By Kendra Holliday | September 17, 2013 at 8:29 am
Have you seen the movie The Sessions, starring Helen Hunt?
I loved it. Besides the obvious reasons why, that mainstream film brought me so much business!
I finally got around to reading the book it’s based on – An Intimate Life: Sex, Love, and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner, by Cheryl T. Cohen Greene.
She has worked with 900 clients, ages 18 to 89. She started in 1973, the year I was born! But really, she points out she started her career 20 years prior to that, as a teenage girl learning about sex on her own, as if wearing a blindfold – sound familiar?? Despite strict parents and horny partners, she had to traverse the rocky terrain on her own, and learn the path the hard way. What is the truth about sex? What information is misleading and harmful?
Raised Catholic, she had some serious guilt issues to overcome (HELLS BELLS, if I had a nickel for every time a client said the line, “I was raised Catholic,” I’d be $RICH$!)
Cheryl had to deal with shame and double standards. She encountered some terribly stunted men, such as the boyfriend who was disgusted by her orgasm, and the priest who blamed “girls like her for getting boys in trouble”
Slut shaming #1:
John started masturbating me. Slow at first, then fast, then slow again. It was a rhythm that brought me closer to climax. My self-consciousness fell away, and I disappeared into it… Then I had a mind-blowing orgasm, the first one I’d had with John. I moaned with delight. At that moment, I loved him. Maybe he was my soul mate… would you know your soul mate by the strength of your orgasm? I couldn’t keep it to myself. I was going to tell him that I loved him. I opened my eyes just before I opened my mouth, and what I saw rendered me silent. He looked disgusted and shocked. As he pulled back, I suddenly realized how cold it was.
“You’re a sex maniac!” he cried.
At that moment I felt like I had been struck. I thought we were in this together. Why was he masturbating me if he didn’t’ want to give me pleasure? Was a certain amount of pleasure okay, and any more than that sick? Was there a pleasure limit?
Slut shaming #2:
I admitted to the priest I had sex with my boyfriend. The priest had been silent up until then, but finally said, “It’s girls like you who ruin young boy’s lives.”
Suddenly, my fear turned into anger. In that single moment, all my timid questioning, all my quiet skepticism, finally gave way to rage. I hardly had to cajole John into sex. Perhaps I was a sinner, but was he really a victim? Wasn’t he equally culpable?
“What about MY life, Father?” I asked.
“Twelve Our Fathers and nine Hail Marys,” was his only response.
I left the church that day without saying a single prayer and I never returned to confession.
YOU GO, GIRL!
Cheryl wrote this book to encourage open and honest discussion about sex, and inspire readers to claim and honor their sexuality at every age.
Interestingly, she adamantly protests being referred to as a prostitute. She is a surrogate sexual partner, NOT a prostitute.
~ However ~
here is a definition of the word prostitute: “a person who engages in sexual activity for payment.”
So in my book, she is a prostitute. I am a prostitute. It’s not a bad word. (You can read my article on sex surrogacy here.)
For sure, the work she is doing is not for entertainment purposes. She is not an escort. She is part of a therapeutic team. She is a sacred healer. She is to be respected and revered. But so should many prostitutes. I’m just sayin’.
If you are considering sex work, but are nervous about being intimate with random strangers, she offers this useful tip: “Find something attractive in every person – most often, it is their eyes.”
As a surrogate partner, she employs a variety of exercises to address:
- body awareness
- body image
- communication skills
She maintains that everyone would benefit from strong communication skills, self-respect, and the willingness to explore.
Here is one of her touch exercises. Have someone you trust explore your entire body. Afterward, report which areas feel neutral, natural, uncomfortable, nurturing, sensual, and sexual.
Her mirror exercise is great for body awareness: go over entire body (including genitals!) and comment on what you like and don’t like.
Spoon breathing is a nice way to relax with a partner. Lie together for a few minutes in a spoon position, being aware of your breathing and human touch. To take this to the next level, try facing each other and maintaining steady, open, trusting eye contact. Wow!
The book alternated between chapters detailing her personal journey (lots of ups and downs like a roller coaster), interspersed with client anecdotes. I like that there are pictures of her and her loved ones included in the book. I appreciated the visuals. She had an open marriage of sorts. The nature of her relationship with her first husband was very intriguing. He was a very sexual person, but had love issues, and here she was, teaching intimacy and trust to strangers. He betrayed her in a very big way, so she got took matters in her own hands and got revenge. But ultimately, their relationship evolved into one of family, friendship and understanding.
Each client story was fascinating in its own right – the hateful client encounter (WOW he was so fearful!), the 70 yr old virgin, the guy with the bondage fetish… Her chapter on working with a creepy pedophile gave me the chills! That’s exactly why I never agree to work intimately with someone without an initial consultation first. Every woman should read The Gift of Fear – I can’t recommend it enough.
An Intimate Life offers plenty of value as well.