What is a Sex Surrogate Partner and how is it different from a sex worker?

By Hadas Ron-Zarki - 08/18/2023


A sex surrogate partner is a trained and certified professional that helps a client explore and overcome physical, emotional, and/or social issues around intimacy and sex.

The role of a sex surrogate is to help individuals with issues such as sexual dysfunctions, shame, negative body image, dysmorphia, anxieties about touch, sex, intimacy, disability, head, brain, spine injuries or other medical issues, autistic features, confusion about sexual orientation, lack of self-confidence, experience, pelvic and/or genital pain, or any physical, emotional, sexual trauma, as well as other triggers. A surrogate partner is utilized in conjunction with a sex therapist and always remains in communication with both the client and their sex therapist.

Sex surrogate partners provide a safe and structured environment and might help with relaxation, eye contact, sex education, body image, communication, sharing painful memories/vulnerabilities/insecurities, relating to another person, body mapping, nudity, giving and receiving touch, genital-to-genital contact, etc. Having said that, sex surrogacy does not always involve sex or any sexual interactions and is not necessarily genital focused. As mentioned before, it is about developing skills and enhancing healing according to the client’s boundaries and needs. When the therapy goals have been met, sex surrogacy therapy ends.

Unlike a sex surrogate partner, a prostitute’s goal is providing sexual stimulation, and satisfaction and one can revisit a sex worker, as they like. In addition, while paying for sex is illegal in most states, law does not prohibit sex surrogacy therapy.

Sex surrogacy therapy is not recommended to people that are engaged in a relationship. Instead, sex therapy (which is talk therapy with assigned exercises to do at home) is more beneficial for the individual and/or the couple.

***The movie “The Sessions” (2012) with Helen Hunt and John Hawkes tells the story of a client with sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen-Green.

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