“I do a lot of intimate things—very rarely is it intercourse,” she says, after snagging two chairs near the window, where the sounds of the barista's espresso machine whir over her words. “Sometimes I do massage of genitals, also the anus, or what we call the sacred spot for the man— the perineum or prostate area…. I take someone's hand and guide them toward their sexual awakening.”
Simone is a certified sex surrogate. A day at work can mean Skyping with a 36-year-old virgin who has problems getting an erection, or heading into a bedroom with a couple whose sex life is lukewarm. Sometimes, penetrative sex is required, but the majority of the time, Simone's just a coach or trainer who blends her tantric teachings with surrogacy techniques. Her goal is simply to produce better sexual partners. Her real bread-and-butter is helping men avoid premature ejaculation.
Sex “surrogacy” came about in the 1960s when the research team William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson started seriously studying sex. Masters and Johnson developed the method of surrogacy specifically to help treat sexual dysfunctions. They found great success in pairing more traditional sex-therapy treatment with a much more intimate, hands-on approach.
A few documentaries and the occasional sex show like TLC's Strange Sex have profiled the fascinating day-in-the-life of a sex surrogate. Simone's been the subject of both, including a somewhat scathing article in the United Kingdom's The Sun that ran under the headline “Meet the sexual healer who has slept with 1,500 men.” Yet even with the media attention, the field remains mostly in the shadows, lurking somewhere between acceptance and the idea that sex surrogacy is a form of prostitution.
“The most difficult thing is staying safe from the law,” Simone says. “I'm definitely working on a very fine line.”
Karen Gless, a licensed marriage-and-family therapist who specializes in couples and sex therapy, says that in some cases, surrogacy is the most effective treatment. She doesn't recommend working with a sex surrogate without working with a therapist in tandem, but she defends the occupation as both professional (there's even an association, the International Professional Surrogates Association) and pro-female, since surrogates most often train men to be better, more thoughtful partners for women.
“It's a way of getting in touch with our bodies—getting present with our bodies and being able to be more touch- and sensory-based than just wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am,” she says. “And it's not prostitution; it's a therapeutic process. It isn't about sexual gratification; it's about learning how to be content with your own body and with your own understanding of sexual functioning in order to be successful.”
Gless, who's been practicing in San Diego since 1985, says she used to refer some of her patients to sex surrogates but hasn't come across a case for years that required it. Sex surrogacy is still relatively unknown—and shocking—to most people, she says, in part because sexuality continues to be such a taboo.
“It's because we have a very Victorian society—that's part of it,” she says. “Our society is so uptight that it's kind of scary. And, in terms of us professionals, we have to worry about malpractice and all those kinds of things.”
A surrogate's practice depends on referrals from licensed therapists, but the internet has made it possible to survive without that dwindling support. Simone was trained in surrogacy in the '80s before the rise of HIV and AIDS forced her profession even further to the fringes, but she evolved her practice to include the teaching of tantric-sex techniques, and these days, she says, a lot of her clients find her through her website, maresimone.com.
Simone was once a married, sexually frustrated woman. A history of abuse, rape and Christianity created a mental block, making her physically unable to enjoy sex.
“I knew that I was one of the statistics of women who wasn't highly orgasmic,” she says. “I would read Taoist readings about seven levels of orgasms women could have, and I was fascinated. I wanted to know more about what wasn't being told to me.”
A few decades of training and practice in surrogacy and Tantra have not only helped countless clients, Simone says, but, over the years, she's also learned to help herself. Now divorced, Simone says she enjoys intimacy with a few different lovers and says she's finally mastered female ejaculation.
“I think a lot of women have held back what's a natural part of a woman's orgasmic freedom,” she says. “When you have a female ejaculation, it just feels like a waterfall of light.... All the memories that were burdens come back to me, and it's almost like I'm watching them spill out and go down the drain. Afterward, I feel so much lighter. It has a powerful impact.”
Simone wishes more women would take advantage of sex surrogacy and demand the experience of better, more powerful orgasms, but she finds that it's mostly men who are out there Googling solutions to their own sexual dysfunctions.
“I think miracles can happen,” she says about her profession. “I've seen miracles happen…. It's good stuff. You can tell I'm pretty passionate about it.”
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