16 Nov Unpopular Opinion: Escorting Does Not Ruin You
“When I was a broke student, I turned to escorting a handful of times…”
One of the more difficult things to deal with in my peergroup is this shockingly common notion that any kind of sex work (porn, escorting, performing) precludes any kind of real love or intimate relationship. I find that idea frustrating beyond belief and suspect it to be more a symptom of poor self care and emotional immaturity than a real and grounded idea based on experience or research.
When Rentboy began its #LoveWhatIDo campaign, which I had my hands and fingerprints all over, I was shocked to read some of the responses to the positive messaging that escorts – who really did love what they were doing and were proud to say so – received from other escorts saying things like “I don’t love this – you’re crazy,” or “nobody really likes doing this, you just have to sometimes.” One advertiser in particular went so far as to say he would never say he loved what he did and proclaimed that he “couldn’t wait” to quit escorting and “choose real love,” closing his tweet with hashtag #hatewhatido. He’s since deleted the tweet, but I remember reading it and thinking how angry I felt that this person wold associate himself with me and others like me who bring something positive and substantial to sex work, and who take positive and substantial things away from it.
But this idea that being paid for something prevents genuine emotional connection (even outside of those relationships involving compensation!) persists, and the Guardian today posted an advice column from a man who tries to pass off emotional immaturity as permanent damage from escorting a “handful of times.” Read his letter:
I have recently found myself struggling to be intimate in long-term relationships. I’m a gay man, and left a loving but sexless, five-year relationship six months ago. I find sexual encounters with strangers exciting, and worry that I can’t be intimate with someone I like. When I was a broke student, I turned to escorting a handful of times. I am now worried that this has been to the detriment of my goals of a fulfilling, loving relationship.
All I have to go on is my own experience, and maybe there are escorts who leave their work feeling like it has somehow prevented them from ever being able to love or be loved. But I can’t identify with this, and I can’t not resent being drawn into a parallel with this sort of person, in the eyes of those who know little about sex work in general, or escorting in particular. And I really can’t pretend that this man’s “handful of times” was somehow so jarring, so damaging to him that he’ll never be able to love again! Someone with this glaring lack of self awareness and empty emotional toolkit perhaps ought never have dabbled in this business in the first place! And all of this to say nothing of how a client reading this might perceive his (or her) role in the “detriment to… goals of a… loving relationship.” Barf!
It is fortuitous that Pamela Connolly is as perceptive and kind as she is (and much less judgmental than I might be) in her response:
Your ability to compartmentalise relationships and to separate love and sex does not necessarily hamper your ability to form a satisfying, long-term bond. But do you really want that right now? Long-term relationships that include a strong erotic connection require a fair bit of work. It seems that your relationships so far have used the immediacy or novelty of attraction to fuel a short-term encounter, but the far more difficult task is to adeptly deal with the vicissitudes of sharing daily living with another human being while maintaining the erotic spark.
You can read the entire piece and Ms. Connolly’s full response at theGuardian.com, but the gist is that this man’s real issue is poor general understanding of self and the work required to maintain a real, grounded, emotional, erotic connection with another person. Not that he was forever ruined by being paid for sex.
There. I’ve aired all my grievances about this and can get on with my Monday.
If you’re an escort who disagrees or a client who worries they’re causing harm like this, email me or leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think.