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Sexual surrogacy: escorting or therapy?

Sexual surrogacy, first introduced in 1970, is a practice that is often misunderstood and misinterpreted by those who think of experts reveling in orgies and swinging parties as part of their profession.
Typically, psychologists refer their clients to sexual surrogates (men, women and couples) in order to work out problems such as erectile dysfunction, intimacy fears, premature ejaculation, sexual inhibitions, confidence issues, date anxieties and communication difficulties. Some clients who have acquired a disability, such as paralysis or amputation, are encouraged to visit with sexual surrogates in order to explore their sexuality in new ways.
The International Professional Surrogate Association (IPSA), based on Los Angeles, offers in-depth training for sexual surrogates. Training lasts for 12 weeks, or aspiring surrogates may enroll in an intensive 12-day course where they learn about how to communicate with clients using relaxation, touching and massage techniques.
Surrogates are usually people who are comfortable with sex and their bodies, but they also have a passion and ability for helping people. Communication skills and vast life experiences help surrogates develop relationships with clients in order to get to the root of their problems.
Encounters with surrogates involve getting to know each other through touching and examining each other. Linda Poelzl, a surrogate for over 15 years, says that sometimes the touching is much more clinical than erotic. She explains that in order to get to know each other, exploring the body is necessary, and it isn’t always done in a sensual manner. She helps clients to relax and get in touch with their feelings. Body language cues and confidence are taught, along with role playing in order to provide clients with appropriate knowledge of sexual activities and experiences they may encounter outside of the surrogate environment.
Most surrogates indicate that their encounters with clients are not filled with crazy, hanging-from-the-ceiling-fan sex. Much of the time, the focus is on the preliminary aspects of sex in order to get clients to feel comfortable with human touch.
However, while sexual surrogates insist that their profession may be more noble and clinical than the escort industry, surrogates and escorts often perform the exact same roles. Escorts see clients who need help in becoming comfortable with sexual activities, such as virgins. They spend time touching and massaging clients who are uncomfortable with being touched. They teach them how to kiss, fondle and seduce another person. They assist a client identifying his or her own sexual wants and needs. Escorts work with clients in order to learn to interact with the opposite (or same) sex. They help them explore bisexuality or homosexuality tendencies in order to determine their true orientation. Escorts create a positive, safe environment for clients to become comfortable with their bodies and sex.
Not all escorts have sex with their clients. Just like surrogates, they engage in conversation and confidence-building activities with their clients. The only real difference is that escorts lack the training provided by the IPSA and aren’t referred by psychologists.
Escorts and surrogates are both careful to avoid becoming emotionally involved with their clients. Despite the fact that they become very intimate during encounters, both sorts of professionals are quick to deny emotional attachments and ensure their clients know that relationships outside of the encounters are out of the question.
Both surrogates and escorts face issues with the law. While certified sexual surrogates feel they are protected, law enforcement could still view their profession as selling sex (or similar sexual activities) for money or other valuables. Legal gray areas may protect certain aspects of sexual surrogacy, but fewer and fewer professionals are entering the field due to fears of legal ramifications.
Outsiders to both industries (sexual surrogacy and escorting) are fast and harsh to judge professionals who engage in intimate encounters with clients. They hold the opinions that sex should only be within a committed or married relationship, and that paying for any kind of sexual assistance is flat-out wrong. Opponents of both industries are quite outspoken about the professions.
Finally, there is quite a fine line between escorting and being a sexual surrogate. Escorts may fulfill all the roles of a sexual surrogate, but they lack the official training. However, sexual surrogates do many things the escort does, without the “extras,” such as the Girlfriend Experience, Porn Star Experience, touring, companionship trips or other strictly sex-based entertainment appointments. Odds are that both professionals could learn a few tricks from the other.
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