Anyone who has been in an adult relationship has, at one point or another, dealt with issues of fidelity. Whether polyamorous or monogamous, the boundaries of relationships are difficult and necessary to navigate.
After all, the basic construction of what constitutes “cheating” can vary vastly (and can happen in poly relationships, too!). Most people who have engaged in sexual and/or romantic relationships are familiar with the burn of dishonesty and distrust. From Maury’s paternity tests to Cosmopolitan articles to television shows dedicated to publicly catching and shaming cheaters, there is an entire media empire dedicated to the commotion around romantic duplicity. The one question that arises in the furor: Why does this happen?
Sex workers see a lot of folks who are trying to find some sort of satisfaction outside of their relationship, and it can get pretty goddamned tiring to deal with the constant barrage of sketchy gentlemen. At the dungeon, I have heard my coworkers’ expressions of frustration and disillusionment with relationships (with men in particular, since that seems to be most of our client base) all too many times. It is hard not to lose faith when a disproportionate number of our clients come to us without the knowledge of their significant others. The phone calls come in filled with hesitations, hushed voices, and hangups due to an unexpected entrance from their wives.
While there is much dark humor surrounding the subject, conversations with my fellow women in this industry often come down to: Why us? Why not address this within your relationship? How can anyone be trusted when we see so much falsehood? These men develop relationships with us, albeit with a transactional quality (although the argument that all relationships being transactional could easily be made). They often provide gifts, remember birthdays and holidays, and go out of their way to make things “special” in a way that is reminiscent of a courtship. Scratch that–it’s not merely reminiscent; the actions are exactly the same. Contending with the urge to believe that this mendacity is an inevitable component of all relationships becomes nearly impossible.
When I first joined the dungeon ranks, I had to evaluate my ethics. While I am staunchly non-religious, my commitment to sisterhood (seriously, let’s consider the unification of women the only belief I can completely subscribe to) caused me to hesitate. Generally, I don’t see myself (or other sex workers) as arbiters of other folks’ relationship obligations, but it can get a little hairy. Even so, as morally ambiguous as this may be, ultimately our clients’ significant others are not our problem. It can be hard to keep that in mind, though, especially when it forces us to reevaluate our own relationships and romantic history.
As someone who has personally experienced being romantically defrauded, I struggle with setting aside my empathy for the plight of the beguiled. I know that when I found out I had been cheated on, it took a long time to recover. Everything rational about my perspective was swept aside with the intense response that arose in me. My head spun with rage: Everything they have said is a lie. Everything that is here is untrue. I thought we were in love and clearly, we aren’t. We cannot be, since folks who are in love don’t do this. I thought they were my best friend. What the fuck were they thinking? How could they ruin such a good thing? Hearing stories about the infidelity of others can take me right back to that place, evoking all of those same emotions on behalf of the afflicted parties.
Right now, I have a regular who has been “happily” married for almost twenty years. He and his wife have been sweethearts since they were teenagers, and they share several children. The way he tells it, their life together is the stuff of romantic fairytales. They met when they were young, and he says that he immediately knew. After hearing such a romantic story, in which he speaks so highly of her and is clearly still in love with her, it is hard not to empathize with her hypothetical feelings. How could he ruin such a good thing? In our past sessions, I have probed (ever so politely, I assure you) for more answers, seeking the perspective of the kind of man willing to risk his cozy life and love for a couple of hours a month doing activities that it seems he could easily coax his wife into performing. Unfortunately, as easy as it may be, the motives for this unscrupulousness are not as easily generalized as we would like them to be.
It seems like blaming oneself is a typical response to this situation; it is normal for the hurt to become internalized, and for those hurt to wonder what flaws justified their lover’s deception. What made that person they brought into our relationship so worth risking all of the things that I thought we both valued? I know that is what I did. However, there was another reason that made me think that perhaps this was some sort of karmic payback, that made me so deserving of having my first real, hit-by-a-freight-train love hurt me. My own history should have given me insight about the circumstances of my own personal pain, but alas, that is not exactly how it went down. Perhaps I am not so different from the scads of questionable men who grace the dungeon doorways. My secret, the one that (in my mind) made me especially deserving of this cruelty: In my prior relationship, I had been the betrayer.
Curious about where this goes next? Check back next Monday for Part II of Musings of a Mistress: Treacherous Tricksters, where Tizz shares more of her own experiences and delves a little deeper into the psyche of her perfidious clients.
Tizzy Wall is the Playpen Report’s petite spitfire sex-worker, here to talk about queerdom, sex work, and other kinktastic wonders. Take a peek into her big, lovely brain on both Tumblr and Twitter. Have specific questions, topic requests, or the sincerest of flattery to offer? Email her !