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A male hand and a female hand, each holding a red striped heart shaped lolly pop from either side of a red backdrop. Image for article Sex Work and Dating. NZ Pleasures.

Sex Work and Dating

Questions and Answers from sex workers who date.

Do I tell my partner I’m a sex worker?

What boundaries should I have in place?

What if they become jealous?

Any sex worker who has dated while working has probably asked these questions at one point or another. For many of us, our profession has never impacted our relationships in such a way before.

In this blog, I asked 5 sex workers for their input when it comes to Sex Work and Dating. Some of their partners have also graciously given responses too. These will be available to read in Part 2 of this blog in “I’m dating a sex worker”.

For discretion, all names have been changed. And for ease of choosing names, I have chosen alphabetically – Anna, Betty, Crissy, Darla, and Ellie. Thank you all so much for helping me to create this blog!

Written by Jordan Quinn

 


When did you tell your partner that you’re a sex worker?

“My boyfriend at the time that I was thinking about starting sex work told me that if I started escorting, he couldn’t date me. Now I have two partners, one of whom I told on the third date and the other who already knew I was a worker.” – Ellie; Polyamorous Relationship for 3 & 7 years.

“I told my partner very early on, before we were dating that I was a sex worker and that I would not be willing to quit my job for a partner” – Crissy; Polyamorous Relationship for 1 year.

“I was out of the industry when we met but I told her about my sex work past before we entered into a relationship. An authentic relationship where I could be myself is what I wanted, so it was important to me to have full disclosure. I resumed working two years into our relationship” – Betty, Same Sex Monogamous Relationship for 4 years. “I experienced a lot of judgement or perceived judgement from those I dated.  This is the first time I have had a partner who wholeheartedly accepts me and supports what I do with no judgement.”

A dating couple sit at a cafe table and hold hands while drinking a hot drink and eating sweets.

What’s different about being a sex worker in the dating world?

“I don’t put up with anything anymore, I value my time far more now and because of this the calibre of people I spend my time with is far higher – if you don’t respect me, my time, or have aligning values with me, I don’t waste my time on you.” – Anna, Heterosexual Relationship for 17 months.

“Being a sex worker has made me extremely independent, taught me how to set boundaries and to trust my intuition implicitly which has been helpful in all relationships I have.  I believe sex work also taught me what qualities and values I wanted in a relationship and a partner which changed my approach to dating and the type of person I wanted to date.” – Betty.

“I’m now a lot stronger with my boundaries, which I think comes from a lot of practice with clients. I know what my needs are, and have much more confidence in saying no, which also translates into my needs and boundaries within a relationship and what I’m willing to put up with or what’s worth my time. If the connection isn’t strong enough, or I have to filter or water down too much of myself or my work then I just don’t pursue that relationship any further or deeper. Which leads to much stronger and healthier relationships in my experience, which more honesty and communication of both of our boundaries.” – Crissy.

 

Why do you feel there’s so much stigma around sex workers and dating?

“I think that a lot of the stigma comes from the toxic monogamy that is so normalised and pushed in society, alongside general patriarchal thinking around ownership of women’s bodies. I’ve personally noticed much less of a stigma with many of my queer women friends being sex workers and dating.” – Crissy

“I feel like the stigma exists for so many reasons. My belief is that society holds old-fashioned beliefs. That for a woman to be able to have sex with multiple people, we must have loose morals, lack values, have low self-esteem and lack self-respect. We are taught to be shameful about it. People insinuate we are unclean and possibly diseased when we actually have safer sex than the non sex work dating community.

The belief that we are damaged in some way and knowing that that on some level society holds these views I believe makes it hard for potential partners to get past the idea of sex work and must bring up difficult questions for them e.g. What are they going to tell their friends or family? What if someone finds out? Will people think differently of me?  What if someone they know has been a client? Another issue is that it can be extremely hard if not impossible for some partners to separate sex work and having sex with someone for pleasure or love and belief it is essentially infidelity.” – Betty

“Because it’s not socially accepted. I think between two people it would be fine, but fear of judgement would be a barrier.” – Darla, Heterosexual Polyamorous Relationship for 13 years.

Two women with black hair embrace each other while facing away from the camera

What is your view for people who suggest that if you date a sex worker the relationship should automatically be open because the sex worker isn’t monogamous? 

Don’t agree, it’s a job like any other. I have an open relationship because I am not a jealous type.” – Darla

“I understand that if the person saying that is either a) punters or b) someone who has not been exposed to sex work/sex workers. As someone who is a sex worker, I disagree. What I do is purely work, and sex work isn’t inherently about sex, its more about companionship and intimacy than just the physical constructs of sex. It’s like customer service, but in nice underwear.” – Anna

“I disagree unless with that unless it is genuinely wanted and agreed by both parties but otherwise, I do not believe that should be expected. My partner and I are monogamous. I consider myself monogamous and my partner understands that is my job and I am not having sex for pleasure, attraction, or love.  We do not date away from our relationship” – Betty

“I can’t fully speak on this one as someone who is polyamorous, but I think that being a sex worker absolutely does not inherently make your relationships open. That is a discussion between each couple that needs to be had around boundaries and what is right for them. I think that having sex for work is entirely different to having casual sex outside of a work setting, and therefore can’t be compared.” – Crissy

“I would be offended if my potential partner said that to me. It shows me they don’t think sex work is work. I’m not having emotionally romantic relationships with my clients. Its just sex. If they want to see other people because I’m not fulfilling a part of the relationship for them then that’s a conversation we need to have before they go elsewhere.” – Ellie

 

Do you have boundaries in place with your partner? What boundaries do you think are important to discuss with your partner?

“No, not really. I can do whatever I like so long as there are no secrets. Comms is the key!” – Darla

“Not really. If I’ve had a good night at work and he’s had a bad one, we don’t talk about my good night. Instead we focus on processing his emotions/thoughts – but it’s not about the nature of my work, it was the same when I was working in civvie jobs” – Anna

“We have full disclosure and discuss everything. We do have boundaries and sometimes that evolves as necessary when situations or conversations arise. My responsibility to my partner is prioritised so I don’t do anything to jeopardise our relationship. Some of our boundaries are that don’t see female clients or couples. By only seeing male clients, it separates my work from what we do sexually. Safe sex is not negotiable ever. I prioritise my safety over money every time and I work hours that allows family time.  Another boundary is that if I developed feelings for a client that crossed the escort / client relationship line I would not continue to see them.” – Betty

I’m very thankful that both of my partners are incredibly open and accepting of my work. Therefore we kind of bring up boundaries as they come and keep communication very open. My boyfriend is also happy to pick me up from work. He has even come inside of the agency I work for to wait for me during my last booking of the night. One boundary my boyfriend requested was that I keep toys that I use on him separate from toys I use on clients, which I’m very happy to do for him. I think it’s very important to discuss boundaries early on. To check in regularly that everyone is still on the same page and feeling comfortable and listened to. I often check in to make sure that I’m not talking about too much detail of my bookings when talking about work with my partner.” – Crissy

“Yes, we do, but they grow and change as the relationship does. A habit we’ve formed is asking the other person if they’re happy to hear about X or if they’re happy to see a photo of X. Sometimes sending selfies while I’m at work can upset one of my partners. They get jealous that a client is seeing me and it’s not them. Social media can also be a minefield for them. Seeing photos of me on Twitter or content platforms and flirting with clients can get to them if they’re not feeling mentally strong that day. I ended up blocking one of my partners, like forcing him not to look. In contrast my female partner loves seeing the snaps I take or my latest photo shoot. They tend to comment when I haven’t talked about work as much and want to know how it’s all going.” – Ellie

Two young men and a women lay between them on a bed
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

How important do you feel sex is within your relationship?

“I’m a very sexual person and very open about sexuality and exploring. So it’s quite important to me to have a partner that I can connect to on that level. I really enjoy the intimacy of sex with a partner compared to with clients. Being able to come home and unwind with my partner sexually is something I value highly. However, I generally have a higher libido than my partners so I would never expect them to be wanting sex every time I am. I’m happy to go a while without sex if needed. Being polyamorous it also means if needed I can discuss with my partners about fulfilling my sexual needs elsewhere.” – Crissy

“Very, my partner has a lower sex drive than I do, so sex work is a good sexual outlet for me. Because of that it’s probably strengthened our sex life/life together.” – Anna

“Physical sex is important in its own way but it’s not a priority. Because I have a lot of sex that is just the physical act connection and intimacy is more important to me. We also have a young child so constantly being tired from work and child rearing means it can be neglected. But it’s amazing when it happens!” – Betty

“For one of my partners it’s not a priority, unlike the other where the relationship was built on sex. It is interesting experiencing sex work and dating with two completely different beings.” – Ellie

 

What advice would you give to someone who’s partner is suffering from jealousy?

“Explain there is a detachment (to the work) and it’s not emotional. Remind them their partner could be with anyone, but they are with that person.” – Darla

“Ask them what thoughts they are having that is leading to the jealous feelings. By asking this you can better understand how to help them. For instance, the partner might be thinking a lot about emotional attachment or pleasure during bookings. Discussing with them that it’s a transaction and not an emotional/pleasurable relationship. This may help with the jealousy. Some partners, mine included, just need a little extra reminding sometimes, or extra intimacy at home to make them feel special.” – Ellie

“My advice is to make sure you have some objective support preferably professional such as a therapist to help you work through the situation and the feelings of jealousy.” – Betty

“A romantic relationship doesn’t work without trust! If you’ve chosen to be with someone who is a Sex worker that was your choice. If you love them then you need to trust them and check your preconceived ideas about their work. Have a think whether your jealousy or issues with it is worth damaging your relationship over. And if their work is something you simply can’t handle then you shouldn’t be dating a sex worker. I don’t think it’s ever okay to ask a sex worker to quit their job or change how they work because of your jealousy. I think communicating and finding a balance that makes you both feel respected and comfortable is important.” – Crissy

A man and a woman sit at opposite sides of the bed, both looking upset with their heads in their hands
Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

Your partner says they’re “fine”, but you get the sense something is bothering them. How do you approach this?

“I would say I’m ‘checking in’ on them and that I sense something is wrong. Then I’d ask if they would like to talk about it. It’s important to pause and give them the space to think and respond. It’s easy to start filling the silence with reasons why you think they’re upset. Instead let them tell you why in their own words.” – Ellie

“Ask them outright” – Darla

“Communicate, approach with caution as he is a little cagey when bothered about something. But openly communicate, get him talking about what’s on his mind in order to come to a solution for him/us.” – Anna

“In this situation I ask outright as often as possible if I feel that something isn’t right. It can be difficult to broach a conversation that may be uncomfortable but it’s important.” – Betty

What are some red flags that suggest your partner isn’t ok with your work?

“He goes quiet and withdraws” – Darla

“For us it can be a feeling of disconnect. A lack of intimacy or connection. For us when this happens it is generally a result of me working too much. When I have been prioritising work over family time.” – Betty

“Snarky or mumbled comments. One word replies like “Hmm” and “OK” when I’m sharing a story related to work.” – Ellie

A man takes money from his wallet and hands it to a woman
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

How would you approach your partner asking to see other people for sex or booking sex workers?

“This one always gets me, I would tell him to try meet someone for a casual hook up. I would hate him spending the money, it’s only an expense issue for me” – Darla

“We were in a polyamorous relationship, so either of these would be up for debate. Right now, by himself? No. But we have talked about booking a sex worker together and also introducing people into our sex life in our personal lives.” – Anna

“I would approach it with an open mind but would suggest we had a couples therapy session to work through anything that is coming up for us. It’s a safe space and often you can dig deeper.  I would be comfortable with my partner seeing a sex worker but not dating away from our relationship” – Betty

“I would be absolutely stoked! Support my fellow workers! I love when my partners see other people because I adore them so much that it brings me so much joy knowing someone else gets to experience the joy of being with them.” – Crissy

“This implies to me that I am not giving my partner something they need. Approach the topic with a calm and open mind.” – Ellie

 

“I don’t have a problem with what you do for money, just don’t talk about it”? How would you react if your partner said this?

“Fine. If he doesn’t want to know I don’t tell” – Darla

“That would signal to me that they do have an issue with my work. I understand that there are aspects of the work partners wouldn’t necessarily want to hear about, the nitty gritty details. But to be asked to never discuss my work also means never talking about the good times or the funny incidents. For me, it would mean I talk to my partner less. Perhaps I’d start a sentence, remember its about work and saying “never mind” mid-sentence. It would be too difficult and would lead to resentment on my part” – Ellie

“Debriefing about work and talking about work related stress is important. These are non-negotiable for me and the relationship wouldn’t last.” – Anna

“Well that would suggest to me that there are issues around it for them and not discussing it is just sweeping it under the carpet and avoiding conflict which will only turn into a larger problem later . This scenario wouldn’t work for me.” – Betty

“I wouldn’t be comfortable with this boundary. Although I can understand it, I feel it invalidates that my work is just work. Especially if they’re comfortable talking about their work. I love my job and I want to talk about it, there’s also days I want to complain and be comforted. Therefore I need to be able to express feelings and thoughts and stories about my day and my job. I think this request is a red flag that they’re not actually okay or supportive of your work” – Crissy

 


For more insights into sex work and dating why not check out the following:

And if you’re a partner here’s a personal story on ‘Dating an Escort

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