For the partners of sex workers:
So you met a hooker and at first you were cool with it. You didn’t freak out when they first told you about their job and you didn’t freak them out with your response. You started seeing each other and maybe you had some reservations but figured you would work through them with time (read: talk them into your way of thinking). Or you figured whatever you had with them wasn’t so serious so it didn’t need to be a big deal. Or perhaps you even found their job a bit of a turn on. Or maybe you were never ok with it but you wanted to try to make it work anyway. Whatever your thoughts on sex work were you probably realised that it wasn’t your place to say anything… well not yet….
But that was then and this is now. Things are different now.. right? Now that you are (dun-dun-duuuun!!) in love……Over time and as your feelings for them have grown, you’ve found your acceptance for their job has diminished. In the early days you may have repeatedly declared your complete support for them and their work or promised that you would never ever ask them to quit, and maybe you even meant it, but all of a sudden things have changed and now you’re not so sure. This situation might be all new to you, but your partner has probably been through this so many times before like most hookers have. We get it… Apparently it’s different when you love us.
So now what?
Your first decision is whether to talk to your partner about the problems you’re having with their job or to just try working through it by yourself. I suggest you do a bunch of the second before doing the first. Read, think, talk to someone, then read and think some more. When emotions like jealousy take over or we lose control over those feelings of possessiveness, it’s likely that we are not going to be thinking clearly. These feelings are very normal and human, but rarely rational. Taking time to work through your feelings will help ensure you don’t start something in the heat of the moment that you don’t know how to finish. And if you do ultimately decide to talk about your feelings with your partner it will help to be clear about your emotions and your needs, to have considered their point of view and be prepared to offer appropriate solutions. If you’re going to open this can of worms you want to be sure about your feelings and what you want.
If you can wait till you have time to express yourself in a calm, thoughtful and respectful way it will be much safer and healthier and be more likely to produce outcomes that you can both live with. In the meantime can I suggest you try hanging out with other sex workers and their partners. Being in a loving respectful relationship with a sex worker isn’t as out there as you might think. Lots of people love sex workers and manage or struggle while being committed to loving them. You are not the only one expected to do this. Hanging out with others in the industry might help you gain some perspective both in regards to your own feelings, those of your partner and the reality of the work.
Even though your feelings may be irrational it would be unreasonable to expect that you will always be able to ignore them. If problems persist and you’re sure you’re not just having a moment, this post has some ideas and suggestions that might help you negotiate something more palatable to your sensibilities, whilst being respectful of your partner and their needs. And hopefully in the process you will become more aware of your emotions and be better at communicating, regulating and acting on them.
Often feelings about this stuff come from possessiveness, jealousy and misconceptions, you might even be experiencing some guilt or shame or fear. All perfectly normal human feelings and common characteristics, in varying degrees, of most loving relationships. These feelings can be overwhelming or complex or inevitable or over ruling. They sometimes undermine our own logic or long held values and they usually cause confusion and pain. Our emotions affect us all differently at different times and are triggered by different things. At times they may feel all consuming, we lose perspective and the issues can become magnified and out of proportion. Wait for the intensity to pass and when you’re feeling calm try to pinpoint what it is about your partner’s work that triggers these emotions.
Believe it or not, not everyone will understand or agree or feel the same way about the same things you do. These feelings might be common, but for each of us it is often different things that bother us. Your partner might not know what it is about their work that upsets you. For example it might seem obvious to you that you don’t want to hear the details of their work but they might be completely oblivious to the fact that this upsets you, or worse, they may even think you want to know.
Figuring out if there are specific aspects of their work that are bothering you more than others can be hard work and can take time. You will need to try and be reasonable and open minded here. Dig deep. Don’t be satisfied with a thought like ‘my trigger is my partner fucking other dudes for money’. You will need to push yourself further. Try to be more specific. You want to pinpoint what it actually is about them fucking other dudes for money makes you feel the way you do. Is it that you hate them visiting strangers late at night because you are worried about their safety. Maybe you hate it when they change plans with you so they can go to work. Maybe you hate it when they answer their work phone in front of you and you hear them negotiating with their clients. Maybe you hate the hours they work. Maybe it’s that you want them to save something intimate just for you. Or you’re concerned they might fuck your boss or someone you know. Who knows exactly what it is that pushes your buttons, it’s possible you don’t even know. Ultimately you might just want them to quit but if that isnt an option for whatever reason, being clear about what it is that upsets you the most will help you to negoriate a compromise about how they work that takes your feelings into account. For example: in calls only not out calls, set or changed hours of work, changes to what service they provide or how they advertise, changes to where they work etc. Take your time to work through your feelings but try not to be pass agg while you do it.
The next step is to put yourself in their shoes. Consider their reasons for working. What can you offer them in that department? There is no point trying to come to any agreement with your partner if their reasons for working in the first place have not been addressed or at least considered; that would be setting yourselves up for failure. Obviously for many of us a huge consideration is the money – are you in a position to provide for your partner financially? But don’t presume that money is the only thing that it’s about. There are many other reasons we choose sex work such as independence, the control and autonomy we have over our work. Or we may enjoy aspects of the work such as the healing and human side or the performance side or maybe even the sex and drama. It might be the flexibility or the easy access. What can you offer to help meet your partner’s needs in these area.
When considering your partners reasons think outside the square. Don’t just consider the reasons they may have vocalised, if you really want to cover your bases, be aware that there maybe reasons they work that you don’t know about or that they are not even clear about it. So many of us are forced to defend our work all the time in terms of money and need that we often are not comfortable or clear about the parts we do enjoy or do because we like. What else about the work might suit your partner?
By now you should have three lists, one that pinpoints the specifics of what upsets or bothers you about your partner doing sex work (your bottom line) one that considers the reasons they have chosen sex work ( their anticipated bottom line), and one that explores what you can offer to meet their anticipated needs or address their reasons (your bargaining tools). It can help to physically write it all down so you can start to build a picture of the situation and begin to develop possible solutions and suggestions to bring to the conversation.
Consider your approach to the conversation. Play out the conversation in your mind. If you want to have an honest and useful conversation with your partner about their work; don’t give them a reason to lie to you. If they have been able to trust you with the details of how, why, when, where they work, don’t fuck it up now by being an asshole. If you go in all demanding with ultimatums there are a few ways it’s going to go… 1. you break up 2. Your partner says they will do what you want just to keep the peace and you but continues to work secretly 3. They do quit resulting in them not having their needs met and holding onto some resentment towards you.
Stay focussed on the goal of the conversation which is to develop agreements that take into account their reasons for working and your specific concerns. If the conversation gets out of hand bring it back to what it is you need to be ok with this situation, not what you don’t need. Remember it’s the job you have the problem with; you love your partner, so don’t abuse or insult them or call them names.
Don’t expect or accept miracles as a solution. Whatever the conclusion of the conversation don’t make big promises or make them promise anything big. If you do come to an agreement, trial it first. Take it day to day and give your selves a time frame to check back in with each other about how its working for you both. This is just the beginning of a process.
I was able to successfully negotiate around these things with my partner once many years ago but when I tried it again more recently with a new partner it didn’t go so well, but that’s a story for another time. Remember that all relationships can be difficult regardless of what job any of us are doing so be careful to not blame all the problems on their work. Be aware that your insecurities might not disappear even if they stopped doing sex work. In any job your partner works in they might meet potential lovers – You need to be able to trust them. Be honest with yourself and don’t make them jump through hoops if there is a chance the issues are yours and nothing to do with the work. If your partner does quit or change the way they work because of your feelings, don’t take that as them repenting. Don’t make them apologise or feel guilty for their past. Encourage them to be able to talk and think about their experiences without feeling ashamed.
Don’t try to change them, You fell in love with them and their experiences are a part of them. There are so many pros to dating pros, their sassiness and independence, their skills and outfits, their connections and stories. Whores know their worth and you’re lucky enough to get to spend time with them for free – others have to pay for the pleasure!
But If you really hate their job so much and after working on it you believe there is no way around it do yoursselves a favour. Don’t stick around contributing to a toxic situation if all you can do is be hurtful and unhelpful.
If you cant or dont want to deal with it just be a grown up and walk away.