Another love story. Complete with love, lies, sex, summer holidays and a little bit of communication. When I met Luke I was happily hooking in a brothel 2 shifts a week, studying part-time, working a ‘straight’ job and parenting but I still found time to do a little partying. I was single, my kids spent a couple of nights a week with their father and I was still young so every now and then I’d go out on the town with my besti’s and on some of these occasions I got lucky. Or I should say, sometimes I went home with someone and they got lucky!
By this point in life I had made a decision to keep my sex work job a secret. I had children to think of, I had an ex partner, the father of my kids, who I didn’t want to give ammunition, I had study, a straight job and a future. I was not ashamed of my sex work, it was just such a non issue that I couldn’t be bothered dealing with the stigma if I didn’t have to, and I wanted to protect my children from it. It was sex work that had allowed me study part-time, given me the freedom to be a single mum rather than stay in an unhappy relationship, allowed me pick and choose straight jobs, only accepting those that were flexible and willing to work around my family and my study. It was sex work that meant I could buy the expensive texts books I needed for Uni, and take my kids to overpriced music lessons and still left me with enough money to have a big night out every now and then. I was desperately scared of having to give all that up and I thought that keeping it a secret would prevent that from happening.
And it worked. I didn’t tell Luke the night I met him at the party. Actually we had met quite a few times over the years, but he had never really left an impression on me before. But that night he did and we spent the night together and then later in the week another night and then an afternoon. I didn’t want to tell him my secret because then it’s not a secret. What if we stopped seeing each other after a short time and then he told everyone else. I decided it was none of his business and that if we were still seeing each other after 3 months I would tell him.
3 months came and went and Luke and I were still seeing each other. He spent time with me and the kids and it was getting fairly serious. I had dropped my shifts in the brothel back to only one per week, and I didn’t want to tell him. I knew by now that he would hate it. I knew that he would make me stop. I knew he would be upset I had kept it from him. And I knew it didn’t have to be that way. We were not living together so I still had my own expenses, and my brothel shift just moulded seamlessly into my busy and respectable life, I wasn’t technically lying…… I just said I was going to work.
I didn’t want to give up what I viewed as my independence and so I kept sex working and I kept it a secret. For nearly two years.
Possibly not the right thing to do, but I am certainly not alone. Half the people I worked with at the time were hiding it from their partners as well. It seems easy to justify when you know it’s just work. And as time went on, it just seemed more and more impossible to tell him. I wanted him to know, sometimes I felt like he just didn’t want to know. I mean, why didn’t he ask more questions, Even if he didn’t notice the extra money I was sure I was dropping hints. But no, I worked once a week in a brothel for more than 18 months and it seems my partner had no idea.
And then one day, in the middle of a big blow up argument, about something unrelated and I can’t even remember what now, I yelled the words at him. “I DON’T CARE, I’VE BEEN A PROSTITUTE THE WHOLE TIME YOU’VE KNOWN ME”
I meant it as a cutting end to our argument, to our relationship, to my lies, and possibly to my job. I had thought about what would happen if he found out and I knew he’d be pretty pissed! I wouldn’t have been surprised if he put a hole in a nearby wall. But I screamed it at him and he just looked at me blankly and said “you are not!”
And so I told him everything. His calmness floored me, so my manner changed. I lost my anger and I felt guilt and sadness for hurting him. I explained myself, I consoled him, I explained myself some more, I apologised and, of course, I did the inevitable. I promised to stop working. We talked and to my surprise he was willing to forgive me, and I guess that made him even more appealing to me.
I quit my job, took up extra hours in my straight job, and moved in with him to save money. I felt like I gave up some of my independence but I was ok about that. I kept it up for around 12 months but after a year of no sex work, and less flexibility in my other job, I was suffering financially. So was my partner, he had acquired an instant family to help support and we were all feeling the pinch. I had been faithful to my pledge to not do sex work, but we were struggling. It was on my mind, and I began making jokes about it. The bills would come in and he would be complaining so Id say, “one night in a brothel, I could clear them for us”, he would ignore me or give me an annoyed look. But neither of us could deny that money was tight and something had to give. I kept making my jokes, but I started throwing in extra sweeteners “we could even go on a holiday!”
“But honey, just think of what we could do!”
He still didn’t agree, but he seemed more open to the idea the more I kept bringing it up. One day he snapped at me “Oh for gods sake, you want to go back to work, just do it then”. I nearly squealed with excitement, but thought that might be an unhelpful reaction. So we sat and had a very open and long conversation about it. I asked him what his main concerns were. He said he trusts me, he knows it’s just work. I reminded him that he knows it wont effect our relationship, because I had already been doing it in the past and he didn’t even know. Eventually he confessed one of his biggest fears about me being a sex worker, was that I might fuck one of his friends or colleagues as a client, or I might be recognised and outed in public.
Jealousy is an awful emotion, and one that is difficult to control. Everyone experiences it differently and for different reasons. His fear seemed silly to me, but I was glad he was able to figure it out and communicate it to me. It meant that we could find a way for me to do sex work that he could live with. We decided that I would go away to work outside Adelaide, where it was unlikely I would see anyone either of us knew and where I could remain anonymous. So for the next 12 months I went away once a month to rural and regional South Australia for working weekends with friends.
And because I felt privileged to be able to go back to work with my partners blessing I used my money very wisely. I knew we were taking a risk in our relationship and I wanted to make it worth it. In 12 months, I managed to pay off our credit card debt and saved enough money to take us on that holiday I had suggested.
I used to joke that I was bribing my partner to “let me” work by paying for us to go to the Greek Islands, but it wasn’t actually like that. I did have to convince him to be ok with me going back to sex work, but we were a partnership, and I felt equal in that partnership, we had developed an arrangement that worked well for us, and sex work had become a part of that arrangement.
And it is hard to argue while holidaying in the beautiful Mediterranean summer!