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.
About a month ago, my boyfriend and I broke up. Breakups are never fun, but I guess it was as chill as any breakup ever can be. I spent a few days being super bummed about the whole situation, and then decided to throw myself into my work, the very work that I’m sure was a contributing factor in the gradual crumbling of my relationship with Daniel. Now that I was single, I had an official pass to return to escorting without worrying about telling lies or feeling guilty feelings. It was a breath of fresh air, I could now do whatever the hell I wanted without any annoying restrictions!
I’ve written about relationships and sex work a couple of times, and I do firmly believe that it’s totally possible for all sex workers, even full service sex workers, to have beautiful, healthy relationships. There are plenty of whores out there who are in committed, loving relationships and whose partners know exactly what they do. There are plenty of women who ended up marrying clients and still continuing to work during the early stages of the relationship. That’s awesome, I’m happy for all those people, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it just isn’t for me.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been burned by the fact that my first serious relationship as a sex worker, and actually my first serious relationship in general, was deeply abusive and chock full of not-even-latent whorephobia, but even if that’s a contributing factor I don’t think it’s everything.
I haven’t talked a lot about my dating habits here, mostly because it was only recently that I realized how relevant they are to my work. My profession informs my dating habits far more than I’d really like to admit. Like many sex workers, I’m some kind of queer, though my queerness changes in extremity from day to day and even hour to hour. I’m a firm believer in the sexuality as a spectrum idea because the whole neat system of gay/bi/straight boxes really, really does not apply to me or most of the people I know. That said, I primarily date cisgendered men partly because it’s easier, partly because dick is amazing, and partly because a lot of lady-loving ladies aren’t too into ladies who love dick as much as I do (thanks bisexuality erasure, you’re great) or dress quite as high femme as I do. I just don’t seem to appear “gay enough” to attract most women.
For better or worse, though, my romantic partners and my clients tend to be from the same group, if not the same subgroup. Therefore, my profession and my dating/sexing habits intersect in the sense that being a sex worker for so long has ingrained in me the idea that men, even men I am attracted to, should pay to have sex with me. If they aren’t paying outright, then certainly they should have the decency to buy me dinner or drinks, or something. That is how the dialogue goes.
There are rare cases where the sex is good enough that I don’t have a problem with an encounter that isn’t as overtly transactional, but for the most part I don’t really see the use of non-transactional sexual interactions with men. This leads me to generally pursue somewhat more old-fashioned men, since they are usually far more comfortable with the idea of earning the privilege of having sex with me through money.
The problem is that old-fashioned men are all well and good until you realize that these men resemble Don Draper in more than just attire. They aren’t necessarily cheating douchebags, they just really, really don’t like the idea of their (and they can be so proprietary) woman having sex or anything even close to sex with anyone else for any reason, which leaves me with exactly three options.
The first option is to relegate myself to non-full service work and do nothing but give handjobs and fulfill fetishes, the second option is to lie outright. I suppose there’s a happy medium between the first two options, it would be possible to only lie about the actual sex that occurs, and I know women who do exactly that, but I am a firm believer in either going big or going home and besides, if I’m lying at all, I’d rather tell one huge lie than a lot of little lies I then have to keep straight.
Quitting entirely isn’t something I’d ever consider. I tried quitting for a man and I have never been so miserable in my life. Sex work is part of who I am–it runs through my veins and sits nestled between my heart and ribs. I will never, ever give it up until I’m too old to function in this industry in any capacity.
The first option–removing full service and oral sex from the equation–has so far been the most effective, although not completely effective. It still creates a lot of discomfort in most partners, but it’s discomfort that can be met with “but there’s no actual sex, I don’t understand what the problem is! It’s just a job,” an argument that it’s pretty hard to refute.
The second option–lying outright about everything–is probably not as effective. I’m not really sure how I could explain away a job where I can write off lingerie on my taxes, work intermittently, have to go into other parts of the house if I’m taking clients’ calls, make a mainly cash income, and have separate dildos and other weird sex toys that are never, ever to be used sitting in train cases around my house. I mean really, how do you explain that away? Sexy drug dealer? Aside from this, I really, really hate lying. I can lie, and lie very skillfully, if necessary, but to build an entire relationship off such a huge lie sounds not only like a recipe for disaster, but also like a complete and total nightmare of exhaustion. I’m a firm believer in the importance of secrets in relationships, but a few healthy secrets and actual lying are subtly but importantly different.
The thing is, though, I don’t want to do either of those things. I don’t want to lie, but neither do I want to cut down on my earning potential by refusing to offer full service appointments. I suppose I could seek out some romantic partner who doesn’t care what I do for money, but it seems like something that would unnecessarily shrink my potential dating pool. And maybe I’ve been working in the fetish industry for too long, but I’d be pretty concerned that any man who didn’t mind my work was secretly into cuckolding, a fetish that I absolutely love playing out with clients but have zero interest in bringing into my personal life.
And so I’ve given up on relationships, for the time being at least. And perhaps this just confirms so many people’s suspicions about sex workers as sex-hating harpies, but I’m not really sure why my choice is any different from any other ambitious young woman putting her love life on hold in order to focus on her career. The key difference is that I at least am still getting laid. Sure, it’s not always very skillfully, but there are those clients who give me a pretty nice time, and the days of trying to hold off accidental orgasms with clients are long past. Nowadays, unless the client is trying annoyingly hard to get me off, I try to at least have a tiny orgasm with all my full service appointments.
Cutting the search for a romantic relationship out of my life gives me the luxury of freely and honestly making money how I want to make money, and I don’t have to worry about some man getting proprietary over my body and what I can and can’t do with it. It’s nice to not have to be concerned about answering my work phone and going through the ensuing charade of cooing and enticing the client into a booking in front of a boyfriend who is trying his damndest to be okay with my work and failing miserably. I don’t have to worry about being caught in a lie, I don’t have to choose whether to lie and spare the feelings of someone I love, or tell the truth and risk hurting them.
As I become increasingly impassioned when it comes to the rights of all sex workers, my own personal career in the sex industry becomes dearer to me. And so far, I haven’t found a single person who both truly respects that and wants to date me. I understand that compromises are an important part of successful relationships, but I also believe you can’t compromise on everything. In my case, sex work is one thing I will compromise over with no one but Father Time himself.