The new film “The Sessions” is based on the real experiences and writings of Mark O’Brien, a severely disabled survivor of childhood polio who cannot move his body, but has full sensation in it.
In his late thirties, O’Brien (played by Oscar nominee John Hawkes) decides he doesn’t want to die a virgin, and so seeks out the assistance of a sex surrogacy therapist (played by Oscar winner Helen Hunt).
The real sex surrogate who Mark saw, Cheryl Cohen Greene, was a consultant on “The Sessions.” She shares the story behind the film, explains her profession, and discusses the unique challenges of working sexually with people who have disabilities.
"I thought he was extremely brave," Greene says. "He told me he felt like he was looking through a window and everybody on the other side was having a feast that he would never get to taste."
Part of what Greene appreciated so much about this movie is that it underscores the fact that sexuality is a part of life, regardless of physical differences or disabilities. "I believe that the general public thinks of them as asexual," she says of people with physical disabilities. But she thinks sexuality is "an integral part of who we are as human beings."
And as for the sexual dysfunctions that her clients deal with? "I think everyone of us has sexual dysfunctions," she says.
"My hope is always — and that's the goal — that my clients will transfer what they've done with me into a relationship," Greene says. "That was my major concern: How is he going to do this? But I also felt that he deserved to learn all of this like everyone does."
As it turns out, Mark was able to transfer what he had learned into a relationship. Greene says her work is always geared toward preparing her clients to have healthy, honest relationships.
"It's a wonderful process, and so many people have wild judgments about it," Greene says. "My goal is, to help them see the judgments, and then really hear what I have to say, and understand more about how to be happy in their own sex life."