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Archive for January 11th, 2018

Two days ago, Dan Savage shared this letter on Twitter and asked a number of sex workers he knows for their input: 

There were a lot of answers you might find interesting, and a lot of interaction between posters; you might like to check out the thread.  But this column has limited space, so I’m just going to reproduce two answers here.  The first is from my dear friend Mistress Matisse, who saw the tweet an hour or so before I did:

It’s not about “fair”, that’s a false equivalence. It’s about: what do each person needs to be happy, and can the other person support that.  Polyamory is not supposed to be a strictly tit-for-tat situation (no pun intended).  If this man feels that he wants to be polyamorous, then he should do that, and his partner should decide whether she’s OK with that or not, and either stay or go.  If this lady wants to do sex work, and it has nothing to do with polyamory for her, then she should do it.  And her partner can decide that he is or is not OK being partners with a sex worker.  But these two people are comparing apples to oranges, and they need to unhitch these two completely different concepts from each other and work them out separately.  Because you can’t pretend they’re the same.  To me (and this is just me) being reluctantly monogamous OR polyamorous because your partner wants it is right up there with having a kid when you don’t really want one, but your partner does.  It’s not really fair to anybody, and it’s just going to poison the whole situation.  And as you may well imagine, I don’t think anyone has the right to tell you that you may not use your body to make a living in any way you see fit (short of violence) just because they bought into some meaningless societal dictates that have been force-fed to us all.

The rest of the column is my answer:

I really like Matisse’s answer to this, but I’d like to add that I see both parties being unreasonable here in different ways.  He clearly doesn’t see her work as work, but as recreational, and that’s going to cause problems down the road NO MATTER HOW they resolve this situation.  I absolutely guarantee that whether she quits working or not, he will at some future time hold her sex work over her head, because 1) he clearly equates it to promiscuity, and 2) he thinks of promiscuity as something “lesser” if not quite “bad”.  Furthermore, what’s her alternative if she quits sex work?  Doing some shit job in an office working for a boss for far less money?  That’s going to breed resentment.  I quit sex work TWICE for “love”, and it was a bad idea both times.  At the same time, I don’t think she’s really being reasonable either.  So what if his reason for having other partners is different from hers?  Setting up a hierarchy of motivations (“My reason for doing X is more acceptable than your reason for doing a not-dissimilar thing”) is also a recipe for resentment in the relationship.  People are different; they have different views and different priorities, and comparing them to one another is just as damaging to a relationship as demanding that both parties get exactly the same thing out sex or other cooperative activities.  As a woman who has a lot of difficulty achieving orgasm, should I demand my partner not climax until I have, and that each of us has to have sex for personal pleasure and only for that reason each time?  Of course not; that would be unreasonable and sabotage the relationship.  Yet our culture worships “mutuality” in sex as though it were a cultic totem, even though it’s as undependable and ultimately meaningless as “love at first sight”.  So what I’m saying is, as Matisse pointed out, each person has to conduct themselves as they feel they want and need to, with honesty and without unrealistic expectations of some kind of parity.  And if the other person is OK with that, then the relationship will work.  But the second either of the parties starts bean-counting or saying “you can’t do that”, or “if you do that I’ll do this”, or “it’s not fair!”, that relationship is headed for a really rocky road without a spare tire.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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