, who works for the IPSA, states how misleading that title can be. He compares it to the idea of a master chef, one who is knowledgeable and spends time preparing 3 course meals that include appetizers, entrees, and dessert. Prepping for dessert only is about 15% of the job, so calling the chef a “pastry chef” is quite misleading as it focuses only on one aspect of their profession.
Surrogate partners are the same thing! In fact, close to 90% of the time spent with clients is doing non-sexual activities (6).
5. What exactly does a surrogate help with in sessions?
It is a wide range of different issues that surrogate partners are Isadora Alman, a registered sex therapist, talks of her experience referring people:
“In my own practice over the years I have successfully referred a man in his late 30's who had never had sex before and was very fearful, a woman who had never seen a nude man's body and wanted to understand how men functioned, a single father who felt he might be gay and wanted to safely experiment with another man, and several men of different ages with paralyzing performance anxiety or premature ejaculation.”
In addition to having a professional relationship with the client, surrogate partners also work closely alongside the client’s therapist, each having their own distinct role in the client’s growth process.
6. What role does each person have?
Out of this “triad”, the roles are structured to provide the healthiest way of treatment for the client…
Surrogate: Provides a relationship to the client that models a healthy sexual relationship, for the client as both themselves (body image/sexual issues) and in relation to a sexual partner (boundaries, communication, etc). They engage the client in experiential learning of social skills, the human body, and emotional awareness during the physical process.
Therapist: Works with the client on helping explore the emotions and barriers that the client may come across during the surrogacy process. Communicates with the surrogate partner of the limits the client may have or what experiences may suit them best for treatment.
Client: Extending themselves to work on consciously connecting to their emotional, mental and physical self and incorporating what they become aware of with the therapist into the sessions with the surrogate and vice versa with communicating the experiential process to the therapist.
7. How is the surrogate process structured?
Roger Tolle, as interviewed by CBS, explains how sex surrogacy has 4 phases…
2: Getting comfortable with touch: Using massage, etc.
3: Exploring sexuality: Predetermined by everyone in the triad of how far this exploration of the clients physical self takes place and their personal limits.
4: Closing of relationship: Closure is key here to help the client move past focusing their emotional and physical attachment from the surrogate to more real life situations, as the surrogate was only PART of the healing process- they are not the source of healing itself!
As you can see, surrogate partners follow a much more structured process than simply helping people experience intimacy. Some studies argue with the fact that surrogate partners, though they show examples of a healthy relationship, do not provide the client the “real” life experience of these relationships since they are being paid. This could possibly be disempowering for the client, seeing as, though the professional relationship of a surrogate can be authentically healing, it isn’t an authentic relationship. This reason is one of the main reasons why some sex therapists decide against referring.
In the end of it all, it truly is up to the client what they feel comfortable with and their own personal values on the subject of opening themselves up in a physical, vulnerable way to a professional stranger. Generally, the referral for a surrogate comes from a reputable source of their therapist, which helps in terms of the trust process.
Do you feel like the process of talk therapy may aid your sex life (or lack thereof)?
Do you feel the desire to explore your sexuality with someone who can provide a safe space?
I provide one-on-one coaching session for both individuals, couples, and triads!
Contact me for a FREE CONSULTATION with all your questions about how my coaching process is the PERFECT fit for you!
Love and Light,
Sex + Empowerment Coach
Creator of Femme Forth