You’ve met that new person, and boy, are they different! They aren’t an unemployed boyfriend living off of your lap-dance money or a girlfriend making snide remarks about you supporting the patriarchy. They’re different from the partners assuming you’re always down to fuck or the ones constantly asking how much you make. No. This new person is so enlightened. They get it! They’ve got some neoliberal politics, are woke as fuck, and they told you on the first date that they are 100% a sex worker ally.
Clearly, they are perfect.
Until they aren’t. Because as many sex workers can tell you, it’s often the open minded, polyamorous, sex positive folks who will smash your heart the most. It’s harder to see coming from them, though, because unlike the usual whorephobic partner, their red flags tend to be a lot less obvious until hindsight kicks in.
I’m here to share my dating history with you and let you know about some warning signs you should look out for in your new and improved sweetheart.
1) They won’t hear a bad word about Moulin Rouge (or other anti-sex worker media)
I use Moulin Rouge as an example because I have literally been brought to tears by two ex-girlfriends who refused to admit how problematic it was, but this can apply to any tragic hooker media. Do they view everything else they watch through a feminist lens only to tell you to “just enjoy it” when you mention not wanting to see dead sex workers? That’s a problem.
If your SO laughs about having problematic faves but doesn’t see violence against sex workers as a problem, then that person is a problem. They’re not seeing fictional sex workers as people, and if they don’t see the fictional ones as people, I guarantee there’s at least a small part of them that doesn’t see you as a person either.
2) You can only have good days
It’s perfectly fine to be annoyed by your job! It’s total bullshit that our capitalist society forces people to give up years of their lives being unhappy in a workplace that devalues them. Especially when people are just trudging along, trying to make ends meet as cost of living soars!
Except when it comes to you. You’re a healer. Your work is so important. You provide this amazing service that everyone really needs to respect. WHAT DO YOU MEAN A CLIENT CALLED YOU A BITCH?
Does your partner expect you to console them after a long day at the office but act distant when you talk about time wasters? Have they maybe flat-out said, “I prefer to only hear about work when it’s good’?
That’s not support. That’s someone with a glamorized view of sex work who wants to leech cool points out of their association with you. Having a porn star girlfriend is really neat, until you have to hear about unsafe shoots. It’s so cool dating a stripper, until she tells you about a guy smacking her ass so hard she had him kicked out.
See, if you’re on top of everything and always flush with cash and 100% job satisfied, then they are too. They get to live vicariously through all the pros of the job without having to think of any of the cons. Bonus: the partners who only look for the best case scenario in your work are often also the ones who will tell you how much they wish they could be a sex worker. They’re the ones who might even ask you for an in, but who will never take the plunge and actually do it. As long as you keep up their dream job fantasy, they never have to deal with the reality that they’d never cut it as a whore.
3) Unsolicited job advice
Does your partner have no concept of rates but keeps telling you how much you should charge? Do they insist you change your incall? Tweak your menu?
Unless they are a legitimate business partner, your partner doesn’t get to dictate what you do or don’t do.
Sure, maybe they have one or two friends who do the same thing as you and maybe they heard once or twice that those friends charge x. So why don’t you?
Because it’s your business. That’s why. A non-sex working partner most likely does not have the inside knowledge necessary to set rates. They probably don’t know the going rate in your city, what classifies someone as GFE vs. blow and go, what the exact rules of lap dancing at your club are, how clients react to pricing when seeing a pro-domme vs a more generalized fetish model, etc. They just don’t.
But let’s just focus on them telling you to charge more. This could be them telling you how much they think you’re worth. Of course they think you’re the prettiest, shiniest, blowjobbingest hooker who ever lived. That must be what it means!
It might. But it also might mean that they’re harboring some negative feelings about dating a sex worker and their only line of defense if someone bothers them about it is “But my partner is a classy whore, like on that Billie Piper show!”
The whorearchy is, unfortunately, a great shield against stigma, but it should not be your partner’s only line of defense against it. If their only rationale for dating someone in the industry is how much money you make, then your partner is not trying hard enough to care about you.
4) If you do get assaulted, they need to be your hero
I don’t have jokes for this one, just a story.
One time, when I got assaulted during a fetish session, my partner at the time came over to console me—or so I thought. What he really did was go off about how he wanted to kick this guy’s ass and did I know how to find him and how dare the client do that to me. I stood quietly in the kitchen, having made him promise not to yell and demand vengeance for my honor. To be fair, he didn’t yell. He very calmly expressed his desire to go play cowboy. After he finished his tirade, I explained that I had done everything I could to ruin this client’s name, following standard protocol, and that I had talked to other sex workers to vent. I was scared, I was angry, but I had done everything I could.
Then he asked me if he could go home. He said I seemed fine and it looked like I had things under control.
While I’ve had other partners react badly to tales of major and minor workplace assault, this was the first time I’d ever felt outright dismissed. I knew that this person had a history of white knighting the women in his life, but the way he processed the situation by moving from ‘beat up bad dude, be a hero’ to ‘my services aren’t required, there’s nothing for me to do’ made me feel more degraded than anything else I’d experienced that day. A year later, it still bothers me more than the assault.
If your partner doesn’t understand that supporting you sometimes just means sitting with you and keeping you company, dump them. Immediately. Do not stay with anyone who makes your feelings and experiences about their ability to defend you. Do not trust someone who is patiently waiting for you to be hurt at work just so they can save you.
5) They totally used to date other sex workers…who would never do the sort of sex work you do.
Whether they’ve only dated strippers who would never do full service work or cam girls who would never do non-solo porn, this is one of those red flags that seems innocuous until it repeats itself. And boy, will it keep cropping up!
A couple of years ago, I was considering full service work. I talked it over with a partner. He asked me what he should tell all the swingers in his life. Tip: the answer to that is ‘Well, what do you tell them about all the other people you’re banging?’ But what I said was, “‘Well, I guess you would tell them about it?”
Problem was, he was dating someone else at the time, and since she better fit the stereotypical “image” of a prostitute in most people’s minds (this is also bullshit), I was afraid of people ostracizing her or being rude to her for something I was potentially doing. So I said fine, yeah, you can out me if people push you.
(Note: If people are treating the amount of clients you see as inherently more unhealthy than the number of people they fuck just because there’s money involved, leave that sex party.)
He replied:“Yeah, I mean it’s funny that they would assume she’s the one who sleeps with people for money, because she would never do this. Like ever. And I mean never. NEVER. EVER.”
This line of discussion went on for much longer than it should have. And sure, it was funny that people could be so wrong about both of us because of preconceived ideas of what a certain type of sex worker looks like, but the conversation turned into my partner repeatedly stressing how much his other, more primary partner, wouldn’t ever do something that I was thinking about doing.
(Also, side note, she totally had done it and she was BOSS at it!)
Remember what I said about how some people can only abide dating ‘classy’ workers? Or how some people accept dating certain types of workers but not others? It applies here.
There’s also a certain type of poly person who loves having at least one sex worker in their line up. Maybe they like the cool factor. Maybe they like that they’re “getting it for free”. Whatever the reason, they always seem to be dating or sleeping with at least one sex worker of whatever flavor. Yet that sex worker is almost never one of their primary partners—instead, the sex worker seems to be there to add spice.The fact that they’re dating a sex worker certainly doesn’t mean that they’ve dealt with the whorephobia around them or the whorearchy that exists inside of them yet. Look, if someone constantly compares your work to less stigmatized forms of sex work, they’ve already decided that you come out looking worse in that comparison.
6) “Why don’t you do this work thing for me?”
“You do realize you get to fuck me in the ass, right?”
As far as things I’ve had to say to partners goes, that’s not the worst. But Jesus, I shouldn’t have to say that to someone just because they’re sulking about not getting a lap dance.
But alas! If you do anything at work that you don’t do at home, your partner will focus on that one thing they feel deprived of, instead of the hundreds of things you only do with them.
If your partner is guilting you for not performing sex acts that you aren’t really into (or which are logistically impossible for you to choreograph outside of a porn studio funding and arranging it) then they are guilting you about not performing sex acts for them. That’s a sexually coercive behavior, which is a form of abuse, and it also demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the fact that sex work is a job. Which leads me to…
7) BONUS: They can be jealous of clients, but you can’t be jealous of anyone
If at any point your partner starts getting jealous of clients, they have stopped understanding that sex work is work. I’ve had multiple partners say they think I’ll run off with clients because of their money. That I’ll discover someone more sexually interesting on the job. That I’ll suddenly become super into baby boomers who are bad at kissing. But if my boundaries get crossed at home in regards to them and another person, and I say, “Hey, you did the thing I asked you not to do and I’m a little upset”, suddenly I’m the one not trying hard enough to make things work.
Look, does sex work often require emotional labor that makes it harder to be present for people in your personal life? Yeah. But so does being a bartender, a therapist, and working in sales, and we never hear stories of those folks getting accused of straying through customer service.
Is sex work a form of physical non-monogamy? Yes. (Though I’ll argue that actors’ partners don’t often get upset about sex scenes.) And can you maybe have a good time with your clients both physically and emotionally? Of course!
But work sex is not truly non-monogamy, nor is it the same thing as a personal relationship.
Can porn performers or duo partners have a fantastic working relationship that happens to include giving each other orgasms? Sure! But making a good end product is the primary goal there, not recreational sex.
I put this in as a bonus because it can be really, really hard for non-sex workers to wrap their heads around this. I think it’s a concept that your partner can spend time working on grasping. But if your partner isn’t working on it and isn’t doing anything to understand how your work is different from your life, it can lead to a lot of problems.
In conclusion, if you have any inkling that your partner is disrespecting your work or mistreating you because of it, trust that feeling. Regardless of how otherwise perfect they may seem, it is better to cut losses early on than to try to explain to them how hurtful they’re being when you’re at peak emotional investment.
Do not settle for less here. Do not accept whorephobia at home. Single sex workers, trust us—it’s better to stay single than be your partner’s walking, talking, transgressive thrill.
And hey, if all else fails when it comes to dating civilians, we can always date each other.