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Sex in the Kitchen

"How are you different from a prostitute?" It's the most common question sex surrogates are asked. One says she struggled for years to frame a coherent response. Finally a colleague taught her the following analogy, which she's used ever since. Read More

How are you different from a prostitute?

How are you different from a prostitute? To me that question says more about the fear of the label "prostitute" than about anything happening between two consenting adults. Certainly there are also many cases of prostitution involving human trafficking, desparation, and coercion. But my point is that people still fear the label even when the sex is completely consensual, simply because money is exchanged. As if that doesn't happen in more indirect ways when a man keeps a mistress and pays for her apartment and car. You hear the same question about labels in discussions about all the sugar-daddy/baby web sites.

Or, as one wife once explained on an Oprah Show episode some years ago, when she and her husband were looking for a new house, she told her husband that he would get the best sex of his life if he bought the house she wanted. As she put it succinctly with a smile, he got the best sex of his life, and she got the house. The audience roared with laughter. Sex for money? Sure. Prostitution? Apparently not because they're married.

The fear of the label itself is obvious when you consider that the most insulting thing some women can think of calling another woman is that's she's a "whore", regardless of the reason.

It's also interesting how we try to denigrate prostitution by saying it's "selling your body". Well, when I work in my profession, I'm selling an even more intimate and important part of my body, namely my brain. OK, so human-to-human physical contact is not the main part, but what about massage therapy? What makes it legit is there is no genital touching. Interesting boundaries and definitions.

And how about talk therapy? It can be an emotional experience for the client. So here you are paying someone to have an emotional relationship, although just a "clinical" one. But isn't that essentially a paid emotional affair? But we don't call therapists emotional prostitutes any more than we call scientists brain prostitutes.

As for a sex surrogate, is she engaging in prostitution if the sexual gratification is reversed, such as when she might be teaching a socially-challenged 40-year-old male virgin how to pleasure a woman? In this instance, it would seem to turn the definition of prostitution completely on its head. The sex, or the money, is going the wrong way! Which reveals again how much trouble we have with the label "prostitute".

under the bus

Yes, the sad thing about this article is the fact that sex surrogates feel the need to throw their sister and brother sex workers under the bus. Shame on you, sex surrogates!

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Stephen Snyder, M.D., is a sex and couples therapist, psychiatrist, and writer in New York City. He is currently Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. more...

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