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What Is a Sex Surrogate?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A sex surrogate is someone who works with a therapist or other type of psychological professional to help people with disabilities or mental conditions that are primarily sexual in nature. The surrogate works with a client on a personal level, through communication and touching, to help the client overcome whatever condition he or she is afflicted by. These can be physical or psychological conditions, and the sex surrogate often acts as a person with whom a client can communicate and work with to develop healthy sexual behaviors and lifestyle. This treatment may involve physical touching and potentially include sexual intercourse, though this is not always the case and depends on what the client needs.

Unlike prostitution, sexual surrogacy is not typically illegal and does not focus on the sexual desires of a client, such as allowing the client to do whatever is desired for sexual release. Sexual satisfaction through orgasm is not the ultimate goal of a sex surrogate; the goal instead is the ensured health and well being of a client. Clients who consult a sex surrogate often do so at the recommendation of a therapist or psychological professional, and the meetings are often conducted as a form of extended therapy. The services of a sex surrogate can often be used to help a person dealing with physical sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and difficulties due to physical disabilities, or with psychological problems like intimacy issues, dating anxiety, or difficulties communicating with potential partners.

To help a client, the sex surrogate acts as a partner to the client, but one with therapeutic training and experience in how to help the person learn to communicate or overcome disabilities. According to some sex surrogates, as much as 90% of time spent with a client does not involve any direct sexual contact, but instead focuses on communication and understanding. For someone suffering from dating anxiety, a sex surrogate may provide dating practice in the form of a person who will not reject the client and allow him or her to overcome the anxiety.

In situations of physical disability, the surrogate can help the client learn to overcome the disability or find other avenues of developing sexual relationships with potential partners. The United States has few laws regulating the activities of sex surrogates, so there are few established requirements for someone looking to become one. Private organizations, such as the International Professional Surrogates Association, have been established to help self-regulate and certify sex surrogates in an effort to ensure ethical standards and professional behavior.

Does Sex Surrogacy Involve Sex?

It should come as no surprise that sex surrogacy does, in fact, involve sex. Of course, prospective clients should understand that the sex in question is coupled with an emphasis on therapy — so much so that in most cases, the sex takes a backseat to the therapy. Still, sexual activity is generally part of the deal during a session with a sex surrogate.

Different sex surrogates have different boundaries, though, and it’s possible that some may not include sexual intercourse. Some surrogates only engage in certain sex acts, for example, such as manual stimulation or oral sex. Sometimes these acts are a precursor to penetrative sex, and sometimes they’re the end goal of a session.

Sex surrogacy is typically organized by its therapeutic goals, and these goals coincide with escalating levels of intimacy. The first phase, emotional connection, may not include any physical activity. The second phase, sensuality, is intended to introduce physical intimacy. The third phase, sexuality, typically includes sexual intercourse. The fourth phase, closure, involves reflection on the therapeutic progress.

How Do You Become a Sex Surrogate?

There are many paths you can take to become a sex surrogate. Some surrogates start by first becoming sex therapists, and to do this, you must earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology, counseling, or a related discipline. Typically, though, these professionals practice in a clinical setting rather than a sexual surrogacy position.

The sole professional organization representing sex surrogates — the International Professional Surrogates Association — offers training for aspiring sex surrogates. This training is split into two phases, with the first lasting 100 hours and the second lasting several years. The second phase is considered an internship that consists of supervised surrogate sessions.

Once a prospective sex surrogate has completed both of these components, they can be certified by the IPSA. At this point, you can connect with sex therapists who work with IPSA and seek out clients to begin working with unsupervised.

Is Sexual Surrogacy Legal?

Sex surrogates perform sex acts in exchange for payment from clients, so it is understandably conflated with prostitution in many cases. Given the fact that prostitution is illegal in most jurisdictions, this raises questions concerning the legality of sex surrogacy. According to the IPSA, though, there are no laws specifically concerning sex surrogacy. This lack of regulation has led IPSA to self-govern its members and maintain a high standard of ethical guidelines.

Still, some parties maintain that the practice violates laws that prohibit sex work. This may be the case, but there don’t appear to be any known instances of arrests or prosecution stemming from a sex surrogacy interaction.

Although its legal status is ambiguous, then, it’s generally considered safe for all parties who are involved. Most efforts to target sex workers are aimed at street-based prostitutes rather than professional sex surrogates. Still, sex surrogates must maintain a level of professional discretion in order to keep themselves and their clients safe. This is important to maintaining clients’ privacy, too.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1003885 — On Sep 29, 2020

Prostitution is not legal, but if it was, it would be taxed at a rate of luxury.

By anon1002496 — On Dec 05, 2019

I think if sexual surrogates were available to young 18 year old Boys with all described above, we would not have these school shootings. The drugs to address these issues are the reason why. Old fashioned sexual intercourse with a trained professional will stop these tragic shootings.

By Sporkasia — On Jul 09, 2014

Throughout history in some cultures, older women were sex surrogates for young boys coming into adulthood. I think some tribes/communities in some countries still have this practice. It is seen as a healthy way for young men to learn about sex and become comfortable with the act.

By Animandel — On Jul 09, 2014

@Feryll - I think the article does a good job of explaining how what surrogates do is different from what prostitutes do, and so I have no problem with surrogates begin able to do their jobs legally. They provide an important service. And I definitely don't think prostitutes should be in any way seen as doing the same job as surrogates.

I think the argument you use about the two professions being similar is just a convenient way for you to support your belief that prostitution should be legal.

By Feryll — On Jul 08, 2014

I don't understand why prostitution is illegal in virtually every place in the United States, but it's okay for a doctor to decide that a patient needs a sex surrogate and then everything is fine and legal. I'm sure plenty of the men and women who visit prostitutes have sexual issues too. They just don't have the permission of a psychologist.

Wouldn't life be so much simpler if governments and lawmakers stayed out of the sex lives of consenting adults?

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