Société: Après le mariage pour tous, la prostitution pour tous? (Sexual surrogacy: What eroticism is to pornography)

Depuis que l’ordre religieux est ébranlé – comme le christianisme le fut sous la Réforme – les vices ne sont pas seuls à se trouver libérés. Certes les vices sont libérés et ils errent à l’aventure et ils font des ravages. Mais les vertus aussi sont libérées et elles errent, plus farouches encore, et elles font des ravages plus terribles encore. Le monde moderne est envahi des veilles vertus chrétiennes devenues folles. Les vertus sont devenues folles pour avoir été isolées les unes des autres, contraintes à errer chacune en sa solitude. Chesterton
Tout le monde n’est pas gourmet, voilà pourquoi il faut des gastronomes. Il faut penser des gastronomes ce que nous pensons des pédagogues en général: que ce sont parfois d’insupportables cuistres mais qu’ils ont leur utilité. P. de Pressac
If you go to a prostitute, it’s like going to a restaurant. You read the menu, you choose what you want, they prepare, they hope that you love it, and hopefully you want to come back. With a surrogate, it’s like going to cooking school. You get the ingredients, you learn to make a meal together — and then the point is to go out into the world and share that and not come back. Cheryl Greene
 On trouve normal que des gens prêtent leurs yeux pour lire aux aveugles. Pourquoi, ne prêterais-je pas mes mains pour masturber quelqu’un qui ne peut pas le faire parce qu’il souffre de handicap? Assistante sexuelle suisse
C’est un débat difficile. L’aspiration de chacun à une vie affective et sexuelle est légitime. Mais nous ne devons pas aboutir à une solution qui reviendrait à organiser un service de prostitution. Nous devrons mener ce débat, regarder ce qui se passe dans d’autres pays, sans préjugés. François Hollande
L’Etat (…) n’a pas à intervenir dans l’intime. Roselyne Bachelot
La mauvaise réponse, c’est de poser comme principe qu’il y a une sexualité spécifique des personnes handicapées qui réclame une réponse spécifique. C’est une erreur qui conduit – une fois de plus – à la ghettoïsation du handicap. (Le raisonnement selon lequel « puisque ça se fait ailleurs, ça doit se faire chez nous » est un faux syllogisme). Le projet des aidants sexuels nous pose problème à un double titre : d’une part en ce qu’il s’inscrit dans une forme de prostitution : notons que la demande émane à plus de 80% d’hommes handicapés, et que la réponse… est majoritairement assumée par des femmes. D’autre part, ce projet va à contre-sens d’un mouvement que nous voulons privilégier dans notre action. Nous voulons que les personnes handicapées puissent sortir de chez elles, de leurs institutions, pour aller vers des lieux rendus accessibles, notamment aux rencontres, y compris aux rencontres amoureuses (restaurants, cinémas, boîtes de nuit, voyages…). Faire venir à domicile ou en institution des « aidants », à heures fixes et rémunérés est la négation de ce mouvement qui veut aller vers l’extérieur. C’est enfin, pour la société, se déculpabiliser en nous enfermant dans notre rôle social d’handicapés, de « pauvres handicapés ». La compassion tient lieu ici de réflexion éthique. Ce ne sont ni le misérabilisme, ni les positions morales qui peuvent répondre au problème. Nous manquons singulièrement d’une réflexion approfondie sur ce qu’est la sexualité humaine dont fait partie la sexualité des personnes handicapées. En résumé, la prostitution, quel que soit son habillage, ne peut constituer une réponse. La réponse n’est pas plus dans l’enfermement des personnes handicapées dans l’attente d’une « prestation » supplémentaire, mais dans l’ouverture de l’environnement en termes de réelle accessibilité, pour permettre la multiplication des opportunités de rencontres. Maudy Piot
Il n’y a pas de besoin sexuel au sens de besoin vital qui nécessiterait d’être assouvi. Soit on parle de désir et de sexualité qui impliquent un libre échange de deux personnes s’étant choisies en toute réciprocité pour se découvrir, s’aimer et se donner du plaisir et du bonheur, personnes non interchangeables car il s’agit d’une véritable rencontre faite de respect et de liens affectifs. Soit on parle d’une excitation sexuelle compulsive qui est une conduite addictive à une sexualité violente et prédatrice, instrumentalisant autrui comme un fusible ou un médicament pour éteindre à tout prix, en l’anesthésiant, une tension psychique et génitale pénible (liée à une mémoire traumatique de violences subies ou dont on a été témoin**). Il y a une confusion grave entre désir authentique, non-violent et respectueux de l’autre par définition, et excitation douloureuse avec compulsion à vivre une situation stressante (transgressive, agressive, dominatrice, dégradante) qui sera dissociante et anesthésiante, une confusion également entre une réelle jouissance orgasmique partagée et épanouissante et un soulagement brutal lié à une disjonction (un shoot de drogues libérés par le cerveau en cas de stress extrême) produisant une anesthésie émotionnelle. Et c’est ne pas respecter la personne handicapée que de ne pas considérer comme réalisable son aspiration légitime à une rencontre amoureuse et à une sexualité d’échange et de rencontre partagées, et de lui proposer à la place une sexualité prostitutionnelle. Et comment s’assurer du consentement éclairé de la personne handicapée à ces actes sexuels qui lui seront proposés, le degré de son handicap et la méconnaissance de son anatomie et de la sexualité dans de nombreuses situations ne lui permettront pas de pouvoir librement refuser une décision prise par la famille ou une équipe, décision dictée plus pour leur propre confort que dans l’intérêt de la personne handicapée (pour calmer transitoirement des symptomes sexuels trop « bruyants » et génants en les anesthésiant, sans en rechercher la cause qui est le plus souvant d’origine traumatique, ce qui aura pour effet de les aggraver). Muriel Salmona

Après les mamans (porteuses), les putains remboursées par la sécu?

Au moment même où se joue aux Etats-Unis rien de moins que l‘européanisation du pays-phare du Monde libre …

Et où, comme souvent, le cinéma (Intouchables, The Sessions) a déjà commencé à évoquer le sujet …

Retour, avec Slate, sur la question de l’assistance sexuelle.

Où l’on mesure toute la distance qui nous sépare d’un pays où, à plusieurs milliers de dollars les sessions, on se retrouve devant rien de moins que, à l’instar de l’érotisme comme pornographie du riche avant elle, de la vulgaire prostitution de riche

Et une Europe où déjà remboursée par la Sécurité sociale dans certains pays pour les handicapés, cette pratique pourrait, au pays du mariage pour tous et bientôt des mères porteuses remboursées par la sécu et au nom de la simple équité (suffirait d’étendre un peu la notion de « handicap »), se voir rapidement étendue à tous …

Moi, assistante sexuelle

SEX/Jean Koulev

Slate

05/11/12

Salon publie le témoignage d’une assistance sexuelle américaine, Rebecca Torosian qui raconte en quoi consiste son travail.

«Un assistant sexuel est un thérapeute qui aide les individus à surmonter leurs dysfonctionnement au lit. Oui, cela inclut de coucher avec des étrangers, mais contrairement à la prostitution, ces hommes n’étaient pas à la recherche d’un bon moment. Ils souffraient et étaient très honteux. Ils avaient tout essayé. En général, l’assistant sexuel est le dernier recours.»

Rebecca Torisian donne son avis sur le nouveau film de Ben Lewin, The Sessions, présenté au festival Sundance 2012, où il a obtenu deux prix. Ce film raconte l’histoire vraie du journaliste et poète Mark O’Brien décédé en 1999 et de son assistance sexuelle, Cheryl, qui lui a fait perdre sa virginité à 38 ans.

«En regardant The Sessions, cela m’a rappelé d’une façon saisissante l’étrange vulnérabilité qui existe dans ces chambres (…) Le film rappelle combien l’intimité sexuelle est fragile et fascinante. Cela m’a rappelé combien cela peut me rendre heureuse de regarder un homme découvrir sa propre puissance sexuelle.»

Le film a été l’occasion de la publication de plusieurs témoignages d’assistants sexuels ou de patients dans les médias américains. Le New York Post a interrogé Fern Arden, fondatrice d’une clinique privée d’assistants sexuels à New York. Elle note:

«On ne se focalise pas sur le sexe mais sur la familiarité et l’intimité (…) Nous prodiguons un environnement non pas pour le plaisir sexuel mais pour l’apprentissage sexuel.»

Nerve publie le témoignage d’un homme qui a utilisé dans sa jeunesse les services d’une assistante sexuelle pour perdre sa virginité.

En France, «l’assistance sexuelle» est interdite, et est considérée comme de la prostitution. Des associations comme CH(S)OSE se battent pour sa légalisation. L’ancienne ministre des Solidarités et de la Cohésion sociale, Roselyne Bachelot, s’était dite «rigoureusement, formellement, totalement opposée» à l’assistance sexuelle. Le point de vue de François Hollande reste pour l’instant assez flou, rappelle Libération.

«C’est dans les pages du magazine Faire face qu’il s’était exprimé. (…) « C’est un débat difficile. L’aspiration de chacun à une vie affective et sexuelle est légitime. Mais nous ne devons pas aboutir à une solution qui reviendrait à organiser un service de prostitution. Nous devrons mener ce débat, regarder ce qui se passe dans d’autres pays, sans préjugés. » Une réponse évasive qui laisse dans le flou aussi bien les militants pour les assistants sexuels que les opposants.»

Voir aussi:

L’assistant sexuel: pour un droit à la sensualité

Estelle Lucien

la Tribune de Genève

03.06.2009

En Suisse romande, les personnes en situation de handicap peuvent désormais faire appel à des accompagnants érotiques. La fin d’un tabou.

«On trouve normal que des gens prêtent leurs yeux pour lire aux aveugles. Pourquoi, ne prêterais-je pas mes mains pour masturber quelqu’un qui ne peut pas le faire parce qu’il souffre de handicap?» Pour Isabelle* la chose était entendue. Dès que l’association SExualité et Handicaps Pluriels (SEHP) a ouvert la première formation romande en assistance sexuelle, elle s’y est inscrite. «C’était une évidence», confie même cette mère de famille d’une cinquantaine d’années (lire ci-dessous).

Il y a un an, quatre-vingts volontaires ont fait la même démarche qu’Isabelle. «Parmi ces dossiers, nous avons sélectionné 12?personnes. Il y a eu deux retraits en cours de formation», précise Catherine Agthe Diserens, sexo-pédagogue, formatrice pour adultes et présidente du SEHP. Ils sont donc dix, quatre femmes et six hommes, à être arrivés au terme d’une formation qui leur permet de pratiquer l’assistance sexuelle. C’est-à-dire? «Accompagner sensuellement et sexuellement les personnes en situation de handicap qui le désirent expressément», répond simplement Catherine Agthe Diserens.

Un double tabou

Danemark, Pays-Bas et Allemagne ont été pionniers dans la reconnaissance du droit à l’expérience intime pour les personnes handicapées. Le sujet, aussi délicat que fondamental, soulève deux tabous: la sexualité et le handicap. «Il y a vingt ans, on n’osait pas y penser», relève Catherine Agthe Diserens. Son ouvrage Accompagnement érotique et handicaps (2007), signé avec Françoise Vatré, a mis en lumière les manques sensuels et sexuels vécus par les personnes handicapées.

Le SEHP n’a cessé de poursuivre la réflexion et d’engager le dialogue avec les familles, les personnels soignants et l’opinion publique. Un travail qui a porté ses fruits avec, en 2003, la mise en place d’une première formation d’assistance sexuelle en Suisse alémanique, avant la version romande en 2008.

Des gens ordinaires

Les assistants sexuels sont des gens ordinaires. Ils ont plus de 35?ans, exercent une activité professionnelle et la majorité ont une famille ou un compagnon. Ils ont été désignés sur leur sensibilité à la relation à autrui et sur leur aisance à parler et à vivre leur propre sexualité. Ils font preuve d’une personnalité équilibrée, ont la perception de leurs limites et peuvent argumenter solidement leur motivation. «Ils se sont engagés à en parler à leurs proches», précise encore Catherine Agthe Diserens.

L’assistant sexuel répond aux demandes qui sont adressées au SEHP dans un premier temps. «Une femme qui souhaite avoir un contact peau à peau. Un homme qui veut voir une femme nue. Un massage érotique ou une masturbation. Il y a autant de demandes que de situations individuelles.» Les baisers et les pénétrations ne font pas partie de la prestation, facturée 150?francs l’heure.

Quelle différence avec la prostitution? «Même si aujourd’hui son statut y est assimilé, il se démarque sur trois points: les assistants sexuels sont sélectionnés, ils sont formés et supervisés», explique la présidente du SEHP. «Ce sont des différences importantes aux yeux des parents, des tuteurs et du personnel médical, relève Catherine Agthe Diserens. Mais cela reste une activité extraordinaire.»

* prénom d’emprunt

«Ma fille est fière de moi»

«Que des parents se posent la question de la masturbation pour leur enfant handicapé, c’est humain. Mais ils ne peuvent le faire eux-mêmes, c’est inacceptable! Alors que pour moi c’est possible, justement parce que ce n’est pas mon enfant», raconte Isabelle*, assistante sexuelle pour des personnes en situation de handicap.

Tout aussi simplement a-t-elle annoncé à sa fille et au père de celle-ci sa nouvelle activité. «Je suis fière de toi», a répondu la première. «Ça te va bien», a reconnu le second. Sensibilisée à la différence, Isabelle entend dépasser les discours. «On peut faire du politiquement correct, dire en situation de handicap au lieu de handicapé, mais, sur le terrain, il faut des actes.»

Même si pour cela il faut accepter un statut qui l’assimile à la prostitution? «J’ai beaucoup de respect pour cette profession, mais ça fait quand même bizarre. Je considère qu’il ne s’agit que d’une étape.» Craint-elle de ne pas pouvoir toujours faire respecter ses limites dans un érotisme sans sentiments? «C’est le piège. Nous avons été préparés à cela. Nous avons des ressources. Mais le risque demeure. C’est comme la pluie, on ne peut empêcher sa venue, juste s’équiper de bottes et de parapluies», explique-t-elle. (el)

* Prénom d’emprunt

«Je vais refuser certains gestes»

Jacques a 55 ans, il est physiothérapeute, marié depuis longtemps et père de trois enfants. «Je joue la transparence», annonce-t-il. Même certains de ses patients ont été informés de son activité d’assistant sexuel. «Ils sont très intéressés», remarque le praticien qui doit répondre à deux questions récurrentes.

Jusqu’où Jacques est-il prêt à aller? «Chacun est libre de fixer ses propres limites. Je sais que je vais refuser certains gestes avec les hommes, ou des prestations avec des femmes très jeunes.» Et si la personne handicapée se piquait de sentiments? «Mais une patiente que je soignerais pour un orteil pourrait aussi tomber amoureuse de moi.»

Sa pratique de la physiothérapie l’a-t-il avantagé dans sa démarche? «J’ai dû exorciser le physio. Surtout au niveau du toucher. J’ai appris à passer d’un contact anatomique à quelque chose de sensuel.»

Jacques est déjà intervenu en tant qu’assistant sexuel: «Il s’agissait de réunir dans un même lit un couple de personnes souffrant de plusieurs pathologies dont la tétraplégie.» Se considère-t-il comme un pionnier? «Avant nous, il y a eu l’action des prostituées. Aujourd’hui, la différence entre elles et nous, c’est surtout le bénéficiaire qui la fait. C’est d’ailleurs lui, la personne vraiment exceptionnelle. La personne handicapée doit dépasser ses propres freins et blocages.»

Craint-il l’exposition médiatique? «On n’a guère de contrôle dans ce domaine. Mais je pense que l’essentiel est que l’information atteigne les gens

concernés», affirme l’assistant sexuel, qui a déjà affronté quelques commentaires crus. «On est préparés», assure Jacques, qui ajoute que la formation du SEPH a bouleversé sa vie. (el)

Voir également:

Entretien Dr Muriel Salmona

Questions :

Quel est votre regard de professionnelle sur la question des aidants sexuels pour personnes en situation de handicap ?

J’y suis totalement opposée. La sexualité n’est ni un métier, ni une marchandise, ni un service para médical, ni un droit comme nous l’écrivions avec Maudy Piot de FDFA.

S’il est essentiel de progresser dans le respect des droits fondamentaux des personnes handicapées à accéder à une vie citoyenne, à l’autonomie, à la sécurité, à des soins de qualité, à l’intimité, à la rencontre, à une vie sans violences, la sexualité qui est basée sur des notions de réciprocité et d’échanges, ne peut pas être un droit à partir du moment où elle imposerait qu’une tierce personne soit rémunérée, et donc que la sexualité de cette personne soit instrumentalisée au bénéfice d’une autre personne.

Sur les forums de discussion sur internet, de nombreuses personnes disent ceci : « les personnes handicapées ont aussi des besoins sexuels. Ces personnes doivent pouvoir assouvir leurs besoins! ».

Qu’est-ce qu’un besoin sexuel ? Peut-on objectivement le définir ?

Il n’y a pas de besoin sexuel au sens de besoin vital qui nécessiterait d’être assouvi. Soit on parle de désir et de sexualité qui impliquent un libre échange de deux personnes s’étant choisies en toute réciprocité pour se découvrir, s’aimer et se donner du plaisir et du bonheur, personnes non interchangeables car il s’agit d’une véritable rencontre faite de respect et de liens affectifs. Soit on parle d’une excitation sexuelle compulsive qui est une conduite addictive à une sexualité violente et prédatrice, instrumentalisant autrui comme un fusible ou un médicament pour éteindre à tout prix, en l’anesthésiant, une tension psychique et génitale pénible (liée à une mémoire traumatique de violences subies ou dont on a été témoin**).

Il y a une confusion grave entre désir authentique, non-violent et respectueux de l’autre par définition, et excitation douloureuse avec compulsion à vivre une situation stressante (transgressive, agressive, dominatrice, dégradante) qui sera dissociante et anesthésiante, une confusion également entre une réelle jouissance orgasmique partagée et épanouissante et un soulagement brutal lié à une disjonction (un shoot de drogues libérés par le cerveau en cas de stress extrême) produisant une anesthésie émotionnelle.

Et c’est ne pas respecter la personne handicapée que de ne pas considérer comme réalisable son aspiration légitime à une rencontre amoureuse et à une sexualité d’échange et de rencontre partagées, et de lui proposer à la place une sexualité prostitutionnelle.

Et comment s’assurer du consentement éclairé de la personne handicapée à ces actes sexuels qui lui seront proposés, le degré de son handicap et la méconnaissance de son anatomie et de la sexualité dans de nombreuses situations ne lui permettront pas de pouvoir librement refuser une décision prise par la famille ou une équipe, décision dictée plus pour leur propre confort que dans l’intérêt de la personne handicapée (pour calmer transitoirement des symptomes sexuels trop « bruyants » et génants en les anesthésiant, sans en rechercher la cause qui est le plus souvant d’origine traumatique, ce qui aura pour effet de les aggraver).

Faites-vous le lien entre aidants sexuels et prostitution ? si oui pouvez-vous l’expliquer ?

Un contact sexuel rémunéré est la définition même de la prostitution. La France est un pays abolitionniste qui refuse toute réglementation de la prostitution et qui reconnaît avec la convention des Nations Unies de 1949 que la prostitution et la traite sont incompatibles avec la dignité et la valeur de la personne humaine.

Le risque est grand aussi de recruter des aidants sexuels, particulièrement des hommes, en position perverse qui pourront exercer des violences sexuelles sur les personnes handicapées vulnérables en toute impunité. Les personnes handicapées, en grande majorité les femmes, subissent déjà très fréquemment des violences sexuelles (au moins trois fois plus que les femmes non handicapées), l’urgence est de les protéger, non de les exposer encore plus.

Instrumentaliser sexuellement une personne est une des violences les plus graves et les plus traumatisantes. Il est illusoire et criminel de penser que l’on pourra contrôler et empêcher de très graves violences sexuelles si l’on autorise une assistance sexuelle aux personnes handicapées.

** pour en savoir plus page sur les violences sexuelles sur le site memoiretraumatique.org

 Voir encore:

« Autoriser les aidants sexuels revient à professionnaliser la prostitution »

Égalité

19 mai 2011

Fin avril, de grands quotidiens tels que Le Monde ou Libération, ont consacré des tribunes à deux thèmes : le projet de loi concernant la pénalisation des clients de prostituées, et le projet de création d’aidants sexuels pour personnes handicapées. Deux thèmes bien distincts et qui, pourtant, ont un point commun. Dans le premier cas il s’agit de promouvoir une politique « abolitionniste tempérée » en incriminant les clients. Dans le second cas, tout au contraire, il s’agit d’aménager la législation sur le proxénétisme en autorisant les services d’aidants sexuels pour les personnes handicapées. Mais dans les deux cas on parle bien de prostitution. Quel que soit l’habillage sémantique, les aidants sexuels (femmes ou hommes) représenteraient une forme de prostitution professionnalisée et spécialisée.

Notre association accueille des femmes handicapées, quel que soit leur handicap. Notre but est de militer pour la citoyenneté des personnes handicapées, considérant que le handicap n’est pas notre identité, qu’il est dû au hasard de la vie. Nous luttons également contre toutes formes de discriminations, en particulier lorsque l’on est femmes ET handicapées. Nous refusons toute ghettoïsation des personnes en situation de handicap.

L’instauration des aidants sexuels, présentée comme une prestation destinée aux personnes lourdement handicapées, rémunérée, et éventuellement remboursée, représente à nos yeux une mauvaise réponse à une bonne question. La bonne question, c’est celle de la sexualité des personnes handicapées : la société prend enfin conscience de leur sexualité et de leur vie affective, et nous nous en réjouissons, on a trop longtemps voulu ignorer cette question, on a trop longtemps dénié aux personnes handicapées leur désir de vivre leur sexualité d’hommes et de femmes dans l’authenticité et la dignité, et de pouvoir créer une relation amoureuse.

Quand la compassion tient lieu de réflexion éthique

La mauvaise réponse, c’est de poser comme principe qu’il y a une sexualité spécifique des personnes handicapées qui réclame une réponse spécifique. C’est une erreur qui conduit – une fois de plus – à la ghettoïsation du handicap. (Le raisonnement selon lequel « puisque ça se fait ailleurs, ça doit se faire chez nous » est un faux syllogisme).

Le projet des aidants sexuels nous pose problème à un double titre : d’une part en ce qu’il s’inscrit dans une forme de prostitution : notons que la demande émane à plus de 80% d’hommes handicapés, et que la réponse… est majoritairement assumée par des femmes. D’autre part, ce projet va à contre-sens d’un mouvement que nous voulons privilégier dans notre action. Nous voulons que les personnes handicapées puissent sortir de chez elles, de leurs institutions, pour aller vers des lieux rendus accessibles, notamment aux rencontres, y compris aux rencontres amoureuses (restaurants, cinémas, boîtes de nuit, voyages…). Faire venir à domicile ou en institution des « aidants », à heures fixes et rémunérés est la négation de ce mouvement qui veut aller vers l’extérieur.

C’est enfin, pour la société, se déculpabiliser en nous enfermant dans notre rôle social d’handicapés, de « pauvres handicapés ». La compassion tient lieu ici de réflexion éthique. Ce ne sont ni le misérabilisme, ni les positions morales qui peuvent répondre au problème. Nous manquons singulièrement d’une réflexion approfondie sur ce qu’est la sexualité humaine dont fait partie la sexualité des personnes handicapées.

En résumé, la prostitution, quel que soit son habillage, ne peut constituer une réponse. La réponse n’est pas plus dans l’enfermement des personnes handicapées dans l’attente d’une « prestation » supplémentaire, mais dans l’ouverture de l’environnement en termes de réelle accessibilité, pour permettre la multiplication des opportunités de rencontres.

Maudy Piot, présidente de Femmes pour le dire, femmes pour agir

Voir par ailleurs:

Société

L’assistance sexuelle n’est pas un travail

21 avril 2011

ROSELYNE BACHELOT-NARQUIN Ministre des Solidarités et de la Cohésion sociale

Comment aider les personnes qui souffrent d’un handicap tel que toute forme d’activité sexuelle leur est impossible ? La reconnaissance d’un droit à la sexualité, ouvrant l’accès aux services d’«aidants sexuels», est-elle la bonne réponse aux situations de détresse qu’on imagine ? L’institution de ce nouveau droit est le préalable à la légalisation d’une profession considérée pour son utilité sociale. Or, un tel «droit de créance» est sans fondement.

Dans le «désir sexuel», s’exprime toujours «un désir de reconnaissance» qui signale notre humanité. Ce qui vaut pour tout être humain, doté d’une conscience libre et d’un corps désirant, vaut également pour les personnes qui subissent un lourd handicap. Les personnes handicapées, qui auraient «droit» aux services d’un aidant sexuel, verraient leur sexualité réduite à la stricte satisfaction du besoin naturel. Elles seraient niées comme «êtres de désir». Comment donner un fondement légal à des pratiques qui, d’un côté, ne sauraient relever du «soin» sans ignorer au fond la demande d’amour qui structure la pulsion sexuelle, et qui, de l’autre, ne peuvent devenir «sexuelles» sans contrarier l’éthique du soin ? De même que le «droit à la sexualité» est une contradiction dans les termes, la notion d’aidant sexuel est un oxymore.

Assimiler l’activité d’un aidant sexuel à la dispense d’un soin, c’est pervertir la fonction du «soignant professionnel», en ignorer la substance éthique. Le soin suppose toujours le respect d’une intimité ou d’une pudeur et une certaine distance dans la sollicitude. Cette distance protège chacun, soignant et soigné, accompagnant et accompagné. La relation qui s’établit ne saurait se sexualiser sans exposer la liberté des deux personnes concernées. Les risques de maltraitance ou de chantage financier, s’agissant de personnes particulièrement fragiles, sont bien réels. L’instrumentalisation de l’intervenant qui marchandise son corps est la contrepartie attendue d’une prestation qui parvient difficilement à se distinguer de la prostitution. S’agit-il de se convaincre que la prostitution elle-même est un soin, comme pour en légitimer la pratique ? Mais alors, à qui réserver ce soin ? Comment refuser d’ouvrir à tous l’accès à une prestation si bénéfique ? Quelle souffrance justifie d’y recourir ?

La pitié, qui nous rapproche spontanément d’autrui, nous éloigne de la justice, quand, au nom de la souffrance d’un être, on autorise et produit l’aliénation d’un autre. Dans un monde où l’on sait tirer profit de tout, de la misère humaine et des faux espoirs, la compassion est le cheval de Troie de tous les renoncements. Ministre de la Santé, je m’étais opposée à la légalisation de la pratique des mères porteuses dans notre pays. Ministre des Solidarités et de la Cohésion sociale, c’est la même conviction qui me porte aujourd’hui à dénoncer les dérives du «droit à compensation» invoqué pour donner un cadre juridique à une pratique aliénante.

Le droit à compensation, institué par la loi du 11 février 2005, trouve naturellement sa limite dans l’asservissement qu’il institue et l’aliénation qu’il entretient. Le respect de la liberté et de la dignité des personnes est le principe ultime et irréfragable auquel une politique du handicap responsable se doit d’obéir. C’est cette politique que je compte bien mener, pour défendre le droit du plus faible et la dignité des personnes handicapées. Un droit qui fait le lit de la marchandisation du corps humain n’est pas un droit. C’est un leurre dont les plus vulnérables risquent de payer le prix fort.

L’Etat, qui n’a pas à intervenir dans l’intime, ne peut donc rembourser une «prestation» qui contredit tout à la fois notre idéal d’émancipation, notre conception du soin, de la sexualité et du travail. La collectivité ne saurait financer un «service» dont il est délicat d’évaluer le coût et la contrainte. Cependant, les vraies questions, insolubles et déchirantes, ne sont-elles pas celles qui traversent la conscience de deux sujets, dans l’expérience nécessairement décevante d’une promesse impossible à tenir ? Que vaut une étreinte si elle est tarifée ? Que vaut un métier d’où le désir s’absente ?

Voir aussi:

Société

Assistant sexuel : quelle sera la position de Hollande ?

28 mai 2012

ANNE-CLAIRE GENTHIALON

Roselyne Bachelot l’avait répété à maintes reprises. L’ancienne ministre des Solidarités et de la Cohésion sociale était «rigoureusement, formellement, totalement opposée» à l’assistance sexuelle. Quid de cet épineux sujet à l’heure de l’alternance? «Avec l’arrivée de François Hollande et de son gouvernement, nous souhaitons que la question de l’assistance sexuelle des personnes en situation de handicap fasse enfin l’objet d’un débat national», explique Pascale Ribes présidente de l’association CH(S)OSE qui soutient la création de dispositifs concernant la vie affective et sexuelle des personnes en situation de handicap. «Il s’agit de sortir du seul argument assistance sexuelle égale prostitution, et de mettre tous les interlocuteurs concernés autour d’une table pour trouver une solution juridique, éthique et humaine qui permette d’apporter une réponse à celles et ceux qui, du fait de leur handicap, ne peuvent avoir accès à leur sexualité.»

Interpellé pendant la campagne, le candidat socialiste n’avait pas répondu à l’association. C’est dans les pages du magazine Faire face qu’il s’était exprimé. A la question «Allez-vous autoriser la création de services d’accompagnement sexuel pour les personnes lourdement handicapées ?», François Hollande avait déclaré alors : «C’est un débat difficile. L’aspiration de chacun à une vie affective et sexuelle est légitime. Mais nous ne devons pas aboutir à une solution qui reviendrait à organiser un service de prostitution. Nous devrons mener ce débat, regarder ce qui se passe dans d’autres pays, sans préjugés.» Une réponse évasive qui laisse dans le flou aussi bien les militants pour les assistants sexuels que les opposants.

Voir de même:

Secrets of the sex surrogates

Jane Ridley

New York Post

October 24, 2012

Crippled by shyness, the 40-something professional can barely look Fern Arden in the face as he talks about still being a virgin at such an advanced age.

“Don’t worry,” the Manhattan sex therapist tells him. “We can work on this.

If the doctor’s voice sounds confident, it’s with good reason. Arden is the founder of an exclusive private clinic off Central Park West that provides a very specialized type of treatment for psychosexual problems like this one.

She employs an all-female staff of sex surrogates, officially known as “surrogate partners,” who give clients one-on-one coaching in caressing techniques, kissing, feeling relaxed with another person in the nude and, inevitably, the sex act itself.

“The focus is not sex, but familiarity and intimacy,” insists Arden, who founded the Abel 2 Counseling Center 22 years ago. “We provide an environment, not for sexual pleasure, but for sexual learning.”

The licensed sexologist has never spoken about her practice to the media before, mainly because, she says, “I have famous clients.” But she agreed to talk to The Post following Friday’s release of the independent movie “The Sessions,” which is already generating Oscar buzz.

It tells the real-life story of a sex substitute from California who takes on a profoundly disabled man needing to experience sex before he dies.

“People tend to be ill-informed about what a surrogate partner does,” explains Arden, who hopes the award-winning film about the late polio sufferer Mark O’Brien and his surrogate, Cheryl Cohen Greene, will shine a much-needed light on the profession.

“They think of it pejoratively, the same as a sex worker, but it’s not,” she adds. “Just as you have legitimate massage therapists and people who run massage parlors, there is a huge difference between them.”

In fact, in 1973 a group of sex surrogates based in Los Angeles tried to accredit their profession. Today the International Professional Surrogates Association has about 30 surrogates registered in the US, though Arden’s staff are not members. Per the organization’s code of ethics, surrogates must have completed a two-week training program with the society and work under the supervision (but not observation) of a licensed sex therapist.

But, according to one law expert, the business is still illegal.

Derrelle Janey, a defense attorney at the Manhattan law firm Gottleib and Gordon, likens the sex surrogacy practice to prostitution — after all, money is being received for sex: “It doesn’t matter if the client is disabled, it doesn’t matter if he is suffering from some kind of emotional distress — that just makes it kind of sad. They have agreed to pay money for a sexual experience, and everyone understands that’s the transaction. In my view, that’s prostitution.”

As for why Arden has been able to operate her business for so long without running afoul of the law, Janey says: “Maybe this kind of thing has not been a priority of the district attorney.”

Arden, who has a Ph.D. from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, insists what she does is not prostitution; it’s a public service. Scrolling through her Web site, however, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. One page lists a number of women by age, height and weight details — most of them tantalizingly young and svelte like “Debbie: 29 years old; 5-foot-2; 100 lbs.” The difference is Arden also cites their personalities and intelligence: “They are sincere, patient and caring,” Arden writes on the site, adding that her surrogates “will have college degrees.”

Just like the character played by Helen Hunt in “The Sessions,” the three surrogate partners currently on Arden’s staff are “professionally trained clinicians” who report to her after each session.

“You would typically need a partner to resolve most sexual problems and for single men that is obviously an issue,” says Arden, who charges clients between $3,000 and $5,000 for an average course of 12 to 15 separate sessions with herself and the surrogate.

The sessions take place in her offices, but Arden does not watch the interaction between the client and the surrogate. Instead, she receives a full report of the progress from the surrogate and follows up with the men afterward.

“Most of the men who come to my center are sexually inexperienced, so the surrogate program allows them to progress with their treatment.”

She argues it would be “cruel” not to treat them and have them “remain dysfunctional” until they find a willing partner to accompany them to therapy.

“People have this perception of a sex surrogate as: ‘Oh wow, I am going to have a sexual teacher and we’re going to have hot sex!’ but it’s not that way at all,” says Arden, who requires her clients and surrogates to be tested for STDs at least once every two months.

“The sessions with the surrogate evolve gradually. It’s a very gradual, sensual process of getting used to holding hands, caressing and kissing.

“[The clients] could come into treatment for several visits before they even take their clothes off.”

Sarah, one of Arden’s surrogate partners — who agreed to speak to The Post on condition of anonymity and declined to give her age — carefully fielded questions about the practical side of her job.

“I usually begin sessions by working on eye contact and the way they hold their bodies,” she says, explaining that her background is in sexual psychology and social work. “We use massage and touch therapy, so the client can learn to be in the moment, be comfortable with their bodies and become aware of the sensations.

“We take a mind-and-body approach and slowly remove anxiety out of the equation.”

Asked whether she ever has penetrative sex with clients, she won’t comment.

This discretion extends into her personal life, too.

“I don’t feel compelled to tell everybody that I meet [that I work as a sexual surrogate],” she says. “There are certain people in my life who understand what I do and are very supportive of it.

“But there are also people in my life who there is no reason for me to even go there.”

By contrast, Greene, 68, whose notes about her work with polio victim O’Brien were used as part of the screenplay for “The Sessions,” is more than happy to reveal herself publicly.

Her memoir “An Intimate Life: Sex, Love and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner” will be out next month, and she enthusiastically endorses the movie. It depicts the period when she was 42 and O’Brien was a 36-year-old graduate student at Berkeley who hired her to help him lose his virginity. Despite living most of his life in an iron lung, he succeeded, continuing to enjoy sex with others until he died at 49.

“I first saw it in January at the Sundance Film Festival and, like everyone else, I laughed, I cried,” says Greene, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., and has been a “surrogate-partner therapist” for more than 30 years. “It captures the love and trust which sexual surrogacy is really all about.”

Greene says she makes about $50,000 a year and has a current client base consisting of men 40 and up. One customer recently died at 92. Ten percent of her clients are virgins who became so involved in academia or their careers that they neglected their love lives. “They’re like ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to come across as inexperienced,’ ” Greene says of her patients. “They finally say, ‘Life is too short. I’ve got to go into surrogate therapy.’ ”

Greene, who is married to a “wonderful, supportive partner,” charges $300 for a two-hour session and says penetrative sex usually happens on the sixth visit. She’s clearly satisfied in the job

“I look at our work like this: If you go to a prostitute, it’s like going to a restaurant. You read the menu, you choose what you want, they prepare, they hope that you love it, and hopefully you want to come back.

“With a surrogate, it’s like going to cooking school,” she continues. “You get the ingredients, you learn to make a meal together — and then the point is to go out into the world and share that and not come back.

Voir enfin:

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories May 1990 | issue 174

On Seeing A Sex Surrogate

Mark O’Brien

The Sun

MARK O’BRIEN was a poet and journalist who lived in Berkeley, California. After contracting polio at the age of six, he spent most of his life in an iron lung. In 2012 Fox Searchlight Pictures released The Sessions, a film adapted from O’Brien’s essay “On Seeing A Sex Surrogate,” about having sex for the first time at the age of thirty-six. He is also the subject of the 1996 Academy Award–winning documentary Breathing Lessons. His work has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle and Whole Earth Review. He died in July 1999 from post-polio syndrome.

In 1983, I wrote an article about sex and disabled people. In interviewing sexually active men and women, I felt removed, as though I were an anthropologist interviewing headhunters while endeavoring to maintain the value-neutral stance of a social scientist. Being disabled myself, but also being a virgin, I envied these people ferociously. It took me years to discover that what separated me from them was fear — fear of others, fear of making decisions, fear of my own sexuality, and a surpassing dread of my parents. Even though I no longer lived with them, I continued to live with a sense of their unrelenting presence, and their disapproval of sexuality in general, mine in particular. In my imagination, they seemed to have an uncanny ability to know what I was thinking, and were eager to punish me for any malfeasance.

Whenever I had sexual feelings or thoughts, I felt accused and guilty. No one in my family had ever discussed sex around me. The attitude I absorbed was not so much that polite people never thought about sex, but that no one did. I didn’t know anyone outside my family, so this code affected me strongly, convincing me that people should emulate the wholesome asexuality of Barbie and Ken, that we should behave as though we had no “down there’s” down there.

As a man in my thirties, I still felt embarrassed by my sexuality. It seemed to be utterly without purpose in my life, except to mortify me when I became aroused during bed baths. I would not talk to my attendants about the orgasms I had then, or the profound shame I felt. I imagined they, too, hated me for becoming so excited.

I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be held, caressed, and valued. But my self-hatred and fear were too intense.

I doubted I deserved to be loved. My frustrated sexual feelings seemed to be just another curse inflicted upon me by a cruel God.

I had fallen in love with several people, female and male, and waited for them to ask me out or seduce me. Most of the disabled people I knew in Berkeley were sexually active, including disabled people as deformed as I. But nothing ever happened. Nothing was working for me in the passive way that I wanted it to, the way it works in the movies.

In 1985, I began talking with Sondra, my therapist, about the possibility of seeing a sex surrogate. When Sondra had originally mentioned the idea — explaining that a sexual therapist worked with a client’s emotional problems concerning sex, while a surrogate worked with a client’s body — I had been too afraid to discuss it. I rationalized that someone who was not an attendant, nurse, or doctor would be horrified at seeing my pale, thin body with its bent spine, bent neck, washboard ribcage, and hipbones protruding like outriggers. I also dismissed the idea of a surrogate because of the expense. A few years earlier, I had phoned a sex surrogate at the suggestion of another therapist. The surrogate told me that she charged according to a sliding scale that began at seventy dollars an hour.

But now my situation had changed. I was earning extra money writing articles and book reviews. My rationalizations began to strike me as flimsy.

Still, it was not an easy decision. What would my parents think? What would God think? I suspected that my father and mother would know even before God did if I saw a surrogate. The prospect of offending three such omniscient beings made me nervous.

Sondra never pushed me one way or another; she told me the choice was mine. She gave me the phone number for the Center on Sexuality and Disability at the University of California in San Francisco. I fretted over whether I would call; whether I would call and immediately hang up; whether I would ever do anything important on my own. Very reluctantly, when no one was around, I called the number, after assuring myself that nothing terrible would happen. I never felt convinced nothing terrible would happen, but I was able to take it on faith — a frail, stumbling, wimpy faith. With my eyes closed, I recited the number to the operator; I was afraid she’d recognize it. She didn’t.

“UCSF,” a voice answered crisply.

Trying to control the shakiness of my voice, I asked for the Center on Sexuality and Disability. I was told the Center had closed — and, momentarily, I felt immeasurably relieved. But I could be given a number to get in touch with the therapists who had once worked there. Would I like that? Uh-oh, another decision. I said ok. But at that number I was told to call another number. There, I was referred to yet another number, then another, then another. I quickly made these calls, not allowing myself time to change my mind. I finally reached someone who promised to mail me a list of the Center’s former therapists who were in private practice

About this time, a tv talk show featured two surrogates. I watched with suspicion: Were surrogates the same as prostitutes? Although they might gussy it up with some psychology, weren’t they doing similar work?

The surrogates did not look like my stereotypes of hookers: no heavy makeup, no spray-on jeans. The female surrogate was a registered nurse with a master’s in social work. The male surrogate, looking comfortable in his business suit, worked with gay and bisexual men. The surrogates emphasized that they deal mostly with a client’s poor self-image and lack of self-esteem, not just the act of sex itself. Surrogates are trained in the psychology and physiology of sex so they can help people resolve serious sexual difficulties. They aren’t hired directly, but through a client’s therapist. Well aware of the likelihood that a client could fall in love with them, they set a limit of six to eight sessions. They maintain a professional relationship by addressing a specific sexual dysfunction; they aren’t interested in just providing pleasure, but in bringing about needed changes. As I learned more about surrogates, I began to think that perhaps a surrogate could help someone even as screwed-up and disabled as me.

When Sondra went on vacation, I phoned Susan, one of the sex therapists on the list I got from ucsf, and made an appointment to see her in San Francisco. I felt delighted that I could do something about my sexuality without consulting Sondra; perhaps that’s why I did it. I was not sure whether calling the therapist was the right thing to do in Sondra’s absence, or whether it was even necessary, but it felt good to me.

The biggest obstacle to seeing Susan turned out to be the elevator at the Powell Street subway stop, which went from the subterranean station to the street. Because of my curved spine, I cannot sit up straight in a standard wheelchair, so I use a reclining wheelchair which is about five and a half feet long. The elevator in the BART station was about five feet across, diagonally. Dixie, my attendant, raised the back of my wheelchair as high as she could and just barely managed to wrestle me and herself into the elevator. But when we reached street level, she could not get me out. This was ridiculous: if I could get in, the laws of physics should permit me to get out. But the laws of physics were in a foul mood that day. Dixie and I went down to the station level and discovered that I could get out down there. We complained to the station agent, who seemed unable to understand. We tried the elevator again. The door opened on a view of Powell Street. Dixie tried lifting and pushing the wheelchair out of that cigar-box elevator in every possible way.

“Well, do you want to go back to Berkeley?” she asked in frustration.

I thought what a waste it would be to go back now. I told her to raise the back of my wheelchair even higher. It put a tremendous strain on my thigh muscles, but now Dixie was able to wheel me out of the elevator with ease. Liberated, we strolled Powell Street, utterly lost.

Eventually, we found Susan’s office. Right away, I realized I could trust her. She knew what to ask and how to ask it in a way that didn’t frighten me. I described to her my feelings about sex, my fantasies, my self-hate, and my interest in seeing a surrogate. She told me the truth: it would never be easy for me to find a lover because of my disability. She told me that her cerebral palsy, the only evidence of which was her limp, had repelled many people. I found this hard to believe. She was so bright, so caring, so pretty in her dark and angular way. (I was already developing a crush on her.)

Susan said that she knew of a very good surrogate who lived in the East Bay, and that she would give the surrogate’s name and phone number to Sondra when she returned from her vacation. If I decided to go ahead with it, Sondra would call the surrogate and tell her to phone me.

Doing that now seemed less scary. Because of our talk, I had started to believe that my sexual desires were legitimate, that I could take charge of my sexuality and cease thinking of it as something alien.

When Sondra returned from vacation, she told me that she had a message from Susan on her answering machine. She asked why I had seen another therapist without informing her. Sondra seemed curious, not angry as I feared she might be — actually, as I feared my parents would have. I said that I wasn’t sure why I went to see Susan, but that I had felt odd discussing surrogates with Sondra, because she seemed to me to be so much like my idealized mother figure.

Meanwhile, I searched for advice from nearly everyone I knew. One friend told me in a letter to go ahead and “get laid.” Father Mike — a young, bearded priest from the neighborhood Catholic church — told me Jesus was never big on rules, that he often broke the rules out of compassion. No one advised me against seeing a surrogate, but everyone told me I would have to make my own decision.

Frustrated by my inability to get the Answer, a blinding flash that would resolve all my doubts and melt my indecision, I brooded. Why do rehabilitation hospitals teach disabled people how to sew wallets and cook from a wheelchair but not deal with a person’s damaged self-image? Why don’t these hospitals teach disabled people how to love and be loved through sex, or how to love our unusual bodies? I fantasized running a hospital that allowed patients the chance to see a surrogate, and that offered hope for a future richer than daytime tv, chess, and wheelchair basketball. But that was my dream of what I would do for others. What would I do for me?

What if I ever did meet someone who wanted to make love with me? Wouldn’t I feel more secure if I had already had some sexual experience? I knew I could change my perception of myself as a bumbling, indecisive clod, not just by having sex with someone, but by taking charge of my life and trusting myself enough to make decisions. One day, I finally said to Sondra I was ready to see a surrogate.

About a week later, my phone rang during my morning bed bath. It was the voice of a woman I had never heard before.

“Hello, Mark! This is Cheryl.”

I knew that it was the surrogate. She didn’t have to tell me.

“I could see you March 17 at 11 o’clock,” she said. “Would that be good for you?”

“Yeah, it would be. But I’m busy right now. Could you call me back this afternoon when I’ll be by myself?”

Now that I had decided to actually see a surrogate, I had another problem: where would I meet her? I didn’t have a bed, just an iron lung with a mattress barely wide enough for me. When Cheryl called back, she asked if I could come to her office, which is up a flight of stairs. I told her that would be difficult. Finally, we agreed to meet at the home of one of my friends.

I was terribly nervous when I asked Marie whether I could use her place. I had visited her often in her spacious living room, which contains a double bed. Marie, who uses a wheelchair, had made the cottage she and her lover share completely accessible. It was also within walking distance (or wheelchair-pushing distance). When I told her about Cheryl, she readily agreed.

As the day approached, I became increasingly apprehensive. What if Cheryl took one look at me — disabled, skinny, and deformed — and changed her mind? I imagined her sadly shaking her head and saying, “Oh no, I’m sorry, I didn’t know. . . .” She would be polite, but she would flee from me.

On the phone, Cheryl had explained that she would interview me for the first hour of the session; then, if I agreed, we would do “body-awareness exercises.” I was too scared to ask what this meant, but said I would give it a go.

When March 17 arrived, I felt unbearably nervous. I had to remind myself repeatedly that we were just going to talk about sex; in the second hour, we would do those “body-awareness exercises,” whatever they were, but only if I wanted to do them.

Vera, one of my morning attendants, dressed me, put me in my wheelchair, and pushed me to Marie’s cottage. Vera tried to reassure me, but it didn’t help. I felt as though I were going to my own execution.

We arrived at Marie’s place at 10:45. The door was locked and no one was home. Vera sat on a bench in the yard, lit a cigarette, and chatted amiably as I sweated out the minutes. An eternity passed: seven or eight minutes. Then I heard the buzzing sound of Marie’s electric wheelchair.

Once inside, Vera put a sheet I had brought with me on the double bed. Then she lowered me onto it. The bed was close to the floor, unlike my iron lung. Since it’s difficult for me to turn my head to the left, Vera pushed me over to the left side of the bed, so that Cheryl could lie next to me and I could still see her. Then Vera put the hose of my portable respirator near my mouth, in case I needed air. I thought it likely because I’d never been outside the iron lung for an hour without using the portable respirator. I was all set. I glanced at the noncommittal green numerals flashing on the nearby digital clock: 11:04. Cheryl was late

Marie talked with Vera as I waited. 11:07. 11:11. Oh God, would she ever come? Perhaps she had found out what an ugly, deformed creep I am and was breaking the appointment. 11:14. Oh God.

A knock on the door. Cheryl had arrived.

I turned my head as far to my left as I could. She greeted me, smiling, and walked to where I could see her better. She doesn’t hate me yet, I thought. She pulled a chair up to the bedside, apologized for being late, and talked about how everything had gone wrong for her that morning. Marie went out the door with Vera, saying that she would return at one. Cheryl and I were alone.

“Your fee’s on top of the dresser,” I said, unable to think of anything else to say. She put the cash into her wallet and thanked me.

She wore a black pantsuit, and her dark brown hair was tied behind her head. She had clear skin and large brown eyes and she seemed tall and strong, but then I’m four foot seven and weigh sixty pounds. As we talked, I decided that she was definitely attractive. Was she checking out my looks? I was too scared to want to know.

Talking helped me to relax. She told me that she was forty-one, married to a psychiatrist, and had two teenaged children. She was descended from French-Canadians who had settled in Boston. “Boston?” I said. “That’s where I was born.” After talking about Boston for a while, I asked whether she was Catholic, like me. She told me she had left the Catholic Church during her adolescence, when her priest condemned her sexual behavior.

I began to tell her about my life, my family, my fear of sexuality. I could see that she was accepting me and treating me with respect. I liked her, so when she asked me if I would feel comfortable letting her undress me, I said, “Sure.” I was bluffing, attempting to hide my fear.

My heart pounded — not with lust, but with pure terror — as she kneeled on the bed and started to unbutton my red shirt. She had trouble undressing me; I felt awkward and wondered if she would change her mind and leave once she saw me naked. She didn’t. After she took my clothes off, she got out of bed and undressed quickly. I looked at her full, pale breasts but was too shy to gaze between her legs.

Whenever I had been naked before — always in front of nurses, doctors, and attendants — I’d pretend I wasn’t naked. Now that I was in bed with another naked person, I didn’t need to pretend: I was undressed, she was undressed, and it seemed normal. How startling! I had half-expected God — or my parents — to keep this moment from happening.

She stroked my hair and told me how good it felt. This surprised me; I had never thought of my hair, or any other part of me, as feeling or looking good. Having at least one attractive feature helped me to feel more confident. She explained about the body-awareness exercises: first, she would run her hand over me, and I could kiss her wherever I wished. I told her I wished that I could caress her, too, but she assured me I could excite her with my mouth and tongue. She rubbed scented oil on her hands, then slowly moved her palms in circles over my chest and arms. She was complimenting me in a soft, steady voice, while I chattered nervously about everything that came to mind. I asked her if I could kiss one of her breasts. She sidled up to me so that I could kiss her left breast. So soft.

“Now if you kiss one, you have to kiss the other,” she said. “That’s the rule.”

Amused by her mock seriousness, I moved to her right breast. She told me to lick around the edge of the nipple. She said she liked that. I knew she was helping me to feel more relaxed, but that didn’t make her encouragements seem less true.

I was getting aroused. Her hand moved in its slow circles lower and lower as she continued to talk in her reassuring way and I continued my chattering. She lightly touched my cock — as though she liked it, as though it was fine that I was aroused. No one had ever touched me that way, or praised me for my sexuality. Too soon, I came.

After that, we talked a while. I told her about a woven Guatemalan bracelet a friend had given me for this occasion. She asked me whether I had any cologne; I said I did, but that I never wore it. That we could be talking about such mundane matters right after an intense sexual experience seemed strange at first. Another lesson learned: sex is a part of ordinary living, not an activity reserved for gods, goddesses, and rock stars. I realized that it could become a part of my life if I fought against my self-hatred and pessimism.

I asked Cheryl whether she thought I deserved to be loved sexually. She said she was sure of it. I nearly cried. She didn’t hate me. She didn’t consider me repulsive.

She got out of bed, went into the bathroom, and dressed. By then it was nearly one. Taking an appointment book out of her purse, she told me that next time she wanted us to work on having intercourse. She asked me whether I had been afraid to see her that day; I admitted that I felt spasms of deep terror. She said it had been brave of me to go through with the session despite my fear.

The door opened. It was Marie and Dixie. They asked me about the experience. I told them it had changed my life. I felt victorious, cleansed, and relieved.

Dixie pushed me back to my apartment, through the quiet neighborhood of small, old houses and big, old trees. It was a warm day, which I hadn’t noticed on the way over. I asked Dixie about her first sexual experience. When she described it, I felt admitted to something from which I had always felt excluded: the world of adults.

Back home, Dixie put me into the iron lung and set up my computer so that I could write. Pounding the keys with my mouthstick, I wrote in my journal as quickly as I could about my experience, then switched off the computer and tried to nap. But I couldn’t. I was too happy. For the first time, I felt glad to be a man.

When I saw Cheryl the second time, two weeks later, I felt more relaxed and confident. We chatted briefly, but there was no formal interview. After pulling down the window shades, she undressed me with more ease than before. I felt less afraid and embarrassed. As I watched her undress, I anticipated the sight of her breasts. There they were, full and rounded. Before she could even get into the bed, I had climaxed. I felt angry at myself for being unable to control the timing of my orgasms but Cheryl said she would try to stimulate me to another orgasm. I didn’t believe that she could arouse me again, but I trusted her more now and let her try.

She lightly scratched my arms, which, to my surprise, I liked. I spent a lot of time kissing and licking her breasts. I asked her to rub the eternally itchy place behind my balls, which she said was called the perineum. The use of such a dignified Latin word to name a place that didn’t even have a name, as far as I had known, struck me as funny. I screamed with delight as she rubbed me, surprised that my body could feel so much pleasure. Then, I felt a warmth around my cock. I realized that Cheryl wasn’t beside me anymore.

“Know what I was doing?” she asked a few seconds later.

“No.”

“I was sucking you.”

It wasn’t long before I had another erection. Aroused and more confident, I said I wanted to try to have intercourse with her, so she quickly scrambled into place over me, her knees by my side. I breathed more rapidly, filled with anticipation, a feeling of this is it. She nearly stepped on my feet, which rattled me a little. Reassuring me, she held my cock and rubbed it against her, but when she tried to place it inside her, I panicked. For reasons I still don’t understand, I felt that I couldn’t fit. Perhaps I feared success. Perhaps intercourse would prove I was an adult, something I had never been willing to acknowledge. Perhaps it would suggest that I could have had intercourse long before, if I hadn’t contracted polio, if I hadn’t been so fearful, if. . . . I did not want to contemplate this long chain of ifs.

I insisted to Cheryl that I couldn’t fit into her vagina. She said that couldn’t be. Then suddenly I came again — outside of her.

I felt humiliated. Cheryl asked me if I had enjoyed myself. I said, “Oh yes, up to the anticlimax.” She assured me that she had enjoyed it, which cheered me somewhat. And it was still pleasant for me, lying beside her, the two of us naked. I told her I wanted to recite a poem I’d memorized for this occasion, Shakespeare’s eighteenth sonnet:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate;

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date; . . .

I stumbled through it, forgetting phrases, stopping, starting again, but I made it to the end:

As long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Cheryl said that she was touched, that it was sweet of me to recite the poem. I felt glad that I was now a giver of pleasure, not merely a passive recipient.

An attendant came and took me home. I ate supper, exhausted and contented. But the next day I worried: why had I panicked? Would I ever be able to have intercourse with Cheryl? With any woman?

Marie told me that she couldn’t let me use her house for the next appointment because she and her lover were going out of town. So I called Neil, a disabled playwright who lives in a large apartment building in my neighborhood. Although I hadn’t known him long, he readily agreed. But he told me that his mattress was on the floor of his bedroom. That worried me because this would make it difficult, perhaps impossible, for an attendant to lift me back into my wheelchair.

On the day of the appointment, Dixie took me to Neil’s building. Neil has a rare disabling condition which impairs his speech, but allows him to stand and hop about on one foot. There he was, standing on one foot beside his wheelchair, which he had parked outside the building’s entrance. Upon seeing us, he plunked himself into his wheelchair and led us to the elevators. Once inside the apartment, Dixie pushed me into the bedroom and eyed the mattress with skepticism, saying that she could easily put me on it but feared that she would hurt her back lifting me later. After a minute of mutual indecision, she picked me up from the wheelchair and set me down on the mattress. After she made sure that I was comfortable, she and Neil left.

I lay there looking at Neil’s clock and wondering whether Cheryl would ever arrive. Neil had told me he would wait for Cheryl outside the building to give her the keys. What if Neil had become bored waiting and left? Was Cheryl coming at all?

After waiting for forty minutes, I heard some noise in the outer room. It was Cheryl, who apologized for being late.

As Cheryl undressed me and herself, I noticed that I wasn’t becoming aroused. I felt proud of my self-control and began to think of myself as a mature, sophisticated man, accustomed to being in a bedroom with a naked woman.

She got into the bed with me and began to stroke my thighs and cock. I climaxed instantly. I loathed myself for coming so soon, in the afterglow of my man-of-the-world fantasies. Undismayed, Cheryl began to stroke me, scratch me, and kiss me slowly. Reminding me of our previous session, she assured me that I could have a second orgasm. She said that she would rub the tip of my cock around her vagina. Then she would put it into her. I couldn’t see what was going on down there and I was too excited to sort out the tactile sensations. Suddenly, I had another orgasm.

“Was I inside of you?” I asked.

“Just for a second,” she said.

“Did you come, too?”

She raised herself and lay beside me.

“No, Mark, I didn’t. But we can try some other time if you want.”

“Yes, I want. »

After she got off the mattress, she took a large mirror out of her tote bag. It was about two feet long and framed in wood. Holding it so that I could see myself, Cheryl asked what I thought of the man in the mirror. I said that I was surprised I looked so normal, that I wasn’t the horribly twisted and cadaverous figure I had always imagined myself to be. I hadn’t seen my genitals since I was six years old. That was when polio struck me, shriveling me below my diaphragm in such a way that my view of my lower body had been blocked by my chest. Since then, that part of me had seemed unreal. But seeing my genitals made it easier to accept the reality of my manhood.

Cheryl was still dressing when Dixie came into the apartment. Dixie dressed me and, lifting me with surprising ease, got me back into the wheelchair. Cheryl told me she would be out of town for a couple of weeks. She looked at her schedule book. “How would the twenty-ninth be for you?”

“It’s ok with me,” I said. “I’ll just have to check with Neil or Marie to see if I can get a place.”

“Well, just leave a message on my machine.”

Having failed for a second time to have intercourse worried me. I became obsessed with this failure during the three weeks between appointments. What was wrong with me? Was I afraid that having intercourse represented aggression against women? Was it my lack of experience, or was it something deeper than that, something I could never figure out?

Before my next appointment, I was visited by Tracy, a former attendant who had worked for me in the early eighties while she studied at Berkeley. I had tried not to fall in love with her back then, but she was just too appealing. Young, bright, and pretty, she understood me thoroughly and was the wittiest person I’d ever known. Tracy was involved with another man; she maintained a warm friendship with me, but she made it clear that she was not interested in a romantic relationship. I felt awkward: I had told her that I loved her in a state of terrified, embarrassed passion a few years earlier.

I was waiting for Tracy in my wheelchair when she entered my apartment. She leaned over so that I could kiss her cheek. Then she kissed mine.

“I love you,” I said.

“I love you,” she replied cheerfully.

We went to a cafe and talked about her boyfriend and my experiences with Cheryl. She said that she felt proud of me for having the courage to see a surrogate. I felt terrific talking with her and tried to prolong the conversation by asking her everything I could think of about her graduate studies, her boyfriend, her parents, her brothers, her past, and her plans for the future. Eventually, though, we both ran out of words. She wanted to see other friends in Berkeley, so she took me back to my apartment.

After Tracy left, I was saddened by the undeniable knowledge that she felt no sexual attraction for me. Who could blame her? I was seldom attracted to disabled women. Many young, healthy, good-looking men had been drawn to Tracy, who was in a position to pick and choose. My only hope seemed to be in trusting that working with Cheryl would help me in the event that I should meet someone else as splendid as Tracy.

The next time I saw Cheryl, she said that this time, she would minimize the foreplay and get on top of me as soon as I told her I was becoming aroused. She had the mirror with her again and held it up to me before she got into the bed. This time, I climaxed at seeing myself erect in the mirror. Cheryl got into the bed and adjusted herself so that I could give her cunnilingus. I had to stop it after a minute or so because I began to feel as though I were suffocating. But I had wanted to do something to give her pleasure, so I asked her whether I could put my tongue in her ear. She said no, she disliked that, but it was good that I asked.

“Some women like it. I just happen to hate it. Different women react differently to the same stimulus. That’s why you should always ask.”

When she started stroking my cock, I told her to get on top. Quick. I was feeling the onset of an erection. She got over me and with one hand she guided me into her.

“Is it in?”

“Yes, it’s in.”

I couldn’t believe it. Here I was having intercourse and it didn’t feel like the greatest thing in the world. Intercourse was certainly pleasant, but I had enjoyed the foreplay — the kissing, the rubbing, the licking — more. Too soon, I came. She kept holding me inside her. Then a look of pleasure brushed lightly over her face, as though an all-day itch were finally being scratched. Letting me go, she put her hands down on the bed by my shoulders and kissed my chest.

This act of affection moved me deeply. I hadn’t expected it; it seemed like a gift from her heart. My chest is unmuscular, pale, and hairless, the precise opposite of what a sexy man’s chest is supposed to be. It has always felt like a very vulnerable part of me. Now it was being kissed by a caring, understanding woman and I almost wept

“Did you come?” I asked her.

“Yes.”

I was exultant. She got out of the bed and went into the bathroom. Hearing her pee made me feel as though we were longtime lovers, familiar and comfortable with each other’s bodily functions. When she came out of the bathroom and began dressing herself, I asked her if she thought I should buy a futon so that I could have sex in my apartment.

“I don’t know if I should get a futon now or wait . . . till something comes up.”

“You may want to get one now because you never know when something will come up. And if you wait till then, by the time you get the futon, it might be all over.”

I asked her whether she thought we should have another session. She said she would do whatever I thought best.

“Do you think there’s anything to be gained from another time?” she asked.

“No,” I said, relieved that I would not have to spend any more money. I had just enough to buy a futon. And besides, I’d had intercourse. What was there left to do? Later that year, I bought the futon, dark blue with an austere pattern of flowers and rushes.

I began this essay in 1986, then set it aside until last year. In re-reading what I originally wrote, and my old journal entries from the time, I’ve been struck by how optimistic I was, imagining that my experience with Cheryl had changed my life.

But my life hasn’t changed. I continue to be isolated, partly because of my polio, which forces me to spend five or six days a week in an iron lung, and partly because of my personality. I am low-key, withdrawn, and cerebral.

My personality, it may be said, is a result of my disability, because of which I have spent most of my life apart from people my own age. Whatever the cause, my isolation continues, along with the consequent celibacy. Occasional visitors sit on the futon, but I’ve never lain on it.

I wonder whether seeing Cheryl was worth it, not in terms of the money but in hopes raised and never fulfilled. I blame neither Cheryl nor myself for this feeling of letdown. Our culture values youth, health, and good looks, along with instant solutions. If I had received intensive psychotherapy from the time I got polio to the present, would I have needed to see a sex surrogate? Would I have resisted accepting the cultural standards of beauty and physical perfection? Would I have fallen into the more familiar pattern of flirting, dating, and making out which seems so common among people who have been disabled during or after adolescence?

One thing I did learn was that intercourse is not an expression of male aggression, but a gentle, mutually playful experience. But has that knowledge come too late?

Where do I go from here? People have suggested several steps I could take. I could hire prostitutes, advertise in the personals, or sign up for a dating service. None of these appeal to me. Hiring a prostitute implies that I cannot be loved body and soul, just body or soul. I would be treated as a body in need of some impersonal, professional service — which is what I’ve always gotten, though in a different form, from nurses and attendants. Sex for the sake of sex alone has little appeal to me because it seems like a ceremony whose meaning has been forgotten.

As for the personals and dating services, sure, I’d like to meet people, but what sort of ad could I write?

Severely disabled man, 41,

living in iron lung he can

escape but twice a week

seeks . . .

Which brings up the question — what do I seek? I don’t know. Someone who likes me and loves me and who will promise to protect me from all the self-hating parts of myself? An all-purpose lover-mommy-attendant to care for all my physical and emotional needs? What one friend calls a “shapely savior” — a being so perfect that she can rescue me from the horror that has been imposed upon me and the horror I’ve imposed upon myself? Why bother? I ask myself. I don’t. Not anymore.

Which leaves me where I was before I saw Cheryl. I’ve met a few women nearly as wonderful as Tracy, but they haven’t expressed any romantic interest in me. I feel no enthusiasm for the seemingly doomed project of pursuing women. My desire to love and be loved sexually is equaled by my isolation and my fear of breaking out of it. The fear is twofold. I fear getting nothing but rejections. But I also fear being accepted and loved. For if this latter happens, I will curse myself for all the time and life that I have wasted.

5 Responses to Société: Après le mariage pour tous, la prostitution pour tous? (Sexual surrogacy: What eroticism is to pornography)

  1. […] par la Sécurité sociale dans certains pays pour les handicapés, cette pratique pourrait, au pays du mariage pour tous et bientôt des mères porteuses remboursées par la sécu et au nom de la simple équité […]

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  2. […] en ce bientôt meilleur des mondes de mamans (porteuses) ou de putains remboursées par la sécu […]

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  3. […] va enfin pouvoir, entre mères ou putains prises en charge par le sécu, se libérer des limites intolérables de la tradition et de la […]

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  4. […] nouveau parlement néo-zélandais vient enfin d’approuver l’avancée incommensurable du mariage pour tous […]

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