Once per month or so, we’ll use this space to answer reader-submitted questions about sex, sex work, porn, and gay stuff. I’ll share what I know, and source the answers to stuff I don’t.
If you’ve got an Uncomfortable Ask, share it with me and I’ll do my best to find some truth for you.
I am dating someone (it’s serious), who just told me that he used to be in porn and that he still escorts pretty regularly. I really care about him, but I’m turned off by this idea, and by the fact that he waited so long to be honest with me about it. I’m also worried that he’s putting both of us at risk for diseases by continuing to act like this. I think I can’t keep seeing him if this is what he wants to do. What do I do?
Ohhhhhh, shit. That is… a whole lot to unpack, isn’t it?
First – I’m sorry that you’re having an uncomfortable time with a guy you really like. In a perfect world, relationships would be smooth sailing from the meet-cute right on through the faking our own deaths and retiring to a tropical island scenario I have cooked up for me and my future husband.
But that’s the last time I’m going to say I’m sorry about your situation here. Because truthfully, you need to nut up and act like an actual adult, and treat this person you profess to care about with some respect and understanding. Or else you need to go ahead and duck the fuck out. Anything else is cruel to both of you and won’t make any of this feel any better.
Let’s do this in order:
I am dating someone (it’s serious), who just told me that he used to be in porn and that he still escorts pretty regularly.
That can be a tough thing for you to hear, and because these jobs (they are jobs) are still so far away from being socially normalized, they likely feel significant and obstructive in a way that other jobs probably wouldn’t. Do a little madlibs action and see what I mean:
I am dating someone (it’s serious), who just told me that he used to be a house painter and that he still paints pretty regularly.
But your squeamishness about house painters is your own, and it is very important that you keep it that way, actively working to avoid projecting it on to your boyfriend or making him feel more stigmatized . A great way to go about this is to own up to that with him, and state plainly that it bothers you but that you want to understand better. Ask for permission to ask questions, and then shut the fuck up and listen when he tells you what his experience is like. Don’t argue back – just listen.
I really care about him, but I’m turned off by this idea, and by the fact that he waited so long to be honest with me about it.
If you’re so turned off by it that you can’t see a future with someone invested in this work (whether that investment is past or present), you need to be a big boy and admit this. You need to end the relationship and go your separate ways.
But if you don’t feel certain that it’s a make-or-break situation, you’re going to have to do some work to get yourself comfortable (or at least neutral) about the realities of what he does. Part of that is going to be trying to understand why he might not have brought it up with you immediately. We’ve talked before here about the intense social stigma that comes with virtually any form of sex work, even when you’re operating with the bonuses male privilege provides in that world.
I’m also worried that he’s putting both of us at risk for diseases by continuing to act like this.
If this is a real thing about which you are concerned (and not just a gross stereotype you’re carrying around about people who have a lot of sex) you owe it to both of you to talk about this openly too. You need to find out his testing practices, and what precautions he is taking to care for himself in compromising situations. Are there condoms? Is he on PrEP? What are his rules?
I think I can’t keep seeing him if this is what he wants to do. What do I do?
I can’t tell you what to do long term. All I can do is offer suggestions about how to sift through the situation as you’ve brought it to me. But I did have a chat with the husband of my friend (who is a fairly prominent gay adult film performer), and shared the outline of your situation with him as we talked. Since this is his husband’s world as well to an extent (my friend is in porn but doesn’t escort), his thoughts seemed especially germane:
“There are a couple of things your reader needs to parse: does he actually have an issue with [an open relationship], does have an issue with someone who does porn, or does he have an issue with the potential public perception of him being tied to a pornstar?” he shared. And I agree that these are big things to break open.
No two relationships are exactly the same though, and it’s important to consider that what works for some, simply won’t for others. In the case of my friend and his porny husband, an honest view of their relationship and an understanding that work-is-work gives them a foundation to look at bigger concerns: “I was most worried because my guy still wants a typical day job and I was concerned that would be jeopardized by this lifestyle.”
I don’t suspect you’re really ready to look at the bigger picture yet, though. And my advice for now is to really spend some time sitting with your own feelings about sex (and sex work), and then to begin to take your partner’s experience into serious consideration, as a way to inform and ground your own feelings. If you find they are not in irreparable contrast, consider seeking some short term counseling for both of you to express and explore your wants and feelings. A guided session or two with an impartial emotional sherpa can often make things seem much more workable than a solo sit-and-think.
It is valid that you might be bothered by how long it took for him to disclose this big facet of his life to you, too. If that's still stuck in your craw, bring it up in counseling so that you can confront it and have it better explained to you. You deserve that.
If you find, however, that your views on what your partner does are immovable, you’re far better to mosey on than trying to change his mind or who he is.
Tyler Dårlig Ulv is an Ontario-based blogger and professional companion. He has worked for Rentboy.com, Manhunt, and contributed to publications like Queerty and Thought Catalog. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram, or find out more about his work at his website and blog. Tyler lives full time in Toronto.