Home Prostitution Romance & Relationships: (Call) Girl Meets (Rent) Boy

Romance & Relationships: (Call) Girl Meets (Rent) Boy

This year, I’m spending Valentine’s Day with a guy who’s not my boyfriend (though I wouldn’t say that to him). I’ll be spending my evening at a stuffy French restaurant in Las Vegas, with a married, submissive man who’s several decades older than me, listening to him ramble endlessly about mergers and acquisitions while I pretend to care. Back home, my boyfriend, Tom, will be spending Valentine’s Day not dissimilarly, at a stuffy restaurant in San Francsico’s Castro District, with a gay, submissive man, who’s several decades older than him, listening to him ramble endlessly about mergers and acquisitions, while he pretends to care. Throughout the day, my real boyfriend and I will send each other funny texts about the weird things our “boyfriends” might do to impress us. He’ll pick me up from the airport tomorrow; we’ll both laugh and complain and commiserate about the tedious fake-romantic evenings we spent with our clients. We’ll talk and talk until one of us inevitably says, “oh my god, we have to stop talking about these people,” and then sex work will fade into the background again for a couple days, until one of us has to work again.

We first got together a few summers ago through mutual friend, a girl named Shannon who had once stripped at the same club as me. Tom and Shannon had met each other as martial arts instructors, and she had been trying to set us up for years. I always resisted; not only did Shannon and I have very different taste in men, but she had no idea that I currently worked as an escort. She had once commented that her morals prevented her from doing any sex work beyond stripping, and so I figured it was better she never learned my secret.

I always knew that being an escort might make my dating life difficult, but I also sort of assumed that I would tell whomever I dated when I felt the time was right. On a first date, it didn’t seem appropriate or sensible, but I figured that once I got close enough to someone to feel like it was a “real” relationship, I would never lie. I dated around a bit, but having a big secret made it hard to even get that close to someone. It occurred to me that maybe I didn’t even have a right to even sleep with someone, even once, unless I was willing to be 100 percent honest with them from the very beginning. The whole prospect stressed me out, and so I set a rule for myself: No (unpaid) sex whatsoever unless I could be honest. It would be ok. I would focus on making money for the next few years, then quit, then become a normal person again. One thing at a time.

When Shannon invited me and Tom to a party one night a few summers ago, we ended up spending the entire time talking only to each other. Tom knew through her that I had been a dancer, and it might have come up once or twice, but I don’t remember. I loved talking to him, and I figured we could just be friends without me breaking my rule. I could definitely never tell him the truth, because I didn’t want to risk word of my whorish, immoral ways getting back to Shannon.

He got my number that night at the party, and called me the very next day. My home stripper pole had came in the mail that morning, I remember telling him, and I remember him laughing. He seemed somewhat disinterested in me being a stripper, which was a relief, because I had been around enough men who fetishized it. We went out that night, to bars and a concert and finally a divey Mexican restaurant. Conversation came easy, but in the back of my mind, I was nervous the whole time. I had met someone I actually liked, but knew I couldn’t have him.

I’ll always remember standing at at that Mexican place in the Mission that night, waiting for our food, feeling a buzz from the drinks we had had and the thrill of meeting someone I liked, even as I knew it would never work out. I talked to him about the two different club customers I had tried dating in the past, and how both of them seemed disappointed when they realized I didn’t actually want to just drink and have sex all the time. “Like when they realize that you’re a real person?” he asked, and then he said something I’ll never forget.

Well, actually I did forget the precise sentence, but I know it was the first time I heard him say the words “sex work.” It’s always felt like a secret code to me, spoken by people who are somehow in the know. Perhaps not in the industry themselves, but politically active or sympathetic at least. I know he felt my demeanor change as he said it. Our eyes locked, he sensed that I was surprised, and he shrugged and said casually, “I’ve done the male domination thing a bit.”

This intrigued me. I later learned this was partially a lie; he had done “the male domination” thing more than “a bit” and had actually supported himself and his child as a gay-for-pay sex worker since before I even started dancing. We got our food and sat down, and now I finally felt like I didn’t want to leave his side. It was 11:35, the last train ran at midnight, and the station was right next door, two minutes away. “You’ll definitely miss your train,” Tom said, “Want to come over?”

“You’re right,” I agreed, both of us completely aware we were lying. I wanted to stay so bad but still didn’t know if I had it in me to tell the truth. Going to a guy’s house in the middle of the night doesn’t necessarily mean you have to fuck him, I reminded myself.

His house was up on a hill, masked from the street by trees, and overlooking the freeway. It felt like you had left the city completely, the rush of cars like a river that we could watch from high on the banks. No matter how many men you date or fuck professionally, it makes you no less nervous when you’re alone with someone you actually like for the first time. With professional dates, you know more or less how they’ll all end. There’s no navigating “do I actually like him?” or “is this a good idea?” You just plaster on a fake smile until time runs out. I still had my promise to myself in mind, that I had to tell him the truth about myself or find a way to gracefully not-fuck him, and the predicament left me anxious.  I wanted to ask him all about work, what he had done or hadn’t done, but I couldn’t get myself to talk. The male domination thing, did that ever include sex?

He started to kiss me. My heart pounded, and I felt shame for being secretly unlovable and undatable and how embarrassed I’d be later when he’d tell Shannon that I was a whore, and why didn’t she tell him? As we kissed, I knew I needed to say something. I false-started over and over, and finally pushed him away just enough to force the words out, “Have you ever actually had sex for money?”

He stopped and pulled back and looked at me. “Yeah. Have you?”


“Cool. When?”

I thought for a second. “Last week.”

“Oh. So that’s what you do?”



“Don’t tell Shannon?”

“Oh, I would never. Don’t tell her about me.”

And that was basically it. It took a couple dates for me to open up more about exactly what I did, to reveal my stage name and show him my website. But before long, we got to a point where we regularly have to tell each other to stop talking about work—our clients have become caricatured in each other’s minds like the annoying co-workers civilians have to deal with every day at the office. We’ve become, in many ways, a very normal couple.

Over the last few years, I’ve met a handful of his clients and worked with him a couple times. I’ve spent time at his client’s apartment in New York, and he’s slept over in my hotel rooms. I’ve taken his advertising photos and we’ve been each other’s cover stories when we travel for work. I once had to tell his inquisitive mother all about our romantic trip to Macau (where I’ve actually never been), because he had let it slip that he had recently traveled there. To cover, we told his whole family he was vacationing there with me instead of his trick. (“It’s just so different and beautiful!” I explained vaguely, and that seemed to satisfy her.) I’ve also told my father about some of the trips “we” have taken together, and I sense that he’s pleased his slacker/artist of a daughter was able to snag such a successful young man for herself.

Sex work has been a huge part of my life; besides sustaining me financially, it’s changed my worldview and politics and has introduced me to some of my favorite people in the world. I’m so glad that I have a partner who’s part of it too, because the longer I work, it becomes more difficult for me to get close to people who don’t “get” it. It’s funny how two sex workers in love might not form the kind of couple you’d expect. For example, we’re definitely not immune to jealousy. I’ve scaled back work considerably since I met him (what I’ll do and with whom), and we’ve both stopped dating other people. We both have moments of “I hate this job so much and need to get out,” and moments of “this is the best thing ever!” We laugh about some day being a power couple, like Bill and Hillary, only we’d be two uber-successful sex workers, and going on Oprah dressed in velvet robes and ruby crowns, discussing how we built our empire from nothing. But in reality, it will always be our secret. Shannon still has no idea.


  1. I love this for the same reason I love Jane Austen’s novels; it’s about courtship. As a guy I should be embarrassed about that, but I have no shame. Oooooooooo, they’re so cuuuuuute!


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