If you think sex surrogates have tons of wild, crazy sex with clients, you're very mistaken.
Take it from certified sex therapist Beth Krakower, a Florida psychotherapist who counsels folks through sexual issues. She has referred some clients to sex surrogates -- experts who stand in for sexual partners to help with specific problems -- in her practice.
Sex surrogates (or surrogate partners, as they're sometimes called) are trained in therapeutically teaching people about physical and sexual contact. Intercourse didn't occur in either case Krakower handled, but, she says, misconceptions about the role and duties of sex surrogates abound.
Taking the Plunge
A few years ago, Krakower treated a 54-year-male virgin. In addition to having spent most of his life living with and caring for his recently deceased mother, the man had poor social skills. He wanted to improve his personal interactions and maybe one day have a sexual relationship.
Krakower decided to use a certified surrogate after a colleague recommended one to her. First, she researched the legality of the practice.
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"When I went to do research on Florida, the answer that I got was there was no law that says it's illegal. There is no law prohibiting it, but there is also no law saying go for it."
By and large, legal issues haven't come up with surrogates because they don't advertise their services -- most are contacted by licensed therapists -- and often aren't even having sex. For some reason, it's easier to find surrogates in the states of California, New York, Florida or Pennsylvania.
When It's Appropriate
Krakower said surrogates are considered when a person is having a difficulty of some sort, be it sexual or social, and they have no partner to practice with.
"So much of sex therapy involves homework," she said. "I give my patients homework for different reasons. What if someone has a sexual difficulty like rapid ejaculation or an erection problem? If you don't have a partner, surrogates may work."
Surrogates are trained through the International Professional Surrogates Association, IPSA, which asks that potential surrogates be "comfortable with their own sexuality and nudity" and "have evolved through personal therapy and other growth-oriented experiences." Insurance does not cover working with a surrogate, because there is "no license to bill under," Krakower said.
No Indecent Proposal Here
Krakower first met with the surrogate to ask her about her practices. Then the two women met with the client and they established goals. The man started meeting alone with the surrogate while continuing his therapy with Krakower.
"She had her sessions and time with him, and then she would contact me every other time she met with him and she would given me an update," Krakower said. "And based on what she reported in my update, I used that in my session with him."
The surrogate and the man met for six months, mostly going out to improve the man's social skills. It wasn't until the end that the two actually attempted to get intimate.
"She would be like a date for him -- they went to the movies, they went to the beach," Krakower explained. "She was also working on hygiene. Toward the end, they were able to get undressed and explore each other's bodies. That's where the relationship ended. He went into such a panic taking off his clothes with her."
Krakower said the man did meet his goal of improving social skills, but never developed a sexual relationship with anyone. Her second client, a disabled man whose wife had left him, only met with the surrogate a few times before ending the arrangement for personal reasons.
"The Wrong Idea About Sex Therapists"
So what does Krakower's husband of 37 years think of her work?
"I have a wonderful relationship with my husband," she said. "A lot of people get the wrong idea about sex therapists. A lot of people think we're surrogates. My husband loves it when I come home and tell him stories. If I was actually the surrogate, I don't think he'd be a happy camper."
The one element Krakower disliked about her experience is that surrogates don't necessarily share the same sense of professionalism that therapists are used to -- the one she chose would call her at all hours of the day and night to update her on the client's progress.
"She left a message one Saturday night saying it was urgent and to call her back. I was in the middle of a wedding reception," Krakower said. Still, she says she would consider using a surrogate again in certain circumstances, but would make sure to set stronger boundaries.