From sexless marriages to consensual nonmonogamy, infidelity happens for many reasons…and rather than destroying your relationship, a sex worker might be helping it survive.
“I have a wife.” he says.
It’s an awkward time to have this conversation - we’ve just started our entrees. The expensive restaurant is half full and I can imagine the people seated nearby craning their necks to hear more of our conversation. Apart from a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and the exchange of cash, we’ve barely gotten to know each other. But the words come out in a rush, as if he couldn’t wait to tell someone.
This isn’t new for me. As an independent escort, most of my clients are married or in a long-term relationship. Sometimes, they never mention it (but neglect to take off their wedding rings). Sometimes, they’re open about it. Often, the story is more complicated than you might expect.
This guy, for example. “My wife and I don’t have sex anymore, and it’s making me miserable,” he confesses, looking down at the bruschetta on his plate.
I’m thinking, why doesn’t he just leave? He answers my question before I ask, revealing that he’s a full-time carer for his child who has a disability. “I can’t divorce because my son needs both of us,” he says, “And I couldn’t bear to make his life any harder than it already is.”
My client is less an unapologetic cheater, and more a man in a very difficult situation.
There’s this cliched idea in popular culture that sex workers are homewreckers – tempting husbands away from faithfulness with the promise of sex on request, minus any pesky emotional demands. But a decade as an escort has shown me that often, the situation is more complicated than we assume. From dead bedrooms to open relationships, sex work has saved many a marriage.
I’m not trying to convince you that all cheating is okay. I’ve experienced infidelity three times in my personal life, and I know how bad it feels to be deceived by someone we trust. Lying can do to a lot of damage to a relationship. When I started escorting, I even wondered whether I could discourage married clients from seeing me (naïve, because I would have lost most of my business!)
Some people really are just ‘cheating pieces of shit,’ as sex columnist Dan Savage puts it. I remember a young guy who visited a brothel I used to work at eight years ago. Halfway through the sex he looked down at me, smirked, and said, ‘My girlfriend would be so mad if she knew I was here right now.’ There’s nothing less sexy than finding out the person you’re shagging is a dickhead, especially mid-coitus.
But it’s not always about selfishness. Some of my clients cheat for surprisingly convincing reasons. For instance, there’s the man whose wife was terminally ill – she wasn’t able to have sex, and as a considerate partner he didn’t want to make her feel inadequate while looking after her in her final months. But he also needed to relieve his sexual tension. He turned to escorts to get those needs met so that he could continue being an effective carer.
In long-term relationships, the ‘dead bedroom’ is a common problem…and there’s no easy fix. Often, the problem is due to unresolved sexual issues from earlier in life, physical problems due to aging, or a sex drive mismatch that’s simply out of anyone’s control. This is complicated stuff that requires an excellent therapist, a skilled partner, a good doctor, or all three…and we don’t always have those supports handy.
Even Dan Savage admits that some people cheat to stay together. If a partner loses interest in sex but won’t discuss options such as divorce or opening the relationship, Dan sees cheating as a type of ‘maintenance’ that allows everyone to keep functioning. When sex is only a small part of an otherwise successful arrangement, it’s not always necessary to throw the whole thing out and start over.
I often think, ‘Why not be honest? Why not ask for permission to see other people? Why not find a better relationship?’ But sometimes the advice, ‘just be honest,’ or ‘just leave,’ simply isn’t good enough.
I grew up in the nineties, embracing every alternative lifestyle imaginable, from kink to swinging. This stuff seems natural for me. But others – especially older generations – can’t make the same choices. When marriage is supposed to be forever and sex isn’t talked about in polite company, suggesting other options seems unthinkable. For these people, seeking out a sex worker is the safest way to keep things ticking along.
And then, of course, there are also those folks who are willing to try new things, who find that sex outside the relationship works for both of them. More and more, couples are experimenting with what’s called, ‘consensual non-monogamy’ – sleeping around while being honest about it. Some partners might give each other permission to fool around when they’re away on business, or as an occasional treat. Some couples even play together… threesome bookings are a regular occurrence for me! If you’re struggling to stay faithful, non-monogamy can be much less risky than lying. And for those who need adventure, open relationships allow for experiences that add spice to a relationship and keep the spark alive.
Whether you’re cheating to escape a dead bedroom or playing around consensually as a couple, sex workers are an excellent choice. Dating someone off the Internet – or, worse, a friend or work colleague – has the potential to cause serious drama. A good escort is a reliable long-term companion who won’t make unwelcome emotional demands. We won’t ask you to leave your wife or turn up at your house unannounced. We don’t need constant attention and reassurance. And should you ever decide to move on, we’ll accept your choice with professional dignity.
Which brings us back to my dinner date: professionally composed, I’m sitting opposite a man who looks both guilty and relieved at the same time. There’s a long moment during which the waiter refills our glasses, and my client looks down at the table. He’s waiting for me to tell him what I think about his decision.
“I understand.” I say, finally. I’m a little surprised by my lack of disapproval. But there’s so much to the story – who am I to decide what’s right for him?
Sex workers don’t always ruin marriages. Whether it’s managing a complicated situation or allowing someone to explore their sexuality with the blessing of their partner, my work has the potential to help just as much as harm. The more I hear about my clients, the less I feel entitled to judge…and the more hopeful I am about doing work that makes the world a better place.