A review of the new film Sessions refers to one character as a ‘sex therapist.’ The therapist’s job, as described in the review, is to have sex with a client. Sex can be therapeutic, but a ‘sex therapist’ is an actual therapist. Psychiatrists and psychologists specialize in sex therapy (the study and treatment of sexual dysfunction.) Treatment involves talk therapy and homework assignments (homework not tutorials!) Are there sex therapists (or scout leaders, coaches, pediatricians, dentists) who have engaged in unethical and criminal behavior while on the job? Sure. But a sex therapist does not by definition engage in sex for pay. The review goes on to describe this character as a sex surrogate (how did such a straightforward career end up with so many titles?)
What ever happened to good old-fashioned prostitutes? When is the last time you even heard that word? Everyone’s and escort or a call girl, or I suppose a sex surrogate. I’m not sure the working conditions change much with a new title. Director of correspondence control is still a mailroom clerk. But everyone likes a fancy title. Personally, I find the title; “stripper” far more attractive than that of dancer. Stripper conjures up an act or at least a gimmick. Dancer is a bored practically nude women swinging from a pole. And if that girl leaves the stage to squirm on a drunken businessman in a back room, she’s not just a dancer she’s a surrogate. And what of all men and women in the corps de ballet? Does every introduction now have to be followed with; “no, really, an actual dancer”?
Who doesn’t enjoy a little spin? We like to put the best face on things. Our children are all doing incredibly well and everyone that’s remotely related to us is gifted. But when did we decide that being a prostitute is somehow undesirable but being an escort was understandable? Do we really think that all those dancers are making their way through law school, but strippers are simply down on their luck? (And for the record these professions and terms are not gender-specific.) For some reason the sex professions enjoy more than their fair share of spin (there’s a burlesque joke in there somewhere.) Nobody acts in pornographic movies; they are porn STARS. Nobody poses naked for pornographic magazines; they are CENTERFOLDS. There must be bold-faced terminology for internet pornography as well (feel free to leave me in the dark.)
In the end a rose is a rose is a rose I suppose. But it’s not a help to the therapeutic community to call a person who has sex with clients for money a “sex therapist.” It’s strangely apt, but not all that helpful to that other profession.