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How I Became a Sex Surrogate

The woman behind the new film "The Sessions" shares her sexual awakening and journey to sex surrogacy.

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   A key part of my surrogacy training came when I attended a two-week workshop with Tom at the Department of Public Health in Berkeley. If Tom had made a misstep in our initial meeting by asking to see my body, he had redeemed himself by being so generous with his time and expertise. The workshop was led by a husband-and-wife therapist team who had trained with Masters and Johnson. They laid out the principles and practice of conjoint therapy. Few professionals use this model today because it is not cost-effective, but at the time it was an exciting new form of couples therapy. It was always conducted by a male-female team, and the hope was that both partners in the couple would feel that they had an ally. In the workshop, we got a crash course in anatomy and for the first time I learned the complexity of both male and female genitalia. They showed us the undifferentiated genital chart, which I continue to use in my practice today. It reveals how the fetus differentiates into male or female and the similarities in genital tissue. Much of what Tom and I learned became part of my surrogacy work.

   Between my training to be a surrogate and my SFSI training, my knowledge of human sexuality exploded. I realized just how many assumptions and misconceptions I harbored. I met people from all walks of sexual life and many of the biases I held about them were challenged. For example, I always thought people who were involved in sadism and masochism (S&M) had to be pretty unsavory. To my surprise, I learned that they took great care not to cause any real harm during sex play. Ironically, another thing I learned was that it was okay to say no. People didn’t have to continue with or engage in any activity just because they were taking a more open and experimental attitude toward sex. This may not seem noteworthy now, but for someone who grew up in the ’50s it was a real eye-opener to be told that, even as a woman, I had the right to choose or not choose any kind of sex, no matter the circumstances.

   One absolutely invaluable skill I learned was how to listen. This was tough because I love to talk! In both my SFSI and surrogate training I had to learn how not to jump in, but rather give people the space they needed to say what they wanted to say. This made me a better surrogate, but it also made me a better wife, mother, and friend.

   I became part of a wonderful, intelligent, and supportive community of people who were questioning, sharing, and seeking genuine knowledge about sexuality. I was on my way to a meaningful career, making lasting friendships, and, frankly, having a hell of a lot of fun.

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