Harlotry: Being In A Relationship While Being A Sex Worker

Things went steadily downhill for a year and a half. Without a job or a career, I descended into the Feminine Mystique: already a somewhat depressive person, the inactivity of housewifery plunged me into despair. I tried going to school, plodding through my studies with good grades, but taking no joy in most of my classes. I tried cooking, but most of the dishes I cooked were unacceptable to Stanley’s unsophisticated palate and I eventually gave up. If I couldn’t do the work I loved and I couldn’t even please the man I loved, what was the point? I looked for straight jobs and ached to return to sex work but I couldn’t or wouldn’t allow myself to see everything that was wrong. I had embarked, unbidden, on a quest to be what society considers to be a real girl and in the process I had apologized for things I had no reason to be sorry for and given up too much. I expected Stanley to see that something was wrong, to fix it or at least help me fix it, but when I told him how sad I was he merely told me I had nothing to be sad about.

Instead of finding the words to talk to him about what was so wrong and working through it together, I grew to resent him and his blindness, despite the fact that I had it blindness myself. I knew that something had been changing in me over our three years together and that I was no longer what he wanted, yet I was still prepared to give up everything for him. I understood how wrong this impulse was and I was ashamed of myself for feeling it and bitter towards him for inspiring it in me.

Several months ago Stanley and I broke up. We did so calmly, sweetly even, but I was shocked at how painful it was. By the time it happened, I had convinced myself that I no longer loved him, that I could never have loved someone for whom I made so many sacrifices and from whom I received so little thanks, but when things ended I realized how very dishonest I had been with myself. Still more shocking than the realization that I still loved this man for whom I had sacrificed so much was the realization that the one thing that cheered me up even somewhat was the fact that I could finally go back to stripping without guilt or concern, something I did almost immediately. The first night I spent in my new club reminded me of my power. I was free again and more than that, I was invincible again.

I’m in no hurry to find someone else, but I know when I do it’s very likely that the gentleman could take issue with the fact that I wear small amounts of clothing and grind on strangers to pay my bills.  I’ve learned from Stanley, though: I know the importance of compromise, but I also know the evil of total sacrifice. I didn’t realize at the time how unhappy my sacrifices were making me, and I certainly didn’t understand how miserable they would make me in the future, but I know now that for the time being, sex work is too important to give up for anyone. I won’t always be a sex worker, but for now I am a proud one. When someone new comes along I know I’ll have to learn to deal with that fact with that person, rather than give it all up.

Cathryn Berarovich is a bit of a renaissance sex worker; she’s currently employed as a stripper (and writer) but has held numerous interesting jobs in the industry. Each week, she shares her stories in Harlotry.

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    • Lauren

      I think Dita Von Teese mentioned something about how she would never sacrifice her career for a man, and really if you love doing this kind of work, why should you, it isn’t hurting anyone!

      • Cate

        Dita von Teese should have sat down and had a chat with my eighteen year old self. I probably wouldn’t be here today, as my eighteen year old self would have had a heart attack from joy, but still.

    • lucygoosey74

      Cathryn, I always read your articles because they are so honest and well written. It’s interesting to learn about what your profession is really like, as I’ve always been a little curious. Keep up the great work!

    • Norma Jean

      Just a word of encouragement from an old whore- there are men out there with whom you can have a loving, wonderful and lasting relationship even while you are a sex worker. The key is to find someone who is older and has no hang ups about sex, prostitution or other intimate labor.

      I’ve been with my husband for 36 years- we met 7 years before I became a call girl- and when I decided to get into the business at age 31, I was fully prepared for him to break up with me. I was hoping he would stay- and he did. I had my reasons for getting into sex work and hoped he would be supportive of me and the work I wanted to do. He was.

      He understood the part of me that was a whore and that I needed to express that side of me. I am also a writer and artist and sex worker rights activist… and all of them are me. He realized that I could be madly in love with him and still enjoy bringing pleasure to other men, women and couples. I showed him every day and in every way I could that I was in love with him and only him, and gave him nothing of which to be jealous. Jealousy has never been part of our relationship.

      He is disabled now and I am his caregiver. I love him more than ever, and he loves me and never allows a day to go by without showering me with that love. I felt fulfilled doing sex work in a way that only another person who has chosen this path could understand.

      Do keep your heart open for love and never allow anyone to shame you for your work. You can have both. And I know I am not the only one who has achieved a successful relationship while being a sex worker. Good luck to you!

    • alma

      That stock photo looks like Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman!

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      • Jennifer Wright

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    • Anne Gladys

      being a reader and a writer, I enjoy your column. You write well, and tell a good story. For this one, though, the middle is too long. You should focus on your actions, rather than your thoughts, maybe, to make it move more. That feeling of stuckn-ess and indecision — can you make it more visceral in the reader, rather than descriptive? Tell a story, rather than recount your feelings. Dunno if that’s the kind of feedback you want, but . . . .

      • Cate

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but are you Anne Gladys as in Emma’s mom? If so, your feedback does mean a lot.

    • auric

      Cate – have you ever considered pursuing a relationship with another sex worker? One would assume that there would be more of a “kindred spirit” aspect to such an arrangement, although such a limitation would certainly shrink the pool of available lovers / mates.

      I also wonder how you (and perhaps other women reading this article) think you would handle it if the tables were reversed and you enjoyed a job at a traditional business and your lover was a sex worker. I know that it probably would not change your attitude because I believe that you truly believe in the segmentation of the two, but it would be interesting to hear you comment on it.

      • Cate

        I don’t know why this showed up in my email, but I’m so happy it did because these are interesting questions.

        I’ve actually never pursued a relationship with another sex worker, not because I have anything against the idea (I actually think it would probably be a great thing, the greatest thing, even) but because I’ve never really had romantic chemistry with any of the sex workers I’ve encountered.

        I have, however, considered what it would be like to flip the roles, and I hate to admit it, but I do think it might be more difficult for me to handle than I’d like to imagine. I think if, say, I was dating a straight man (the most likely scenario, given my dating track record) who had a client base of mainly gay men I would be fine with it, but if it was a straight man who had a client base of mostly straight women (unlikely, but as long as we’re in hypotheticals we may as well take it all the way) I would find it harder to take, since women generally expect a greater emotional performance. In this parallel universe where I am not and have never been a sex worker, I doubt I would be able to understand the mental compartmentalizing that tends to go with this job.

    • Annie

      Great post. Need a printer-friendly (i.e., one-page) version, though. I’d like to print this out and “accidentally” leave it out in plain sight…