How many of you saw the movie The Sessions, about a sex surrogate's treatment of a severely disabled man who had never had sex?Just about everyone I spoke with agreed the movie was very moving, but no one had much to say about it.  

I wondered about this in an earlier article on The Sessions. I decided it was probably that we just lacked the vocabulary to talk about such things. The erotic aspects of grief, love, and longing are ordinarily beyond words. Especially in a movie about sex surrogacy, a profession that's not well understood by the public.

Sometime later, I received a letter from the woman whom the story was based on—Cheryl Cohen Greene, the sex surrogate whose treatment of severely disabled polio survivor Mark O’Brien was the subject of the movie. I learned that she’d written a book about her life and about her work with O’Brien and other clients.  

The book, An Intimate Life: Sex, Love, and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner, tracks back and forth, chapter by chapter, between stories from her work as a sex surrogate and stories from her life. There are many surprises along the way.  

The biggest surprise, for someone expecting to be mostly interested in her unusual career, is that the story of her private life is even more compelling. For example, one learns in the book that the “Cohen” and “Greene” in her last name are for her husbands Michael Cohen and Bob Greene. And that for awhile she was married to Cohen and Greene at the same time.


Well remember it’s the '70s, and it’s in Berkeley.

After reading An Intimate Life, I asked Cheryl if she’d be willing to be interviewed for this column. We ended up talking on the phone for a long time, about sex, surrogacy, the movie, disability, and a host of other topics. 

For anyone interested, here's the link to our interview—radically condensed, of course:

Sexualityresource interviews sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene from The Sessions

And here are the original articles on the movie:

Sex Therapist at the Academy Awards:  Helen Hunt in The Sessions

Part 2:  The Courage to be Seen

I'd recommend An Intimate Life to anyone who found themselves intrigued by The Sessions' story of grief, love, and longing. We'll have more to say about all these subjects in the days ahead as we discuss the book further.

Stay tuned.


Copyright © Stephen Snyder, MD   2014 New York City

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