Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Friday, August 30, 2013

Book Review: An Intimate Life: Sex, Love, and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner

An Intimate Life: Sex, Love, and My Journey as a Surrogate PartnerAn Intimate Life: Sex, Love, and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner by Cheryl T. Cohen Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I guess I am one of the few who had never heard of the movie The Sessions prior to reading the book, well what can I say, I live under a rock.

I read the book out of a curiosity for the surrogate process.  I have read brief technical descriptions of the role that surrogates play, but I was hoping to get a better understanding of surrogacy which the book delivered but only partially to my satisfaction.   It is a memoir of her life with some surrogacy tossed in.  For most people this book probably is the correct mix of surrogacy and her life.  For me it was a dipping of ones toes in the waters of surrogacy.  While her life was interesting, I was far more interested in the surrogacy.  I think what I was after is Masters and Johnson delivered with her warmth, perspective, and human touch.  I would have liked a deeper understanding of how the specific therapies and exercises would help with specific problems.   I also would have liked to know how the field has grown or not since Masters and Johnson.   But also realize that I have an interest in sexuality, a lay hobbyist, like some people are interested in astronomy.

I found it interesting that she felt arousal and could experience genuine orgasm with her clients.  I would imagine that would be an essential ingredient in the surrogate process, and it has to require a special personality.  There is a curious mix of professional detachment and emotional availability that I find fascinating.  People in the therapeutic and counseling professions are always very careful to maintain professional objectivity and avoid transference.  A surrogate is in the odd position of taking that out to the hairy edge.  Obviously not every one can do this sort of thing.   As to the question, is she a prostitute?  Absolutely not.

I think there is very much a place for surrogacy in society.  I think that it does need to be conducted under the auspices of a regulating professional body that would provide research, training, therapeutic standards,  and certification to surrogates.  The training and certification process should be difficult and expensive (like any other professional education) which would guarantee the integrity of the surrogate and surrogacy process and  would serve to winnow out those would be practitioners with less than noble intentions.  I also think that surrogacy should the limited and a prescribed therapy as she described in the book.  That is, a visit to a surrogate should be prescribed by a sexual therapist (the talk therapist) much like a physical therapy is prescribed by a MD. The results of each session should be discussed and evaluated by both the surrogate and talk therapist   What I am driving at, I don't believe that one should be able to find a surrogate on Craig's List.  I don't say this in terms of moral judgement, but rather recognizing that someone that has a sexual problem or dysfunction needs professional help...not some quack seeking to make a fast buck or indeed a mere front for prostitution.  I also believe that surrogacy should be a treatment of last resort.  In my own thinking, I would much prefer that a problem be resolved with couples therapy where a talk therapist works with the couple with counseling and provides exercises to the couple and all physical intimacy is limited to that couple.  Of course the main difficulty with couples therapy is that it requires a couple.  With modern dating where a sexual relationship is often established early on, having a sexual inhibition or dysfunction could make the notion of dating terrifying and as such make the process of establishing a committed relationship extremely difficult.  This in my mind is where surrogacy can play an important role by allowing an individual to gain experience or therapeutic aid in a safe and emotionally neutral atmosphere.  That is the client knows the surrogate relationship is limited and does not fear the pain and loss of a break-up with a committed partner.  

Regarding the book, I feel that she did an adequate job of describing surrogacy for most people's tastes.  It first and foremost is a memoir of her life and while surrogacy is described, it is not the main emphasis of the book.

I read the Kindle edition, which at the time of the review is not listed at Goodreads.

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  1. Agree. Surrogacy is a good thing. In a way, I was such a mother - I had an illegitimate baby when I was 19. I never thought of it as mine as in those days such unwanted pregnancies were always adopted, especially W.A.S.P. ones. I've never had any regrets. I always thought I was carrying the baby on behalf of his adoptive parents.

  2. No no, no, this isn't surrogate parenting.
    This is a sex partner that is a surrogate for someone having a relationship with you based on a relationship-this person is assisting I assume in working out some aspect of dysfunction.
    Maybe a fear or intimacy issue-maybe something to do with -say-performance issues.
    It would be unfathomable to me to be this-but then I reflect on a person I know who is pissing around on her second try at a PHD in psychology who could easily strip down and go for it without engaging a single emotion.
    I think after spending 15 years listening to her daily go on about her childhood and life I'd say look there for some understanding of what spawns such a talent.

    1. Sarah,

      That person you have in mind would be a disaster at being a surrogate. Surrogates have to care and surrogates do engage genuine emotions. They also have to know a great deal about human sexuality.

      I couldn't do it because I have very definitive beliefs and demands for monogamy. One generally would like their therapist to be more sane than themselves.

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting.