What It's Like to Date as a Sex Worker
Is there ever a right time to tell your sex partner that you also have sex for money?
Illustrations by Ella de Souza
Achieving the perfect work-life balance is tough, whichever industry you're in. But when that industry involves sex, that balance gets even tougher. From first dates to long-term relationships, is there ever a right time to tell your sex partner that you also have sex for money?
When I worked as a lap dancer, I stopped dating altogether. Something about selling the idea of sex to men every night just put me off intimacy. Long after I quit dancing, I'd meet guys who fixated on the fact I took my clothes off for money when I was 18. They seemed either disappointed in me or weirdly turned on by it.
But what's it like for people who have both business-sex and pleasure-sex? I spoke to sex workers across different areas of the industry about their dating lives.
"The best relationship I've had was with another sex worker"
The two responses I get from potential dates are, "No, because you're a sex worker" and, "Yes, because you're a sex worker." It's never just about me. I totally understand when they can't handle it, but then there are the ones who want to try out new things sexually, and if that's the only reason they want to date me, forget it.
My last relationship lasted two or so months. He'd ask me how my day was, and I wouldn't want to talk about it. That's because I'm sharing a part of myself with a stranger, and I wouldn't want my boyfriend to think he wasn't getting the real me. The thing is, I genuinely enjoy my work—I love it! I orgasm all the time. Which is brilliant, but it also makes me reluctant to be completely open because I don't want my partners to get jealous.
The best relationship I've ever had was with another sex worker. It was brilliant. We were just so comfortable with each other and could talk about everything. I remember one time in a restaurant, this couple on the next table were talking about their days—business proposals, presentations, stuff like that—so I asked him what he'd done that day. "Oh, I fisted this woman, how about you?" he replied. And I said, "Oh, I fucked a man with a strap-on." We laughed so much. The only reason it didn't work out was because I have kids, and he's a bit younger than me—it was nothing to do with our work.
I think some female sex workers can be overly naïve when it comes to trying to find a partner, so when we do find something, sometimes we put up with more than we should. That's probably why I've decided to remain single—it's too much hassle.
Charlotte Rose, London
"The women I date assume I'm a rampant sex machine"
I'm a male sex worker specializing in conscious kink and erotic ritual. People are generally stunned that as a man I can be a successful sex worker. Women I date assume I'm some kind of rampant sex machine but, actually, I'm a pretty sensitive soul. Someone I dated recently thought I was lying until I showed her my website.
I'm in a long-term relationship, but I practice ethical non-monogamy, a.k.a. polyamory. My partner used to get upset if I had last-minute bookings and changed our plans, but I've stopped doing that to avoid friction, so now I only take advanced bookings.
I don't lie to the people I date, but I lie to other people all the time—shop keepers, taxi drivers, random people in bars or cafés, who ask me what I do. It's to avoid long conversations that I've had a million times; it's not out of any shame. There isn't much stigma associated with being a male sex worker, but there is loads in being a female one. People make a lot of assumptions about what it's like to date sex workers—they expect disease and drugs and lack of self-worth. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.
Seani Love, London
"He drunkenly proposed one night at the parlor"
I've only had two relationships since I was twenty-one. The first happened when I was taking a break from escorting, but when I told him that's what I used to do, he was upset. He would bring it up when we argued and found it difficult to trust me—to the point where he'd check my phone and emails. We broke up because he wanted a family, and I wasn't ready for it.
When I went back to escorting, I had no wish to enter another relationship. Then one day I saw I a new client and liked him; I thought he was funny and sweet. He was my age and would turn up at the parlor slightly drunk on nights I was working. He drunkenly proposed one night in front of all the Romanian girls I worked with and my stoned manager. At that point, I was training to be a domme, so when I set up on my own he came and saw me at my dungeon. Suddenly, he disappeared for a year, and it was only then that I realized how much I liked him. Finally, he called me again. We had a session, went for dinner, and now we've been together for a year.
I can be tricky trust-wise. I wonder if he will see another sex worker, and obviously he can get jealous at times too. But I think we work well together because we've both seen each other at our most vulnerable, so there is a mutual respect. However, when people ask how we met, we just give them a boring story.
"I've lied for the first few months of every relationship"
I'm a full service sex worker specializing in kink milkmaid service and feeding, but I never tell that to anyone straight away. I've lied for the first few months of every relationship. I hate telling new people; there is too much judgement, and I don't feel that people who I've only been dating a month deserve to know such intimate details about me.
I told my current boyfriend in a series of steps. First, I said I used to do it—then finally I told him I was still doing it and wouldn't stop for anyone. He was really gutted about me lying, and so I moved out of the house for a couple of days. Later, after we'd both cried and had time to think about everything, he realized it wasn't such a big deal. It's only a job—it doesn't change who I am.
Jamie Drake, Edinburgh
"He said I was doing it for the attention"
Almost every man I've ever dated has had a bad reaction to my working in the escort business. It's often a shock followed by a sudden re-evaluation of everything they think about me. I've had dates who immediately jump to ask, "What's the most heinous thing you've ever had to do?"—as though I'm forced to do horrible things. Others act perfectly fine and then never call back. One guy I used to date was constantly worried about contracting HIV and STDs from me, which made me aware of how little people know about the industry. Another guy told me he thought I was doing it for the attention, and it was just a phase.
When my last relationship became more serious, I decided to take a job as a waiter and hold off on escorting for a while. I found that I couldn't be emotionally involved with him if he wasn't on board with my work. It's a compromise, and in a more liberal, educated world, I imagine I'd find a lot more men who accepted me for it.
"My ex ignored me for two days"
I don't have relationships with men because I find it too difficult to lie, and I couldn't tell any man the truth. I once told my ex that I'd done sex work in the past, and he ignored me for two days while he decided whether or not he wanted to continue our relationship. At the time, I was devastated and worried about our relationship ending. He asked me questions about what I'd done and how many clients I'd seen and if I'd ever done it while we were together. I felt ashamed and upset.
Since then, I've had a few dates and flings but just found it too difficult to lie. I hate living a double life, but I don't even tell my friends because I think they will judge me.
Stacey*, Edinburgh and Belfast
*Names have been changed.
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