I don’t really have any close female friends who aren’t current or former sex workers. I have plenty of civilian acquaintances, but it’s rare for my relationships with non-family civilians to get any more serious than a “hey, what’s up? You’re doing fine, great, me too!” kind of bond.
This is good and bad. It adds to the isolation of my work, but at the same time it shields me from a lot of the unfortunate aspects of trying to be friends with civilians. Being a sex worker means being constantly afraid of being judged when you answer the age-old question, “What do you do?” If I stick to my own it means I don’t get those judgments.
When other sex workers ask what I do and I reply honestly, they say, “cool,” tell me what they do, we exchange a few minutes of shop talk, and we move on to normal getting-to-know-you stuff. Most of the time, when I tell civilians what I do, one of three things happens, and none of those things are good. The first possibility is that they say “oh,” in the quiet way that says, “how can I leave this conversation as quickly as possible?” and disengage themselves with the pretense of getting another drink after trying to clumsily steer the conversation in another direction. I’ve learned to just let these people go. They’ll probably go on to tell their friends how they met this girl at a party or at a bar or whatever, and “oh my God Becky, she was a PROSTITUTE! Isn’t that WEIRD?!”
The second possibility is that my new potential civilian friend will start speaking passionately about trafficking, how they hope I know what a huge issue it is, how they really hope I’m not like one of those poor girls with drug problems, how I need to be careful lest anything awful happen to me because it’s such a dangerous world I’m working in and do I know that women (always women, never “people”) who choose sex work for themselves are the minority.