The below questions received from partners at various stages of dating. They are seeking advice on sex work and dating we then passed the queries on to those already in a healthy relationship with a sex worker.
Some questions have more than one answer. Some questions are similar. We have aimed for minimal editing. Please note the below answers have come from people currently in relationships with a sex worker. Their answers are based on their personal experience. Printed with permission. Information on Australian sex work laws can be found at Scarlet Alliance.
My girlfriend just said she did sex work. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel or do. I’m in shock.
P1: Respect her. It takes a lot to tell people what you do when you are employed in the Adult industry. You may not respect what they do for a living but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t respect them as a person. The trust involved in telling somebody you are employed in “sex work” is immense, and therefore you must respect that they care and love you to do so.
P2: What I thought the Adult Industry was and what I now know it is, are two different things. You need to educate yourself. Start with talking to her about it. Don’t blame or punish her. Watch your language with the words you use. Be open to learning that the thoughts going through your head now, may be based on wrong information. Read blogs by workers online to learn more as well. Trust what your partner tells you. She does it. She has firsthand experience.
Why did she hide it from me for so long?
P1: N/A. She told me the moment she met me.
P2: It was awhile until we had ‘the talk’. She was very nervous when she told me. Apparently she’d had bad reactions in the past so waited we started to get serious. I would have liked to know sooner but I understand why she waited.
Why didn’t she tell me before it got serious?
P2: She didn’t know where we were heading. She didn’t know if I was going to stick around. She waited until she felt safe and that our relationship was solid.
Does this mean I’m higher risk at getting STDs?
P1: Take comfort that all clients are tested for signs of any STI’s before an appointment and even then, condoms, water based lube and gloves and dental dams are used to protect both the client and the worker.
P2: This was top of the list of our discussions and a big concern for me. I did my own research as well. They check clients, use protection, and it is mandatory for the worker to be tested regularly.
Doesn’t she care how I feel about this?
P1: Yes, she cares enough to include me in her life.
P2: She cares. We talked a lot and I let her know if when I feel uncomfortable. I know why she has chosen this job. I know I want her in my life. We talk more openly now. She cares.
If she loved me she would give it up.
P1: If I loved her, I would support her choices. It is not my right to question her about her job or to ask her to stop working in the Adult Industry.
P2: If you loved her, you would let her make her own choice. I can see it is harder for her to do her job now we are together but I love her enough to support her, not to try to control her.
Should I let her continue? Does that make me a pimp?
P1: I don’t own my partner. It is her choice to continue. No I am not a pimp. I work full-time and it is illegal in NSW to live off the earnings of a “prostitute”.
What is wrong that she would do this job?
P1: Nothing. What is wrong with any person going to work or being their own boss? I understand money is her primary reason, and having the freedom of choosing when she wants to work as the secondary reason. She has life goals, and I want to support her on her journey.
P2: A Job is a Job. We both see her job as a sexual therapist type role. She does it because she enjoys helping people, making them feel good about themselves. There is nothing wrong with that. I feel lucky to be with someone so caring.
Does this mean she has no self-esteem?
P1: No. Everyone lacks confidence occasionally but people with low self-esteem are unhappy or unsatisfied with themselves most of the time.
P2: I know how the sex industry is seen. I know not everyone is like my partner. She gets shy in a crowd, is quiet but is confident in general.
I don’t want her to kiss clients or let them do certain things we do. I’d feel jealous. How do I tell her? Should I tell her?
P1: Yes tell her and discuss how you feel. Don’t hide your insecurities from your partner. Jealousy is natural; you’re only human after all! In my situation: she doesn’t tell me how to do my job, so I don’t feel I have the right to tell her how to do hers. So I trust my partner to set her own boundaries.
P2: Guidelines are important. Both of us had lots of discussions before we sorted out ours.
I want to [emotionally] support her but how am I supposed to do that?
P1: Support her like you would in a normal, loving relationship. I realised with her working that it doesn’t change anything and I’ve accepted it.
P2: Talk to her. Respect her boundaries.
How much should I ask her? I don’t want pictures in my head of men being with her?
P1: In any relationship, it’s important to communicate with your partner. Be aware that there may be things about your partner’s work that you don’t like, that may upset you or might make you jealous. This doesn’t mean they should have to hide the fact that they may have had a good day at work when they get home because you’re insecure. If you don’t chat about your concerns you have with your partner, they will just snowball and turn into an avalanche of resentment etc
P2: Decide together on guidelines. I say ‘how was your day?’. She says ‘good, bad or annoying’ usually. I say ‘wanna talk about it?’ She either says ‘I’m good’ or will talk but doesn’t share details. We discussed before what I can handle and what she needs.
How do I tell her not to share her private life?
P1: Communication is key. It’s better to address upfront what is acceptable or not when revealing your private life etc. I prefer my private life to be kept private. I’m ok if my partner discloses she is in a relationship etc as long as no “personal details” are given.
How do you deal with your girlfriend coming home each day knowing she’s been with other guys?
P1: We all have boundaries that should be respected, why should theirs be any different? Be aware that your role is to love, support, communicate and respect them, just like any regular relationship.
P2: She loves me. We have a normal and fun sex life, we are intimate. Our relationship is healthy. What she does at work is not that. I know she has fun sometimes and has clients she is fond of but it is still just a job.
How can I see her the same way, knowing she’s willing to have other men touch her for money?
P1: I see my partner as a smart, savvy business woman who is a service provider. I like to remember that the sum of a person is so much more than their occupation. I understand that like any other commercially packaged leisure activity, intimacy is now readily available for a price.
P2: My partner is a wonderful, smart person that doesn’t change when a person changes jobs. Customer relations are what makes or breaks companies. Even customer services will use flirting to close a sale. So for me, it is no different to a normal job..
What if she has better sex at work then me?
P1: It could happen in a physical sense. But at the end of the day, it is me she chooses to be in a loving relationship with.
P2: If that happens, I don’t know about it. We have a very healthy sex life.
What if she enjoys having sex with her clients more?
P1: Then we probably wouldn’t be together. It’s not something we discuss in detail. I ask how in general how her day has been, like I would if she was in any profession.
P2: There is sex with love, there is sex without love. The difference is huge and cannot be compared.
What if she leaves me for a client?
P1: Well then the relationship is over.
P2: Like any relationship if she leaves you for someone else then something was going wrong in the relationship.
How will I know she won’t cheat?
P1: “Sex work” is their profession, infidelity is not. You won’t know.
I found it wise at the start by clarifying your boundaries with your partner. You may have control over your part of the commitment, but you don’t control your partner. Your partner remains free to make her own choices, including choices that may violate your mutually agreed upon commitment. It happens.
P2: Her time with other men is her work. She is already getting extra attention at work. I believe that makes her less likely. I reckon people who work in offices and other industries are more likely to cheat that she is.
I feel betrayed because her friends knew and I didn’t. I feel like a fool.
P1: N/A. Her closest friends/family knows. I feel happy that she can be herself around us without fear of judgement.
P2: This is your own insecurity. She has known her friends for longer than me. The point is you know now.
She told me that one or two of our friends use to be clients. How do I know they’re not still trying to get in her pants?
P2: N/A. I will add if we were in that situation, she’d probably put them in their place if they tried. She’s with me. She has guys wanting her attention at work. She’d be pissed if her friends tried that.
What am I supposed to do if we are out and we run into one of her clients?
P1: My partner likes to be discreet about her clients. My partner doesn’t work in the area we live (specifically to minimize this situation). I also think that a client would probably like to be discreet as well. I haven’t yet had this situation occur, and if it did I didn’t know about it.
Why is she handing out her number to clients if it’s just work for her?
P1: Isn’t that part of being self-employed? Having a client contact database.
P2: Because it is work. She can pre plan her days. Let them know if she is going away, it’s part of customer service. If they try to get too chatty or engaging she stops the text. Talk to her if you have concerns.
How am I supposed to handle her getting texts from clients when she is with me?
P1: It’s important to set boundaries for smartphone usage (not just for texts). Treat it the same as you would expect her to handle it when you receive texts from where you work.
How do I know she will be safe? What if a client gets rough with her?
P1: My partner works in an environment that is safe. She handles things like that very well, she’s responsible and knows what to do in such situations.
P2: I was concerned when first told. We discussed what safety procedures she had in place and what backups. I suggest talking about it together.
Why does she feel like she has to do this if I can [financially] support her?
P1: She has many reasons why she does this. People should be allowed to buy and sell whatever they like, including their time and own bodies. She knows that I am happy to support her financially when she decides to finish working.
P2: Because she doesn’t want me to. She’s independent. She’s with me, not what I have. I never told my exes to change jobs or I’d support them. I think she’d get pissed if tried.
If she’s lying to everyone about her job, how do I know that she’s not always lying to me?
P1: I trust my partner and her need for self-preservation. I understand why she doesn’t disclose her job to everyone. I know that truth and I trust her and that’s what that matters.
P2: If people weren’t judgemental and stigma wasn’t attached I know she would share what she does. To protect yourself from being mistreated by people who don’t understand, is different to lying for no reason.
How am I supposed to introduce her to my family when I don’t want to lie to them?
P1: Introduce her as you would any partner. You don’t need to add their occupation when you introduce each other. Let them form their own relationship with your family, so they can see how wonderful they are etc. Also … don’t assume that it’s ok to tell other people, even if you would think that person would be open and react well. Ask if there are general rules for who you can tell or if they’d like you to check in every time before telling someone. It’s not always easy, but that’s not the fault of the work or partner as much as it’s the fault of a lack of support, socially, for any sexually based work being accepted as a job.
P2: My family doesn’t know everything about me. I reckon using the same policy for her.
I don’t know if I can marry her, if she chooses this as her career.
P1: If it’s too much to handle, be honest and let them know now. It will save a lot of stress and heartbreak in the long run. They have a right to know your true feelings about the situation. If you don’t support it as her chosen career, and it bothers you, and you’re not willing to invest in the relationship, then move on.
P2: Are you marrying her career or her. I see the amazing woman I’m dating. She has a big heart, and helps others. All her friends think highly of her. So do I. The woman she is, is a person worth marrying one day.
How will this affect me if people find out?
P1: I think people underestimate the burden it can place on a partner. I live with a secret too. I have to lie (meaning I can’t say the truth) about my partner’s profession everywhere. The question, what does your partner do, sounds casual, but for me this is where my “double life” starts. If people find out it could be a problem at my workplace, I could lose my job; it’s as much my secret as her secret.
P2: For me I doubt there would be much affect. But it’s easier for us both not telling people without discussing it first.