You've successfully subscribed to Tryst Blog
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Tryst Blog
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Are you dating a sex worker? Here’s how to be a better partner.

Are you dating a sex worker? Here’s how to be a better partner.

. 7 min read

“Wow, you’re an escort? I’m fine with that...I guess.”

It’s a line I’ve heard often on first dates. I’m upfront about my work and I often find myself doing the ‘big reveal’ in the middle of a second round of drinks. Although I’ve scared a few people away, for the most part they tend to shrug and say, “Sure, okay, whatever.”

Unfortunately, that nonchalance rarely sticks around. As we start seeing each other more, their laid-back attitude disappears. I’m treated to increasing levels of suspicion (“Why did you run overtime at work?”), jealousy (“How dare you let him buy you expensive gifts!”) and judgement (“Maybe you should get a real job?”)

It’s a common problem. Sex-negativity and whorephobia are the societal norm, and it’s very unusual to be in a relationship with someone who can handle my job without doing some serious work on themselves first.

This article is for those who’d like to do better. I’ve put together a few straightforward ideas for becoming a better partner, when you’re dating a sex worker.

Why do the work in the first place?

Why bother thinking about this stuff? Even if something bugs you about your sex worker mate, it might feel tempting to stick your head in the sand. After all, Disney tells us that love always works out - assuming, of course, that it’s ‘meant to be’.

But the reality is that long-term commitments take work. As my therapist says, “Relationships bring up all your shit - that’s what they’re for.” If you don’t make an effort, your connection with the person you love will gradually unravel. You may also be hurting them - or yourself - and that emotional damage lasts long after the relationship is over.

I’m not going to lie - there’s a lot of work to do here. In addition to learning about the realities of sex work, you’re also dealing with pressure from friends and family, ignorance from the world in general, and your own shame and insecurities. Buckle up, and prepare for a bumpy ride!

But if you’re willing to try, you’ll find that every bit of effort does make a difference. If you don’t want your relationship to crash and burn, it’s worth considering the tips below.

Sorry, clients...this one isn’t for you.

This is an article for people who are already dating a sex worker. It’s not a guide for clients who hope to date their escort. Seeking someone out specifically because they do this job simply doesn’t work! Please find someone you connect with as a person, not a professional, and accept them no matter what they do for a living.

My thoughts on becoming a better partner.

So, where can you start? What are the issues you might need to resolve? Here are some suggestions.

This is not one-size-fits-all; you’ll need to decide what works for you. If your feelings about sex work are particularly intense, or if you’re already having disagreements with your partner, you may need to discuss these with a sex-positive therapist.

Step 1: Stop compartmentalising.

You might think, "I'll just ignore the stuff that bothers me.” You might shut down conversations about their work, for example. But how close a relationship can you have with your partner if you’re not acknowledging such a big part of their lives? Your significant other will definitely notice, and they might start to feel as though you don’t accept them for who they really are. I consider ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ a losing proposition for any relationship, and it’s especially true in this case.

The solution? Lean into those uncomfortable conversations. You might feel weird hearing about your lover’s day at work, but the only way to make it ‘situation normal’ is to spend time acting as though it already is. You might want to let them know when you’ve hit the limits of what you can handle - that’s okay. The idea is to keep trying, until things feel less scary.

Step 2: Take responsibility for your feelings.

When we’re upset or uncomfortable, we sometimes blame others. This is known as ‘projecting’ - dumping our pain on whoever’s closest. Often, this person is our romantic partner.

Sex workers are often blamed for our partner’s shame around sex. If you’re worried about what your family will think, you might express anger towards your bae: “How dare you put me in this situation!” Or you might worry about STIs and question them endlessly about their sessions, even though they’ve already explained that they practice safer sex.

Own up to your emotions. By choosing to be in this relationship, you’ve also chosen to take on some challenging situations - and good on you! It’s a great way to grow as a person. Don’t miss out on that growth by blaming your partner. Tell yourself, “These are my feelings. I’m responsible for them and now I’m going to work out what to do about them."

Step 3: Deal with your sex-negativity.

Sex-negativity - the feeling that sex is shameful or harmful - affects everyone differently, depending on your age, location, and family background. We all have to deal with it - and it takes some work to undo.

If you’re squicky about sex, you’re going to struggle with dating a worker. Depending on your hang-ups, you might feel jealous (because you’ve been raised to believe that sex means ‘I love you’) or judge them (because, deep down, you feel that people who enjoy sex are deviants).

All this negativity needs to go. Sexually experienced people are wonderful, and enjoying sex is something to be proud of! Check out some sex educators online or read a few books, and open yourself up to thinking differently.

Step 4: Deal with your whorephobia, too.

Do you think there’s something inherently sleazy about swapping sex for money? Sex work stigma - otherwise known as ‘whorephobia’ - is everywhere. You’ll get it from movies, TV, religion, even your mates. When everyone except your partner is saying sex work is wrong, it’s difficult to focus on the facts.

Whorephobia can take the form of personal judgements (“I wish you didn’t dress so slutty all the time,”) or criticism of our work (“You should quit, it’s not good for you.”) It could mean hiding your lover from friends or family because you’re ashamed. All of this stuff totally wrecks our self-esteem. You’ll end up dating a sad, emotionally damaged person...either that, or they’ll simply pack their bags and leave.

Ditching whorephobia is possible. Many sex workers have done it, and you can too! Try reading a few books about the politics of sex work, or listen to what workers have to say online. The more you normalise our jobs, the better.


Step 5: Understand the difference between ‘work sex’ and 'relationship sex’.

Many folks assume that any sex is good sex, and that sex is solely about pleasure. This can lead to a distorted view of what actually goes on during a  hands-on sex work session.

Sex (or sexy stuff) at work isn't about our own enjoyment - it's a service we perform for our clients. Until you’ve spent an hour trying to get a stranger off, or made pleasant conversation with someone for hours even though a friend just passed away and you feel like crying, you won’t be able to appreciate how much work goes into ‘work sex’.

Some couples set boundaries to help distinguish work from home - saving certain sexual activities for their romantic partners, first example. That's totally legit..but personally, I think the best way to manage this stuff is to simply acknowledge that work will always be different, no matter what.

Step 6: Learn how to handle jealousy.

There's this persistent idea in modern society that the person we love belongs to us. Anything that demonstrates their autonomy - living alone, travelling solo, earning more than you do - can cause insecurity and jealousy.

This is especially true when it comes to sex. Monogamy culture tells us that true love means never getting sexy with anyone else. So even though sex work is work, as we just discussed, you may experience jealousy.

The first thing to know is that you're not alone. Jealousy can be a problem in any relationship. It’s not always about sex - sometimes it’s about your bae checking out a hot stranger at the mall, or spending a lot of time with their friends, for example! If you can learn to manage this stuff, you're going to feel more secure no matter the situation.

When searching for solutions, I recommend the experts. Folks who practice consensual non-monogamy (sleeping with multiple people) and polyamory (dating multiple people) have a lot to say about managing jealousy. You'll find tips online and in books - here's a great place to start.

Step 7: Remember that it’s you and them against the world.

Here’s the bad news: Even when you do all this work on yourself, the world is still going to make life difficult for both of you. Your partner and yourself might still need to deal with trolls, haters, disapproving friends, judgemental exes, and bitchy family members. Not to mention laws (and law enforcement) that interfere with the way you both want to live your lives.

A good relationship is about teamwork - you and your lover need to present a united front against the world. That means you’ll need to learn how to set boundaries with family, have difficult conversations with friends, and defend your views on sex work over and over. Above all, you’ll need to be ready to back your partner up when they come under attack.

This stuff takes advanced social skills! It’s something we learn and practise. But it’s essential. It’s not fair to expect the person you’ve chosen to spend your life with to do all the emotional heavy lifting, simply because the world around you sucks. In a job such as sex work, where we often feel isolated, you might be the only person your bae can rely on.

Try having the conversation. Ask your partner, “How can I support you more?” If you’re struggling with someone else’s take on sex work, ask us for advice. Often, we’ll have experience to share on how to handle these situations.

Remember, this work is rewarding.

All this advice might seem a bit overwhelming. Luckily, it’s just about tackling one thing at a time. With each step on your personal-development journey, you’re going to see benefits.

The biggest benefit, of course, is that important person in your life. After all, sex workers are some of the most creative, assertive, and switched-on people I know. That’s a relationship worth hanging onto!

But it’s not just about them. Being self aware and sex positive pays off in all relationships, not just romantic ones. If you put some work into this stuff, you’ll end up with an amazing skill set that will come in handy for the rest of your life.

That’s the secret: It’s not just good for the relationship and good for your partner...it’s really fucking good for you too.