Updated: Dec 21, 2020
You’ve been dating someone for a little while now. And they’re great. You’re starting to think that this could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
And then you found out that they work as a prostitute. And you were pretty thrown off. You'd never known a sex worker before – not that you know of, anyway. You certainly have never dated one. You haven’t dated all that many people, period.
And you’re kinda rattled. You’re being forced to think about all kinds of things you’ve never thought about before. You realize, vaguely, that up until this point, you’d been operating under the assumption that everyone had the same ideas about sex and relationships and monogamy and morals that you do. You thought that no one in their right mind would ever consider this kind of work.
When you told the sex worker (i.e., the wonderful person you’ve been dating) this, they were pretty dismayed. They thought you were smart and liberal and wise and sophisticated and understanding and progressive in your social attitudes … and your flustered reaction to their disclosure definitely gave them some insight into the fact that you are, at heart, pretty conservative in some ways.
So now both of you are in the position of having to confront features in the other person that you don’t know what to do with. Their line of work. Your shocked and disapproving reaction to it. You really like each other, so this isn’t just a simple “okay thanks bye we’re done” situation.
You’re really uncomfortable with just how much sex this person has had. You’re really uncomfortable with the fact that they’re so much more experienced than you are. You already felt really inexperienced, and now… well, now you’re totally freaked out.
We have a lot of ideas in our society about how much sex people should or should not have, or have had. About what it means to be sexually “experienced.” These ideas are extremely gendered – notions about what’s okay for men and what’s okay for women are often different, sometimes vastly so. (But not always. Check out Kwame Anthony Appiah's comment on this matter.) Throw money into the mix and people’s ideas about right and wrong get even more pronounced. Just add religion and you’ve got the perfect recipe for the intense stigmatization of a certain kind of work, and the people who perform it. These ideas are so pervasive that we might not ever even question them... until a situation like this comes along.
So what are you personally supposed to make of all this? You have no idea. You’re caught in a web of strong feelings and conflicted thoughts. You really want to drop the anxiety and weird feelings and get some clarity on what you’re thinking ASAP.