Whether it’s porn or a mainstream movie, don’t believe all that you see. A film called The Sessions has received a lot of press and while many parts are realistic, some scenes are rather far from the truth.
The film is based on the experiences of Mark O’Brien, a man who spent most of his life in an iron lung. It tells a story about his struggles with sexual desires and how he eventually connects with a sex surrogate or (as they are now called) a Surrogate Partner named Cheryl Cohen Greene, whose practice is currently based in San Francisco.
Overall, the film presents some very believable scenes of the moral and spiritual dilemmas of the characters, however the “therapy” scenes are much more drama than fact. Surrogate Partners don’t generally go at the breakneck pace shown in the film, and are very careful and gentle with their clients. A key deficiency in the portrayal was the incredibly short discussion of the client’s needs and boundaries. Surrogate Partner Therapy is often much less about sex and much more about comfort with intimacy and communication.
If you see The Sessions, I recommend also watching the documentary Private Practices for a sense of what Surrogate Partner Therapy is really about. (But remember that Private Practices shows how it was in the early days, and the IPSA has further refined its formal training and standards of professional practice.) Also, Surrogate is a film which mixes somewhat-realistic therapy scenes with a high-drama plot. And if you’d like a more personal perspective on sexuality and disability, Want is a thought-provoking film.