Day 1: Our classroom is a plounge couch. The four of us sprawl while our generous and kind-hearted teacher imparts years of wisdom on us.
We take each other’s histories and only touch the surface of who we are, wishing we had more time.
We decorate our binders in stickers and eat popcorn while we watch a documentary. We learn the importance of calling ourselves “Surrogate Partners” not “Sex Surrogates” because it has very little to do with actual genital sex when it comes down to it (compared to the social, emotional, and intimate learning components).
The day ends and I call my partner back home and cry some more and do some things that need to get done, worrying about time and self-care amidst this intensive.
I go back downstairs to find dinner ready and everyone jubilantly drinking by a fire outside.
It is a very good group of humans.
Day 2: The simplicities and complexities of touch; how histories lie in our bodies and how to navigate trauma, fears, and shame within the surrogate partnership. How important it is to stay in your pleasure, otherwise this work will not work. I am in awe of the power of this process, the immense amount of love and presence that must come with it.
Day 3, 4 & 5: STC’s and contraception, anatomy & physiology. We recognize what relaxing feels like in the body and how to teach others to notice it.
We lightly drag our fingers around our partners faces for our own pleasure. It is to help them notice sensation and to model how to touch.
The next day we undress. A brave woman in her 60s runs our body image exercise. She is nervous but certain; she gives of herself generously and we are all captivated. Completely naked, we give the histories of our bodies.
We do more Touching For Our Pleasure and receive this Touch from others. In these exercises, we learn to feel touch that is not how we would touch. We learn to feel pleasure where we might not know to look.
The next day our relationships escalate. We are fully nude and fully body touching. The boundary between acquaintance and lover is crossed from long distances; but there is no insincerity, the relationship develops in the stages they have supplied. It is a dynamic with another person I have never had in my life and navigation is difficult and messy.
In between exercises we listen to stories. Stories upon stories upon stories. I am rapt with stories and what learning they contain. I begin to recognize that this work is for those who need it most. This work is not for easy pleasures or simple solutions. This work is for those who cannot touch. For those who it might take years to achieve a goal. For those whose pasts are dense and never knew how to move forward.
Day 6: Three men stare into the depths of my pussy to see a cervix up close and personal. It is my first time seeing my cervix, too. It looks, hysterically, like the head of a penis. I show my practice partner my vulva and go through the anatomy, the history, the feelings. I show him how I touch myself and invite him to explore. He does the same for me with his penis.
Day 7: It is a day off and we have a family outing to a nearby beach. It is overcast but warm. It is reflective but social. It is much needed and well used.
We live together, there is little separation. Each night we all eat together. Sometimes we watch a movie. I kind of feel like I’m on a Reality TV show but there are no cameras and the drama is pretty much non-existent; everyone is a lovely human.
Day 8: These weird little dynamics of our partnership are at pressure points. The time and place where we cross from the easy places of caressing, into the harder places of genital touch and arousal. We touch to touch, we touch for our pleasure, we touch for the other persons pleasure. A lot of feelings come up; feelings that we have to examine and dig into and “therapize” ourselves; the ultimate goal is to be as mindful and aware of our own reactions and the effect we are bringing to this dynamic. It is hard. It is reading my body, my brain, my feelings in ways I have never even considered. This person who is not chosen, this person who is not client, this person who is very close now all of a sudden. This is the work we seek out to do when we leave this training. How to be genuine, how to be in your pleasure, and be a sensitive partner.
Day 9: I realize that we have just undergone a very systematic training to be very good at sex – it is foreplay, but the concept of foreplay is silly, so it is sex, but with no penetration. We are allowed to create our own sessions with our partners based on everything we have done so far, the only rule is that we cannot go further. There are resistances, there are conversations, there are touches. This is a most fascinating and bizarre experience. My brain is expanding in directions I didn’t know existed.
Day 10: We discover and break down the concept of “mutuality” and what it means within the context of sensuality. Kissing, hand-holding, spooning, fucking; two-way street enjoyment. We do a simple exercise, dancing together with our eyes closed, and it is vulnerable and intimate and tentative; a wall is slowly coming down and I can choose to either lean into it to see how far it will fall, or try to cement it back together.
Day 11: Today we talk about Resistance and I learn something scary and vulnerable about myself. Resistance is an attempt to hold onto familiar patterns; the comfortable ways we have learned to relate to the world and your entire way of being is threatened. I sit out in the sun at lunch and feel my brain working out at high cardio rates and feel my heart becoming expansive; I feel light-headed, I feel nauseous. I see my own patterns: 9 times out of 10, sex has come before intimacy. And I see my own patterns of how intensely these two things are connected for me, and suddenly it dawns on me that I must practice intimacy before sex and that feels terrifying and completely nerve-racking. But if I want to do this work (and I really want to do this work), and if I want to be good at this work (and I really want to be good at this work), then I know what I need to practice.
Day 12: We practice Closure and we say Goodbye to each other. We acknowledge the relationship was always going to end, and consciously uncouple ourselves and review all that has happened, all we have done. “Don’t forget: this really happened. This was always supposed to end, but it was real, and it was meaningful.” I practice intimacy in ways that make my heart race, but the results will forever stay with me; it is the beginning.
“We will embark on a process of getting close.”