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.