I Was a 35-Year-Old Virgin: My Surrogate Partnership Experience
8 min read | Mar 2022

I Was a 35-Year-Old Virgin: My Surrogate Partnership Experience

How a unique therapeutic intervention changed my life.

Self-Love Man / Millennial / Progressive / Writer

I was 35 years old and a virgin. It wasn’t from lack of interest; it just never happened. I didn’t know why.

Then, I learned I had something called sexual anorexia, which is the compulsive avoidance of sexual activity. I cried when I realized it wasn’t my fault. I finally had the courage to start getting the help I needed. But where to start? “Why don’t you try surrogate partner therapy?” a friend said.

I hadn’t heard of it. I learned that a surrogate is someone who models healthy intimacy. If both the surrogate and the client have a connection, a relationship develops between them within a therapeutic structure. My therapist found me a surrogate, and the three of us met up virtually for the first time. When I met Liz, I can honestly say I’d never been more attracted to anyone in my life. If I had seen her on the street, I would’ve walked into a streetlamp. My first thought was, “Wow, she is so attractive.” My second thought was, “I don’t deserve to be with someone like this.”

Liz laid out the boundaries: No contact outside the sessions except appointment scheduling; our relationship status was friends who are practicing emotional and physical intimacy; and once my clinical goals had been reached, we would break contact. I told her my goal was to have sex. She told me sex couldn’t be guaranteed, but we would see how it goes. And so we decided to work together. I would meet with Liz, discuss with my therapist and Liz and my therapist would confer. We were a triad. A team. The five months we worked together changed my life.


I Learned What Intimacy Means to Me

When Liz and I met in person, I was attracted to her physically, emotionally and intellectually. “This is a relationship, and you get to refer to it when dating,” she said to me. “Saying otherwise would be a lie.” We started with a hand caress. “Touch my hand in a way that brings you pleasure,” she said. I had no idea what she was talking about. My pleasure? I’d never thought about it before. I did my best. When she caressed my hand, I felt this loving sensation of being filled up. How about that? 35 years old and caressed for the very first time.

In the next session, we cuddled and caressed each other’s faces. Liz fell asleep, though she never admitted it. “I feel really safe with you,” she said. I went home and happy cried.

As we met each week, I got a clearer sense of what intimacy was about. It was really about emotional instincts. Liz taught me about communicating intimacy, moment-to-moment consent and how to pursue my own pleasure. She became my friend, partner, teacher and advocate all in one. Before long, we were kissing regularly. She was attracted to me too. I couldn’t believe it! The sessions were supposed to be an hour, but we always ran over. I didn’t mind.

Surrogate partner therapy is much different from talk therapy in that mutual attraction is required to build intimacy. It can’t be created. And surrogates have full autonomy over how far things will go. They do non-sexual work, too, of course, but when surrogates are sexual with clients, it’s on a case-by-case basis. This meant, just like in dating, Liz or I could have ended the sessions at any time. This uncertainty was scary but healthy because that is a relationship. It’s always moment to moment. So I took each session as it came. Liz later said that if intimacy were guaranteed, then it wouldn’t be intimacy. For me, it would’ve felt like charity, doing more damage in the process. This healthy emotional risk gave our practice weight.

One day, she explained a body image exercise. We both would be at a level of undress I felt comfortable with and talk about our bodies in front of a mirror. I have body dysmorphia and put on COVID weight. The idea of this exercise scared me and, in my fear, I imagined her rejecting me over and over.

The day of the exercise, I was terrified. I was so focused on me getting undressed that I forgot she would undress too. When I took off my shirt, she took off hers. I got scared and looked away shyly. “Can I look?” I asked. “Sure,” she said. It was the first time I had been half-naked with a woman. She had a beautiful body. The fear passed and we were just two people in our underwear talking again. Then, she talked about the intimate areas of her body. I was so touched, I felt brave enough to share my biggest body insecurity: I was uncircumcised. My hand shook as I spoke. She said, “Yeah, that’s not common in the U.S., but it is in Europe.” Wait, that was it? And just like that, I had been witnessed. Accepted. I was elated.

Before that exercise, I was uncomfortable being shirtless at the beach. After, I started going to nude events and applying to be a nude art model. It’s amazing what healing from trauma can do for you. In less than two weeks, I was comfortable with full mutual nudity.

A friend once told me that healing in a relationship doesn’t come from getting validation; it comes from experiencing how my partner sees me. When I witness the way they perceive me, I see myself with a new pair of glasses.

I Was Able to Have Sex for the First Time With My Surrogate Partner

One day, about two months in, Liz brought up sex. Stunned, I asked, “Are we doing that?” “I’m willing to explore that with you,” she said. I was in denial. I couldn’t believe, at 35 years old, it would finally happen.

We had an adult sex-ed talk, including a safer sex talk. She taught me to say my arousal level (1 to 10), and we did some preparatory exercises. But it wasn’t until we had our first sexual experience that I knew it was really happening.

The first time she touched my penis, the sensation was incredible. Her skill was amazing! “Can I touch you?” I asked. “Sure,” she said excitedly, “go explore!” She told me her likes, and we cocreated our pleasure. When I witnessed the pleasure in her face and voice, my sexual confidence skyrocketed. The following session, as I fingered her for only the second time ever, this woman with a mountain of experience said to me, “You’re really good at that!” More happy crying.

The next session was the first milestone. It started when she looked at me and casually said, “How 'bout a blowjob?” Um, yes, please! It was ecstasy. Seeing her enjoy it made me enjoy it even more. Then fear, anger and shame from past trauma started to overwhelm me. In the onslaught of emotions, my brain tried to disassociate, but I fought to stay present. My body was tense at first, but I willed myself to relax. Then, the pleasure wave came, and I just barely squeaked out a “nine” and had an orgasm. “We did it!” she said, laying on top of me. I had stayed present but was emotionally exhausted. I couldn’t even speak. It was all I could do to put my forehead against hers. I was enveloped in a quiet happiness.

Then, this sadness came up a few minutes later. All those years I could have been having this. I got angry at myself. “You got your first blowjob and now you’re sad?” I thought. That week, the sexual anorexic urge to quit was strong. A good friend reminded me I was healing from deep trauma. I practiced loving self-kindness. That reflexive urge would happen again, but it always went away before the next session.

Next came intercourse. There were obstacles. Initially, premature ejaculation always happened during foreplay. The first time it happened, shame overwhelmed me. Seeing her clean herself off, I felt like this gross thing and projected she thought so too. She reassured me she didn’t think that and it was normal. When I called my penis-having friends, they told me that this happened to them too. And hey, I had never done this before. What did I know? I used mental exercises to last longer. I also did kegels (yes, men can do them) and it worked like a charm.

The next obstacle was that every time intercourse started, I would instantly lose my erection. We thought it might be the condoms, but we ruled that out. It could only be an emotional block. Liz said, “I think you’re not ready.” Then, she said, “We’re going to figure this out. Erections always come back,” and she was right. One month of hard work later, I woke up one morning feeling a strong confidence out of nowhere. That week, we had intercourse successfully for the first time: arousal, erection, and orgasm. “We did it,” she said, my favorite verbal high-five. “Yes, we did it,” I gushed. We found our system. “We Gucci,” Liz said. We laughed hysterically. I was so happy. Not just to have the experience but to have it with her. I wasn’t a virgin anymore. 

Every session, we practiced sex. There were so many happy memories. Those after-sex bed chats were some of the happiest of my life. Like the time we talked about Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation. I couldn’t decide whether I liked those or the sex more. Or the time I got bold and grabbed her butt while we were making out. She giggled and kept kissing me.

I was so excited, we had almost forgotten to practice oral. I had always fantasized about giving a woman head (Liz and I loved our gender-neutral terms), but I was scared. What if reality didn’t live up to fantasy and I hated it? 

But I loved it! As I excitedly chatted away to my therapist about giving Liz head, he said, “A lot of men are aroused by the female body, but you love the female body.” I beamed.


Liz Helped Me Face My Trauma and See Myself in a New Light

One day, Liz and I were talking about how my mother raised me a second-wave sex-negative feminist. My mother, in her mental illness, had abused me to believe that as a male, I was inherently an assaulter. I thought being sexual with a woman in any way was me assaulting her. No wonder I was scared of sex. I had learned in therapy that in all those years of sexual anorexia, I thought I was protecting women from me.

I told Liz how refreshing it was to spend time with a woman who wasn’t only male-positive but penis-positive. She said to me, “Well, I do like a good penis,” and we both laughed. “Even by second-wave sex-negative feminist standards,” she said, “You are it. It doesn’t get any better than you!” More happy crying. More healing.

One day in our bed chat, Liz looked at me and said, “I’ve worked myself out of a job; you don’t need me anymore. I’m a proud papa.”

In our final session, we had sex and shared a long hug. I dug down into my sadness and told her I was really going to miss her. She made a sad moan, and we both started to cry. I forced myself to walk out the door, and we said goodbye. It was over.

I’ll never forget this experience as long as I live. I gained 20 years of maturity and lost 1,000 pounds of spiritual weight. At the time of this writing, I’m dating again and my self-esteem is so high now because of Liz. I know what emotional availability looks like; I hold fast to my boundaries; and I only date women to whom I’m physically attracted. I pursue my own pleasure. I can have it all.

Sometimes, the old self-hatred thoughts come up. I’m never cured, after all. Every day, I use my therapy tools to put those thoughts in perspective. So whenever I don’t feel good enough for a relationship, I remember my experiences with Liz. I think of myself the way she saw me. And I see myself, once again, with that new pair of glasses.

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