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Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate (1986)

6.5
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 116 users  
Reviews: 2 user | 4 critic

In this cult doc from 1985, director Kirby Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated) weaves a fascinating study of the curious role of a sex surrogate in the then-new discipline of sexual therapy. ... See full summary »

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Title: Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate (1986)

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In this cult doc from 1985, director Kirby Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated) weaves a fascinating study of the curious role of a sex surrogate in the then-new discipline of sexual therapy. Maureen Sullivan and two of her clients agreed to have the entire progression of their therapy taped, and what emerges is a disarming and compassionate look at the struggles people face in connecting with one another. Twenty-five-year-old Kipper is a virginal grad student who gets nervous just talking to a girl, let alone touching her, and John, at 45, is newly divorced and suffering from fears of sexual inadequacy. As Maureen attempts to build up their confidence, she also exposes her own doubts in this touching film that dismisses a clinical approach to sex. Written by Anonymous

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26 September 1986 (USA)  »

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User Reviews

The Practice of Love
7 June 2002 | by (Studio City, CA) – See all my reviews

Okay, here goes...

The first thing I should say is that this film is NOT porno, it is NOT exploitative, and it is NOT Jerry Springer; don't let the cover fool you.

All the same, how you react to this film depends very highly on your attitudes regarding the use of a sex partner in psychotherapy. If you can suspend your judgement(eg: reasoning such as, "she's being paid to have sex with these people, therefore she's a _____ and this is all California bull____ psychobabble."), you may be in for a nice thought-provoking documentary.

At the time this film was made, Maureen Sullivan was a professional sex partner. Meaning that she was referred to, and paid by, psychotherapists to have sexual interactions with different men who have different sexual dysfunctions. In the course of this film, we see her in therapy sessions with "Kipper," a 25-year-old man who is a virgin, and is terrified of even looking at a woman, nevermind touching one. The opening session, where she just takes his hand and looks him in the eye, is truly moving to watch as he works through his fear of physical love.

At the same time, Maureen is also going through sex therapy with a man named "John," a 45-year-old divorced father who is going through self-esteem problems(understandably).

What makes this film work is that these are not your usual reality-show nitwits with a limited vocabulary. Maureen, Kipper, John, and the peripheral people in the movie are all thoughtful, sensitive, and articulate. Plus, besides dealing with Kipper's and John's problems with sexual intimacy, we also deal with several emotional issues related to this. What does Maureen's neighbors and family think of the work she does? What happens if one of Maureen's patients falls in love with her? (John does) How does she keep her distance from him without destroying his self-esteem? And is there a reason why the only sexual and emotional relationships Maureen has with men are when they are her patients, where after a limited amount of time, the relationship is over? Does she have a problem with committing to one man?

All of these are questions that get raised from watching this film, and none of these are taken lightly.

On a side note, being a 35-year-old virgin male, it would be good for me to know if this practice is still being taken in the field of psychiatry. I identified very strongly with what Kipper was going through with her.

Not your usual diversion on a Friday night, but a very strong educational film regarding the practice of love. 9 out of 10.

One more note: this film is out of print, so you have to really look hard to find it.


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