Harlotry: How Being A Professional ‘Other Woman’ Has Changed My Views On Infidelity

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.

There are a lot of weird things about sex work that you don’t really notice once you’ve been doing it for a while–or ever, if you started early enough. One of those things is the fact that many areas of the sex industry involve basically being a professional “other woman.” This honestly never really occurred to me until recently, as I suppose it was a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. One of the few stereotypes about clients that does seem to hold true is that many of them are married. This isn’t new information for me, but I hadn’t really thought about it until recently. My status as a professional mistress in more than just the kinky way never bothered me, and it still doesn’t, but it has irrevocably changed the way I think about monogamy.

When I first started out as a sex worker I had a pretty average views of relationships. I had enough polyamorous acquaintances and friends in open relationships that I pretty well understood not everyone is naturally monogamous. That said, I really believed most people are. When I first started out as a sex worker, though, I was seventeen and all my ideas about romantic relationships were very simplistic; I’ve been a sex worker for six years now. I’ve had two serious relationships, dated casually, and been the other woman in an unpaid capacity twice so far.

For better or for worse, infidelity has played at least a minor part in most of my relationships and infidelity is what puts food on my table and a roof over my head. This is one of the reasons why I have a really hard time writing it off as only ever a negative thing. I hate to get all Dan Savage with this, but I think there’s a lot to be sad for “monogamish” relationships. While I completely understand that serious cheating has ruined lots of relationships and has the potential to be totally devastating, I’m equally sure that it doesn’t always have to be the terrible thing we’re taught.

Like most young women in Western culture, I grew up with tales of happily-ever-after monogamy. I held the idea of being totally faithful to one person up as the gold standard of romance and assumed that the cultural narrative we’re always told was correct: the only reason to ever cheat on someone is if you don’t love them anymore. But nothing is ever that simple; people cheat for all kinds of reasons, and sex work opened my eyes to a lot of those reasons.

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    • Kaitlin Reilly

      Really interesting perspective! I agree, it’s pretty sad that people feel ashamed of their sexual preferences — as long as it’s legal and consensual, why should someone feel shame over something that they desire? In an ideal world, these people would feel open talking to their significant others about their desires.

    • g

      I’m all for sexual exploration and think it is important for SOs to be supportive of each other’s sexuality. However, as someone who has had a partner seek out people in the sex industry, I say it can definitely be a negative thing. Since breaking things off I’ve struggled with body image issues and an overall drop in self-esteem. I in no way blame the professionals as it is their job, I just think that it can be a negative outlet for some clients. My partner never brought up his fetishes and I would have been completely willing to try things out. Instead, he kept it hidden from me. Open communication is so vital in relationships and I just wish some SOs felt comfortable enough tk share their wants with their partners, rather than seek out someone outside the relationship. That being said, in the cases of partners rejecting the desires of their SO, it may be a good thing for them and totally work. Maybe they just need a partner who fully respects them in all areas of life. Either way, your career choice demands respect and definitely not blame. I simply think it shouldn’t just be a go-to without consent from the other partner. /end discoherent rant

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

        I’m really sorry that happened to you, especially since you are down to try various fetishes out. Your ex clearly had no idea how lucky he was and it sucks he threw that away. At least when I’ve been cheated on it was mainly emotional affairs that were caused by my partners’ inability to deal with the fact that I am an ice princess who doesn’t really know how to do the whole cuddly lovey-dovey thing. It made sense, you know?

        I absolutely agree that any kind of nonmonogamy should ideally be within an agreement, whether that’s a don’t-ask-don’t-tell arrangement, a tell-but-don’t-tell-details arrangement, or something else entirely, and it sucks that so many people cling desperately to systems that don’t really work for everyone just because that’s the way things “should” be.

        P.S. So many props to you for not blaming the workers. I’ve been fortunate enough to never have a client be discovered (to my knowledge at least) but when I was booking escorts I once fielded a call from a very distraught woman who believed me to be her husband’s favorite sex worker and had to deal with about five minutes of verbal abuse before I could get a word in edgewise.

      • JLH1986

        Whether someone is paying for it or just doing it on the side, unless the “other woman” is a friend I’ve never understood anger/frustration with her. She doesn’t owe me or any other woman anything. Be angry at the person stepping out.

      • Crayzcheshire

        I’ve always felt that way too!! so many people want to find fault outside of the one they love… I don’t get it (though with the caveat that I’d be mad at someone actively trying to repeatedly seduce and entice my SO away from me- in a way that DOES become personal and disrespectful…but that’s its own thing I suppose)

      • JLH1986

        Yea, I mean if someone pursues him and he’s like nope married and they don’t let it go? That’s different. but if my hubs is stepping out on me, that’s on him. I’m not going to make the girl my bestie or anything. But the fault lies with the person who promised fidelity.

    • GL

      You could definitely flesh this out a bit more. It’s one thing to say that a person paying for sex can compartmentalize, but maybe their partner can’t? And understanding that “my husband needs to go get spanked occasionally, and he pays for it, and it doesn’t threaten our relationship” is way harder than it sounds. People who are disgusted by certain sexual tastes aren’t always willing to look the other way: they’d rather believe that by denying their partners’ fetishes, they can make them go away.
      But I would never advocate outright cheating, unless it’s a don’t-ask-don’t-tell by mutual agreement. You’re describing willful deception, and to a lot of people that’s a huge insult – whether it’s deception for a relationship or an occasional session.

      I guess you’re lucky in that you deal with fetishes and very specific needs and desires. Lots of other sex workers don’t get that perspective.

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

        Fear not! Part two is on its way next week and fleshes out all these ideas while I talk about my experiences being the other woman for fun, rather than profit, and how my feelings on that are impacted by the work I do.

        Also, while I do mainly deal with fetishes, I’m what I like to call a prostidomme. I definitely fuck a fair number of my clients, and I’d say a good 25% of the guys I see are just straight vanilla and not into anything fun.

    • Cie

      So they married people they can’t be themselves around. .. What’s new -_-

      • MissJoy

        since the beginning of time..

    • n

      This is a great article :) thank you

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

        Thank you!

    • IG

      What burns me is that women generally don’t have this kind of opportunity. Male partners also react in disgust to certain fetishes.

      The male partner can easily secure an individual for this type of activity; the female, not so much.

      well, back to polishing silver like a fruedian banshee.

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

        I agree! I suspect that a lot of it had to do with the stigma of paying for sex (or sexual activities, whatever) that is so much stronger for women than for men.
        People seem to think that women don’t pay for sex because it isn’t in our natures, that we value commitment and connection and so on above a big dick and a bangin’ body, but based on myself and many of the women I know, that isn’t really correct. I think a lot of women would pay for sex if it wasn’t so stigmatized and was seen as a good way to get laid EXACTLY how you want, rather than a last resort for desperate old fat women (because obviously fat women and older women are TOTES unfuckable and DEFINITELY unloveable, right?).
        I think a lot of it comes down to cultural misogyny. Women are taught from an early age to be sexually passive receptacles for male gratification. Even if the woman is taking a dominant role, it’s still okay because she is fulfilling the man’s fantasy. We are taught to make concessions and ask for what we want instead of demanding it, and hiring a sex worker goes completely against that principle. It’s seen as a masculine activity because it is completely proactive, when I think it would be a good option for anyone! I’d certainly be down to hire a fetish-friendly male escort if I hadn’t been able to find a talented and chill dominant guy for free, and when this arrangement peters out, I’ll likely turn to a pro.

      • recipro cat

        Are you insane???!!!!

        “Women don’t have this kind of opportunity”????

        “The male partner can EASILY secure an individual for this type of activity”???? EASILY?

        hell…women don’t even have to PAY! They can get 99% of what they want for free!!!

        What world do you live in? :-D

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

        Eeeeeeeh, it depends on what you’re looking for. If it’s just sex, sure, it’s easy, but if it’s no strings attached fetish fulfillment it can be pretty difficult, especially if the woman is looking to participate in submissive activities. I’m a young lady with adequate social skills who is attractive enough that people pay to have sex with me, and I have HUGE difficulties finding guys who are sexually compatible with me because sadly a lot of what I’m into is too weird for most guys.
        I know there’s this huge assumption that male sexuality is very violent and most dudes want nothing more than to tie a lady up, spank the daylights out of her, and generally have his way with her, but in my experience the opposite is true.
        Unfortunately it is pretty hard for women, especially kinky women, to get laid *exactly* the way they want to get laid. In an unpaid interaction it’s expected that there be some kind of give-and-take, whereas in a paid interaction one can say “I like things this way, this way, and this way” and any provider worth the ink his fee is printed with will be able to accomodate. In the world of freebies most guys won’t necessarily listen to that.

    • Marguerite

      The thing I had trouble with reading this was the statment that this is impersonal for the sex worker. I’m the wife of a recovering sex adict who went to sex workers for impersonal sex as he couldn’t stand personal touching. How I found out was one of you “professionals” called me at home. The first year in his recoverey we were called about 8 times more times from different girls-they figured since he changed his phone number they would go ahead and call the home phone. One thought if she harass me enough I would move out and let her move in. She had been blackmailing my husband while we went thur our son wedding. What started off as my wife can’t find out if I go to sex workers turned into non-stop harassment with these women looking up home phone numbers and driving by. Not only did I find out but so did our grown childen, neighbors and family in the area. It forced him to address his issues, almost ended the marriage,and it was hard for our kids to handle. I take issue with the word “professional” and the no one gets hurt mindset of this rubbish. I think if it were impersonal as you have written then why all the contact after he stopped calling, with so many different escorts. The is a crock of b******* you are trying to sell here and cheating has real life fallout with real issues. As for professionals-I don’t believe it, escorts seem to be sad people with mental issues just like the johns they see.

      • http://toyboxkiller.tumblr.com/ Cathryn Berarobitch

        Oh my goodness. I’m so sorry that happened to you, and I’m even more sorry that the women your husband was patronizing were so unprofessional as to harass and stalk you.
        I have to wonder though, if the women he was patronizing were actually escorts or if he had some sort of sugar baby arrangement with them. None of the escorts I know (and I know lots of them!) would ever engage in such behavior and I know I certainly wouldn’t dream of such a thing. While I do care for many of my clients, their lives are their lives and my life is my life and I have exactly zero interest in changing that. In my experience, sugar babies are generally much younger and less experienced than escorts and far more likely to believe they have a real connection with the man or men who are, whether they admit it or not, their clients. The fact that one of the women your husband was seeing believed she could move into your home suggests to me that there was a lot more going on there than just a garden-variety client/provider relationship.
        While there are plenty of deeply unprofessional providers, just as there are unprofessional members of any industry, in my experience they aren’t the majority. It’s also absolutely untrue that our clients have “mental issues.” most of my clients are perfectly average, frequently lovely men who have just as little interest in mixing their lives with mine as I do. They see me because I am able to offer them a completely no-strings interaction, and my fee pays not only for the sexual experiences I offer, but also for my discretion.

      • Jane

        No, I’m not buying the “professional services” angle either. I had a very similar experience to Marguerite. My husband cheated on me repeatedly with women who were call girls & porn stars throughout our engagement, marriage and birth of our child. I was completely open and interested in sex and exploring all kinds of sexuality, but my husband was not comfortable with intimacy due to abuse that happened when he was a child. The women my husband cheated with were addicted to the money he gave them, he was addicted to the power, and they both got a thrill out of the deception, of sneaking around, having sex in our house, my parents house, and places that were special to us. Cocaine and speed were involved every time. The women he was with were all drug users, all with histories of childhood abuse. I know this because my husband is a sex addict, and went through many months of inpatient rehab, and these and other painful details were discussed and worked through with our families. While visiting him and later in talking with other partners of sex addicts, I heard many accounts of families destroyed, children emotionally damaged, family money that should have gone to education, mortgages, wasted. Sex workers find it hard to let go of the easy money, and pursue their “clients” even after the sex addict ends the arrangement. The partners of these women and men were not sexually uptight. They would, and did, try all kinds of things to engage with their partners. I suggest to you that you may not truly know these lovely men who come to see you, and you clearly have no concept of the damage you may be contributing to. There is no shame in sexual experimentation and giving and receiving pleasure in unconventional ways. The deepest shame is in the deception and hurt caused by lack of communication and fear of real intimacy. That’s the reality of sex addiction.

      • laura


      • BDC0213

        You can see my comment to Marguerite above, but I find it highly plausible that the men in the equation continue (often, erratically) to reach out to their former partners rather than the other way around, “easy money” scenario you describe.

        I do agree with your point about the men’s partners NOT being uptight or open to their kinks. The simple fact is that men want to bang other women and get bored of their wife, especially as time goes on. They may present this way to Cathryn to gain her sympathy and compassion.

        I refuse the point of view that Cathryn is complicit in damaging their families (as in, “you clearly have no concept of the damage you may be contributing to” with college accounts underfunded and upset children). It could just as easily be argued that the institution of marriage or our elevation of sexual fidelity to a virtue is at blame. I think we humans like to have another person to blame, someone to point the finger at.

        I’m glad your family life is better, but it seems to me this is a lot of rationalization, pathologizing (maybe necessary for forgiveness) of the simple fact that your husband was scoring some hot ass while you were not looking or feeling your best AND busy with an infant. But, I don’t know much about sex addiction so perhaps I best educate myself before commenting again. Got carried away….

      • BDC0213

        It seems to me your husband perhaps did not make a clean break with these women. Isn’t it possible that in moments of weakness he reached out, sent a stray text or called and hung up? Maybe he liked the attention more than he let on? You said he’s in recovery and with everyone on board with his self-improvement plans, he may not want to admit to a relapse. Maybe he made some serious promises to a young and impressionable girl (per Cathryn’s comment). In my experience, wives (I am one BTW) way overestimate the prowess of the other woman, stripper, barmaid, etc. in “preying” on their man. Maybe it’s old-fashioned to say, but in my experience, men are the instigators in this realm.

    • Katie Solomon

      The issue about ‘cheating’ or going to someone for something you can’t get from your partner at home is the lies and dishonesty that is involved. My ex husband cheated on me our whole marriage but I didn’t found out until near the end. I tried to work through the infidelity because I thought he was a sex addict but in the end it wasn’t the sexual infidelity as much as the double life and the loss of trust. A relationship is no relationship at all if there is no trust. There is nothing wrong with someone going to sex workers because his partner doesn’t want to do certain sexual things – as long as she knows about it and he doesn’t lie. Marriages and relationships can survive this if honesty and trust is restored.

      It is never the sex worker’s fault though – and however much I wouldn’t do what you are doing I don’t blame you or the women my ex had sex with – the blame and fault lies fairly and squarely with him.

    • congokong

      “For better or for worse, infidelity has played at least a minor part in
      most of my relationships and infidelity is what puts food on my table
      and a roof over my head. This is one of the reasons why I have a really
      hard time writing it off as only ever a negative thing.”

      This is basically an admission of bias. What you’re doing in this article is justifying cheating on a significant other with a prostitute by explaining how impersonal it is and how these people have fetishes they otherwise can’t satisfy. But honestly, if the choice is between cheating on a spouse who you have an agreed monogamous relationship with or keeping those fetishes as fantasies, than the “right” thing to do is not cheat. You might reiterate that what clients do with you isn’t cheating, but that should be the spouse’s call; not yours. If she consents to your client’s endeavors, then yes, it’s fine. But your biased justification for these actions that you declare “harmless” show a lack of understanding and/or caring for the emotional aspect of sex; especially monogamy. It’s fine if sex is just an activity for you, but don’t try justifying these things. There are always reasons for people’s behavior.