I am in love with an escort who works in a brothel

Dear Dr. Milrod:

I am an IT professional, divorced since 15 years ago, no kids (don’t want them), with a really unusual problem on my hands. Four months ago, I went on line and found photos of a beautiful escort. After some thinking, I called her and we met – at a Nevada brothel, where she works. It went very well – you could say that it was almost fate! Because now I am really in love with her and want to be in a committed relationship with her. There are some issue that we need to work out, or even possibly “red flags,” if you will. I’m 48, she is 24. She has been an escort for most of her young adult life, but she hasn’t had any long-term relationships for free so this is her first deep one (I don’t pay her for sex anymore). She is also very interested in me and I firmly believe she is in love too. I’m  also becoming jealous, which I think is natural. She has a certified massage therapist “degree”, but hasn’t actually had a real job yet. When I sit down to think lucidly and clearly about this, I see all sorts of problems. But when I am with her, they magically disappear and I just want to put a ring on her finger. Meanwhile, she is worried she won’t have any voice in the relationship if she becomes financially dependent on me. So what should I be including in my admittedly confused analysis?



Dear Unix-Dan:

There are several factors to include in your assessment of your relationship and your situation. For one, the significant age difference (which happens both in and out of the P4P world, of course). Many middle-aged men who wouldn’t normally meet younger women encounter them in these situations. In terms of adult development, you’ve got “an adoption” on your hands, at least metaphorically. From a lifespan perspective, she still has some things to experience while you may have been where she was 24 years ago. Depending on her life history (not much dating in the “civvie” world, you say), she may have some “catching up” to do. She may also eventually be ready to settle down and have children, while you don’t want them. Getting involved with a woman 24 years your junior carries its own psychological short-term perks but can become problematic as the relationship goes on. Four months tells me you are right in the thick of an eroto-sexual stew; fast forward a few years and there may be many unforeseen issues of maturity, physical health and general philosophical differences. She may “find herself” and want to fulfill some goals in life that are way past your interests or preferences, or she may find you a stick-in-the mud or unwilling to go along with her likes and dislikes as they befit a person 24 years younger. And of course, psychologically she will be in a relationship that contains different dynamics than may be encountered in a client-provider relationship.

One thing that is very important to understand is that to a sex worker, having sex with clients is first and foremost WORK. Sometimes it means having an orgasm, and sometimes it means just going with the motions to service the client – for a good example of this, watch Jane Fonda’s award winning performance in “Klute.” It does not mean that a provider is disgusted or feel forced –  it’s very much like any other job, good days and bad days. This is very difficult for the average male to comprehend, since a man needs to generate enough attraction toward his sex partner to maintain an erection, while for a provider [that’s another term, in addition to sex worker], no such need is necessary. Hence, men will project their aversion toward having sex with someone unattractive or unappealing onto their provider girlfriend. You may vacillate between having pity on her or simply feel disgusted on her presumed behalf. In addition, there is the evolutionary adaptation of sexual jealousy, which serves to make you angry when thinking about her and other men. For some men, this tends to be a problem that goes away with time. For others, it’s a complete deal-breaker and an insurmountable obstacle to a long-term relationship. Hence, even if it is difficult to bring up  – talk about it, process it, detoxify it. The more you process it, the more you’ll elicit and will be able  to resolve or compromise.

But perhaps the biggest concern in all this is not emotional – it’s financial. Women planning their exit strategies from sex work have a very difficult time making it work, unless they have a solid education or savings that can last them for a few years. Brothels are very “orderly” places – you get a check, taxes are taken out (if you are in Nevada). To transition from such a place to “real life” takes some serious wherewithal. In addition, she may find that it is much more difficult to earn a living in the “civvie” world – after all, she will be competing in the certified massage therapist marketplace, where earnings in general are lower than in the sexwork business. Does she have a financial cushion or is she expecting you to “buy her out?” Are you going to support her, have her move in with you, marry her, become somewhat financially responsible for her? In addition, you may be so afraid she will go back to sex work, that you might extend yourself financially just to make sure she isn’t going to abandon her civilian life if no money is coming in. Since she “can’t feel she has ‘any voice’ in the relationship if she is dependent on you financially,” she will truly benefit from working out a real budget and stick to it. The financial transition is every bit as stressful as the emotional work that goes on between the two parties and this is where the relationship can really fracture. She is moving into a completely different role, while you are staying in the same.

I understand that you are both deeply in love; I would, however, focus on some very mundane things like finances, budgets, schools, real-life nuts-and-bolts issues, so that you can feel the “realness” of the situation. Oftentimes, it becomes much easier to hang your emotions on concrete real-life solutions rather than metaphors and fantasies. There is so much unspoken “mystery” in sex work and people often fear what they don’t know. If you can discuss every day issues, detoxify the experience and normalize the work by talking about it, demystifying it, and engage in some every-day strategies and ways to “recouple” at the end of her work day, it may feel a little easier for you to trust that you are the only one who matters to her. And then see an accountant, attorney, and therapist before you take the plunge.

Christine Milrod, PhD

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