Sex work and dating can be tough and complicated, but not impossible. There is always a hope that the right cocktail of love and patience can be struck between the participants.
One of the things I always get asked when I mention having worked in the industry was how things went with sex work and dating. Well, it had its complicated moments– things can get a little tough, but it’s not impossible.
Above all, there was always hope, that just the right combination of love and patience would come along, and love would blossom regardless of my profession. I believe it’s the same for many others in sex work: I’ve seen that hope in their eyes, heard it in their voices, and for some, it came to be.
Sex Work Dating
Once upon a time I worked as an escort, and now I’m a psychotherapist. While the two occupations might seem far apart on the spectrum, they’re actually surprisingly similar, it’s been an interesting journey, particularly in the arena of love.
I thought I’d write something to pull it all together for those who are curious, so I’ve put together some dating tips for those of us who work in the sex industry:
Honestly, I don’t believe that dating was made any less complicated by the invention of the dating app– modern dating via computer or mobile device complicates everything through an overabundance of choice.
I mean, unless you’re a lonely gay guy living in the Shetlands and struggling with severe population restrictions, the modern dating arena can be just plain overwhelming.
Add that to your not-exactly-common career choice and things get even more complicated!
So why is dating as a sex worker any more difficult than with any other career? Many couples manage being in open and/or polyamorous relationships– still others date people in very emotionally challenging work. There are many jobs where neither person in the relationship ever wants to discuss what happened that day. Both of these situations have very similar elements to dilemmas someone in the sex industry might face- jealousy and insecurity over ‘sharing’ your partner, and a ‘day at the office’ that a partner might not want to know all the details about.
Of course the social taboo is always the proverbial elephant in the room– the social stigma is really what makes it different.
If there are issues with jealousy or not wanting to know the details of a partner’s work day then the couple can do some research into being in an open and/or polyamorous relationship– or dating someone in the military, which is very similar in terms of closed communication in regard to a partner’s work.
This may help with some of the discussions. Not everything is always understood, nor is it always easy for partners to understand how those of us in certain trades may feel– for example as a soldier, it can be tough to convince your partner that just because you killed someone at work today doesn’t mean you’re going to randomly kill your neighbor, or anyone else for that matter.
There is a line between work and home, and it’s not always easy for the uninitiated to grasp.
But what about the social stigma? What about the look you get on the first date when you announce that you’re a sex trade worker– there’s definitely that awkward shift in the conversation.
And if things do progress, do you tell their friends and relatives? Common sense would dictate that they’ll probably be a bit taken aback– so who else gets to know? And if they aren’t told the truth then what identity is created for you as a person– what stories do you tell to mask your true identity?
The problem with exceptional jobs is that we remain human outside of work hours, and yet we are trapped in exceptional circumstances– fame, money, success, they all have a way of bending social reality.
Often someone who is brought in from the outside is subjected to severe emotional shock– it can be disconcerting at the very least, even for the most resilient among us.
So what’s the plan?
Well, the first step in solving any problem is to understand that there is a problem– it may not be yours, and it may not be your partner’s, but it’s the situation in which you’ve both been placed.
So How Can You Resolve It?
Communication. But first you have to know what you’re looking for, and what you believe, because any future partner is going to need to be educated. They’re walking into your world with little to no knowledge of how it all works, and they have only the impressions that the outside world has taught them, which we all know is total shite.
So communication should be slow and simple and well thought out– be prepared for endless explanations– this is not easy stuff to grasp. Be patient with them, and they’ll be patient with you. Your job is both amazing and exceptional, but if you are dating outside the sex industry, things are going to take a little more time to come together.
Decide What You Want
While working, I was dating a funky hippie, a smooth rich kid and a sexy transgender, all at the same time. They all knew about each other, and they were all fine with it. Everything was honest, and I loved them all.
We’d go on dates, cuddle, emotionally support each other, and now I’m married. You have to be honest with yourself and others about what you’re looking for. Be aware of being ashamed, and make sure you connect with your pride. If you do that, then others in your life will follow that lead. If you’re struggling with the stigma, one of our counsellors can help.
Rules and Deception
It’s a good idea for you and your partners to set rules about what you will and will not do when you work. With one ‘monogamous’ partner I had, the only rule was no kissing: a little bit of a stereotype, but it helped! We both agreed that it was too intimate, and so it was reserved for us. But that was us– for you, it might be something else. Maybe no anal– the ass is mine, and that’s the line! But it can definitely help to discuss it.
Another rule I would suggest, although this is not set in stone, is honesty. If you want a deep and intimate connection with someone, the connection will only be equal to the level of honesty between you. If you are not looking for deep connection, if you’re happy with just a companion, someone to talk to, spend time with and shag every now and again, then that’s another thing completely.
How Much Do I Share About My Day?
Whatever works. Don’t push it if your partner doesn’t like it, and don’t hide it if they seem interested. I’m a counselor now, and I’m not allowed by law to share anything about my day.
If I was a surgeon, you might not want to hear about all the things that I did during my work day– about all the cutting and the blood. Or maybe you would. You might find it really interesting, or you may be really turned off and just want to keep all of it in another place. It’s really all about how interested or disturbed your partner is hearing about it.
Giving It All Up for Love
Well? Is it worth giving up? How much do you love the work? How much do you want your partner? Maybe it seems like an easy choice– you’ve never really enjoyed the work, and this person is the bees’ bollocks! But maybe it’s more complex than that.
Maybe you love the sex industry. Maybe It’s an amazing adventure every day that you love, something that you’re really good at. Being good at sex is something– it’s a talent, like dancing, and not everyone has it.
What then? Then the fine line between compromise and sacrifice comes into view. What would you do if your loved one said that they had a fantastic new job in Vietnam? Are you going to give up your life to go and start anew?
Relationships can be difficult.
Read about the sex industry– it’s history and society.
The more you educate yourself, the better you will be at explaining it to others. A hundred years ago if you dated someone of the same sex, you were put in prison. But because people just kept saying that there was nothing wrong with it, the social environment changed, to the point where it’s significantly closer to being an accepted norm.
Sex work is changing in the same way. Recent polls show now more than ever a greater acceptance of working in the sex industry, and a call for decriminalization, especially among younger people.
So dating while working in the sex industry can definitely be a challenge, it also has its rewards– it’s an interesting life, exceptional even, and if you find the right partner, you really can just have it all.
The trick is to know yourself, know what you want, stay open and honest and unashamed, and keep your heart open– where there’s hope, love can blossom, and you can have the love life you want: whether its with many amazing people, just one special one, or a mix of the two!
(Cat Larkin is a full-time counsellor, ex- sex worker, who occasionally writes.)