The Whore Next Door: Pro Promance

You can fall in love with someone and still take the money.

(Photograph by Isabel Dresler/Isabeldresler.com)

We sat across the table from each other, nibbling appetizers and sipping Pinot Noir cocooned in in the mahogany and velvet of a stuffy hotel bar. Soon, we’d retire upstairs to spend several hours cuddling and geeking out over theater, comics, and social justice.

I’ve been seeing this client for almost three years now. One of the many things I love about him is how we can talk for hours and never feel like we’ve gotten to say it all. When he texts me, I get the tiniest flutter just between my stomach and my heart.

Our first encounters were electric, and we spent most of our scheduled time finishing each other’s sentences and fantasizing about what our future together might look like.

Like so many couples in this day and age, we met on the internet — not on Tinder or OkCupid, but rather on MyRedbook.com, several years before the FBI seized it. And the sex is great — far better than the countless times I’ve let drunk, stupid, disrespectful men fuck me for free.

At first, our romance only existed between the walls of the in-call spaces I worked out of, but through the years, it has blossomed and bled to the edges of our “real” lives, as if the orgasms and laughter and kisses we shared weren’t real already.

When I began escorting, I felt as though I needed to be sure that sex, feelings, and actions with my clients were different from what I did in my personal life. I thought that my on-the-clock relationships had to be distinct in order to maintain some kind of imagined preservation of my sexuality.

Over time, I’ve realized that for me, that expectation is rooted in my own internalized whore-phobia. Through the years of heartbreak in my personal life, the ups and downs of my career, and the trials and tribulations that come with being an out-and-proud sex worker, this man has stood by me. And now, almost three years in, how can I write off our relationship as meaningless simply because of some green paper that has passed between us?

When my husband left me for my maid of honor just weeks after our wedding, this man let me cry on his shoulder — even when I was technically on the clock. He’s continually paid to see me naked, regardless of whether I’m a size 4 or a a size 12 or somewhere in between. He always seems to know what to say to make me smile, and he’ll often research topics I write about and provide counsel as I’m feverishly working late into the night on a deadline. When people make rude comments about sex workers in his personal life, he makes the uncomfortable choice to come out as an ally and tell people that dead-hooker jokes aren’t ever funny.

In my explorations of non-monogamy, I’ve found that after a certain amount of time, history, and intimacy has transpired between two people, sometimes love just happens.

Boundaries are still clear: We don’t interfere with each other’s other relationships, and when we see each other, there is always money exchanged. Just because our feelings for each other are genuine doesn’t mean either of us wants the established rules to change.

The last time we were together, he brought me a gift beyond the usual stack of hundreds. Past partners have struggled to find jewelry that’s to my taste, but when he opened the small, artisan box revealing the tiny, silver sword pendant, my throat closed and my eyes watered. I threw myself on top of him, covering him in kisses. The necklace was a tiny replica of the sword my favorite comic-book character carries. (It’s Cutter from Elfquest, if you must know.) The thoughtfulness put into this gift was above and beyond what any other partner has been able to pull off.

I’ve heard tales of other sex workers who have had relationships with clients that have lasted decades. I’ve heard heartbreaking stories of sex workers who, one day, just stopped hearing from their long-term clients only to read their obituaries in the newspaper, and yearned for a way to mourn them publicly.

Money is the pixie dust that makes our golden pirate ship love story fly, and our love resides in that ephemeral place called Neverland. If love between two sex workers is called “homance,” then I’ve decided that the tenderly romantic feelings I harbor for my long-term clients must be called “promance.” Our relationship may be transactional, but it doesn’t make the feelings any less real.

View Comments