17/12/2019 8:20 AM AEDT

I’m A Former Sex Worker. This Is What It’s Like To Date.

I’m a living, breathing reminder that people who aren’t cisgender heterosexual men have to make hard choices around survival every day.

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I’m a very open and public sex worker and a published writer whose work focuses on issues relating to sex work and sexuality. I loved my 10-plus years working as a sex worker. In fact, I never found it anywhere near as degrading and dehumanizing as my interactions with boyfriends and lovers in my personal life.

While I don’t want to negate the reality of some people’s very true experiences with violence and coercion in the sex industry (I myself am a sex trafficking survivor), I found much of my sex working experience to be positive, respectful and defined by clear boundaries and consent.

While I was an active sex worker, I tried to date in my personal life, but for me, it was just too difficult to find a cisgender heterosexual man who would or could understand that sex work is work and not feel threatened about it.

Four years ago, I stopped using drugs and alcohol after many years of struggling with addiction. I was no longer doing sex work and, as part of this new road to healing, I sought a new relationship to men and sex in my personal life through celibacy. So, up until a few months ago, I hadn’t had any sex ― paid or unpaid ― in four years. I really wanted to focus on choosing healthier, less toxic men in my non-work sex life. 

I ended up losing my “virginity” to a gang member named Michael (all names in this piece have been changed) who had been recently incarcerated. His response to me telling him about my escorting past was, “I think I like you even more now, ’cause you had the balls to be honest ... and honesty is beautiful.” 

I felt understood and accepted, which unfortunately didn’t last long ― as things usually don’t with this particular type of bad boy ― and I never saw or heard from him again after he got what he wanted from the former hooker. I was bummed ― I had felt a sort of misfit connection. The escort and the outlaw. We could fight crime. 

Next I met Richard. Richard was the total opposite of Michael; the total opposite of really any guy I had ever been out with. He was nerdy, sweet and his apartment was filled with books on ancient Greek and Latin, mathematics and the collected theories of Nietzsche. It was the kind of relationship I instantly knew was good for me precisely because of how strange and unfamiliar it seemed. We bonded over our mutual love of literature, music, psychology and history. When I told him I was a writer before our first date, he seemed immediately excited to read some of my work. 

My writing includes details about my life as a sex worker, my history of trauma and abuse, and my experiences as a sex trafficking survivor. Knowing that, I hesitated to send him links he asked for to pieces I’d written, but I decided to go ahead, because, I figured, it was better to find out sooner rather than later if he could “hang,” so to speak. 

Even before I reached the bar where we were meeting for our first date, he texted me back, “Done! ... wow.”

I wasn’t entirely sure whether that was a good “wow,” but hoped for the best. When I got to the bar, his face was white as a ghost and he struggled and stumbled over his words. I chalked it up to nerdy-guy nerves, but when we were in his bed later that night, he couldn’t get hard. 

“Are you nervous or something?” I said, slightly offended. He replied no, but that my writing had caught him “really off guard.” It was just “a lot” to take in, he said. 

I didn’t feel any sympathy for him. Yes, I know that reading about the girl you’re going out with having been an escort is “a lot,” but it felt like he expected me to say sorry for inconveniencing his penis with my past.

And yet, I did find myself apologizing to him. In that moment, I felt like I had to apologize for who I was and who I am. I had to apologize that any part of me had inconvenienced or intruded upon his wealthy, white, college-educated manhood. I’m sorry I exist and that I’m a living, breathing reminder that people who aren’t cishet men have to make hard choices around survival every day. 

Richard ended things and I wasn’t surprised. I continued to talk to a number of guys and I started forming a very lovely connection with another man. We both loved literature, and he was also really keen to read my writing, but I was a bit gun-shy after Richard. I finally told him that while I was happy to share the links to my writing, he should know I’m a sex worker and that’s what a lot of my writing is about. To this day, I have never received a text back from him. 

I’ve tried telling guys upfront and I’ve tried waiting for a “right” time. Neither approach makes a difference in my experience. If someone is the type to stick around through a disclosure of that nature then timing isn’t going to be the deciding factor; what kind of person the individual in question is and their character and integrity ― that’s what matters. 

I met another guy named Dylan recently. With him, I could be completely upfront about my time in the sex industry because he was also a part of it and was also in the Seattle kink scene. Concepts like sex positivity, sexual empowerment and intersectional feminism weren’t things I had to explain to him. But it wasn’t long into our initial conversations before it became obvious that these ideas were just that to him. 

He asked me in sweet, lilted tones if I would escort for him because he “really needed” money to buy a car and felt “lost without one.” “Please babe, will you help me, I’ll recruit customers for you and help you set up a webcamming site,” he went on and on and on. 

Sigh. Needless to say that didn’t work out and I’m back to square one. 

It has become clear to me that men’s reactions to my disclosure will fall into one of several categories. 1) They recoil out of some combination of disgust, fear of STDs and, let’s be honest, a worry that if I were to have sex with them, I would truly know how shitty they are in bed. 2) They think this information means I’ll be easy prey to pimp out and make money off of. 3) They stay with me but throw it back in my face every chance they get just to make sure I know I could never hope for anything better. 

I’m here to say to all the men I have dated and will date, I will never make myself smaller to protect your fragile egos. More than likely, yes, I am more sexually experienced than you. Meaning, if you suck in bed, I will know it. Damn right. Rise to the occasion. 

I’m not “dirty,” I’m not “gross,” I’m not a means by which you can buy a new car or pay your rent, and I don’t have to settle for the kind of man who would ever try to degrade who I am and the experiences that have shaped me. I don’t have to apologize for making you feel uncomfortable about all the free and easy rides you’ve gotten in life just from being a cisgender hetero man. 

You’d be damned lucky to have this ho as your wife. 

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