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Even so, Missy said, “for a long time, I felt like I was doing a show when we had sex, like I was expected to perform.” A former masseuse and full-service sex worker from Cleveland, Violet, 37, said the reactions she got coming out to potential romantic partners was a “mixed bag.” They’re either “disgust[ed], and never wanting to see me again,” Violet said, or they would express “fascination.” Some revealed “a weird desire to become a pimp.Either way, their perception of me changed irreversibly.” One relationship, Violet said, was physically and mentally abusive.It had taken years of therapy and other forms of self-help to develop a more right-sized view of myself and my experience.Even so, in certain situations, it was sometimes challenging to not over-rely on my sexuality as a source of power and esteem.Her partner, she said, gave her “a number of black eyes.” Her partner, Violet said, was “very controlling” and acted like “the pimptress—actually scheduling appointments, and charging fees.” When they fought, she would kick Violet out of the apartment they shared or threaten to call the cops and tell them about her status as a sex worker.“She was so exacting in her manipulation,” Violet said.

I say this because, too often—in a world that hates sex workers—we are simply not treated as people worth loving back.

And yet, when we argued, he insinuated no one else would want to date me due to my having sold sex.

He and other men took advantage of me financially, .

When it comes to changing our culture around this issue, it’s up to all of us to address our own biases, which can have harmful consequences if left unchecked.

Our allies—feminists, in particular—have a role to play in shifting this whorephobic culture, first by acknowledging our experiences and then by doing better by us.

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