Originally Published in the Pittsburgh City Paper.
There’s a popular meme among sex workers that reads, “Thinking that a sex worker is going to steal your man is like thinking that a childcare provider is going to steal your child.” The analogy works because it holds a grain of truth. We do not want to replace you.
While sex workers may care for some of your husbands’ needs, we are not looking for a partner, or even an affair. In fact, like you, many us have our own relationships that we work hard to maintain.
But more importantly, what I want you to know is that your husbands also don’t want to replace you. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the majority of my interactions with my married clients are not about me, they are about you, about their love for you.
I realize that to an outsider, this may be hard to imagine or understand, so let me offer a few examples (all names have been changed):
Frank, a high-powered executive, calls on Fridays before you come home. He wants to feel a moment of surrender after a stressful week. He asks me to play both coach and witness as he whips himself with a belt. I tell him to undress, then count off every crack while I listen for his grunt. I once inquired as to why he doesn’t ask you to play this role. He responded, “I’m not afraid she will say no. I know she will say yes, but it will be really painful for her to watch. I don’t want to put her in that position.”
Justin calls me when you are out of town for work. Knowing how dedicated you are to your career, he doesn’t want to distract you. We talk about your beauty and the warmth of your body. I walk him through a fantasy of what will happen the next time you are together. He tells me he loves you.
Chris is interested in opening your relationship up but doesn’t know how to talk about it. He fears losing you. So, I pretend to be you, and we talk through every possible scenario. We work through jealousy and the excitement of new relationship energy. We talk about safer sex practices and negotiating boundaries. He is slowly weaning himself from me, hoping to soon be prepared to have these conversations with you.
James still mourns your loss, ten years after your death. Though he tries, he can’t really date. I’m a temporary fill-in. He tells me he loves me when he comes. While I don’t usually entertain talk of love with clients, I let him say it. I know he misses being married and needs to imagine he still has that kind of connection.
We live in a culture that obsessively equates love with sexual and emotional monogamy, so I can understand why you would find our presence threatening. I’m also a wife.
Yet, what I want you to hear is that this isn’t what I see from the other side. What I see are men who are trying very hard to figure out how to negotiate their needs without hurting you, or being too demanding of your attention, or doing anything to screw up your marriage and family. What I see, in other words, is men who really love and respect you. And, as I come to see you through their eyes, I also feel appreciation and respect for you.