There are a lot of complicated aspects to sex work, but some of the most complicated are those not directly related to the work itself. There are countless pitfalls associated with coming out to family and friends, but perhaps the most difficult problem is how to maintain a monogamous romantic relationship.
The three years that made up the most serious relationship of my short life also overlapped with most of my time as a sex worker. It began while I was still a prostitute, continued through my forays into erotic modeling, stripping and phone sex operating, and its end heralded my return to stripping. I would say being a sex worker and maintaining a relationship wasn’t always easy, but that goes without saying. I don’t think any relationship is always easy, and I was lucky enough to find a man who, despite his many flaws, by and large understood that my work was my work and my pleasure was my pleasure and–aside from the thrill I derived from counting my money–the two did not intersect.
I was, and still am, fiercely proud of my line of work and “Stanley” knew I was a whore from the moment he asked my profession. His absolute lack of shock or titillation was impressive to me. Especially when I was working as a prostitute, men responded to a revelation of my career either with disgust or the assumption that I, as a sex worker and a prostitute at that, had no standards and would sleep with them no questions asked. Neither of those responses are a good beginning to a successful romance. By the time I met Stanley, I’d resigned myself to what I thought was the impossibility of having any but the most casual relationships until whenever I retired.
Our culture is simultaneously obsessed with, terrified, and ashamed of sex… especially as far as women are concerned. We glorify porn performers while we wag our fingers at garden-variety promiscuous women and all the sex workers who have not achieved fame. I was homeschooled as a child and grew up somewhat cloistered; despite the fact that the less fortunate elements of our culture’s views on sex (and how they relate to a woman’s value) were mostly hidden, I still managed to internalize the message that sex work somehow devalued me. I was never ashamed of my profession and always held the view that any man who was bothered by my choice was not a man I wanted… but at the same time I was very much aware that many, if not most men, would think less of me for renting access to my body. While my choice of work confirmed my desirability, it also paradoxically made me untouchable and less of a woman in the eyes of much of the world.