Sex Surrogacy: Courtesans as Therapists?
My initial reaction to my first human sexuality class as a psychology graduate student was one of mild curiosity over the enduring legal and ethical issues surrounding sex surrogacy. The practice, for me, still teeters on the brink between in clinical sexual healing and prostitution. Perhaps this is a mindset influenced by the movie A Dangerous Method, where Dr. Carl Jung consummated his relationship with his patient Sabina Spielrein. The Cronenberg film suggests that Sabina’s mental health improved thanks to amateur sex therapy from Jung. Perhaps the practice of sex surrogacy could the legacy of that indiscretion albeit not one conceived by Jung. As an aside, if I were Sabina and Dr. Jung really did look like Michael Fassbender, I’m sure I would get better too. If anything, I would keep up with my therapy appointment rain or shine!
Another reaction I had was how sex surrogacy may be the only viable option for adults past 30 who are still virgins. There was a documentary made about this phenomenon. Based on the people profiled it emerged that older virgins do have negative hang-ups around sex. The older they got without experiencing sexual contact and regular activity, the more socially maladaptive they were. This sexual frustration appeared to negatively impact their lives, so much so that a discharge of all that tension and sexual insecurity is demanded. Many of these adult virgins were functional in other areas of their lives but did appear to exhibit psychological states more common in adolescents. By this, I mean, adult virgins had immature ideas about romance, relationships, and sexuality. It is no wonder that even outside of romantic relationship, these adult virgins were awkward in day-to-day non-sexual interactions with people. Unfortunately, the only mechanism for an adult virgin to be initiated into sexual adulthood would most likely be through a surrogate since such a person lacks the social skills to attract a sexual partner and initiate intercourse.
When Freud’s theories of libido were mentioned, particularly the five stages of psychosexual development, it had me thinking about sex surrogacy as a Freudian exercise. Although it was not proposed by Freud his ideas on sex and development certainly lend credence to the benefits of surrogacy. Even though it was Jung who slept with his patient in a state of serious countertransference, it didn’t seem like sex surrogacy was a dangerous method of bringing someone into the long overdue genital phase of their life. In the movie it was Sabina who initiated sex with Jung because she was a 20 year old virgin. Not only does sexual initiation fulfill a primal biological drive but also, possibly, a necessary psychological developmental one.
The legacy of surrogacy raised much alarm in my mind still. What is the fine line between the practice and prostitution? Surrogates have sexual techniques involved in their sessions and clinical considerations are kept in mind but high-end escorts can be just as good. Both charge at least $300 an hour. Surrogates and escorts can also have regular clients for years and often these are the same type of people. Surrogates have more formal training in human sexuality, are safer in their line of work than a prostitute, and work with the client’s therapist to ensure protocol is followed. A major risk seems to be when the surrogate forms a friendship or marriage with the client. Another problem seems to be when a client uses the surrogate as a crutch and never learns to function sexually on their own within a primary relationship. If the goal of sex therapy and the surrogate is to teach a person how to have a real sex life with a real partner, is not a crutch dynamic counter active to that objective?