Harlotry: Why I Desperately Need Honesty In A World Where I Have To Lie Every Day

Abraham Lincoln honesty

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.

We all have needs. Abraham Maslow identified a whole hierarchy of them in 1943. Breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, shelter, employment, friends and family, among other things make it onto that famous list. What isn’t on the list, however, is honesty, though it’s just as important as most of the other needs listed. I’ve written about sex work and honesty before, both in the ways having a sex worker community gives us a place to be honest and when I wrote about the little lies we tell people to escape judgment.

I go through cycles of working very frequently, subsequently starting to burn out, then dialing things way, way back, and finally ramping up my schedule when the burnout decreases. What I’ve noticed is that the more I’m working, the more I require raw, honest spaces; the less access I have to those spaces, the more quickly I burn out. The sad truth is that there are a lot of aspects of my work that are dishonest. I dishonestly use a false name, I dishonestly pretend to be turned on by clients or activities that hold little appeal for me, I dishonestly portray myself as ecstatically happy even when I’m in the throes of severe depressive episodes.

A few weeks ago a new client told me that he enjoys paying sex workers because it is “the most honest interaction two people can have, you don’t have any reason to pretend you like me.” That client was so incredibly, enragingly wrong, I wanted to punch him in a violent, nonconsensual way.

In any service relationship, not least of all a relationship between a sex worker and a client, the exchange of money places a burden on the service worker to at least halfway pretend that they’d be providing the service whether or not they were being paid. A good waiter will pretend to genuinely care for the comfort of the people at his tables so as to get a superior tip, a good sex worker will pretend to genuinely want to suck, fuck, pinch, or poke her clients so as to encourage the client to return to her. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the waiter or the sex worker hates their job, it simply means they wouldn’t work for free.

A few weeks later, a client who had just seen me mentioned, as he was getting dressed, that he loves seeing me because I’m “so genuinely happy. So few people are happy these days.” I wanted to laugh. At this point in my life I’m about as far from “genuinely happy” as one can get. I’m horrifically depressed.

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    • Kaitlin Reilly

      I think it’s going to take a long time before it’s accepted by the general public as a profession like an accountant or stewardess, but that doesn’t mean that it should make you feel like less of a person. No one should feel entitled to make you feel like that.

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

        I agree, I mean, even in places with full decrim, there’s still a stigma. It sucks, but it’s there.
        That said, a girl can dream! And I dream of a day where I can tell people I’m a sex worker and not immediately be othered.

    • BDC0213

      While a bit impersonal, this forum provides something of an honest space––I would hope. I’d like to believe I hear you without judgement.

      As for your delusional clients, I guess I’m not surprised. I think women in general usually let men pass, meaning they say and do all sorts of things that are meant to arouse or impress, and when they fall miserably short, we usually smile or redirect. I dunno, but I’d guess maybe 1% of all the efforts made to endear me in one way or another actually work. So, men are left with false notions of themselves that invariably extend to their transactions with you.

      It must be annoying for you to feign delight, but I don’t see it as much different from the way the majority of the rest of us deal with men in our more conventional structures. You have a harder task, no doubt, but the dynamic is the same.

      I’m bummed to hear you’re so bummed. I love your column! Not sure how you feel about meds, but I went to a new psychiatrist last week who changed up my medication and I feel so much better.

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

        I totally agree with you on the whole, women let men slide thing. We’re very much socialized to never say, “wow, really? This is doing nothing for me right now.” I was lucky enough to be raised by a mother who taught me never to go along with what a man wants just because he wants it, and my experience with work makes me even more likely to say, “no, not that way, this way,” or even just “no,” in my private life. It tends to take people aback, I think, because women are not supposed to say no unless it’s in the most dire of circumstances.

        I’m actually working on finding a medication that works for me. I’ve seen friends have some real bad experiences, so I’ve always been pretty leery of meds, but man, this has got to stop.

      • Tush

        Boo fuckin hoo

    • sup

      I have to say that articles like the ones you write are opening people’s minds. You are a person. You are worthy of love, respect and kindness. You deserve to live honestly. I personally love your stories and look forward to them each week. I hope more people can start to see past the idea of sex worker and see the person behind the label

    • Samantha Escobar

      I am sorry you are sad. That fucking sucks. I seriously want to say something more insightful, but when I’m really upset, I usually don’t want advice; I just want to be allowed to be upset in peace.


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

        Yeah, and like, it’s all chemical-based too, which is the really crappy thing. My life is pretty great!
        But thanks to both regular depression and SAD, everything sucks anyway. I really appreciate the kind words, though.

    • GL

      You should ask to reclassify your articles from “Sex and Dating” to “Career” or something. Anything else, really. Yes, your work involves sex, but what’s the big deal? As you say, you’re a healer more than anything else — and that’s an acting job, as you describe. Sex is the least interesting part of your workload, and dating certainly doesn’t factor in.

    • congokong

      For most clients I think it takes a certain degree of gullibility and/or indifference to BS to really enjoy a sex worker’s services. On some level I’m sure the majority know you’re “faking it” most of the time but they want to believe you’re not. That explains comments like “you’re genuinely happy” or how you mutually enjoy their fetishes.