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Valentine’s Day Special: Navigating relationships as a sex worker

There’s nothing like a first date where you’ve got butterflies in your stomach, and your cheeks are blushing while you’re sat across from a beautiful date.

However, dating isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Navigating the dating scene is tough, but it can be even more challenging as a sex worker. Even though sex work is becoming more normalised every day, it can still drive a wedge into your relationships.

Navigating relationships can get easier, though. As a sex worker, you need to arm yourself with dating tips and considerations to help you work out if your date is worth your time. In this blog, we’re looking at all you need to know to have fulfilling relationships and an unforgettable Valentine’s Day.

Sex is still a more taboo subject in our society, despite the push to normalise sex work. Unfortunately, this can lead to problems in relationships when you work in the industry.

Many sex workers find their partners are initially okay with their profession, but as the relationship continues, many partners become jealous and try to get them to leave the industry. The non-industry partners have trouble seeing the job as “just a job”, yet any sex worker knows that being a sex worker is professional – not romantic.

Other common issues include not being able to get past the first few dates. Some sex workers find that as soon as they reveal their profession, the potential partner isn’t interested anymore.

Dating within the industry is an alternative, yet this also doesn’t come without problems. The adult industry is much smaller than you’d expect, and as everyone knows everyone, it’s hard to find someone new.

What sex workers should consider when dating

Ready to get dating? Here are some key points sex workers should consider before downloading dating apps:

  • Know what you want. If you know you’re ready to jump into the dating world, take some time to map out what you want from a partner. Having an idea of what suits you will make it easier when navigating dating apps
  • Be honest about your career. While some dates might give you some backlash, it’s better to weed out the bad fits early. This will save extra heartbreak down the line – plus, who wants to be with a sex-negative partner?
  • Set boundaries. What are your dating boundaries? How fast do you want to move? Are you okay with your date watching your content? While these are small questions, get clear on what feels good and bad to you
  • You will likely face jealousy. Potential dates may still feel jealous due to your career – even if they’re sex-positive. Be ready to have open conversations about the subject and their feelings. Remember, you can always walk away from them
  • Set some clear ground rules. For example, if you’re interested in exclusive/monogamous relationships, don’t interact with audience members/fans after work
  • Honesty is the best policy. Talking doesn’t come naturally to everyone but being honest is the best way to navigate any awkwardness

couple having a romantic valentine's day dinner in a restaurant

Resources sex workers can use for healthy relationship information

Dating as a sex worker can be nerve-wracking, but with some helpful advice and sex-positive resources, you can build up your confidence.

If you’re looking for some real sex worker advice, go to your colleagues. Many forums for sex workers exist, and these places are great for asking questions and hearing about other workers’ experiences. The Reddit r/sexworkers sub is a great place to start. Quora also has interesting discussions surrounding sex work, but not all comments will be from sex work professionals.

There are also many ‘Healthy Relationship Toolkits’ online to help you discover what a positive relationship looks like. The UKSNM toolkit is a great free online resource.

If you’d like to speak with a professional to understand how you feel about dating, a sex work-positive counsellor can help you. These counsellors and therapists are here to help you understand your own feelings.

Recommendations for someone dating a sex worker or entering into a relationship with a sex worker

When it comes to dating a sex worker, you might bump into some difficulties that don’t occur in non-sex worker relationships. But with some time and understanding, all these new feelings can be navigated.

Here are some top tips if you’re dating a sex worker:

  • Open and honest communication. Many partners want to ignore their date’s sex work, but pushing it away can lead to resentment. Talk about your feelings, and you’ll likely find a solution
  • Insecurities are normal, and you can work through them. It’s natural to feel insecure if your partner is having sex or performing sexual scenes for others. But you must remember that your partner has chosen to be with you
  • Respect each other’s boundaries. This is great advice for any relationship, but crucial when dating a sex worker
  • Don’t reveal their profession without permission. Not all sex workers share their job, so don’t assume you can tell everyone when it’s not your information
  • Don’t ask your partner to quit. You don’t need to “save” your partner from sex work, and trying to control them will not help your relationship

Are there any particular advantages to being in a relationship with a sex worker?

A common question about dating sex workers is, “are there any benefits to dating one?”. This is an awkward question, as not every sex worker is the same.

Dates tend to assume that sex workers will be more open to kinky sex or having sex more frequently, but this isn’t always true. Many sex workers are tired after work – after all, it’s a physically demanding job. Plus, some sex workers might not actually enjoy the kinks they portray on screen.

Don’t assume your date will provide sexual benefits or specific behaviours. You wouldn’t do this in a non-sex work relationship, so why would you place assumptions about a sex worker?

How can couples practise healthy communication when one of them is a sex worker?

Healthy communication is the rock of any relationship and is not something you can overlook.

Couples should learn to be vulnerable and open about their feelings. This is a tough task, but after practice and frequent sharing, you’ll start to trust each other more. Take time each week or month and check in with each other. This will help you both feel closer and diminish any worries or doubts you’re having.

What can couples do to make sure both partners’ needs are met?

Similarly to keeping honest communication open, partners should have frequent discussions about their needs.

If your partner isn’t meeting your needs, you might feel sad or upset. This is valid if you’ve discussed your needs. However, if you haven’t told your partner what you want, you can’t expect them to read your mind.

This goes for your partner’s needs too. Don’t guess what they want. Ask them what makes them feel loved, and work on meeting these needs. If you’re unsure, clear communication is always the way forward.portrait of a brunette in a red lace underwear holding a phone on an isolated red background

How can sex workers create a safe and inclusive space within their relationships?

Creating a safe space within the relationship can benefit both parties and build trust. But how can you build a safe space?

Try being present with each other when you’re together. This means avoiding phones, having meaningful conversations, and leaving work at the door. That’s right! No replying to clients while you’re out of business hours. This goes for both partners, no matter what profession they’re in.

Remember to spend time together that’s not part of your routine. For example, date nights are a great way to strengthen your relationship.

The takeaway

Dating is a fun part of life, but you should only put yourself out there when you truly feel ready. Check in with yourself to understand how you feel, and always be honest with your partner if you feel like anything is wrong. And when in doubt, reach out to fellow sex workers for some real-life advice.

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