He Who Would Valiant Be: Escorts & their partners
I came across a couple of escort posts this week, from two continents, which both illustrate beautifully what I imagine is a common escorting dilemma – relationships with partners.
Readers should note that I offer no silver bullet. It goes without saying that every escort, each of their partners and every relationship is unique, and all I aim to do is to flag up what I suspect are some potential common issues. I’m sure there are lots of wonderful escorts out there, many with equally wonderful partners, either or both of which can give much better advice than moi, so I shall stick to flagging up issues and making a few observations on them, and hope for some readers’ comments to latch on to.
The first post I read was Jenna’s, who is an agency escort in the southern US. Jenna has just started her Sweet Courtesan blog. Over to Jenna:
shall I simply lay it out?
the bf “rescued” me from sex work
he was first a client, now a bf and somewhat provider
but, i don’t think it is ever going anywhere…and there are things i need to do to provide for myself and my children…
so, aargh! i hate the lying that comes with this whole industry!
i don’t mind so much the role playing, the acting ~ but the lying to those closest to me is so damn hard
and i’m not great at lying, or maybe it’s that i’m too good at it when i want to be that i really don’t want to be; does that even make sense?
Now Jenna, in a previous post, revealed that she has been through the wars. She got into escorting with the full backing of her then husband, but says the latter seems to have had problems step-parenting her teenage children, leading to divorce. In the chaos, Jenna’s entire family …
…found out about my job. My children enjoyed reaping the benefits; however, they also complained to their friends about their mom’s choice of occupation. My mom did not talk to me for a couple of months; my siblings even longer.
None of them have any idea I am back in the workforce.
So she started sex work with the full support of her partner. How many escorts would give their last shred of lingerie for that? But then somehow the situation is chronically mishandled, the kids find out and next you know, news reaches not only her brothers, sisters and mother but the community at large via her kids. She asks for divorce and her family breaks off contact. Does anyone have any kind of sensitivity here?
She then gives up sex work for a period, how long who knows, but now, unbeknown to her loved ones for obvious reasons, she’s stolen herself to return to life between the sheets. So now what happens?
A client falls for her.
Or let’s be a little more precise here, a client falls for an image of someone he has a mind to turn her into. Surprise, surprise, this seems to preclude any more clients. Maybe he saw My Fair Lady too young, or maybe he just wouldn’t like the publicity if the news broke (could one blame him?), or maybe it’s just good ole’ sexual jealousy. In any event, this client is now yet another addition to the Great American Rescue Industry.
Now let’s leave him, but just for a minute – because he’ll have his needs too – but I want to concentrate on Jenna. What are Jenna’s needs?
The obvious ones are to provide for herself and her children. The kids are teenage now so should soon be off her hands but maybe they’ll need to go through university, which costs big money in the States. Hopefully she’s making that sort of money through escorting. Her boyfriend, she says, is a “somewhat provider” (her emphasis), but she doesn‘t “think it’s getting anywhere.”
But let’s just put all these needs with dollar signs in front of them on one side for a little while, inevitable though they are on the bottom line, and let’s put Jenna also on one side and let’s ask what escorts, generically, really need.
Because by and large, escorts don’t need money. By and large, if they want money they just do more escorting. There are, of course, unsuccessful escorts who do need money. There are ones with huge debit balances or overwhelming desperate needs who are equally desperate for every last cent. And there are those with extraordinary cash needs as a result of brushes with the law. But as a general rule, escorting more than covers the money side of things for most escorts.
The other thing that escorts get a lot of is, of course, sex. Whether this is, for them, desirable sex, enjoyable sex, whether the earth really moves or they’re providing an optical illusion, etc, is another matter, but I think everyone will agree that a sex starved escort has a problem. One study I read suggested about half indoor escorts enjoy the sex, and to pinch an extract from a Ron Weitzer paper:
…a comparison of 75 call girls and 75 street prostitutes in California and 150 women working in Nevada’s legal brothels found substantial differences in whether workers experienced orgasms with customers – 75% of call girls…reported that they frequently had orgasms with customers (Prince, 1986: 482).
So if California’s typical, three-quarters of call girls frequently have orgasms with clients. But after sex all day with clients, and with a long queue of clients stretching into the future, do sex workers really enthusiastically rush home for a tumble in the hay with their partner, or can even orgasms become a pretty run-of-the-mill experience?
Theoretically it is possible, I guess, for a very altruistic partner to actually rejoice in the fact that his loved one is regularly driven to ecstasy, albeit by third parties. Could even be a big plus, if his energy levels are low, to have this side of his life on autopilot.
But with her financial situation sorted, and her sex drive more than satiated, the question is what role is left for a partner in a sex worker’s life, given that even the groceries get delivered nowadays?
The obvious gap is the emotional one. The bills may be paid and the libido satisfied, but many sex workers have emotional vacuums desperate to be filled by the right partner. Finding him – or indeed her – is another matter, and it is ironic indeed that with so many clients, many sex workers can be inwardly so very lonely and isolated. A case of water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.
Or is it surprising? Take Jenna’s position. In the past, her sex worker status resulted in her family eschewing her and her kids spreading the word around the neighbourhood. She’s now in an agency and though its manager is supportive, she’s too busy to be approached. To whom can she turn, not only in a crisis but for the basic day to day emotional support that 99+ percent of us in families take for granted, when she dare not reveal even her occupation at home, let alone the highlights and lowlights of her day? Or, on the other hand, expose her home life to her clients, for obvious security reasons? And is the whole situation not supremely frustrating, as she refers to many of her clients as “so many men who become ‘regulars’ and want to be emotionally attached for the short amount of time allowed.”
In the world of the escort, it seems to me, there are contradictions of attachment and detachment. Letting go and moving on, however, is part of the job when faced with the unenviable task of trying to be all things to all men, so she winds up with us in cyberspace. At one point the cry goes out: “I have to be honest with you, or with someone at least.”
And if we think the escort’s position is unenviable, consider the potential partner’s. Her real or potential earnings are likely higher than his, her libido comes pre-satiated, furthermore if this gets out etc etc…. And we’re talking about the poor guy’s perceptions. So, well may she fling her arms around his neck and try to turn all amorous to meet his needs – and even be amorous – but there’s an over and under-doing this sort of thing and will he buy it? Because his needs, too, are very much on the agenda.
So if all this isn’t too much, suppose the poor mutt tries to be supportive? Well, there can be a fine line between emotional support and potentially being stood up in the dock for pimping, and there’s all manner of legal debris on living off the avails and heavens knows what s**t in the USA, where legislation varies from state to state, so he has to get the law books out and check if they’re living on the right side of some state line…
Then of course there’s all the violence stories about sex workers and the worry, needless or otherwise….
And whilst sex workers nowadays have organisations at all manner of levels, from unions to sex workers’ rights campaigners to innumerable supporters in the blogosphere, and while NGOs will fly in from anywhere from Alaska to Nigeria to Delhi at the whiff of one needing rescuing, even if she’s just laddered her tights, what support organisation for their partners is there?
Being the partner of a sex worker, I conclude, requires a very special breed of man (or, indeed, woman), with the emotional constitution of a Panzer tank (if a tank can have a constitution), a superhuman capacity for empathy, and comes best fully equipped with a low sex drive, a big bank balance, and a good lawyer.
Such men do not trees drop off. In any decent country they’d get a Congressional Medal of Honour, but we’re talking the land of the free here so they probably just stuff them in prison and stick them on their Sex Offenders Register with any of the rest of their male population caught with their heads over the parapet, or (Jenna’s in the southern states) roast them alive.
But both Jenna’s husband and her client-cum-boyfriend walked into the situation with their eyes open. What happens when a guy is enjoying a longstanding relationship and suddenly discovers his partner is a sex worker?
For this insight, we have to head off to Adelaide, Australia, and Jane’s blog, Becauseimawhore and her post But baby, just think of what we could do..
Of course, it tells of only one man’s reaction to the shock news, and of how it led to the suspension of Jane’s sex work for awhile, but of how financial pressures eventually caused (/enabled?) her return with her partner’s blessing. And it has a sort of happy ending, but right at the end she states “we were a partnership,” and one sadly wonders what happened to end it. Perhaps one day Jane will tell us in her inimitable, beautifully written style, meanwhile her account of her rollercoaster of emotions over this period is not to be missed.
Well, what could I do? I’ve introduced Jenna to Jane and there’s been a warm response, so there’s reason to be optimistic it’ll do her a whole lot of good and here in Europe we’ll look out for a warming of American-Australian relations.