Dear Tits and Sass: Boundaries

by suzyhooker on September 20, 2016 · 7 comments

in Dear Tits and Sass

boundaries2Dear Tits and Sass,

I’ve been a worker for around ten years now and have been full time for around the latter half of that. Navigating having a partner while being a worker is nothing new to me. However, I’ve been with my current partner for around a year and over the last few months I’ve started to worry about possible whorephobia and manipulation around my work.

A few of my regulars have become friends over the years, a few of whom I’d see socially (like going for dinner/drinks tagged onto a booking), communicate with socially (off topic chat and not just admin style arranging bookings kinda contact) and when this has happened, it’s been driven by me and stayed well within my comfort zone. But now, these long-term regs are backing off because I’ve created distance due to my partner’s difficulties around it, and I’ve not provided them with a solid reason why. I don’t know what to say to them other than being busy, but with no explanation a few of my crying manbaby clients have taken it personally and I’ve lost their custom!

I lost another client because activities happened during a session which were outside of what my partner and I had agreed (which was down to miscommunications and misunderstandings, rather than me deliberately ignoring anything that we’d agreed). The culmination of this happened when my partner had overheard something while I was seeing my client at my incall space, and didn’t like the sound of it so looked through the air vent to see what was happening.

I felt sick that she had been doing so without my prior consent, but obviously she was angry that I hadn’t respected our rules and it must’ve been a pretty tough way for her to find out. I heard doors slamming and told my client to wait a moment, and paused the booking to go and talk with her. I tried to calm the situation and said I would finish up with him so we could talk properly after. This wasn’t good enough, and she walked in on him, shouted at him, and then stormed out. I didn’t know what to do so I apologised, gave him his money back and then asked him to leave. Another regular lost.

Most of my clients are older gents but one is younger, and as such I adopt a more casual, familiar tone with him. My partner read through my work e-mails  and at first, said “I know it’s work, you’re flirting on the internet for money,” which felt accusatory but at least partially understanding. But later, she said that she didn’t like the way I spoke with him and she didn’t want me to see him anymore.

And then there’s my most frequent regular, who did become emotionally needy and made attempts at boundary pushing—but the situation was manageable and still worthwhile from my point of view. She genuinely felt he was dangerous and even though I wasn’t sure if I agreed or not, I did take her concerns seriously and I did stop seeing him.

Since I’d been working for so long, I’d almost built up enough regs to not need to screen for new clients—something I’d been working towards and hoping for, for quite some time! But now, it looks like my regs—newer and older—are where the issues lurk. I won’t stop being a worker for the sake of my relationship, but at the same time, I do want to respect her boundaries so that we can both feel safer and happier about it.

She considers me to be financially well off, and as such she thinks I’m secure enough to be able to cherry pick only the best or easiest bookings. I’m not doing survival SW, but I do flex my work practices around how much money I need at any given point. She struggles to comprehend why I see certain clients/permit certain activities when I “don’t have to”, and the only reason she can find is that I’m apparently greedy and money-obsessed. In reality, her comfort zone around SW is different to mine and on top of that, I’m far more of a workaholic. But when she is critical/questioning of certain things that I do with clients, it makes me feel like she’s being judgmental and whorephobic.

Ultimately I’m wondering if the issue is with her lack of trust in me, or if it’s to do with me being unreasonable in the way I work, or if it’s her being controlling and critical in ways that are unfair or even emotionally abusive. I do respect her right to tell me how she feels about my work, and I do want to accommodate her as much as possible, but when she gives me ultimatums then I worry that it’s gone too far.

Sincerely,

Overwhelmed

Josephine: I have to say, I’m very impressed with the way you’ve laid out your concerns and your partner’s concerns in a thoughtful, empathetic matter. I’m also impressed that you took the time to hear out your partner’s issues with your work, were kind and patient enough to take them seriously, and allowed some reasonable boundaries. On top of that, you’ve indicated that you’re financially stable and sound like you have your shit together. You sound like a lovely person to be in a relationship with!

Your partner, however? Trust your intuition. She’s being unreasonable. She’s being controlling. She’s being a turd.

Ask yourself: Are the boundaries set for you realistic? For example, an old boyfriend of mine had one hard boundary for me: any lingerie he bought for me he never wanted me to wear at work. I thought that was silly, but it was important to him and a small sacrifice on my part. It was a manageable limit so I respected it. What are hers? Apparently, flirting on the internet is a no-go for her, which she struggled to communicate with you clearly the first time around. Either way, that makes your job next to impossible. Maybe she’ll allow you to schedule clients via smoke signal?

In another situation, she intuited that you were doing something that she didn’t approve of, spied on you, and then confronted your client. It’s lucky that you’re an established veteran because that event could have been a career-ending for a newb.

Finally, you said she’s been using ultimatums—that’s a giant red flag. Rarely, an ultimatum is reasonable (“Honey, if you don’t stop boinking your secretary I’m going to leave you.”).  But in this scenario, her ultimatums are that she dictates exactly how and when you do your work. You need to drop one on her: If she can’t accept you’re going to do sex work exactly as you see fit, she needs to leave.

Caty: I’ve got to agree with Josephine. I think one issue here is that you’re looking at this based on the model many non-monogamous partners use to negotiate and compromise about sex outside the relationship (yes, we at Tits and Sass have read The Ethical Slut). But this isn’t some recreational hanky-panky you and your partner are navigating. What she’s actually doing is directly threatening your livelihood.

In any other context besides sex work, what would you think about someone compromising their partner’s ability to earn a living, including making business decisions for them which cause them to lose valued clients? You’d find that absolutely inappropriate, maybe even abusive—in fact, many domestic abuse experts classify this form of control as financial abuse. Don’t let the fact that that your job happens to be in the sex industry allow you to gloss over the fact that what your partner is doing is unacceptable.

The ability to work by only seeing longtime regulars is a cherished goal for most escorts. It’s the safest and most secure way to operate. You spent years building your business up to that point, only to have your loved one sabotage what sounds like a good portion of your valuable business relationships. Your partner’s tantrums about perfectly standard interactions with regulars are not only financially hurting you, they’re actually endangering you by making you let go of trusted regs who are known quantities, eventually forcing you to see new clients who may be threats.

Once upon a time, I too had a girlfriend who was jealous of my clients. “I wish you’d talk to me the way you talk to  them,” she whined. “Oh, so you want me to be totally disingenuous to you for an hour?” I thought. She and your partner have something in common. They can’t see past their jealousy to understand something fundamental: sex work is work.

If your partner doesn’t get that after a year of being together, she obviously doesn’t care enough to see things from your point of view. The fact that she even stooped to accuse you of being greedy and money obsessed simply for desiring financial stability? That further demonstrates that she doesn’t show you a fraction of the consideration you’ve obviously given her.

By the time you write to an advice column about your significant other, you know that something is deeply wrong. I believe you wrote to us specifically because you knew we wouldn’t let the fact that you’re a sex worker cloud our judgement about your partner’s outrageous behavior. Don’t let the stigma around our work make you distrust your instincts, either—you know deep down that no one deserves to be treated like this.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda September 20, 2016 at 10:21 am

Anyone in a relationship who tries to control your work or has serious emotional issues with your work needs to go. It’s the biggest possible red flag in a sex worker’s personal life. It’s not going to get better no matter how you contort yourself or your business around her demands.

Of course, once you end the relationship, you get to worry about whether or not she’s going to stalk you or start outing you to people you aren’t out to. Fun times.

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EDW September 20, 2016 at 1:13 pm

It took me a while to figure this out, so maybe my sharing it can be a shortcut for the letter writer or someone else reading here: whether or not your way of working is “unreasonable” (and, let’s be real, often times we end up working in ways that are not the safest or healthiest because money can be worth the trade-off), your partner can’t be the one to force a change. She can share her concerns and state her own boundaries. She can express concern around the integrity of your work habits and your safety and well-being, and she can decide for herself whether she’s comfortable staying with you while you work in a way she deems concerning. But that’s it. She can’t demand XY or Z for the sake of the relationship, whether or not it’s ‘reasonable’, and she’s already gone beyond demanding and into forcing. She’s violating your boundaries to make a point about you possibly pushing your own boundaries with clients? That’s fucked-up, controlling behavior. Regardless of how you do or don’t work, you should DTMFA (thanks, Dan Savage, for your one and only solid contribution as an advice columnist).

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EDW September 20, 2016 at 1:18 pm

To add some context: I started doing full-service work while in a poly relationship with a guy, and he was concerned that I was putting myself at unnecessary risk. I was increasing my risk, but I was also increasing my income, and this was a trade-off that was worth it at the time. The way he approached me about it didn’t feel like it was rooted in concern for me but in whorephobia (and, in retrospect, it was), but I felt like I deserved to be shamed for taking this risk because, well, I was taking a risk. But that wasn’t his decision to make. He could and did make the decision to break up with me because of it, and I’m relieved now that that relationship didn’t drag on. I ended up changing my work habits months later, and I did that for me, not for him.

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Kennedy September 20, 2016 at 2:32 pm

I agree with Caty and Josephine 100%. I would qualify this woman’s partner as abusive and urge her to leave ASAP.

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L September 29, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Honestly, that’s 4 clients you’ve lost for someone who has never done sex work. There’s some acting involved.
She needs to give you a LOT more space to do your own thing. Frankly I don’t think she should ever read your emails or be allowed to be anywhere near you when you work. She sounds like she’s not secure enough in herself to handle your work. I know most aren’t and that this answer is probably horrid considering that it’s probably really hard to find someone you’re compatible with. But, you aren’t there looking over her shoulder controlling her when she works. She needs to trust you and maybe you shouldn’t agree to any boundaries you can’t commit to also. I hope you two make it. But, it takes forever to build up clients and as SW’s we get used to a certain lifestyle and want the money it takes to afford to maintain it and that’s ok! You’re not a robot to be controlled. You’re just doing your job, trusting your gut. Don’t let this gf of yours wreck all your good relationships with those LT friends! Good luck! Unless she can respect you this sounds like it may not work out. 🙁

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flask October 20, 2016 at 12:27 pm

i’m pretty sure that if you have problems with being intimate with a sex worker, you should not be in a relationship with a sex worker.

not everyone can meet your needs. clearly this partner is not ok with this work.

i would be a bad partner for a sex worker. i will do those people the courtesy of not trying to partner them.

there are a LOT of people i would be a bad partner to. maybe i don’t know ahead of time that i will.

being unsuitable for someone (or their line of work) is not a license to bad behavior.

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OP January 3, 2017 at 10:02 am

Thank you to everyone who has responded here, I’ve read and re-read these contributions whenever my confidence has dropped and/or I’ve felt at a loss at what to say or do. It’s been really reassuring to be told that I am being considerate and I am listening, as I’ve been made to feel quite the opposite for quite some time!

Her demands have been unfair and unrealistic, and controlling and disrespectful, and it has taken me some time but I can finally see that now… I think that when similar behaviour started cropping up in my personal/social life, it unfortunately became even more obvious to me then. Sadly, she doesn’t like most of my friends and has given me the choice of “It’s me or them” both with clients and personal friendships which she’s found too difficult to deal with.

While I’ve said that I refuse to cut people out as that doesn’t solve the problem at the source, as well as the fact that these people are important to me and I don’t want to lose them. But as far as she’s concerned, that’s the only solution to her being able to feel comfortable. But if she’s willing to put the relationship on the line repeatedly, rather than try to work through anything together, then I can’t help but wonder whether it really means that much to her in the first place!

I know I’d had a fair bit of internalised stigma which she’d managed to trigger, whether intentionally or not, which had lead to a really unhealthy balance in the relationship. But I think it’s clear to us both now that we’re better off apart, and thankfully that acknowledgement has come from her first. So here’s to a happier year ahead!

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