What is sex surrogacy and is it legal?

When you think of sex therapy, you probably think of sitting on a chaise longue and talking about your past, desires, and fears.

Sex surrogacy is a much more physical approach to dealing with sexual trauma or other issues in the bedroom, making it somewhat controversial as a result.

A sex surrogate is sometimes referred to as a surrogate partner, and often works alongside a sex therapist.

Sometimes – although not always – the sex surrogate may have sex with the person in therapy. As well as, or instead of, this they will use touch, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques to help people feel comfortable with sex.

The idea is to help people overcome sexual trauma, sexual dysfunction, and generally get through any mental or physical blocks they may have in their sex life.

Vena Blanchard, President of IPSA, the International Professional Surrogates Association, says: ‘A Surrogate Partner is a member of a three-way therapeutic team (supervising therapist, client and surrogate partner) who acts as a partner to a sexually dysfunctional client in the therapy programme and participates in experiential practices involving sensual and sexual touching as well as social and sexual skills training.’

The sex therapist is typically not in the room while the surrogate is working with the patient, but the two professionals will speak separately about the progress that has been made in sessions.

The surrogate aims to help with problems that standard talking therapy cannot.

You may be wondering how this intersects with sex work, and whether it’s legal to pay someone to have sex with you – even if it’s in a therapeutic setting.

The law around sex work in the UK is somewhat murky, in that paying for or being paid for sex is not illegal. However, acts such as soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, owning or managing a brothel, pimping and pandering, are considered to be crimes, under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

So although sex surrogacy is legal, if using a specific building for this to happen, it may be considered otherwise.

Sex surrogacy is controversial due to potential ethical ramifications of vulnerable patients being taken advantage of.

IPSA have a strict code of ethics, which includes everything from STI protection to identity privacy and guidance on communication. It isn’t clear the ramifications for those who breach these rules, but it’s likely they’d be removed as a member of the group.

Any crimes committed – for example sexual violence – would need to be dealt with through the police.

As a fairly new practice, and one that’s not widely practiced or industry-regulated, it’s not well understood by most of the general public.

With anything, it’s important to go into it with the exact knowledge of everything that will take place, and ensure you’re comfortable with that. Start with a licensed psychotherapist who specialises in sex, and perhaps broach the topic with them if you feel that surrogacy might be a fit for your issues.

They should be able to tell you more about it and assess the best course of action for you.

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