Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Body Talk: Sexual Surrogates' Healing Touch 

Wednesday, Mar 30 2016
Comments (3)

Page 3 of 5

"I have always been comfortable with my body and my sexuality, though my family was very conservative," says Chao. "I found I was attracted to awkward people, and that I was able to put them more at ease."

For a surrogate partner, putting the client at ease is the first step toward helping them overcome their fear of flying.


There are many reasons why the stimulation of our erogenous zones can inflame fear and shame.

Fear of sex is more widespread than many of us will ever admit — even to ourselves. For most of us, being sexual means being vulnerable. Sex usually involves taking off our clothes, and being naked is something many have nightmares about.

"Men have so much cock shame," says Wu, who notes many sexually frustrated men respond — negatively — to the pressure to perform. "What's called erectile dysfunction is often just a perfectly reasonable emotional response [to discomfort]. And women — particularly cisgender, heterosexual women — are often disconnected from their own pleasure, and seek help from bodyworkers and surrogate partners only when their relationships are in jeopardy."

Surrogate therapy is not a quick fix to sexual and social anxiety. You can't order it online. If your talk therapist feels surrogate therapy is warranted, you're going to have to show up for it and take your time.

Stephanie Wadell, who has been practicing SPT since the mid-1980s, says many of her clients are men who, for one reason or another, have been unable to "get from the couch to bed."

Some of her clients are not having sex, Wadell says, because they don't know how.

She described the progression of sessions.

"The first session is a two-hour sexual history," she explains. "Often, talk therapists don't ask as many questions in this area. We teach breathing, focusing, and how to touch in a non-demanding way."

Wadell identifies three kinds of touch: therapeutic, sensuous, and erotic. Therapeutic touch is generally firm and focused on addressing a physical complaint — a pulled muscle, say, or working out a knot — and is more about applying pressure than about a lingering gentleness. Sensuous touch could be defined as a caress. (Think of the touch a parent might give a child — gentle, soft, open-palmed.) Erotic touch may be more focused on the erogenous zones and is intended to stimulate rather than soothe. Over the course of a dozen or so sessions, she teaches clients how to move through these different modes, practicing on them, and allowing them to practice on her.

Wadell makes a distinction between the work that she does and the offerings of "tantricas" and intimacy coaches who advertise online, pointing out that people seeking someone "safer" than a prostitute may answer such ads — and that "self-described tantricas" are often not trained, and certainly don't work in consultation with a talk therapist. I asked Wadell, who noted that many of her clients are 50 or older, what made them decide, at this late stage, that something was missing. She said that often it was a major upheaval, such as the death of a parent or other family member or friend, but that the question could use further exploration.

"I recently had the privilege of working with [two different and unrelated] 60-year-old virgins," Wadell says. "To all outward appearances, they were completely normal. Had jobs and so forth. One of them had been living with his mother, and finally sought me out when she died."

For the rest of us, what is the tipping point that leads the realization that sexual help us needed? And what keeps sufferers from seeking help with a sexual dysfunction? Denial may seem easier, until it doesn't.

"I've had people meet with me, then decide they can't afford the sessions," Wadell says, explaining that surrogate partners usually charge between $150 and $200 an hour. "They might wait a year, but they end up finding the money, because they realize how important this is."


Sexual dysfunction could be a pandemic. A large swath of the population would likely benefit from a sexual surrogate, or sensuality coaching of some sort.

Many of Wu's clients refer to themselves as "broken." Several of them, particularly those with outside-the-norm body types in terms of size, ability, or scarring from injury, describe an experience of looking in the mirror and not really being able to see certain parts of their own bodies — only their heads.

That brokenness or disconnection can lead to a desperate and vulnerable psychological state. Although a positive sensual experience is not a cure-all, it is a wonderful step toward helping a struggling person feel more whole.

Surrogate partners talk about "non-demanding" touch, meaning the kind that requires nothing in return, such as a parent's caress that soothes a baby. Such touch can also calm an adult, in a way that no words can. (We are social animals, after all.)

Though it's hard to know exactly how many people are working with surrogate partners — just as it would be difficult to guess how many people are in therapy — Mark is able provide a broad overview of the demographics.

Twenty years ago, he says, 90 percent or more of SPT clients were male, but in the last 10 years, many more women have sought treatment, so that about 30 percent are female.

"I think as people realize it's a valid form of therapy, some women realize they'd like take control of their sexuality," explains Mark. "Some women have put their careers first and now they're in their 50s or 60s and realize they've missed out on an important aspect of life, sex, but don't know how to date. Maybe they've been virgins too long. Maybe they've never been able to orgasm and want someone to help them figure that out. Of course, men can't 'give' a woman an orgasm, but we can be there to coach."

Tags:

About The Author

Elizabeth Costello

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

 

Comments are closed.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Slideshows

  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"