Harlotry: My Boyfriend And I Have A Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy For Sex Work

Last week, I briefly mentioned the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy regarding the specifics of my profession I have with my boyfriend.

Daniel knows I’m a sex worker. When we started dating, I was taking a break from work but I made it very clear that my hiatus was not permanent and that I’d be returning to work in some capacity very soon. We’d been dating for about three months when I returned to sex work at Dolorous Delights, a popular fetish house in Chicago.

At first, I tried talking to Daniel about my work. I would explain the details of sessions to him, hoping he might feel more comfortable about my job. One of the first five questions people always ask me about fetish work is, “So, do you, like, have sex with your clients?”
Throughout my career the answer has moved between usually, sometimes, and no, depending on my relationship status at the time, but I always suspect most people don’t quite believe me when I say “no.” Because of this I overcompensated drastically. For the first month of my employment at Dolorous Delights I told Daniel about every session I had.

I mentioned last week that I’m not great at judging what people’s reactions are going to be. I’m also not great at figuring out when I’ve upset people who are close to me. It took me a month to figure out that maybe Daniel didn’t really like hearing about the things I did with clients. Sure, none of it was explicitly sexual, at least not to me, but it sure was to my clients and it became very clear to me after an unreasonable amount of time that Daniel was not exactly put at ease by my descriptions of what went on at work. So I stopped. Unless a story was very, very funny I didn’t tell it. The don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy was in full effect.

At first things went really well. Daniel didn’t have to hear about what I did, I didn’t have to feel like I was cornering him into awkward conversations, it was a win-win. It was only recently that I realized maybe our sudden, unspoken policy was not the best thing ever.

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    • Kaitlin Reilly

      It must suck not to feel like you can share everything with your significant other. At the same time, I know a lot of couples who have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy on a lot of stuff — like, say, casual flirting when they are out alone or something. I think that as long as you set boundaries, it might be a way to make both of you feel comfortable. Then again, maybe it is sort of nice to keep a part of your life to yourself — I wouldn’t want to feel like I had to explain every part of my job or friendships to my significant other. As long as you have a community to talk about work stuff with, I don’t see a reason to not keep your personal and professional life somewhat separate.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Please don’t get offended, but, are you toning down the content of your articles? Maybe because he reads them or something? I don’t know… just….I want more stories. I love them :)

      • http://toyboxkiller.tumblr.com/ Cate

        Nope! I just haven’t had a lot of really crazy stories lately. It’s slow season, for one thing, and for another people just get weirder in the summer.

      • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

        Well who would have thought even the most interesting jobs have off seasons?….

        P.S. Keep meaning to mention, I’m an adjunct prof., and I had a student last semester who wanted to write about legalizing sex work. I recommended this website since it’s a firsthand account and she sited some of your work in her paper. It was kind of neat to see you as a resource since I’ve been reading you all along.

    • KaluzaKlein

      I’m not and never will be okay with having a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy regarding my job as a dominatrix.

      Like you, I consider sex work a career. I like it a lot. As a pro-domme, I find what I do pretty interesting and I think about it a lot. I occasionally have issues with clients/rental spaces/co-workers/bosses that stress me out and that I feel I should be able to discuss with my partner, especially if I’m required to listen to him bitch about his boring fucking job.

      When I have tried it, I’ve noticed that the boundaries of the things we’re not asking or telling about tend to drift. Suddenly it’s not just sessions I can’t talk about, but dungeon politics/shit that went down in the lounge/non-work related stuff that’s going on with my work friends/basically everything that’s even tangentially related to my job. It results in a situation where I’m constantly censoring myself or wondering if I should be censoring myself. I can’t not got resentful about it.

      I get suuuuuuuper jealous of my gay friends who can just date other sex workers. Yeah, male sex workers exist, but there aren’t nearly as many of them and we don’t cross paths a lot, and most of them are gay.

      For me personally, it’s unacceptable.

      Maybe talk to your boyfriend about rescinding the policy? You don’t need to tell him about every session you do, but you’ll feel better when you’re not constantly reminding yourself what you’re not supposed to talk about.