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Relationships and Sex Work

Sex workers date and have friends too!

· Behind the Curtain,Resources

It's one of the things many muggles are surprised to learn about: sex workers have relationships too. When you really get down to it, since sex work is just like any other job, it's very close minded to assume that it's something you must only do whilst single - many of us are married, have children, are in polyamorous relationships, or have some kind of partnership outside of work. We don't often admit this to clients, of course, because our personal lives are none of their business, and it tends to ruin the illusion somewhat, but it's important to talk about on public forums because it helps people realise that sex work is just a job. The following are examples of sex workers I actually know, anonymized with details mixed around slightly. I've used the names of Triple J presenters, because that's what I was listening to as I wrote this blog!

Erika* is a young woman who works in a brothel; what her clients aren't aware of is that she's a lesbian in a long term relationship with a loving and supportive cis female partner. She can still have sex with men for work, because emotional intimacy isn't required for sex, and acting is her forte, so she can pretend to be really into the clients she sees; good lubricants also help her along. Her partner was also a sex worker once, and that is how the two met.

Bridget* is a newlywed who used sex work to pay off her house, now she's working while pregnant (there is a fetish for everything - and personally, I find pregnant women so gorgeous), and will probably continue after she gives birth, with a hiatus during her recovery period. It is safe to have sex during pregnancy, and Bridget is, like most Australian sex workers, very well versed in safer sex practices; she uses barrier methods and conducts visual health checks on clients to ensure she doesn't catch anything and pass it on to her husband or baby.

Linda* is a single sex worker who isn't full service, she only does erotic massage with hand relief and the occasional phone sex shift, and she is looking for love. She isn't interested in dating clients, but she has a profile on Tinder with her work name and some vanilla, clothed pictures. She meets dates, and is upfront about her status as a sex worker and the fact that she is using a working name. Eventually, when she finds someone who is fine with the details of her job, she will tell them her real name and let them further into her personal life - at the moment, she is struggling with people who either fetishize sex workers, or people who want to be clients but not pay for her time.

Sally* is in a long term relationship with her male partner. They are thinking about engagement and marriage, and are discussing the future of her work within the boundaries of their relationship. Her partner is very much fascinated by sex work, and sometimes even participates for bookings with voyeuristic clients. Neither of them think it is going to be good for them to continue sex work after having children, and Sally has other career options, but they openly support others to make that choice for themselves.

Brooke* is a sex worker in a poly relationship with a man she met on FetLife and part of a lesbian triad as well. The open nature of many in the kink community has helped her find people who are understanding of her work! She is thinking of doing sex work for as long as she is able, in many different forms - currently, she is a Pro Domme.

Dom* is an AFAB non-binary independent worker who is currently single, but monogamous in general, and believes they will stop when they find the right partner for them. They have not yet made plans for a future career, but they have a few other skills that might help them along in the scheme of things, and they're not currently worried about it: happy to stay single with four cats and two bunnies!

Some real life stories are pretty helpful to further "humanise" our jobs, and make us more relatable. It is sad that this is necessary, but it's true. So many clients think that we need to be "rescued" from this life, and their offer is often to date us... If you honestly think that we need rescuing, then the best way to go about that is to pay us for our work, and if you are really genuine about helping us to a "better situation", pay us extra. The majority of us are just fine with our jobs though, thanks, we don't need to date you and be financially dependent on you after we quit our work (because that's your one requirement for a relationship, right?) - that's less freedom than working for our cash. In fact, this trope of "saving" a sex worker by dating her is so common, it's the entire plot of Pretty Woman, and we even have a nickname for these people: Captain Save-A-Ho. The vast majority of us have no interest in being saved; let alone dating our clients.

Fetishizing us and specifically looking to date one of us because of our jobs is also pretty average behaviour. This is about as ethical as going to the GP and pretending to be sick just so you can chat them up - I mean, at least we're getting paid, but you're making us uncomfortable. If you're interested in meeting sex workers socially to have as friends, the way to do that is not to message our work phones or social media accounts and ask to be friends; that's super inappropriate. Imagine doing that to a random accountant you didn't know because you wanted to be friends with an accountant! Adding on to that, our business is companionship, and approaching us this way is basically asking for free services. What you can do is attend our support events as an ally, help advocate for us, and you will meet great people who also happen to be sex workers. By that point, you probably won't need this article, but if you happen to run across a sex worker in the wild, this is a good guide on how to behave appropriately.

So yes, we are on Tinder, we are out at singles bars, we go to dinner with our husbands and wives (side note: this is one of the myriad of reasons you shouldn't approach us in public unless we've discussed it with you), we happily have children, we hang out with our friends who aren't workers, sometimes we even look for love in unconventional places, like clientele (another side note: this is so rare and never ever ask a worker to date; let them approach you. This is also not an invitation for any of my clients to ever approach me romantically).

Here is a good account of being a sex worker in a relationship, by Kitty Stryker.

If you are dating a sex worker, or considering it, the following resources will be really helpful for you:

Christian Vega's blog lists this guide for how to date a sex worker, originally published in The Vixen Hour.

Cassandra, a Pro Domme and social worker, wrote this article for the L Stop.

So You're Dating a Sex Worker from Mel Magazine.

Some edits were made for grammar: 3rd April 2018.

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