Ask the Doctors: Sexual Surrogate for a Gay Man?

After hearing for a while about sex surrogacy, I’ve been doing some searching online and found you. I’m a gay man who is afraid and ashamed of sex and doesn’t know what he is doing. I understand that sex surrogacy is best when it’s done as part of consultation with a sex therapist.  I’m contacting you to see if you know of a truly qualified male sex surrogate and if this is a practice with which you are familiar. I don’t want an internet hookup, which is all I’ve been able to find (have never actually hooked up though). I want someone who is a teacher and understands the psychology of what I’m dealing with. I would be willing to travel to get help. Thank you in advance.
— Needs a Hand

You have stated succinctly why a surrogate — a professional trained to be a partner to someone in therapy so they can explore sexual techniques and do therapist-directed exercises — might be useful. Being a guy who’s “afraid and ashamed of sex and doesn’t know what he is doing” most likely means that it’s difficult (if not impossible-seeming) to find a partner with whom to practice, get over those feelings, and get good at erotic techniques that will allow you and another person to bond and give you a shot of self-esteem. Though you identify as a gay man, this set of issues (or other varied sexual concerns) could be part of anyone’s experience, and so sex surrogates can be found who will work with men, women, and transfolk of any sexual orientation. They are extraordinary professionals and don’t grow on trees.

It is not always easy to find someone to work with, however. Professional surrogacy is pretty much only done under the aegis of a therapist, and many therapists are too conservative to work with someone whose job is, after all, to have sex — a controlled kind of sex, mind you, directed  by the therapist and the surrogate, not the client. This isn’t sex for money in a desire-plus-entertainment context; it’s sex education on a body-based level. (I should also say that plenty of therapists are not too conservative in their attitudes to work with surrogates, but are concerned that their community’s values would be too conservative and that surrogacy will bring unwanted attention upon them; in some cases, too, they can’t find a surrogate to work with. It’s a bit unusual to find surrogates outside of fairly large cities, so you may indeed have to travel some distance to work with one.)

If it’s important to have a comfort level with any therapist you work with, it’s super-important to feel comfortable with your surrogate partner. Of course, you don’t feel comfortable with anyone right now, necessarily — what I mean is, don’t work with a surrogate that you do not feel good about as a person. Listen not to your fears about the work, but to your instincts. It’s perfectly legitimate to ask both the therapist and the surrogate to give you enough information about their process and professional work styles that you can get as appropriate a match as possible in the professionals you choose for both these important roles.

I do not necessarily mean by the above that you need to be hot for your surrogate, because you must remember that he is an educator to you, not an actual chosen partner — even if you and he like each other a lot and you grow to feel extremely comfortable with and attached to him. Did you ever see “Harold and Maude,” where Maude tells the sobbing Harold, who’s about to lose her and tells her he loves her, “That’s wonderful, dear, go out and love some more”? That’s exactly what the surrogate is seeking to equip you to do. Your surrogate has trained under a therapist and/or with IPSA, the International Professional Surrogates Association, to have strong, clear boundaries, but also to have the compassion and emotional ability to make you feel valued and comfortable. Occasionally a client will mistake that openness for love; just remember Maude, if that happens to you.

If you already have a therapist you like, ask him or her if it would be possible to work with a surrogate also. More likely, you will seek a therapist who already has experience with (and contacts among) surrogates. How many sessions to expect will depend upon your issues and your progress, but you will certainly learn a lot regardless — there’s nothing quite like human contact and sensory experience to teach, and it is possible to make very rapid progress with a good professional surrogate.

I want to tell you that there are other modalities that might also interest you, after your time with the surrogate is up. Many people have gotten valuable information, training, and increased personal comfort through working with sexological bodyworkers; groups like Body Electric, the Sacred Touch School, Flesh and Spirit, and the Intimacy, Love, and Sexuality trainings run by the Human Awareness Institute; and through committing themselves to specific sexual practices, like Tantra. Some of these are gay male-centric and some are not, but all might be interesting or useful, and would welcome you. Based on your letter I think the idea of surrogate experience is a good one for you, so I don’t recommend these instead of that, but in support of it.

I wish you the very best in opening up to a more positive, enriching, and fearless sexuality!


We’re dedicated to getting you the information you need about sex, pleasure and your health. If you have any questions, please email our staff experts, Dr. Carol Queen and Dr. Charlie Glickman, at education@goodvibes.com! For product-related questions, please email or call our customer service staff at customerservice@goodvibes.com.

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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