Sexual Healer – Is a Sex Surrogate Right for You?

Originally published in AOL Health
Mare Simone is in a decidedly unconventional — and sometimes controversial — line of work. Simone, 54, is a tantra sex educator (someone who helps people prolong and relish their lovemaking) and sex surrogate. For the last two decades, Simone has had intimate physical contact with clients who pay her between $100 and $200 a session, to help them restore their sexual vibrancy, overcome dysfunction or learn how to be better givers and receivers of pleasure.

Many view Simone’s work (which is entirely legal), as a legitimate form of sex therapy, but others raise an eyebrow at the potential for contacting and spreading STDs, or the impact that it could have on her own personal relationships as well as that of her clients. Simone, however, is firm believer in the sex surrogacy and it’s ability to revitalize and heal a person’s sexual self. She credits sex surrogacy with helping her move on from the trauma she suffered after being a victim of rape twice by the age of 22. Without it, she says, she might never have been able to release what she calls the “layers of angst” that haunted her after the assaults. AOL Health interviewed Simone to understand exactly what is involved in the work of sex surrogate, to learn how it fosters healthy sexual relationships and to find out what she tells people she does for a living when she goes to parties.

AOL Health: What is a sex surrogate?

Mare Simone: A sex surrogate is a member of a sex therapy team who engages in intimate physical contact with clients, usually in conjunction with a therapy, in order to achieve therapeutic goals. I was trained as a sex surrogate in 1986, and I worked professionally for about two years. Now, I use some of my training as a sex surrogate in conjunction with my training as a certified tantra educator. I work privately with individuals both in the United States and internationally.

AOL Health: Who comes to you for help — single and married men, as well as women?

Simone: All of the above. My primary expertise is working with people who have any kind of sexual dysfunction. I also work with people who want to advance their sexual experience from a short-lived fulfillment to something that enhances body, mind and soul.

AOL Health: What are some typical challenges your clients face, and how do you help them work through these challenges?

Simone: The majority of men come to me because they have premature ejaculation. One area that I’m very skillful in is helping men learn to relax. The second most common challenge for my clients is learning how to give more pleasure to their partners. The third most common issue is men who have trouble getting an erection. Among women, the issue is that they need to learn how to honor their body’s rhythms and what satisfies them.

AOL Health: How have you improved the sex lives of your clients?

Simone: Men have said how much more confident they feel about having a sexual encounter. Also, a lot of men will say that they never knew that their partners could have so much pleasure, and they’re partners are really grateful about the number of orgasms they’ve been able to give their partner. There’s great joy and celebration in the fact they’ve been able to help their partners achieve much greater sexual satisfaction.

AOL Health: Before having intercourse, are there certain guidelines you and your clients agree to follow?

Simone: I don’t usually have intercourse with clients. I’ve worked with over 10,000 clients in 23 years, and I have had close intimate connections with maybe 1,500 of them. Some of those connections might include intercourse, but very often, it’s manual stimulation for the purpose of practicing techniques that can help them to expand their orgasmic ability.

It’s very rare, even in surrogate practices, to have intercourse with a client. It’s often considered a kind of graduation of the course. Before then, there’s a slow, methodical process that includes a lot of different levels of touch, from hand and back caressing to genital caressing. If the client reaches an achievement level where he is ready, intercourse might be part of it. And even the intercourse process is very controlled. You don’t just go at it with passion. It’s about re-programming the client’s body to slow down and learn how to feel and be present with their eyes open and the lights on.

Many clients never need intercourse with the surrogate, because they have partners that they practice with. I don’t really have sex with other women’s husbands; in fact, when I’m working with a client who is married, I request that the client invite his wife to have a session. It really helps if I can speak to the woman about her partner’s condition so that she’s in alignment with me.

AOL Health: You never have sex with men who are married or who have girlfriends?

Simone: I don’t. I always ask my clients about their relationship status, and I do not have intercourse with them if they are in a committed relationship. Also, I don’t “sleep” with my clients. I awaken them and send them home to be with their partners. Tantric sex is about awakening to the power of pleasure, with love. AOL Health: Are you intimate with women?

Simone: I’ve taught women how to find their G-spot. I’ve given them ways to relax and feel their bodies in a different way. I’ve helped them tap into their femininity. But I don’t do oral contact with women. I try to help women relax. The main reason that women are not orgasmic is that they try too hard. I did the same before I learned tantra. I was anxiously chasing that fleeting feeling, and it would slip through my fingers a lot. Tantra has taught me how to become 100 percent present. A lot of people are in their heads when they’re making love. They’re trying to do some techniques and they’re really not feeling their partner’s response to them in the moment.

AOL Health: When you are intimate with a client, do you disconnect emotionally?

Simone: I don’t disconnect. I become 100 percent present with them. I tell them whatever it is I’m feeling, whether it’s beautiful or joyful. I try to avoid the L word, but I do let them know that I’m loving what’s happening. Sometimes more than anything, clients want to know that they’re appreciated and valued, especially in that moment when they’re most vulnerable and impressionable.

AOL Health: Have you ever developed feelings for someone along the way?

Simone: Yes. I have had a relationship with somebody who was a client. Initially, he found me on a personals website where I mentioned something about tantra. He then tried to contact me, and I didn’t respond, because he wasn’t a tantra master and I wanted an equal. So he decided to become my student. But it wasn’t until our third month working together that he revealed to me that he’d originally found me on a personals website. So when I took him on as a client, I didn’t know that he wanted to be my boyfriend. He was a client for several months, and then one day, he gave me a large sum of money and said, “Let me know when this runs out.” At that point, things shifted and we started falling in love. We went off to a tantra workshop together. Eventually, he moved on to be with someone else, and he’s now happily married.

AOL Health: When you do have intercourse with clients, do they have an STD test beforehand?

Simone: Yes — but because I don’t have direct oral or fluid exchange with most clients, I don’t request that everyone has an STD test. If I know that we’ll have any kind of fluid exchange, I insist that we have STD tests before we go there.

Before intercourse, I make sure that everybody is scrupulously clean. Also, I don’t have oral exchange with clients, or anything that involves fluid exchange. I don’t even kiss them. It’s not about titillating them. It’s about giving them an experienced practice at how to feel aroused without being rushed or feeling stressed. It’s about teaching them to relax and ride the peak numerous times before they climax so that they have a handle on this wild energy that is taking them over.

AOL Health: If a client’s pre-test shows that he or she has a STD, do you turn down the client?

Simone: Not because he or she has an STD. I have turned people away because they weren’t sincere. They were looking for a good time.

AOL Health: Do you always use a condom?

Simone: Absolutely.

AOL Health: Has a condom ever broken or slipped off, and have you ever had an STD?

Simone: I’m so careful, but on two occasions, I did have STDs. One was during my training, and I don’t how I got it. I was working with a lot of different students, and everyone was supposed to have been tested. But somehow, I ended up with chlamydia. I managed it and it wasn’t a big deal. And then once again years later, I discovered that I had gonorrhea. I checked with all of my clients and with two lovers I’d been with, and I never found out how it occurred. These are such baffling things. It has made me become even more scrupulously clean and conscientious because the last thing I want to do is give someone a disease when I’m trying to help them.

AOL Health: Do you tell clients that you’ve had STDs?

Simone: The way that I handle it is that I tell them that I have been tested regularly, and that I’ve had STDs in the past that have since been managed and that are gone now. I’ve taken it upon myself to be very forthcoming about my condition — and I ask that they do the same.

AOL Health: At a cocktail party when people ask you what you do for a living, do you fib?

Simone: Tantra is a form a yoga, and I tell people that I’m a yoga teacher. And if they say, “What kind of yoga,” then I look closely into who they are and how much they can understand what I do without judging me. Sometimes I say that I’m a relationship or love coach. I don’t say “sex surrogate” very much because most people don’t understand what that is. I sometimes tell people that I’m a certified tantra educator.

AOL Health: Are you in a relationship now, and if so, has your work hindered that?

Simone: I’m not in a relationship. But I don’t hide my job from men. Ideally, I would love to have a partner who could co-teach with me.

AOL Health: How do you respond to those who think that your work seems immoral or disrespectful?

Simone: When I’m working with a couple, or with someone who is in a committed relationship, I encourage the participation of both partners even if they are not both present at the session together. I like to get the consent and blessings of the other partner if at all possible. At the same time I don’t judge my clients if they would prefer to learn these skills on their own and bring them back to their partners. I’ve had many occasions where one partner will say to the other, “You investigate this experience and find out what it’s like and tell me all about it.” In those cases, I often try to at least speak with the other partner over the phone if they are willing, so that I understand them and their needs and then include them in the session by referring to them and suggest how to incorporate this experience into their love life, with their partners.

Ultimately my intention is to send them back home with more knowledge, skill and confidence. I understand that some people will criticize my work because they don’t understand that my work is about healing, educating and empowering men, women and couples to live a more satisfying sex life. It’s not about me. I’m just the messenger.

AOL Health: What do wish more people understood about your work?

Simone: I wish people understood its therapeutic value and the impact that this work has had on me and others. It’s important to remove negative imprints from our psyche that are interfering with a healthy sex life. It could be shame, guilt or fear that we harbor because our culture doesn’t invite us to talk about this openly. People like me are considered shadowy people of the night who others can confess their feelings and fears. There’s such a stigma and shame that’s debilitating.

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