Harlotry: How Sex Work Breeds Insecurity In My Relationships


Via ChuckYeager/Flickr

Cate is something of a renaissance sex worker and has held numerous interesting jobs in the adult industry. Each week, she shares her stories in Harlotry.

A lot of people assume it’s impossible to have a romantic relationship–or at least a successful one–and be a sex worker at the same time. This is not true at all. There are plenty of sex workers who are not only completely out about what they do for a living, but are also in happy, functional relationships. I count myself among these sex workers, but as with any human relationship, things are much more complicated than just “this is a good relationship” versus “this is not.”

Daniel, my boyfriend of slightly over a year, is a wonderful man. He knows what I do for a living and he accepts it. I have no doubt of his love for me, but I know my work is difficult for him to understand. He struggles with my choice of a career and I suspect he is always expecting me to quit sex work for good.

We don’t talk much about either the particulars of my work or his feelings about it because we have a pretty strict don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. We’ve never really discussed it, it just sort of happened.

I’ve mentioned before that I am out as a sex worker to nearly everyone I come across. When people at parties ask, “What do you do?” I smile and say, “Oh, well, I’m a sex worker.” This policy of honesty extended to the men I’ve dated.

The only other serious relationship I’ve had since becoming a sex worker was a three-and-a-half-year nightmare of abuse and gaslighting. I don’t blame myself or my work for Stanley’s execrable behavior but I know my work threatened and disturbed him, and that threat may have intensified the abuse.

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    • Paul Sarkis

      This gentleman needs to talk with other sex workers who, like you, find empowerment and satisfaction in the work that they’ve chosen. And get him a copy of “Off the Set: Porn Stars and Their Partners,” a documentary photo and essay book that explores the romantic relationships of porn performer couples.

    • http://SommelierinSneakers.blogspot.com/ SomminSneakers

      :( boo! Come on, Daniel. She’s a la mazing.

    • Samantha Escobar

      This is another solid example of why I’m so glad you write this column for us. Even the people who don’t necessarily look at sex workers in a negative way do often dehumanize them, but because they do it in a pseudo-positive way, people overlook it or construe it as progress, so I’m really glad you described and discussed that.