City woman helps clients resolve issues with intimacy

Kevin Foote/Senior Staff

When Cheryl Cohen Greene’s daughter was 10 years old, she came home and told her mother that her friend had called Greene a prostitute.

What her daughter said in response about her mother, a 67-year-old surrogate sex partner who practices in Berkeley, echoes Greene’s own attitude: “My mother is not a prostitute — she helps people who don’t feel good about themselves and their sexuality.”

Greene is a surrogate partner who is referred to clients by therapists and who works to explore clients’ problems with sexuality through a gradual process of intimacy that usually ends in intercourse. Her philosophy is that comfort is essential to therapy and that no one should have sex with someone he or she does not like.

“I’m not having sex with people I think I’m going to walk down the path with and have a lifetime with, but I’m with people I like,” Greene said. “I cry with clients, out of joy. I’ve had clients who’ve cried because I’ve touched their face. They’ve cried because the only time they’ve had their face touched was to be slapped in the face, and that makes me emotional and it really does.”

Although the goal of surrogacy is not to create lasting relationships, Greene recalls many friendships with clients with tenderness and joy.

One of those friendships is the basis of a new documentary called “The Surrogate,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month and focuses on her relationship with former client Mark O’Brien.

O’Brien suffered from disabilities, like many of Greene’s clients. He contracted polio at the age of six and was paralyzed from the neck down, which led to discomfort with sexuality that Greene worked to address. O’Brien once wrote that because of Greene, he was able to fall in love and be comfortable with his body.

Greene said, with tears in her eyes, that the two remained close friends until his death in 1999.

Greene’s nonjudgmental attitude toward her work and clients also stretched into her personal life and was how she developed a relationship with her husband, former client Bob Greene.

The catalyst for Greene’s career was a book she read in the early 1970s called “The Surrogate Wife,” which was about sexual therapy through surrogate partners. Since then, she has joined San Francisco Sex Information, where she has been a member of the training staff for 20 years, became a certified sexologist and earned a doctorate in human sexuality — all while working as a surrogate in Berkeley for 38 years.

Everything that occurs in Greene’s sessions is related to ongoing therapy and is intended to provide insight into clients’ issues, which range from concerns about ejaculation to having little to no sexual experience. Greene estimated that she has had about 950 clients since she became a surrogate in 1973. Although most were straight, single men, she has also worked with couples, women and homosexual men.

Her therapy is short-term, usually consisting of six to eight two-hour sessions, which cost $300 each.

Greene typically engages in sexual intercourse toward the end of therapy, and although it is not always necessary, most of her clients require it to address their issues.

The preceding sessions involve breathing methods, sensual touch, talking, showing men how to put on a condom — which Greene said she always uses in therapy — and learning about the partner’s body.

“I know most of you probably think that’s all I do is have sex with people, but there’s so much more to what I’m doing with people, helping them broaden themselves,” Greene said.

Besides the obvious difference that there are no legislative regulations over surrogate partners, there is also a difference in intention between prostitution and surrogacy, Greene said.

“Going to see a prostitute is like going to a restaurant: You go into the restaurant, they prepare the dish that you’ve selected and they hope that you like it so much that you’ll come back and you’ll bring friends,” Green said. “Going to a surrogate is like going to a cooking class. You go in, you learn the recipe, you get the ingredients, you make it together and share it, but you’re not coming back to cooking school all the time.”

Sybil Lewis covers Berkeley communities.

Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comment policy
  • Anonymous

    I dis-agree with what you are saying to me, and I hate the how you are being mean and not taking ownership for it. Why would you use the word mergianl it means small not enough to make an impact. So I would be okay for me to study this since for the most part little harm can come of it. Next time when you try to be cunnng come up with a better understanding of the words you use. In reponse to Shadracksmith

  • Grow Up Already

    stop with the partisan shit. it makes for boring arguments where people keep attacking strawmen and each side feels smug about some stupid little snipey joke made. how about tread into the gray areas?

  • Anonymous

    My name is Maria , I don’t know if this women is the mother of a guy named Alan, but if she is that explines alot. More than 10 years ago when I was still a child. A man by the name of Alan psychically attacked  me. All because I was a messed up kid emotionally and was teasing him about his drug issues and so forth. This man Alan is a therpist as well. For wahtever reason I thought this women might be related to him. If she is his mother this would expline his messed up behaviour. No matter what you don’t attack messed up kids on a psychic level like that.  I am  studying psychology this can’t be healthy.This women looks worn out on so many levels.  I am a libreal and this to me is not a moral issues,because morality changes over time in a society. This is, a am not dealing with my own issues type problem. Anyways whatever LOL OMG

    • ShadrachSmith

      Studying psychology is rarely healthy. Even if you have your head on straight, you are choosing to surround yourself with those who do not. In marginal cases, this is a poor strategy.

      Take up plumbing, drive a truck. You want to be normal? Do normal things. 

      • Anonymous

        I don’t think you understood my post, I think studying psychology is wonderful for the human soul. Every human being should they would get to find out more about who they are. What she is doing I question because of what I experianced with one of her close family members guessing son.

        • ShadrachSmith


          I don’t think you understood my post, and God knows I’m obvious.

          •  I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of things that go right over Maria’s head…

          • Anonymous

            You are really dumb

          • Anonymous

            SO why do you want to be such an ass

          • ShadrachSmith

            I mean this in the kindest way possible, but your reading comprehension sucks. Like a Chinese Uncle I was advising you that if you want your life to be normal, do normal things. Driving a truck is a mother-wonderful thing to do and normal as a Hershey bar. I am not insulting you, I am advising you on how to better seek your stated goal.

            You are a no doubt charming young woman who is barely keeping it together in the best of times, and you choose to hang around with psychologists? I can see the appeal, they will listen to you whine if you listen to them whine, but what kind of life is that?

            Really, truck driving is cool, the only whining is the wheels :-)

          • Anonymous


          • Anonymous

            I dis-agree with what you are saying to me, and I hate how you are being mean and not taking ownership for it.  Why would you use the word mergianl it means small not enough to make an impact. So I would be okay for me to study this since for the most part little harm can come of it. Next time when you try to be cunnng come up with a better understanding of the words you use. In reponse to Shadracksmith

  • Richard Feynman

    sounds like great – ie extremely useful, personally rewarding (in the sense that being a teacher can be rewarding), potentially reasonabe hourly rates (hence can “WORK” less..less of a wage slave.  what’s not to like, provided that you are GGG?

    •  She must be a graduate of the Velvet Jones School of Technology.

      BTW, tell Karl I said hello…

  • Abc

    Funny on the surface, but hey, if it helps some guy get his confidence back re sexuality, who am I to judge.

    • ShadrachSmith

      Well, to be fair, giving her a standing ovation is a form of judging.

  • [Her therapy is short-term, usually consisting of six to eight two-hour sessions, which cost $300 each.]

    I believe the current industry terminology is “short-time”, not “short-term”…

  • anon

    Most working girls just call this the GFE (Girl Friend Experience)……..This woman is a hooker.

  • Current student

    so she charges guys $300 a pop for sex, but she’s NOT A PROSTITUTE

  • Yoleni_2009

    Very interesting.  Hope it can help people.

  • Ksottak

    A very thoughtful, well written piece about a complex aspect of the human condition.  Well done. 

  • Adsahjh

    Every type of deviant activity must be glorified, so sayeth liberalism.

    • Guest

       Yo this is the free market bro! There is demand and she gives the supply. Are you some sort of commie lib?

      • Adsahjh

        The free market would dictate that this activity should be legal–it wouldn’t dictate that it ought to be glorified and sympathized with.

        • Guest

          Yes, it would. Someone wrote this article, didn’t they? Whatever other people do that doesn’t harm you or anyone else is none of your business.

          • Anonymous

            likewise what Adsahjh says is none of your business because it doesn’t harm you!

      • Anonymous

        Is that her pussy sleeping in the small bed in the picture?

    • Anonymous

      If it feels good, stop.  So it says in the Christian fairytale.

      • Adsahjh

        Hey man, if 70 year old hookers are your thing, do whatever you feel like. I’m still going to make fun of you.

        • Anonymous

          Explaining the point of her work is obviously a lost cause to you so, instead I’ll just stoop to your level: Underage boys more your thing? Or, perhaps it is the whole willing participant deal that upsets you.

          The sad fact is that those who need therapy are those who most feel the need to snicker at it. Remember that as you sit home alone on Saturday night and wonder why everyone hates you.

          • Anonymous

            LOL, you can always count on Libs to do the stoop.

Tags No tags yet