Are sex surrogates putting vulnerable people at risk?

Jan 29, 2013

Prostitutes help disabled people fulfil 'primeval needs', say defenders as council investigates

Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in 'The Sessions'

SEX surrogacy is in the spotlight after it emerged prostitutes have visited an Eastbourne care home to entertain residents in "special visits" – prompting a probe by East Sussex council.

Local authority chiefs are concerned the practice puts vulnerable people at risk of "exploitation and abuse". But according to Helena Barrow, a former manager at Chaseley Trust, the home at the centre of the controversy, "outside contractors" help fulfil disabled people's "primeval" needs, the Brighton Argus reports.

Sex workers come to the home for sessions known as "special visits" after being contacted by staff, but residents pay for their services themselves through their pensions, benefits or savings. Nurses will place red socks on doors to warn others that patients are using prostitutes. One sex worker, speaking anonymously, said she visited once or twice a month. "The staff know what is happening, they lead us to the room – it's embarrassing really," she told the paper.

Barrow said adults at the home, which cares for people with learning or neurological disabilities, were sexually frustrated. "The fact is, sex workers are allowed by law to sexually enable people but care workers are not. So, if someone asked, we would often call in a professional, someone trained to do that. It's known as the resident's 'special visit'."

The Daily Mail reports Barrow also hired stripper 'Solitaire', who previously gave a deaf and blind man a lap-dance during a Royal Society of Medicine conference on sex and disability.

Some have questioned the safety of the arrangements. Nick Tapp, chief executive of East Sussex Disability Association, asked: "How do you know the sex workers are not carrying infections?". But for Dr Tuppy Owens, of the Sexual Health and Disability Allliance, sex is a human rights issue. "Sex is right at the bottom of the list when it comes to the disableds' care requirements," she said.

The debate comes after the release of the film The Sessions (pictured above), in which Helen Hunt portrays a sex surrogate hired by a 38-year-old paralysed poet who decides he wants to lose his virginity. The Daily Telegraph notes the controversial practice is mainstream only in Israel, although in Britain prostitution is legal if it is not advertised.

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