The world of modern dating is a sometimes marvelous, often madcap, always messy one, where birth charts can pose as much of a romance problem as bicoastal distance, where a swipe-right isn't just a dating-app kudos but opening yourself to a spectrum of expectations, sexual politics, silly blunders, you name it. To guide you through it all, our Dating IRL series features a brave band of IRL daters and relationship experts to offer firsthand accounts, pro advice and some always-welcome support.
"Did you get some?" Cara smirked after mattress squeaks were finally emitted from my bedroom, signaling the end of a year of celibacy.
While she entertained clients in the room below me, I was living the life of a nun, which is probably the last thing you’d expect from a woman who lives with a full-service sex worker.
But it was the influence of my roommate, an escort, that saw me finally take control of my sex life.
I was brought up religiously and taught that sex was something that women gave to men—and with it, their power. I was encouraged to wait until marriage and, failing that, do everything I could to make it work with any man who had access to my body.
This resulted in about a decade of mostly traumatic interactions with men, all because I felt like I had to make it work the moment we’d done the deed.
But early last year, after feeling used by yet another man, I decided enough was enough—and it just so happened that it was around the time I moved in with Cara.
Going celibate wasn’t an instantaneous decision.
Over the coming months, I found myself saying no to men who I’d have previously slept with in a bid to make them like me because I had Cara in mind.
People are willing to pay hundreds for an hour of someone’s time and negotiate their terms beforehand, so there is absolutely no reason to accept anything less when dating.
It’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to ask for what you want off the bat.
We could all learn a thing or two from sex workers—they know how to communicate in a way that most other people don’t.
The negotiation side of full-service sex work—and seeing it on a daily basis—gave me the confidence to finally negotiate my would-be relationships instead of waiting for the other person to take the lead, as I’d always done.
Contrary to what society often tells people, especially women, being "chill" isn’t necessarily a good thing, no matter how many men put that they’d like someone "who doesn’t take life too seriously" on their dating profiles.
I started weighing men up based on their potential as long-term partners in a way that I’d failed to do in the past. I asked the questions, just like an escort would, and if we didn't want the same things, I moved on.
"So what is it that you even want?" Cara asked me a few months into my celibacy.
"Well, long term, I’d like someone creative, pretty, and ideally someone with a good job," I’d replied.
She then asked me why creativity mattered so much—and it was a fair point. Yes, I'm a writer, but surely someone doesn’t need to have a similar career for it to work. In fact, it was my pursuit of creativity that led me into relationships where I was dating people who were too similar to me, to the point where it caused problems.
Living with an escort showed me that it’s shared goals, values and, quite honestly, good sex that makes for a lasting partnership—and not how much you have in common with someone.
The sex point was something that I didn’t admit to myself until I stopped doing the deed. By stopping, I realized that I was having sex for all the wrong reasons, and truthfully, I’d only ever had a handful of satisfying sexual relationships, mainly because society’s internalized misogyny when it comes to women and sex made me feel like it was only ever allowed in a monogamous relationship.
Sure, I masturbated, but I only ever truly let myself go when I had a commitment, which—while it might have served a purpose a hundred years ago—is an outdated way to live your life in the 21st century.
Living with an escort taught me that it’s okay for women to like sex as much as men, and as long as you’re safe, no one worth having will think any less of you for it.
My celibacy ended a month ago and while the sex wasn’t mind-blowing, I was in control of the situation for the first time in my life.
Just a few days ago, I hooked up with another man, and this was when a year of living with an escort paid dividends. It was very much a one-night stand—the first I ever wanted to have—and the sex was just as good as what I used to have in committed relationships.
While I ultimately want to have a monogamous relationship, my escort-inspired celibacy allowed me to hit the reset button when it came to my attitude toward sex and relationships—and almost certainly saved me from future heartbreak.
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