Monday, April 21, 2014
The Sex Surrogates
The Sex Surrogates, by Michael Davidson
February, 1973 Signet Books
The “sex surrogate” story was a trash fiction subgenere of the early ‘70s, cashing in on the recently-published Masters & Johnson sex studies. Publishers released a glut of paperbacks, most of them posing as nonfictional accounts of women hired by various sex research clinics to screw sexually-troubled men in need of help. Of course, the majority of these books were straight-up fiction. Even Herbert Kastle wrote one, the pseudonymous Surrogate Wife, which I’ll be reading soon.
What’s unusual about The Sex Surrogates is that Signet Books made no pretense of the book being “true;” they clearly labeled it as fiction. Strangely though, the book is written identically to those pseudo-nonfiction books, coming off as an academic tome published by the Colorado-based Foundation for Sex Research, compiled by chairpersons Dr. James Walters and Mrs. Rita Cummings(!). Michael Davidson is credited as a “well-known sex article writer” who acted as the editor. (For that matter, Davidson might be a real person, as the book is copyright him and not Signet.)
At first I was afraid this meant the book would come off as dry and “scholarly,” and while that’s for the most part true, Davidson still trashes it up with lots of fun stuff, from men and women screwing robots to a few explicity-rendered scenes about people trying to overcome their sexual hangups with a little help. The book is presented as the “raw tapes” of four of the Foundation’s “most unusal surrogates:” three women and one man. In this way the novel comes off like a series of first-person short stories, with each surrogate detailing his or her first case.
First up is Tracy, unusually enough not only a wife but also the mother of three children! Our editors have made it clear that Tracy is a special case indeed, and that they were initially against the idea of using a surrogate who was not only still married, but had children to boot. But Tracy is a full-on ‘70s swinger; she and her husband have a very open relationship (her husband’s even overjoyed with the fact that Tracy occasionally screws his best friend!!), and thus they were excited over the prospects of Tracy becoming a surrogate.
One thing that sets the Foundation for Sex Research apart is that it focuses on single people with sexual hangups; apparently all those other clinics solely dealt with married couples. And also the novel is set up as if it’s the Foundation’s response to those critics who have claimed that it’s just a house of prostitution. Like a regular Robert H. Rimmer, Davidson peppers the novel with quotations from various academic tomes (and even includes a “selected reading list” of similarly-themed publications), so we get lots of opening detail on how the Foundation has come under fire in various circles.
But Tracy is a unique case even by the Foundation’s standards. After contacting the Foundation about becoming a surrogate, she goes through a battery of phsyiscal and mental exams. Once passed she moves on to the good stuff – the sexual examination. This entails the robot-screwing mentioned above, as Tracy is hooked up to various “alpha wave” monitors while she pleasures herself with a robotic cock! Apparently this is Dr. Walters’s “orgasm machine,” which measures the power of a woman’s climax. Tracy is such a nympho that, despite not abiding by the Foundation’s request that she abstain from sex for 24 hours before the test, she still short-circuits the machinery with the power of her orgasms, like a regular Barbarella.
Having proven herself as a more-than-worthy sexual surrogate, Tracy is assigned her first case: Bob, a meek but handsome 27 year-old who suffers from “secondary impotency” thanks to a domineering mother and a shrewish ex-wife. Tracy gamely informs us that she goes out on her first date with Bob wearing “hippie beads,” a “pekaboo pantsuit,” and magenta bodypaint. You’ve gotta love the early ‘70s. The storyline however follows the clinical nature of the novel’s tone, with Tracy carefully following the doctor’s orders as she goes on dates with Bob and then takes him back to their room at the Foundation (which is audio taped for later study), gradually preparing him for eventual, full-blown sex via massages and other stuff.
This story spirals into strange territory as Bob becomes obsessed with Tracy, who succeeds in getting him to beat his problems with impotency. But when Bob can no longer abide by the Foundation’s stipulations that they wait to have sex, he breaks into the files, finds Tracy’s real name and address, and bursts into her home one night (while her husband’s conveniently out of town and her children are upstairs sleeping) and rapes her! And you know it’s the ‘70s when Tracy royally gets off on it, the only sour note being when one of her kids comes downstairs and nearly breaks up the festivities. Also, this rape is seen by the Foundation as a huge sign of the program’s success!!
Next up we have Maria, who becomes a surrogate once she’s discovered her husband is gay – it’s her wish that, if she is paired up with another homosexual man, she’ll learn through the Foundation how to “fix” him, so she can do the same to her husband. This story isn’t as enjoyable as the one before, mostly because too much of it focuses on Maria’s sad story, how she was so bummed to discover that her husband digs other men, but how she gradually learned to accept it. In fact, too much of the stories are devoted to backstory, but Maria's especially just seems to go on and on.
Eventually Maria becomes a surrogate, and she is hooked up with Paul, a gay man who wants to “go straight,” as it were, and after a lengthy period Maria succeeds. Here we have yet another appearance of “Dr. Walters’s sex machine,” which is used to anally stimulate Paul(!) to the point where he’s able to have sex with Maria. This story, like the one before, ends with group sex, as Maria and Paul go to work on Maria’s husband! (The previous story by the way ended with Tracy, Bob, Tracy’s husband, and Bob’s new girlfriend all going at it in a “happy ending.”)
The third story sees a male surrogate, John; we are informed that male surrogates are quite unusual, and typically come from medical backgrounds, getting into the program for “research” purposes. (Sure they are.) John is especially unusual in that he’s 24 and a virgin, and he’s hidden his virginity from Dr. Walters and Mrs. Cummings. His first case sees him administering help to Sandy, a pretty young girl who is unable to enjoy sex, due to having been gang-raped at a young age.
This story is actually somewhat touching at times, with Sandy distrustful of men in general, and slowly learning that not all of them are scum. Not that Davidson doesn’t once again serve up some ol’ robot-screwing, as believe it or not John, during his testing to become a surrogate, has sex with an acual robot girl! At least, that’s how it’s described, with false but realistic skin and hair and various wires and gizmos connected to its nether regions. John humps it, realizing it’s his first time. It’s all pretty crazy, and it’s too bad the whole book isn’t as wild as these parts; instead, the author prefers to maintain a clinical, pseudo-scholarly tome.
The final story returns to the more trashy vibe of the first. Gail is our narrating surrogate, and like John she’s kept a secret from the Foundation; namely, that she’s a masochist, and gets off on being beaten around. In a preface the doctor explains that Gail was mistreated by her dad, who made it clear that he wanted a boy, and eventually she learned that the only way to incur any attention from him was to piss him off. Thus she now subconsciously tries to piss off the men in her life, so they will give her “attention.” Currently she’s dating a lunk named Bruce, who enjoys demanding that Gail blow him when he isn’t slapping her around.
Gail’s case is Scott, a young married man who suffers from premature ejaculation. As with the John/Sandy story before, this one entails Gail patiently working with Scott, trying to break down his defenses until they can have full-on sex. Also like the previous story, Davidson works in an emotional element, as through the caring and good-natured Scott Gail realizes that there are nice guys out there who will give her attention without her consorting to piss them off or whatever. Finally she breaks it off with Bruce and gets engaged to some nice dude. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t feature any robot screwing.
As mentioned, Davidson sticks with the clinical tone throughout most of the book. In each and every story there are moments where Dr. Walters or Mrs. Cummings will deliver blocks and blocks of expository dialog about reproductive organs and sexual problems and whatnot, so again it seems clear that Davidson was either a doctor (or doctoral student) himself, or that he really was going for the “true story” approach with The Sex Surrogates. But for whatever reason Signet decided to show its hand and acknowledge that the book was pure fiction.