In her new book An Intimate Life, sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene—whose work was the basis for the movie The Sessions—confronts a question that is usually the first on people’s minds when they find out she makes her living by getting naked with relative strangers:
“How are you different from a prostitute?”
She says she struggled for years to find a coherent way to answer the question. Then finally a colleague taught her the following analogy, which she has used ever since:
“When you go to a prostitute it’s like going to a restaurant. You choose from the menu, you eat, and when you leave the proprietor hopes you will return and tell your friends. Seeing a surrogate is like going to culinary school. You learn the recipes, develop your skills in the kitchen, broaden your palate, and then go out into the world with your newfound knowledge.”
Unlike sex surrogates, we sex therapists stay out of the kitchen with our clients. It’s all just talking. But talking is just the vehicle for sharing and understanding feelings. Any therapy that didn’t involve communication about feelings would quickly become sterile and a waste of time.
The concerns that bring patients to a sex therapist’s office are the same ones that Cohen Greene describes in her stories about sex surrogacy. The techniques she uses are different. But the feelings that prompt the call for help are the same: isolation, frustration, hopelessness, self-hatred, and shame.
My intuition tells me that the fundamental mechanisms of healing aren’t that different either. You can access feelings by a verbal encounter as well as by a physical one. And patients in all kinds of treatment tend to get better when they feel heard, respected, and understood.
Just as the kitchen is always the center of the home, your sexual self is at the core of your being. It’s where body and soul are both nourished. It should be a comfortable and welcoming place.
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Copyright © Stephen Snyder, MD 2014
www.sexualityresource.com New York City
See Dr Snyder's mini-interview with Cheryl Cohen Greene here:
Sexualityresource interviews sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene fromThe Sessions
And see related articles:
Slow Sex in Manhattan
Sex Therapist at the Academy Awards: Helen Hunt in The Sessions
The Courage to be Seen
Sexual Shame and the Religious Impulse
The Healing Power of Erotic Love