ASK ARIA: When should I let new suitors know I'm a sex worker?

Category: Advice

Author: Aria Vega

Dear Aria,

I lost a good job at the beginning of the pandemic, and while I did eventually find a replacement, the pay just wasn’t cutting it. I started experimenting with online sex work

I’ve begun the process of connecting with other sex workers over social media but I haven’t really gotten close with anyone yet. It’s definitely been nice to platonically connect with people I know won’t judge but dating has been a different story. I’m struggling with the question of when to disclose my status as a sex worker.

I only date men, who on the whole, still seem deeply conflicted about seeing sex workers as human enough to partner with. For all the popularity of OnlyFans, sex work stigma is still so common, and I’ve had people say awful things to me over dating apps when I’m honest about being a creator after matching. When is the best time to mention to potential suitors that I do sex work? I hate how heartbreaking the process has become.

My Lips Are Sealed

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Dear My Lips Are Sealed,

I'm so sorry for your poor sweet heart. It must be really jarring to be confronted with the world’s conflicting reactions to your profession. On the one hand, OnlyFans is so well known, it's basically a household name. And yet, it’s clear that the new social permissiveness of porn has caused a huge backlash. Online sex workers continue to be chased around the internet as powerful forces enact their anti-porn agenda on the corporate entities that host it.

While all of that is happening, you yourself are still a rookie, and would likely still be finding your footing even under ideal circumstances. That’s quite a lot to navigate! It was a great idea to prioritize building community around yourself. As a member of a highly persecuted class of workers, strong support and solidarity will carry you far, and catch you if you fall on hard times.

I'd just like to take a moment to state formally that I myself have never done sex work. As a sex educator and writer, it’s been a pleasure to be part of a professional community that includes them but their work is marginalized in ways that mine is not, and my secondhand knowledge does not overrule their lived experiences. That being said, if you’ll allow me, I'd like to impart some of the wisdom that my sex worker friends have been gracious enough to share with me.

First, you mention using dating apps, which actually affords you a unique opportunity to state the truth up front. You may be understandably wary of outing yourself like that, especially after some of the treatment you’ve received, but you don’t necessarily have to put "OnlyFans creator" in the career section of your profile. You can merely allude to it, or include a sexy selfie with a suggestive caption among your photos.

While there is still the possibility of attracting incels, whorephobes, and other garden variety misogynists, those types of people often make themselves known, one way or another. You're unlikely to swipe right on anyone who mentions a “crazy ex” or the self-proclaimed Nice Guys anyway, depriving them of the chance to spew their venom. Does this involve some degree of profiling? Maybe, but unfortunately, that’s the nature of these swipe-happy apps that send all the spoils to pretty people, and feel eerily like shopping. Do your best to be discerning, but don’t blame yourself for the wolves in sheep’s clothing either.

In the event that you're still meeting people the old-fashioned way – that is, out in the real world – first of all, way to go! Our polarized, pandemic-addled, digitalized dystopia makes this ever rarer. It can be easy to forget how meeting people in the wild can offer a sense of anonymity that internet culture has all but obliterated. But when relationships can develop offline and organically, you can be choosier about what to reveal when. Plus, it’s easier to be accepting of people when we have experienced their humanity and not just their pixelated avatar.

There is the risk of starting to fall for someone and discovering later that they’re Not Cool with what you do. I can’t lie; that’s a tough call. But in that case, if they’ve really started to fall for you too, they may be much more open to being educated about what you do. That person may discover that their apprehension was rooted in ignorance, and prove themself more than capable of being a supportive partner.

I’ve heard of sex workers creating little libraries out of Google Docs, containing various articles, Ted Talks, and podcast episodes offering accurate, affirming information about sex work. That way, should the need to educate a new suitor arise, you’ll be well prepared without having to expend that labor. This will also help weed out the guys who just want to “bang a porn star” without acknowledging the realities of a relationship.

I wish I could offer you a foolproof guide to navigating dating as a sex worker, online or off. But I’m afraid there is no true “best time” or best way to share with someone that you do sex work while steeped in a society that heaps so much shame upon the profession. My best advice: keep leaning into your new network. As you continue to build your community of fellow sex workers, your social circle will naturally start to overlap with pro-sex work people, and soon enough, sparks may just start to fly. Best of luck!

xo

Aria

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