1. Sexual Surrogacy & the Intersections of Disabled Persons Seeking Surrogate Partner Therapy

1.1 Sexual Surrogacy Origin, Definitions, Practitioners, & Clientele

2. Sexual Surrogacy Certifications & Legalities 

2.1 Sexual Surrogacy & Disability Media Links 

2.2 Sexual Surrogacy: Worldwide & Western Stigmas, Shame, & Stereotypes

3. The Future of Sexual Surrogacy Polices & Disabled Clientele 

4. Conclusion

1. Sexual Surrogacy & the Intersections of Disabled Persons Seeking Surrogate Partner Therapy

            In 2012, a handful of famous Hollywood actors and actresses introduced to the general public in the United States, a film that was labeled as fiction but that was actually motivated by authentic and underground instances of disabled clientele having sex with a trained therapist. The film focused on disability and the cross roads of how a man wanted to learn how to engage in a sexual and intimate relationship with a therapists/sexual surrogate, in order to gain more life experience before he died from complications from his disability. The film was titled The Sessions and it sparked a large debate about taboo topics such as the comparison with permissible prostitution to that of the sexual surrogates. The film exposes how culturally and socially, people with disabilities are rarely received within able-bodied societies as a positive representation of a sexually attractive mate and how the sexual and intimacy needs of persons with disabilities are largely silenced, ignored, or invisible to others. The Sessions opened up the door for communication concerning disability and sexual pleasure, disability and sexual desire, disability and sexual identity, disability and the need for intimacy, disability and sexual education, and the myriad of webs that are enmeshed within the topics of sexual surrogacy and disability.

            1.1 Sexual Surrogacy Origin, Definitions, Practitioners, & Clientele

            An OBGYN doctor by the name of William H. Masters and a grad student by the name of Virginia E. Johnson, set out in the 1960’s and 1970’s to survey, record, test out theories, and to discover a form of medically aided therapy based treatment for married couples who experienced shortages within their sex lives. Masters and Johnson (1970) researched for results and cures once they completed their studies and found that the routines of normalcy between married couples reflected a lack of communication challenging sexual conversations and that silencing, denying, and miscoding (sending and receiving model) messages about their sex life with their partners occurred frequently (Guttmacher, 1970). According to Guttmacher (1970), a main argument that Masters and Johnson were known for involved the relationship of sexual shortages within a couple’s marriages and its relationship to previous psychological and religious influences by parents, and lastly regarding the creation of the four cycles that reflect how the mind is responds to sexual stimulation, and was titled The Human Sexual Response Cycle” (Kinsey Institute, 2019). The most understudied population within this model is older adults and the elderly community.

            A sexual surrogate or a sexual surrogate partner, is an individual who has received formal training on how to ethically, medically, intellectually, cathartically, and empathically care for persons who are socially, culturally, emotionally, psychologically and physiologically apprehensive. Examples include but are not limited to: carnally rejected and ignored bodies (socially and culturally excluded bodies and physically disable bodies), individuals whose souls and bodies been affected by illness (genetic, trauma, acute and chronic), in addition to persons who have suffered severe “emotional abuse and/or trauma (rape or incest),” (International Professional Surrogates Association [IPSA], 2019).     

            Sexual surrogacy encompasses licensed and trained professionals who identify with or work with diverse genders, diverse ethnicities, and diverse life experiences. Sexual Surrogates live in assorted geographical locations and clientele interactions are pre-arranged, pedagogically pre-planned sessions led by professionals with various techniques such as skin to skin contact that fosters human connections. These experiences are aimed at directly focusing on professionals demonstrating and gently guiding disabled clientele towards touch therapy experiences resulting in a reduction of their personal insecurities and fears concerning sexual and asexual relationships, inward bodily perceptions, and other personal sexual trepidations that they might harbor. Sexual surrogates strive to make genuine connections and emit affections with or without the assistance of sexual aids, erotic and non-erotic bodily interactions, and through emotionally and socially positive stimulation. 

            Dr. Ofer Zur, founder of the Zur Institute (1995) the taboo, moral, legalities, and various intersectionality’s that surround this subject, expose the differences between sex work and Surrogate Partner Therapy (SPT) and the outcomes of each interaction within a sexual scenario (money for a one time service versus human connection and empathy). For more information about extensive considerations and questions connected to this subject and scholarly discourse and resources about SPT and disability, please click on this link Surrogate Partner Therapy (SPT) may or may not integrate a non-sexual counselor into the equation, however, in most cases the term sexual surrogacy refers to “the involvement of the team therapist, a licensed and/or certified professional with an advanced degree” (IPSA, 2019). Regardless if the team consists of a two person or three people team, the skill sets and goals of the therapeutically tailored sessions center around the needs of the clientele. 

            Each team member must trust on another, feel comfortable and safe with one another, and cyclically commit to diverse communication with one another. Communication responses vary (verbally and non-verbally), but are always conveyed truthfully, consensually, respectfully, and benevolently. Upon termination of the sexual surrogacy contract, which both parties agree on ahead of time, the overarching end goals of a sexual surrogate are: to assist and instill within their clientele more confidence to absorb and dispense shame free, consensual, pleasurable and pleasing bodily touch, in addition to indulging in acts of emotional intimacy, interpersonal communication skills, and confidence in their sexuality.

2. Sexual Surrogacy Certifications & Legalities 

According to the International Professional Surrogates Association (2019) homepage, certification requirements and licensed professionals must complete clinical, written, personal, and other skills, in addition to engaging in ongoing yearly educational training in order to remain relevant to the field and remain licensed. Each surrogate will also be expected to adhere to the moral and ethical codes of the program that they are trained in and by the IPSA. According to the International Professional Surrogates Association (2019) homepage:

            The legal status of surrogate partners is undefined in most of the United States and most   countries around the world. This means that there are generally no laws regulating the   profession. Because there is no governmental licensing or regulation of surrogate partners, IPSA has assumed the responsibility of assuring the therapeutic community and        the public that IPSA members have received adequate training, achieved professional competency, and adhere to the highest standards of ethical practice.

            IPSA established a code of ethics, outlining a surrogate’s responsibilities within the therapeutic program, in order to foster the highest professional standards among  surrogates. Full members of IPSA are committed to honoring the ethical principlesoutlined in the IPSA Code of Ethics

Detailed and descriptive in depth sexuality and gender guidelines, in addition to sex surrogacy laws and policies that are specific to the United States, can be found in a 90 page published report at the link

2.1 Sexual Surrogacy & Disability Media Links

DOI: 10.1080/09688080.2017.1333894

2.2 Sexual Surrogacy: Worldwide & Western Stigmas, Shame, & Stereotypes

            Various tropes such as asexual, hypersexual, impotent, and images and media portrayals of people with physically and mental disabilities, are predominately negatively objectified within historical Western culture and representation. These narratives have negatively impacted and limited disability positive communication and role models, along with limiting medically accurate disability sexual education and research (specifically addressing the disability community’s needs). The UK is the driving force for reducing shame, stigma, and stereotypes related to sex surrogacy and clientele, especially for the disabled population. 

3. The Future of Sexual Surrogacy Polices & Disabled Clientele

            According to research conducted by Anthony Skelton (2013) at the University of Oxford, the intersections of ethics and legalities, the sexual surrogates themselves, and the disabled clientele seeking to engage in Sexual Partner Therapy, have recently inspired a new sex surrogacy and disability advocacy policy in France. Skelton (2013) revealed that “some advocates for the disabled applauded the move, including the French Association of the Paralyzed. However, the proposal was eventually altered and the call for the funding of sex surrogates was dropped before a vote on the proposal was held.” 

            Skelton (2013) disclosed the IPSA’s specific terminology and guidelines, methodology and origin “IPSA’s Surrogate Partner Therapy is based on the successful methods of Masters and Johnson” and multiple arguments supporting and shaming the program itself, the practitioners, the participants, and the patriarchy that played out within the advocating man’s proposal. 

            Ultimately, it was decided that socially and culturally the futuristic repercussions were far too costly for France to endure and expel. Topics such as the commodification and commoditization of sexual surrogates’ bodies (comparison to retail and objectification) and the insurmountable invisible cost of disabled persons emotionally becoming too attached, and the taboo topic of this policy opening up the gateway for legitimate prostitution was heavily debated upon. In the end, the policy was passed over and ended with this passage:

            Guedj’s policy is a progressive alternative to the status quo. It or something like it is the   way forward. To ignore the issue of disability and sexuality is to be complicit in condemning severely disabled people to a life without sexuality, without the ability to      satisfy healthy sexual desires. It may force them to seek out more dangerous alternatives   on the black sexual market, e.g., escorts and prostitutes. (Skelton, 2013). 

4. Conclusion

            Researching, recording, documenting, observing, interviewing, creating audio or video or handwritten diaries, and learning about the intimacy and sexuality customs and cultures that disabled persons live in and endure throughout their lifetime, is significantly understudied and understood. Studying sexual surrogates and disabled persons consensual communication practices, could foster in a new era of ethnographic methods that haven’t been published within academia. 

            Exploring the legal and illegal practices concerning sexual surrogates and their disabled clientele, matter not because of the deviant erotic pathways that could possible occur if disabled persons are not able to express and engage in sexual interactions. Studying and learning about sexual surrogacy and disabled persons access to intimacy is interwoven between numerous means to connect and communicate. Sexuality and disability matter the most, because this marginalized community’s bodies have been controlled in numerous aspects, such as: medically, socially, culturally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and denied sexual access or sexually abused. 

            Sexual surrogacy is implemented by licensed and trained personnel to administer safe, healthy, skin to skin intimacy and human touch between consensual people. In Lisa Ling’s Sexual Healing documentary (2017), Ling exposes the real relationships with sexual surrogates and their various clientele who benefit from these human connection services. Ling (2017) highlights repeatedly in the series how EVERYBODY, regardless if they are able-bodied, disabled, aged, young, traumatized or trauma free, sexually limited or sexually capable, gender specifically defined or Non-binary undefined persons, should be allowed to decide with whom they trust to have intimacy and sexual experiences with. Ling (2017) includes interviews and footage about sexual surrogates helping physically abused and disabled persons within in her Sexual Healing documentary. For more access click here and

            Sexual surrogacy promotes the motto that everyone deserves equal sexual and non-sexual agency over their own body, the right to embrace and feel safe in a sexual scenario while overcoming their social anxieties, and lastly, to safely engage in pleasurable consensual sex/sex related acts. 

Reference List

Emma Affection. (2018, August 13). Surrogate Partner Therapy. [Video file]. Retrieved from      RchqlDwkCmj0HfzY-sQ7cI6fiEdAIuh4zzJcBqN8

Get sex smart with Dr. Valeria Chuba. (2018, March 15). E83: Surrogate partner therapy: How it can help you. Get sex smart @ Stitcher Podcast. Podcast retrieved from Professional Surrogates Association 

Guttmacher, A. F. (1970, July 12). Human sexual inadequacy. The New York Times. Retrieved  from

Kinsey Institute: Indiana University. (2019). Masters & Johnson Collection. [Webpage]. Retrieved from

International Professional Surrogates (IPSA). (2019). Surrogate partner therapy. [Webpage]. Retrieved from

International Professional Surrogates (IPSA). (2019). Surrogate partner certification [Webpage]. Retrieved from

International Professional Surrogates (IPSA). (2019). Statement of purpose and mission. [Webpage]. Retrieved from

Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. Human sexual inadequacy. Toronto; New York: Bantam  Books, 1970.

Skelton, A. (2013). Sex, sex surrogates, and disability. [Webpage]. Retrieved from 

This Is Life with Lisa Ling: CNN series. (2017, October 1). Sexual healing (season 4, episode 1). [Webpage]. Retrieved from

This is life with Lisa Ling: YouTube. (2019, June 30). Sexual healing (season 4, episode 1). [Webpage]. Retrieved from

Zur, O: The Zur Institute. (1995-2019). To refer or not to refer -surrogate partner therapy. [Webpage]. Retrieved from

Priscilla L. Roman is a United States Navy-Seabee Veteran and a First-Generation graduate student. Priscilla earned the title of Magna Cum Laude on her Bachelor of Arts degree from Old Dominion University in 2018, while majoring in the field of Communication with concentrations in Public Relations, Persuasion, and Advocacy. Priscilla is presently studying within the Master of Arts Lifespan & Digital Communication Program at Old Dominion University, in addition to earning a graduate certificate in Social Justice & Entrepreneurship. Priscilla will complete her Master of Arts project in the spring of 2021 and will graduate in May 2021. Priscilla is a member of the ODU Student Veterans Association and intermittently volunteers her time coordinating resources for other veterans interested in attending graduate school. Priscilla is presently the M.A. Lifespan & Digital Communication 2019-2020 graduate program assistant for Old Dominion University at the Norfolk, Virginia, campus. Priscilla is passionate about critically analyzing and exploring themes pertaining to disability media studies, gender, femininity, branding and toys, disability pop-culture, and the lifespan representation of bodies with disabilities (adult manikins, public art, and children’s toys) advertised and marketed to consumers. Priscilla will pursue her passions on a local level, by studying everyday life scenarios for students with disabilities on the Old Dominion University campus and the digital disability media technology resources offered. Priscilla aspires to attain an entrepreneurial leadership position within the military, or public retail and marketing sector, to advocate for the modification of traditional manikins embodying carbon fiber limbs, hearing aids, holding service animals, and displaying other conditions, in order to inspire social justice upon the completion of her Master of Arts degree and Social Justice & Entrepreneurship graduate certificate. Priscilla enjoys living life to the fullest with all of her family and friends!