Would you have guessed that Sex is the Least of It when considering sexual surrogacy work? This book is a long overdue appreciation of the work of sexual partner therapy (SPT). Dr Tova Feder interviews many surrogates, both working and retired (including some well-known names), as well as several therapists who work or have worked with surrogates. The final interviews are with those who train surrogates concluding with a review of research papers pertaining to the efficacy of surrogacy work. The whole book is very personal from the point of view of hearing what the surrogates themselves feel and experience, alongside clients’ stories of successful outcomes. It’s impact is widened by also giving a good feel for the atmosphere within which the profession operates both for therapists and surrogates.
The rationale for using surrogates is compelling both from the sexual experience side, which is only about 10% of the work (hence the title of the book). The bulk of the work is about discovering one’s sexuality through primarily sensual experience. The skills and confidence to become a good lover are taught through building confidence in social skills such as dating and communicating and tackling problem areas such as body image.
Sadly most of the people interviewed in the book were under the impression that the profession was in decline, with less and less surrogates being trained, whereas they perceived the need for the work was on the increase.
I enjoyed the whole professional and ethical rationale of the profession, but I was frustrated by what I perceived as a lack of flexibility in viewing a future for this kind of work. I suspect it is for precisely these reasons, ie the ethics and professionalism, that restricts the framework for surrogacy from being adapted. The sad thing is that it started in pathology and is bound by it’s accountability to the ethics of a pathological profession – sex therapy. This is also how it finds whatever acceptability it has with the general public – because it deals with rehabilitation.
Perhaps a more sex positive educational context could open up new areas of application. Certainly freeing it from the restraints of therapeutic oversight would also reduce the costs considerably and make the programs more adaptable. A preventative use of surrogacy would also catch the falling clients whose concerns develop over the years into problems that drive them to seek out the services of a sex therapist. In the end, as Dr Ronit Aloni pointed out, in the light of the evidence, the ultimately ethical thing to do is to provide the surrogate service … because it works.
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