Fantasy Vs. Reality: What Is Cheating?
(Cross-post at BlogHer)
This week's TMI Tuesday was an interesting one. The first task was to define "infidelity" as it relates to a relationship, and I stated that the definition really is a unique agreement between parties and that too often this isn't actually discussed but is an unspoken set of assumptions ~ and that's where misunderstandings and heartbreak reside.
As a sex worker I've pondered infidelity and cheating often. I've knowingly participated in 'his affair', and for that I'm often hated; but I know that I'm not responsible for the decisions of another. "Isn't it unethical to come between another couple's relationship?" I'm asked. "I can only make my own responsible decisions," is my reply, "I do not have the power to consent for anyone else."
Of course, making responsible decisions for myself involves being honest and clear with myself so that I can do the same with my partner(s). Would that we'd all be so aware.
Sex workers are often quizzed on their own relationships. "Isn't your work cheating on your partner?" I've been asked. I never saw it that way. It's work. However, personally, once I began a committed relationship, it was often difficult for me to work. My gigs, as such, were not just screwing episodes. I put more of myself into those appointments than just my body parts. I won't say I was in love with clients, but I sure didn't hate them. I loved in an 'all of humanity' way and so it was intimate work for my soul. This was more difficult when I was personally attached, or becoming so, with another. At those times I quit. That was my choice. Other sex pros I know were more capable of separating personal from professional than I, and they carried on with work and relationship quite comfortably.
But is it cheating? Well, not if I'm honest with my partner(s) and they agree.
I've discussed with partners, past and current, about how they'd feel with my continuing to work and being with them. Most had no problems ~ perhaps because it was 'in theory'. I cannot say for certain. It also takes a rather open man to both have no insecurities and be free of moral judgments, so perhaps they are just that special. Most understood the distinctions between fantasy and reality. Paid escort work is fantasy; dating me is reality. They aren't the same experience. (And heaven knows several of my exes wish they could pay me so that I'd be the girl they wanted!)
But other people are not so clear in their understanding.
Another sex worker, Secondhand Rose, recently had a conversation about her phone sex work. And it's clear that her husband's friend, Mike, doesn't trust her work, to which Rose responds:
Mike, I guess you need to see the difference between action and words, between fantasy and reality. That's what entertainment is. Phone sex is about sex, yes, but it's entertainment. When you watch Die Hard, you aren't really blowing shit up -- you're just pretending. You're entertained. Just one of the many reasons why phone work is legal and prostitution isn't.When he is not convinced, Rose's husband speaks up:
Mike: And that doesn't bother you, Rob? To know some other guy's getting off to -- or even with -- your wife?!I've often advised erotica as an outlet for those people in relationships where a fantasy or a fetish is not going to be shared in the relationship, and I certainly include calling a PSO in that category. But then I'm a sex worker, so I 'would', says my friend, Kim.
Rob: So what if she does? I'm not the freakin' masturbation police, or her keeper. I know for a fact she gets off writing her stories, so what's the difference if she's creating them on the phone? When she writes humor pieces I hear her giggling at her own wit at the computer -- the only danger here is that Rose will fall even more in love with herself, making her harder to live with, and her large head means we will have to buy expensive custom hats.
She was aghast that I'd even think such a thing. Here's how our conversation went...
"Rick paying for phone sex would be cheating!"
"Why? It's no different than reading an erotic story from a book or listening to recorded erotica ~ other than this is less passive, it's interactive."
"That's the problem ~ he'd be getting off with her, not just the story."
"He'd be getting off to a story, a fantasy, she's creating for him. It's not 'her' as a person."
"She is a person, and she's talking sex with my husband!"
"Yes, but she's not 'herself'; she's a fantasy."
"But he's telling her private, intimate things..."
"Yes, but things you've made it clear he shouldn't share with you. It's about the fantasy, not her."
"But what if he likes that she can go there and so starts to fall for her...?"
"If he should do that then he's just as likely to fall for some chick in a magazine or on TV. He's not living here but in fantasy land. It can happen ~ it does happen ~ but as a pro, she'll set him back right. She'll tell him where the lines are, and if he can't grasp that, she'll not accept his calls."
"How can you be so sure?"
"A female sex worker is still a woman. She doesn't want to be some fantasy woman adored for the illusion, she too wants to be adored for herself. She's not going to accept a relationship where it's clearly based on the fantasy, a fantasy world, not reality. That's why I say a pro is better than some chat room or a 'free' call ~ she's a pro, not someone desperate for or playing at a relationship. The pro will play, be entertainment; but she's not going to be satisfied with playing pretend for the rest of her life."
"What if she is?"
"Then she's as unstable as the guy and they're both in trouble. Does that sound like Rick?"
She said, "No," but she's still not convinced that Rick calling a PSO would be the same as his masturbating to photos online, to a porno, or to a story in a book...
What do you say? Is calling a phone sex operator cheating? Or is it the same as any other sex fantasy read in a book or in photos?