Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories  May 1990 | issue 174
On Seeing A Sex Surrogate
by Mark O'Brien

Having failed for a second time to have intercourse worried me. I became obsessed with this failure during the three weeks between appointments. What was wrong with me? Was I afraid that having intercourse represented aggression against women? Was it my lack of experience, or was it something deeper than that, something I could never figure out?

Before my next appointment, I was visited by Tracy, a former attendant who had worked for me in the early eighties while she studied at Berkeley. I had tried not to fall in love with her back then, but she was just too appealing. Young, bright, and pretty, she understood me thoroughly and was the wittiest person I’d ever known. Tracy was involved with another man; she maintained a warm friendship with me, but she made it clear that she was not interested in a romantic relationship. I felt awkward: I had told her that I loved her in a state of terrified, embarrassed passion a few years earlier.

I was waiting for Tracy in my wheelchair when she entered my apartment. She leaned over so that I could kiss her cheek. Then she kissed mine.

“I love you,” I said.

“I love you,” she replied cheerfully.

We went to a cafe and talked about her boyfriend and my experiences with Cheryl. She said that she felt proud of me for having the courage to see a surrogate. I felt terrific talking with her and tried to prolong the conversation by asking her everything I could think of about her graduate studies, her boyfriend, her parents, her brothers, her past, and her plans for the future. Eventually, though, we both ran out of words. She wanted to see other friends in Berkeley, so she took me back to my apartment.

After Tracy left, I was saddened by the undeniable knowledge that she felt no sexual attraction for me. Who could blame her? I was seldom attracted to disabled women. Many young, healthy, good-looking men had been drawn to Tracy, who was in a position to pick and choose. My only hope seemed to be in trusting that working with Cheryl would help me in the event that I should meet someone else as splendid as Tracy.

The next time I saw Cheryl, she said that this time, she would minimize the foreplay and get on top of me as soon as I told her I was becoming aroused. She had the mirror with her again and held it up to me before she got into the bed. This time, I climaxed at seeing myself erect in the mirror. Cheryl got into the bed and adjusted herself so that I could give her cunnilingus. I had to stop it after a minute or so because I began to feel as though I were suffocating. But I had wanted to do something to give her pleasure, so I asked her whether I could put my tongue in her ear. She said no, she disliked that, but it was good that I asked.

“Some women like it. I just happen to hate it. Different women react differently to the same stimulus. That’s why you should always ask.”

When she started stroking my cock, I told her to get on top. Quick. I was feeling the onset of an erection. She got over me and with one hand she guided me into her.

“Is it in?”

“Yes, it’s in.”

I couldn’t believe it. Here I was having intercourse and it didn’t feel like the greatest thing in the world. Intercourse was certainly pleasant, but I had enjoyed the foreplay — the kissing, the rubbing, the licking — more. Too soon, I came. She kept holding me inside her. Then a look of pleasure brushed lightly over her face, as though an all-day itch were finally being scratched. Letting me go, she put her hands down on the bed by my shoulders and kissed my chest.

This act of affection moved me deeply. I hadn’t expected it; it seemed like a gift from her heart. My chest is unmuscular, pale, and hairless, the precise opposite of what a sexy man’s chest is supposed to be. It has always felt like a very vulnerable part of me. Now it was being kissed by a caring, understanding woman and I almost wept.

“Did you come?” I asked her.


I was exultant. She got out of the bed and went into the bathroom. Hearing her pee made me feel as though we were longtime lovers, familiar and comfortable with each other’s bodily functions. When she came out of the bathroom and began dressing herself, I asked her if she thought I should buy a futon so that I could have sex in my apartment.

“I don’t know if I should get a futon now or wait . . . till something comes up.”

“You may want to get one now because you never know when something will come up. And if you wait till then, by the time you get the futon, it might be all over.”

I asked her whether she thought we should have another session. She said she would do whatever I thought best.

“Do you think there’s anything to be gained from another time?” she asked.

“No,” I said, relieved that I would not have to spend any more money. I had just enough to buy a futon. And besides, I’d had intercourse. What was there left to do? Later that year, I bought the futon, dark blue with an austere pattern of flowers and rushes.

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