‘I only date men who visit sex workers’
EVERYONE has a few requirements when seeking a new partner.
You know: 'must have a job', 'must know how to clean up after themselves', 'must not believe that the Earth is flat'.
It's the simple things, the bare-minimum qualities we require when embarking on a relationship with someone new so we know that, at our most base level, we are compatible.
Mine continue a little further, and I'm sure yours do too.
For me, any potential boyfriend or girlfriend or person-friend must be open to vegan food. They don't have to be a vegan, but they can't turn their nose up every time I put some vegan feta in the shopping trolley.
They must also enjoy trips to Ikea, and be willing to concede that I will be the one who gets to assemble the flatpack furniture when we get it home.
They have to love animals, of course, because my mother always told me never to trust anyone who doesn't love animals.
Oh - and they also must have visited a sex worker in the past, as well.
I know that, for a lot of people, this is one of the exact qualities wanted least in a partner. Knowing that your beau has made a few visits to their local lingerie bar or gentlemen's club is enough to break up some relationships before they even begin.
But sex workers - whether we're dancers, masseuses, dominatrixes, full-service workers, webcam performers, phone operators, or anything else under the sun - are talented, creative, and resourceful people who provide intimacy, sex, and fun to those who crave it.
Sex workers provide a shoulder to cry on for those who need someone to confide in and bring entertainment and joy to anyone looking to celebrate.
We're warm and open-minded people who spend time with individuals from all walks of life, and know how to make them feel comfortable and special at some of their most vulnerable moments.
The work we do should be respected and celebrated as an integral part of society, because that's exactly what it is.
As a sex worker, this is rarely what I hear when I tell a potential partner about my job.
At worst, I have been told things that I couldn't repeat here: my dating app inboxes have more than their fair share of messages telling me what a spiteful homewrecker I am, or asking whether I'm the sad, exploited victim the media often makes sex workers out to be.
At best, the majority of my ex-partners have been supportive of my job, but have accepted it with a caveat: although they're comfortable with me being a sex worker, they would never want to visit a sex worker themselves, because they somehow don't see themselves fitting in to the stereotype of what our clients may look like, or finding any satisfaction in the cheap and gaudy rooms they imagine we work in.
It's taken me a while to realise, but the best relationships I've had have been with people who have experienced sex work from the client side: someone who has taken the plunge and visited an escort, someone who isn't scared to plan a night at a strip club, or someone who, at the very least, has the decency to pay for the porn they watch.
Although the world of sex work I describe may still seem alien to a partner, they at least have some frame of reference for what I would get up to at work: the conversations in the girls' room don't seem so foreign, the late nights become more understandable, and they can finally accept that even the friendliest of clients pose no threat to a committed relationship.
After visiting a worker themselves and understanding that a sexual service isn't equivalent to an illicit affair, I trust that any romantic partner who has also visited a service provider sees my job for exactly what it is: a job.
I'm no longer accepting it as a compliment if a man could never see himself walking in to a parlour.
The vast, vast majority of men - indeed, people of all genders - I have met while working were good, kind people who enjoyed my company and understood that I provided them with a professional service. I would hope that any potential partner I met would, like many other people in the world, have the self-knowledge to recognise when they are craving attention and affection and seek it out through the services of a sex worker if they don't have anyone else in their life to provide it.
There's nothing wrong or bad about being a sex worker and there's nothing wrong or bad about visiting one, either.
While there are plenty of sleazy men in the world, I can say with absolute certainty that I've met more unsavoury characters at my local pub than I have in any brothel.
From now on, when I decide it's time to make the 'big reveal' about my job to someone I'm dating, I'll be asking them if they've ever visited one of my colleagues as well - and I hope the answer is yes.
- Kate Iselin is a writer and sex worker. Her work has appeared in Penthouse, The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, and at her own blog, Thirty Dates of Tinder.'