Patients With Benefits
Meet the real sex surrogate from "The Sessions"
“People discount so much of what I do: Oh, she has sex for money,” says Cohen Greene. “But really, there is so little sex in the end.” In her work with clients—“not patients,” she's quick to correct, “because they're not sick”—it usually takes more than a month of sessions before the individual is ready to advance to any kind of sexual touching. “Think of a prostitute as a restaurant. I'm more like culinary school. I teach them the tools, so they can move on. I don't want repeat business.” Intercourse is not necessarily the endgame, and sometimes it's not even on the menu.
Proponents of sexual surrogacy believe it picks up where conventional sex therapy leaves off. “No therapist is going down to that root level,” says Cohen Greene, “to see them, their bodies, to talk to them while they're naked.” The practice was in part pioneered by renegade researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson in the late '50s, as an in-clinic experiment to treat problems of erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and anorgasmia (in women, the inability to orgasm). The initial work showed promise—primarily, that the men were able to achieve erections and sustain them through intercourse—and they expanded their research in the '60s to include surrogate partners for single subjects. Though Masters and Johnson had what they considered fantastic success with the approach—the clients who worked with surrogates showed about as much progress as those who worked with their spouses or partners—the duo stopped referring patients to surrogates after the husband of one threatened to embroil them in a divorce-related complaint. Masters may have regretted the decision. “Without surrogates,” he told Time in 1974, “we now have a failure rate of 70 to 75 percent” for single men suffering from impotence.
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