On Being A Sex Worker In A Long Term (Queer) Relationship With A Non-Sex Worker
Updated: Oct 25, 2021
Love is something many of us desire in one form or another be it platonic, familial, romantic, community based, or something somewhere in between. If we generalize things I think many of us would agree that love in itself can be complicated as is. Now, I invite you to imagine working a job that is highly stigmatized, misunderstood, othered. Love in these instances can become much more complex. For the purposes of this blog post I will be focusing on romantic love and my experience of it in my current partnership.
I’m engaged and have been with my partner several years. My relationship is a lesbian relationship (I am bisexual – my partner is a lesbian), interracial (my partner being white and me being Latina), and is one between a sex worker and a civilian (non-sex worker). We have had to navigate quite a lot. Frankly, it astounds me how much attention my tweets about my romantic partnership get. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t anticipate anyone caring about my relationship. Y’all have shown me since I have the privilege to speak about it that it is important that I do. My tweets about my fiancé and I are some of my most popular tweets, here are a few examples to kick us off:
The attention these tweets get are reminders of how rare it is for our community to see representations of healthy romantic love. There are a variety of reasons for that some of which range from general difficulty navigating dating as sex workers, to fear of whorephobia and violence impacting our partners, to sharing that we are partnered messing with our marketing and income. Regardless of the reason, it is a rare sight and even being engaged myself I find I get excited whenever I see other sex workers in healthy loving partnerships. When we look at media representation of sex workers in love it usually ends one of three ways:
1. The sex worker quits their job and has been "saved" by love.
2. The sex worker is fetishized, used, and discarded
3. The sex worker is murdered somewhere along the way
How often do we get to see representation of sex workers finding romantic love outside of what I listed above? If you can think of any media representation that doesn’t fall into one of those three categories please leave a comment below.
When I met my partner, lets call her Eli. Side note: I don't have an attachment to that nickname, I just poked my partner's side as I wrote this and said 'pick a name for yourself hurry!' and she came up with that. Anywho, when I met Eli I wasn’t searching for anything high stakes. I had spent most of my 20s single. It is hard to say whether single by choice or due to exhaustion when I did try, it was likely some combination of the two. Between being a baby sex worker who fell in love with her sugar daddies in my late teens/early 20s (a blog post for another time), navigating my healing work/grappling with my mental health, constantly hustling to make ends meet and keep my family afloat, and the constant whorephobia I faced when I did try to date I preferred to keep things casual. Each situation and person differed, but they all held something in common- I had to do a lot of labor to educate folks about sex work, hold up a mirror to their whorephobia, and justify why, in spite of my job, I was worthy of love and care. Kind of twisted right? I also made the mistake of predominantly dating white folks and so on top of that I was often doing labor of educating folks around racism, issues of migration, and systemic harm caused to non-white folks. It. Was. Exhausting. (Yes, I have done therapy around why I've dated so many white folks) Let me tell you no sex was worth how draining those situations were I don't care how good it was. As I approached my mid 20s I was well over trying.
I met Eli on a dating app, where most of us meet dates nowadays. I vividly remember the first time I saw her in person. She was waiting for me and got up from her seat. She was tall, dressed business casual, her smile was contagious, her eyes lit up. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her. From then on we spent the first three months playing a pretty messy game of cat and mouse. Neither of us were ready and yet neither of us could stay away from one another. When I realized this was something I wanted to invest in beyond a casual hook up I came out to her as a sex worker. She was surprised. I’ll be completely honest she wasn’t the cool, commie/anarchist, community oriented, super self aware, activist type of queer I think about when I hear the word queer. She came from a hella white small-ish town and had been raised religious and republican. When I say we are opposite. I mean it. When I came out she needed time to process. I felt upset, but respected it.
From then on I’d say the next six months were a mix of a blissful lesbian honeymoon phase and the familiar labor loop I’d been in with other white non-sex workers. The difference this time was that she wanted to learn and do the work. She read articles, listened to podcasts, bought books, and started therapy to untangle her trauma, feelings, and whorephobia from one another. I watched her expand and grow. I watched her hold herself accountable when she made a mistake. And she did make mistakes. The biggest one was that she outed me to one of her friends and I found out by mistake. When I met this friend she was white, very privileged, and spoke horribly about unhoused folks and those with less privilege than her. When I learned that Eli had outed me to someone so far removed from what I considered to be safe I completely lost my shit. It almost broke us up. But like with everything else she held herself accountable, did the work, and did better. At this point I told her I’d no longer accept being collateral for her learning curve and should anything like this happen again I’d have to leave her. Nothing like that ever did happen again. I’d say from my perspective her hardest barrier to grapple with was not internalized whorephobia or stigma, but more insecurity. She wanted to be able to offer me what my clients offered me in terms of money. Not because she wanted me to quit sex work or control me, as far as I can tell she doesn't have an iota of problematic intent. She wanted to offer me this because she saw the toll that navigating graduate school, vanilla jobs, and sex work did to me. She wanted to offer more support and respite from the constant hustle. Honestly, she still does. It isn't sex work specific, she sees how exploitative my vanilla career choice can be and there's lots of hustle there, too. Sometimes I wonder how she can so badly want for me to have a life where I no longer have to hustle, I guess that's love huh?
After our first year of partnership she became someone I deeply trusted and could lean on. She offered so much emotional support and care. She helped me take care of my family which is a huge deal when it comes to Latinx values. If someone was sick she would help bring them food, help me house family members who couldn't house themselves, drive for hours to check in on someone who needed it.
When I was grappling with my mental health she would help me clean, make sure I ate, hold me when I cried entire nights, played with my hair when I needed soothing, reminded me how loved I was and am.
When I was struggling with graduate school she would have my textbook PDFs printed and bound because I prefer physical copies, read my papers, let run mock presentations and activities on her before having to do the real thing in class.
When I had a long week of seeing sex work clients she would run me baths, massage my feet, make sure I had food at home, help me walk my dog, never pressure me into physical touch if I felt burntout.
When I worked so hard that I hadn’t had fun in weeks she would give me money for nights out, take me to a favorite restaurant, surprise me by taking me to pet baby farm animals, schedule time for my friends to come see me.
When I felt tired and didn’t want to take sex work bookings she promised I didn’t have to and said she’d cover more bills that month so I wouldn’t need to stress.
When we discovered I was neurodivergent she changed all the lightbulbs in the house to smartbulbs so I could adjust the lighting whenever I needed, bought plates and forks that met my sensory needs, bought me a million squishmallows, and perhaps my favorite she doesn’t even bat an eye when I lay in my closet in the dark or play the same two stim songs over and over for a week at a time.
I could honestly go on and on about her and how amazing she has been once she found some solid footing in her learning. She has for all intents and purposes shown me a level of love and commitment I did not think possible. And once I realized that I proposed.
The proposal was a surprise to her as I often would say I loathed the concept of marriage, I still do at least in its traditional sense. What I loved was the concept of queer folks doing something they’ve historically been told they couldn’t. Even more so in an interracial union between a sex worker and a civilian! By some miracle she said yes. A few months later she planned a surprise and proposed to me as well (y’all didn’t think I’d go through with it without also being proposed to did you?!). It hasn't been an easy road to get here and admittedly I've had my fair share of mistakes, in fact, now I'm the one who more frequently messes up and she holds patience for me! I know not all sex workers will want to wait for someone to learn about sex work and to unlearn their internalized whorephobia. Honestly I don’t think any sex worker should have to be patient with others in their process. Just like BI&POC don’t need to be patient while waiting white folks to catch up and become anti-racist. Just like queer folks don’t need to stick around when transphobic and/or homophobic people are trying to ‘understand’ our community. The more marginalized person doesn’t owe anything to the more privileged person – not patience, kindness, or labor. We aren't collateral for people's learning. I really believe that goes in dating as well.
I’m not sure what compelled me to invest so much into this specific white woman when we met, I’m now pretty quick to shut things down when I come across someone who has not examined their own privilege, but I’m glad I didn’t shut her down. Her and I sometimes joke that she met me right at the perfect moment where I had a final sliver of tolerance for bullshit left in me. I personally like to think it was the universe ushering me in the right direction in order to let me know she would be worth it. The universe knew that one day show up in ways I didn’t think humanly possible. We have our ups and downs just like any other couple, we clean the house, go get groceries, plan date nights, cuddle and watch our favorite shows, talk about the future, get scared about the future, pick fights, have sex, think about threesomes but then have dinner thats too big and pass out, trigger one another, take space, build community, support one another, and hang out with each other's family - just like any other couple. We're honestly not that different at the end of the day except that she's a better partner than most partner's I've seen...but I may be biased.
If you're a civilian and you're not ready to examine your own inner world (yes in therapy with a sex work competent therapist! Reading! Listening to podcasts! etc) and you are hoping to get a sex worker to quit their job or you're simply fetishizing them, please leave them alone. It's so harmful to be put in that box by someone we become emotionally involved with. We are people who just happen to work a job caught in the crossroads of patriarchy, heteronormativity, politics, religion, and capitalism. We don't need to be saved and we are not things to be fetishized (unless you want to pay to do so and even then...smh). Sex workers are capable of being such incredible partners, if you're ready to grapple with your own feelings and do the labor of doing your own inner work. It involves unlearning whorephobia, figuring out what monogamy means to you, what sex and love mean, where you learned what these things mean and what you want them to mean for you and your partner. Being in partnership with a sex worker means you get to choose your own path and build it alongside someone who knows how to get creative and live life outside of the margins we've been given. How lucky would anyone be to love and be loved by someone so special?