Please stop calling me a “sex surrogate”

The correct term is “surrogate partner”

I’m starting to feel frustrated with how frequently I hear the term “sex surrogacy” or “sexual surrogacy.” Surrogate partners (which is the correct term, btw) have been advocating for decades to have our work called by its proper name, rather than by the sensationalist media-originated title of “sex surrogate.” Continuing to use this inaccurate title, despite the protests of the very people doing the work, perpetuates the myth that surrogate partners are essentially just a body to practice sex on.

This myth has created confusion for many of my clients. Since I’m a sex surrogate, clients have asked, isn’t my job to have sex with them whenever they want me to — even if we’re in conflict, even if I’m not in the mood, even if they’ve said something horribly offensive to me? The answer to these questions is unequivocally: NO.

My job is to be a practice partner, to react to my clients the way a real partner would (but with a lot more gentleness and the safety of a therapeutic container), so that they can learn how to be grounded and attuned in relationship. My job is to teach healthy, mutual intimacy based in empowered consent. My job is to be in authentic relationship with clients as a pathway to healing; our relationship involves physical intimacy but more importantly it involves emotional intimacy: communication, care, conversation, attunement, reading body language, cuddling, sharing our insecurities with each other, crying together, and love.

I would have hoped that after so many years of surrogate partners advocating to be called surrogate partners, media outlets and therapists (particularly those with an emphasis on sexuality like My Sex Bio and The Heart Podcast) would get this right by now. And yet almost weekly I still read or overhear someone saying “sex surrogate.”

Why do I have to keep having this same tired conversation? Do you know of any other job where, despite decades of clearly and publicly naming their preferred title, everyone consistently calls them something else? This is one more example of sex workers’ autonomy and definitions of self being tossed out the window by the media in pursuit of something more sensationalist, more whorephobic — and providing more justification for the violence and opposition we face everyday. PLEASE JUST LISTEN TO SEX WORKERS.

Call us by our freakin’ name, okay?