A week or so ago, I downloaded a couple of dating apps and swore to myself that I'd keep them installed for at least twenty-four hours.
With my heart still healing from my last breakup, the thought of potentially exposing myself to any kind of romantic prospect felt more than a little terrifying; but alongside that terror was a growing curiosity about what it would be like to be back out on the dating scene again, reports news.com.au.
After all, I like to think of myself as a nice person with a lot to offer a potential relationship: I'm smart, I'm funny, I don't kill house plants, and I can even fold a fitted sheet. Alongside all of this, though, is the one thing that can make an otherwise-eager man stop dead in his tracks: I'm a sex worker. A call girl. An escort. A hooker. Whatever term you want to use, sex work is an undeniable part of my identity.
Although I like to believe that sex work has changed me for the better and made me who I am today, not everyone would agree (and some would agree a little too enthusiastically).
With this in my mind (and on my dating profile), I've compiled a list of the six men every sex worker meets on dating apps.
Ostensibly the worst kind of man to bump into on your search for love, the Misogynist has no doubt suffered a broken heart of his own in the past and is now dealing with his pain the only way he knows how: abusing sex workers on the internet. While his profile picture looks friendly at first glance, to initiate a conversation with him is to expose yourself to the digital equivalent of a catcall.
He opens the conversation with, "Whore!", and just when you find yourself hoping that he's suffered a dreadful incidence of autocorrect gone wrong while trying to type, 'hello', he follows it up with, "u r a ugly sl*t".
There's no point in sticking around to argue with the Misogynist, or even trying to point out that to be both ugly and a sl*t is paradoxical: he's not worth your time. Block, block, block; and pray your paths never cross again.
After the Misogynist, the Fetishist's enthusiasm is a relief: "Sex work? Wow, that's really cool," he writes. Just when you're thinking that you finally might have found someone who not only accepts your job but encourages and celebrates it, he messages again: "I actually think it's kinda sexy ;)".
Sadly, your witty profile description and precisely-selected photos haven't registered at all with the Fetishist: he saw a way to have an open line of communication with a woman who works in the adult industry and decided it was a one-way ticket to living out his every sexual fantasy.
"If u ever need a male escort let me know," he writes, then, "Haha kidding lol — although do u ever need a male escort? I reckon I'd be a pretty good one haha." Harmless though he may be, the thought of the Fetishist's disappointed little face when he learns you don't actually spend every evening swinging from the chandelier in French lingerie is enough to put you off swiping for a week.
THE KINKY COUPLE
Swipe long enough on any dating app, and you're bound to bump into a Kinky Couple. They've been together for a couple of years now and they've decided to spice up their relationship by taking the next step and setting up a joint profile with the aim of finding someone for a threesome.
While there's certainly nothing wrong with inviting a third in to the bedroom, the Kinky Couple's profile description boasts that both parties are equally enthusiastic about the encounter … but it's the man who does all the messaging. After a short conversation, you begin wondering if the woman is a willing participant — or even aware that her blurry lingerie selfies are being posted all over the internet to aid her boyfriend's quest for a ménage à trois.
Certainly, somewhere out there is a dream girl who'll make the Kinky Couple's fantasy a reality, but it doesn't have to be you. Plus, threesomes? Who even has the energy. I'm not twenty-one anymore and this isn't a nightclub toilet after seven vodka cranberries with a dance remix of Waterloo playing in the background.
It's great to have open and honest conversations about sex, but the Interrogator takes that to an extreme. "Sex worker? What's the kinkiest thing you've ever done?" he asks as an opener, giving you the distinct notion that he may be sitting in front of his phone with a clipboard taking notes.
"From start to finish, what's an average booking like? And what's the median age of your clients?" While you're not exactly opposed to answering questions about your job, the Interrogator makes you feel like you're sitting through the world's worst job interview when you're really just trying to find a cute mid-week cocktail date.
"How frequently are you tested for STIs and what sort of contraception do you use? How much do you charge per hour? Do you declare tax on all of your earnings?" The Interrogator barges his way through small-talk and straight down to the nitty-gritty, leaving you feeling exhausted but also certain that if he had been in charge of the 2016 Census, things may have gone very differently.
THE STOCK PHOTO
Is he real? You're not totally sure. With chiselled abs and a jaw that could stand in as the point of a sundial, you'd certainly like him to be real; but the lack of a profile description and the almost too-perfect background for each photograph makes you think otherwise.
There he is, Grant or Christopher or Thayer or a name equally as dreamy, staring off in to the sunset on a boat, staring off in to the sunset during a forest hike, and staring off in to the sunset from his balcony. You swipe right, and you connect, but your practised one-line opener disappears into the void of his inbox without a trace.
Perhaps one day you'll meet in person: bumping shoulders in a bar or reaching for the same bunch of organic kale at a weekend market. Your heart will leap for a second when you see him standing there, hair dancing in the breeze as the sun decorates his bare abdomen, but when you reach out to touch him he disappears. The Stock Photo was, after all, nothing but a mirage.
THE PERFECT GUY (?)
Everyone's idea of the perfect guy is different. My perfect guy has, among other things, good facial hair and great cooking skills which makes up for my lack of both facial hair and any cooking skills.
His first message is short and unpretentious, and the conversation that follows indicates that he's thoroughly read your profile, which means that he's aware that you're a worker, but he doesn't feel a need to grill you about it.
You establish quickly that you have several interests in common and his invitation for a mid-week drink comes at exactly the right point in the conversation.
As you make plans to meet, you get a sense of something: promise? Potential? Of course the Perfect Guy may not actually be perfect. But you're keen to find out.