An anonymous piece from a view we so rarely hear; Many sex workers are in relationships, and our partners share with us and support us.
Being the lover of a professional escort in the United States isn’t always easy. Oh, I imagine it would be very easy in a place where her work wasn’t criminalized, but I might be fooling myself. I have often dreamed of moving somewhere where she could pursue her career without the constant specter of police harassment and brutality hanging over her head. Originally, of course, I naively thought that was Nevada, until I found out that the conditions for legal escorts there were far from ideal. See, she’s done brothel work before, and she left it behind as soon as she figured out how to be independent. She’s not going to want to do it someplace just because it’s “legal.”
Anyway, the point is moot. A relationship can only have one boss, and in our case that’s her. She’s not going to leave her family and friends behind to move to some faraway place. She’s also not going to give up working at her lucrative career and just try to make it on my salary. So, we’ve spent a lot of years trying to work on an exit strategy. Oh, it isn’t that she doesn’t like her job, but after the first arrest, it’s hard to continue to be a “happy hooker,” As jobs go it has its upsides and its downsides.
The downsides are serious, though. Nobody wants to try to figure out whether the guy on the phone is an undercover agent of the vice squad. No one wants to be robbed by a client (he actually stole all the money in her purse), and have no recourse but acting on her own to get it back. No one wants to find herself alone with a thug and not even be able to call the police for fear of being arrested herself.
Trouble is she has a criminal record. She got hired at a nice corporate job once, only to be immediately terminated after the results of a background check. She wouldn’t starve if she just lived on my salary, but she couldn’t afford all the things she wants either. (Not just selfish stuff, either, she has a family that she helps out all the time and a child in school.) People who want to criminalize sex work probably think jobs with middle class incomes are growing on trees for Black ex-convicts like my partner, but that’s a silly fantasy.
So, I’ve helped her finance lots of alternate career paths, none of which proved as reliable or to have the income of sex work. She doesn’t tell me when she’s going back to taking calls, whether because she doesn’t want to get me involved in crime or she thinks I should be jealous I don’t know. (I’m not jealous, incidentally, I knew from when we first started dating what she did for a living. Well, after all I started out as a regular client.) However, I know when she gets a flight out of state. I know when I see charges for hotel rooms, backpage and eros on my credit card bills. Oh, and every so often I check review boards for our area and see what she’s up to. I actually think her career is cool and sexy, and find the idea of her with other men a turn on. Yes, I know that makes me a big pervert, but it’s not like she doesn’t already know that about me…
Occasionally, I broach the subject of sex work in a totally theoretical way with my “straight” coworkers or friends. A friend of mine told me all about his wife, a party girl from Eastern Europe who had tried a lot of different narcotics. Then later he confessed to me that he had a big fight with her, she found out he was supporting a “sugar baby” or “mistress.” (Honestly, I think he just wanted to brag about the mistress, “Oh, my life is so hard my sexy wife and my sexy mistress are fighting, whatever shall I do.”) So, in a purely theoretical way, I brought up the idea of escorting. I think I put it this way, “Given the drama you are going through, you might have been better off hiring escorts.”
Well, basically, he robotically repeated the idea that escorts were all full of diseases and were dirty, dirty women. What could I say? “You want to step outside and settle this with our fists?” Everybody at work knows about my beautiful “freelance web designer” fiance, I didn’t have to defend her honor because her career is a secret except for me and her family. I was stunned though, after all the stuff he told me about his “wild” sex life, to hear this kind of prejudice made me feel pretty miserable. Then he slyly said that one time when he was visiting a former Soviet state, there was a table of girls nearby who he thinks were “working girls.” (No doubt, he felt he brought a cheap thrill into the life of his square, boring, corporate drone coworker.)
So, this is what stigma means when you are the partner of a sex worker. If you talk about it with coworkers, they’ll make ignorant comments about people like her being diseased and “dirty,” and instead of punching them in the face you just have to walk away. After all, I can’t say, “as a matter of fact, my partner does escorting.” It wouldn’t be fair for me to out her, would it? I support her right to choose her own path and do what she thinks is best. Of course, I worry about her too, and when I don’t hear from her for a while I start to think, “Is she safe? Is she ok?” I’d like to live in a world where she could go out and be safe like anyone else who had a career where she had to travel to meet clients. That’s not too much to ask, is it?