What's Love Got To Do With It?
I’m a great many things: a New Yorker and first generation American, millennial plant mom, sentient jukebox, and most controversial, a sex worker.
I’ve been what some people call a high-end escort for five years now, and have been in relationships, ranging from just dabbling in dive bar hangs to falling completely head over Louboutins in love for about half that time. I don’t find dating incompatible with my line of work at all, despite the legitimate complications. Another thing I am: a romantic. A non-monogamous one, but a lover all the same. I love the rush of falling into conversation, finishing a lover’s sentences, settling into comfortable silence, naked physically and emotionally. I love learning someone’s body and what makes them happy, and I love helping them figure out what I enjoy. I enjoy the slow burn of repeated engagement, both people peeling off layers of themselves that they keep buttoned up otherwise. I prefer to feel things strongly, rather than not at all. But how does any of this work when you’re in the business of love, the business of sex? Some may wonder: does the entire endeavor lack meaning for me? Is it all fake? How are (off-duty) relationships possible, considering what I do? I mean, it’s not like I’m an accountant, or travel agent, or web designer, not on paper at least.
When Playboy approached me for a piece following sex workers and their love lives over the course of a year, I jumped at the opportunity to clear the whorephobic air. There is a lot to dispel: what relationships look like, how we find them, what can go wrong, what we’re worried about…I don’t think I’ve ever seen escorts’ love lives explored in the context of a large mainstream publication in a way that is both humanizing and hopeful. Social and legal issues abound and sex workers understandably shy away from using own voices to tell our stories. So often are we cast as scheming jezebels or tragic fallen women. This time, I spoke for the first time about my own story on connections, inside and outside of the demimonde.
Okay, so what’s the skinny? I fell in love with a client. We had a non-exclusive arrangement, and I happily flourished in my personal and professional life, though the lines were more blurred than I imagined they’d be when I began. I went on amazing dates with my favorite clients, traveled around the world, exchanged stories about our lives, and experienced authentic intimacy. I was — and am — largely myself, intentionally. And I’ve worked quite hard to be such, as I much prefer it this way. When time with my wonderful clients together was over, I returned to the rest of my life and happily had someone to binge Peaky Blinders with after coming back from my favorite speakeasy. I thought, at first, that it would be a difficult jump, managing multiple relationships, each with their own set of impermeable boundaries and expectations. But existing in both worlds felt as natural as breathing. Queue non-monogamy.
I wrote once about my thoughts on the relationship escalator — the social script of expectations for intimate relationships, where individuals follow a set of visible markers towards a clear goal (marriage, merged assets, children, etc.)—and how I reject this notion. I truly enjoy having a complete life that I can intertwine with someone else's as we both choose, sans societal pressure and a hell of a lot more communication and trust. There's no escalator to ascend, no highest (or end) point. I simply am able to celebrate and be celebrated by my intimate partners as often and as deeply as we'd like. Non-monogamy isn't all sexy hookups though; it requires so many discussions about jealousy, about needs that change, and iCalendar updates. It's about knowing what you want and resolving to express that explicitly, when the dictates of polite society say nice women really shouldn't. When I reflect on my time as an escort, I know I've learned and loved much more fully than I would have without it.
Can relationships be difficult as a sex worker? Yes. Are they worth it? Also yes, in both my personal and professional life. I'm not sure what affaires du cœur, are in my future, but since I've thrown out the rulebook, I guess anything's possible.