Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. – Gertrude Stein
A whore is any woman who gets money for sexual contact with someone. It doesn’t matter what kind of sex it is, or how expensive the price, or how long the contract, or who pays, or whether intercourse is involved, or whether busybodies declare it legal, or what either party’s primary motive is, or under what conditions the contact takes place, or whether one or both parties have a “license” from some “authority”; as I wrote in “Whorearchy”,
If you accept money from someone that he gives due to sexual interest in you, then you are a whore and everything else is just semantics. When politicians, pundits or rulers use some arbitrary determinant like penetration, duration, location or motivation to bless some harlots while damning others, what they’re actually doing is reducing the size of the group who might oppose them and winning supporters from among those granted legitimacy. This is why I’m harshly unsympathetic to those who vehemently maintain that their species of sex work or sensual therapy is absolutely not prostitution: all they’re doing is throwing other women under the bus, and if we had all stuck together from the beginning of second-wave feminism half a century ago, prostitution would’ve been decriminalized long ago and many women who are now dead or damaged might still be alive and healthy.
I’m bringing this up again because of a new movie called The Sessions, based on the true story of a whore named Cheryl Greene who was able to help a man disabled by polio experience sex before he died. Regular readers are already familiar with how sex workers like Rachel Wotton, Catharina König and yours truly give disabled men the opportunity to enjoy sex, but unfortunately some who specialize in this type of therapeutic sex work imagine themselves to be better than their sisters and, like many dominatrices, sugar babies, porn actresses, virginity sellers and “professional cuddlers”, loudly and repeatedly (and unconvincingly) insist that they aren’t prostitutes because of some hogo bullshit arbitrary reason. In this case, it’s because they are trained by people with fancy titles and adopt one themselves: “sex surrogate”.
The concept of “sex surrogacy” was pioneered by Masters and Johnson in 1970, and it’s a good and sound one: it’s a lot easier to diagnose and treat some sexual problems with a hands-on approach. Any dedicated call girl worth her salt can do this, sometimes with great efficacy; the only difference between them and surrogates is that surrogates are trained in theory, terminology and therapeutic techniques in addition to their natural abilities. Not long after I started escorting, my friend Dr. Helena (who had studied under Masters and Johnson) started talking to me about the possibility of becoming certified as a surrogate; she felt I would excel at it, and I don’t doubt that she was right. If not for her untimely death she might eventually have talked me into it; the main sticking point for me was that I would need to undergo many months of training in order to make literally one-third what I did as an escort.
But though surrogates’ pretense that they aren’t hookers may appease their families or their own internalization of the Madonna-whore duality, it won’t fool readers of this blog and I suspect the only reason cops and district attorneys don’t go after them is that their screening is far too thorough and a prosecution might make too many people question the validity of prostitution laws. Here’s an excerpt from a recent New York Post article on the subject:
…Helen Hunt plays a sex surrogate in the acclaimed film The Sessions — but in real life there are sex surrogates working right here in NYC…“People tend to be ill-informed about what a surrogate partner does,” explains [Dr. Fern] Arden…“They think of it pejoratively, the same as a sex worker, but it’s not,” she adds. “Just as you have legitimate massage therapists and people who run massage parlors, there is a huge difference between them”…But…Derrelle Janey, a defense attorney at…Gottleib and Gordon, likens the sex surrogacy practice to prostitution — after all, money is being received for sex: “It doesn’t matter if the client is disabled, it doesn’t matter if he is suffering from some kind of emotional distress — that just makes it kind of sad. They have agreed to pay money for a sexual experience, and everyone understands that’s the transaction. In my view, that’s prostitution”…Arden…insists what she does is not prostitution; it’s a public service…
It’s bad enough when cops and prohibitionists spout ignorant pap in interviews, but unforgivable when someone who should know better does. A sexologist who denies that sex work is every bit as much a public service as what she does is either a liar, a quack or a lying quack.
…“Most of the men who come to my center are sexually inexperienced, so the surrogate program allows them to progress with their treatment.” She argues it would be “cruel” not to treat them and have them “remain dysfunctional” until they find a willing partner to accompany them to therapy…“The sessions with the surrogate evolve gradually. It’s a very gradual, sensual process of getting used to holding hands, caressing and kissing…[The clients] could come into treatment for several visits before they even take their clothes off.”
Sensuality and gradualness are also found in several other types of sex work as well, as Arden should well know.
Sarah, one of Arden’s surrogate partners…carefully fielded questions about the practical side of her job…“I don’t feel compelled to tell everybody that I meet [that I work as a sexual surrogate],” she says. “There are certain people in my life who understand what I do and are very supportive of it. But there are also people in my life who there is no reason for me to even go there.”
Sound familiar? Nobody denies that surrogates are more educated than the average whore, but so am I and so are a number of other sex work bloggers, writers and activists. And nobody denies that the surrogate experience usually has a different goal, pace and focus than the average date with a hooker, but then PSEs, GFEs, fetish sessions, private viewings and listening to troubled men are all different from a quick blow job. Pretending that surrogacy is not sex work merely divides our already-marginalized profession and further empowers the prohibitionists to interfere in people’s sex lives, thus undermining the sexual understanding surrogates are supposed to promote.