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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?

Why I’m over National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day, and every day on this year, I find myself scrolling through social media getting increasingly pissed off at all the celebratory posts reminiscing about coming out stories and congratulating recently-out baby queers.

Now don’t get me wrong — I recognize that for many, many people, coming out is a tremendous occasion. It takes bravery and often hardship, and in a world set on tearing us down, I understand why so many queer folks value celebrating it. I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade (or as we say in the world of Somatic Sex Education, “yuck anyone’s yum”); I know that everyone has a different relationship to this stuff.

But speaking for myself, I’m totally sick of the idea of coming out. What “coming out” implies is that there’s a normal way to be, and that if you find yourself to be anything other than normal, it’s on you to let everybody know that. Because otherwise, they’re gonna assume you’re just like everyone else. And frankly, that pisses me off.

There is no such thing as normal, people.

The creation of a dominant norm is harmful to all of us, because in reality, almost no one fits into it. We all have idiosyncrasies, unique ways of being and doing and seeing the world. There are as many sexualities as there are humans on earth — and for most folks I know, our sexualities change (in big ways or in small) over the course of our lives. We are wildly unique, ever-changing beings, and the idea that there is a normal and and a not-normal is bullshit binary thinking that forces all of us into boxes.

Can’t we stop making assumptions about each other and let folks define themselves, in whatever ways they want to?

As someone who tried to force myself into the “normal” box for way too long because I didn’t know there were other options, I feel particularly ragey about this topic. I grew up in a Pleasantville-like suburb of Seattle, and I knew two gay kids growing up, both of whom were Abercrombie-wearing white boys with nice haircuts. There were no queer kids around, no punk or anarchist gays, not even (as far as I knew) any lesbians. (Of course, after high school, I found out that many folks I grew up with turned out to be somewhere on the queer spectrum). The way life was presented to me as a teen was: you go to college, get married, get a job that pays well and impresses your parents’ friends, have kids, retire, and die. And if you’re gay, you do all the same stuff, just with someone with the same genitals you have. Coming out was for those folks, not for someone who was just a weirdo like me.

Since I found boys cute and seemed to be able to tolerate a dick, it didn’t even occur to me that I might be something other than straight until my senior year of college, when I suddenly found myself crushing hard on a girl (s/o to Marina: if you ever happen to stumble upon this, it was me who added you on Wescam during senior week – sorry I was too bashful to admit it). And even once I started dating women and nonbinary folks, I was still so inundated by the social pressure to find my hetero soulmate that I continued to end up partnered exclusively with cis men for another five or six years.

I never really came out, at least about my sexuality. My straightness just kinda faded into queerness over time, and no one in my life seemed confused by that. I remember talking on the phone with my mom one time and she said that someone we knew was dating people of the same gender, and I think I said something to her like, “Oh, ya, me too,” and that was as close as I came to officially coming out to anybody I knew. (Coming out to my family as a therapeutic s=x worker, on the other hand, was a whole other story — but I’ll save that for another post.)

Even after I discovered how expansive and uncategorizable my sexuality was, it took me years to unwind the toxic threads of heteronormativity from my mind and body (lol let’s be real, I’ll be unwinding those for the rest of my life). But what felt so powerful about discovering the label queer was the way it said FUCK YOU not just to normative understandings of sexuality but to normative ways of being in general. Queerness was permission to leave my 9-to-5 job and take the leap into this fringe modality of healing work that makes me so so happy; queerness was permission to not want to be partnered, even with someone other than a cis man, maybe ever; queerness was permission to form all sorts of counter-normative domestic structures, from nesting partnerships with old friends to pseudo-utopian communities to living solo in a van up and down the west coast. Queerness was permission to be me, in my fullest expression, as I am — no boxes, no categories, nothing to come into or out of.

I often hear friends griping about how little “queer” means these days — how you can’t really tell anything about someone when they say they identify as queer anymore. But I’m 100% here for that shit. Because isn’t the whole point of queerness that we stop making assumptions about which box someone fits in? That we acknowledge there are an infinite number of ways to be in the world?

If I had it my way, the whole world would identify as queer. And to be honest (uh oh here comes the hate mail), I think the whole world is queer. Because there is no such thing as normal. There’s just people, doing their people-ing thing, in their own unique-ass way. And that’s queer af if you ask me.

Morning Centering Meditation

This is a morning meditation based on Generative Somatics’ centering practice. I use sound, breath, and sensation to help us connect with our bodies and the world around us. We’ll ground in our healing journey, acknowledging our ancestors and our dreams for the future, coming into a clear sense of ourselves in the present moment.

What does “somatic” mean?

The word “somatic” is trending hard in the therapy world these days, but many clients who could benefit from somatic work don’t even know what it means. Terms like this are often used as mechanisms of gatekeeping — if you don’t know the language, how can you access the healing? For this reason, I generally try to keep fancy language like this out of my practice. But the term “somatic” captures something that I’ve found no other term for in our society:

“[S]omatic . . . describe[s] the whole and indivisible nature of the human being. This means that it’s not so much working with the mind and the body as it is an implicit understanding that each person is the mind and the body, together–a holistic and global understanding of the biological, cultural, emotional, psychological, spiritual, energetic, and evolutionary functioning of the human organism.” – from “A Brief Overview and History of Somatics”

In western (colonial capitalist) society, we’re mostly taught that our mind is us (“I think, therefore I am”), and that our body is a sort of appendage that either weighs us down (aches, pains, illness, disability, aging, and death) or an object to be mastered (weightlifting, working out, dieting, fasting, eating disorders). Somatic healing recognizes that our body is us as much as our mind is — and that in fact, our mind can often get in the way of our bodies’ inherent wisdom.

Surrogate partner therapy and somatic sex education, the two modalities I call home, are both grounded in the belief that processing trauma and healing ourselves starts with hands-on, bodies-on learning. The way we reprogram old habits that have us stuck, scared, and alone is to try on new behaviors at a gentle, supported pace. Verbal processing, emotional reflection, and self analysis are all part of the work as well; rather than compartmentalizing these realms of healing, we integrate all of them into our sessions.

If you’re interested in learning more about somatic healing, I recommend checking out the following organizations and healing modalities:

My Favorite Meditations: Breath Based Body Scan with Vidyamala Burch

Tuning into the breath is one of the most common anchors used in meditation, but as someone with a very scattered brain, it can often be hard for me to stay focused on such an automatic body process. This 15-minute meditation helps me bring awareness in a more focused way, directing the breath into each part of the body slowly and intentionally. This is one of my go-to morning meditations and is great for times when I need a quick fix to get grounded.

 

Breath Based Body Scan with Vidyamala Burch