Cheryl Cohen Greene is a 68-year-old loving grandmother and cancer survivor who's been happily married for 33 years. In that time, she's slept with hundreds of other men in her conjugal bed, and transformed many of their lives.
Greene is a sex surrogate, treating patients with sexual difficulties through talk, touching and intercourse, for $300 per two-hour session. Greene's story has now reached hundreds of thousands of people, thanks to the movie "The Sessions," about the treatments that she (played by Helen Hunt) provided journalist and poet Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes), who was disabled by polio as a boy.
Paralyzed from the neck down and tethered to an iron lung, O'Brien sought Greene's services as a 38-year-old virgin who hoped to find some comfort in his own skin, and feel a little more deserving of love. Greene talks about her experiences with O'Brien, as well as several other of her patients, in her memoir An Intimate Life: Sex, Love, and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner, published in November.
profile in the Los Angeles Times, Greene describes entering the profession after a friend gave her a copy of Surrogate Wife: The Story of a Masters & Johnson Sexual Therapist and the Nine Cases She Treated. Since then she's slept with over 900 people for money in her home near UC Berkeley. Her husband, Bob Greene, a retired postal worker, has no issue with his wife's career -- he met her as a client, after all, when he struggled with erectile issues after serving in Vietnam.
Vena Blanchard, the president of the International Professional Surrogates Association, which certifies sex surrogates, told The Daily Beast that more than half of the organization's clients are middle-aged virgins. "These people are socially handicapped," she said. "They need encouragement in a safe, gentle environment."
Greene says that a quarter of her patients have never had sex before, others have problems with ejaculation.
William Masters and Virginia Johnson, two of the most influential sex researchers of all time, first popularized the idea of sex surrogacy in the 1970s. Their ideas became embroiled in controversy, however, and the AIDS epidemic of the '80s further reduced the career's appeal.
The number of practicing partner-therapists certified by the International Professional Surrogates Association dwindled from a peak of 200 to 300 members to less than 40 today, according to the Times. But among one group, the profession has become notably more popular: men.
told MyHealthNewsDaily. And women perhaps more than men could benefit from hands-on sex therapy; in a review of 32 different studies, Elisabeth Lloys, a professor of biology and philosophy of science at Indiana University, found that a third of women never have an orgasm during intercourse.
A few male sex surrogates have even found some celebrity. Investment banker turned "psychosexual bodyworker" Mike Lousada became the talk of London with his vaginal massages, even impressing famed feminist Naomi Wolf (Lousada only touches clients with his hands).
Greene is enjoying her sudden celebrity too, and some of the twists that her line of work has brought. She likely never imagined that in her older years she would find herself in Helen Hunt's mansion, helping the Oscar-winner prepare for the role by showing her the right way to massage her boyfriend's feet.
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