Colouring inside the lines: how to manage boundaries with sex workers

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Remember kindergarten? I don’t know if things went the same way for you as they did for me, but I found it frustrating. Having to sit still for an hour at a desk, having my lunch locked away until playtime, and above all, nap time (need I say more?)

I remember those broken crayons that we were supposed to use in drawing class – the ones that were pitted and multicoloured from jamming up against each other. When I selected a bright colour and drew it across the paper, the line invariably came out wobbly (and sometimes not in the colour I’d anticipated.) It was enough to make any five-year-old frustrated.

Even with the rising popularity of adult colouring books, I’m still not much for filling in between the lines. But it’s a good metaphor for something I AM good at – emotions. If only I could have told my frustrated kindergarten self, “Don’t worry, this is going to help you in the future, just not in the way you expect.” While the experience didn’t help me much with my art skill, but it did help me master my emotions.

When it comes to seeing escorts, getting a handle on your emotions is essential. It’s what I call ‘being good at emotional boundaries’, and it’s a lot like colouring between the lines: fun, messy, and requiring LOTS of practice.

But what the heck are emotional boundaries, anyway? Why are they necessary for seeing escorts? And why should you even care? Never fear, I’m going to put your questions to rest.

Emotional boundaries: learning to love like an adult.

As kids, we’re the equivalent of emotional dynamite. Happy one moment, crying the next. Scared one moment, then hugging strangers’ legs in the supermarket. Being a kid is fun because you’re allowed to throw your feelings around like confetti.

But as we mature, we learn to put a lid on this stuff. It’s not that emotions are bad, more just that we need to regulate them a little to avoid causing disruption to others. There’s no area of life where this is more important than when it comes to sex and relationships.

You see the girl of your dreams on the street – do you rush up and propose marriage? No way – you say, ‘hi’ and wait to see if there’s a connection. You have a fight with a friend – do you smash everything in your kitchen? No way – that crockery is expensive! You take a deep breath and try to work things out. Your girlfriend insults your new haircut – do you start crying uncontrollably? I hope not – I really hope you tell her that she’s hurt your feelings, giving her a chance to apologise.

Having good emotional boundaries means understanding that your feelings are your own responsibility. Often the feelings we have are triggered by someone else’s behaviour, and sometimes we might want to make a scene. But being good with emotions means taking charge of your shit, and not making it someone else’s problem by flying out of control.

What does this mean, when it comes to escorts?

When you spend time with escorts, emotions inevitably pop up all over the place. Sex is designed to be emotional – without feelings, we’d all be sex robots. Pretty boring, right?

We all know that sex work is a job, but when emotions are heated it’s easy to forget that you’re having a paid encounter. Feelings of love and attachment are not only possible, they’re very common – especially if you see the same escort for a while. Emotions are fun. But it’s important to remember that, for escorts, the emotional experience begins at the start of the session you have together and finishes at the end. In this type of encounter, there’s no room for feelings to spill into your worker’s private life.

This is why I call it ‘colouring inside the lines.’ Because when we get emotionally involved, it’s easy to wander outside the boundaries. Like a five-year-old with a blunt crayon, sometimes even when we do our best, we still end up slightly off the mark.

For example, a client might find themselves thinking obsessively about the escort that they have feelings for. They might be tempted to send a few friendly emails between sessions, so they can feel as though they’re still connected. In more extreme cases, they might find themselves sending messages when they’re sad, in the hopes their escort will cheer them up, even though they aren’t in a paid session at the time. Or they might start asking ‘can we go out like a real couple?’

It’s particularly difficult if a client doesn’t have many supports outside of their escort sessions. If you’re down in the dumps and the only person who listens to you is your escort, I can understand why you might be tempted to reach out.

But it’s crucial you try to keep those boundaries in place. Here are a few reasons why.

1. It’s not fair to us. Contact outside of sessions is emotional labour that you’re not paying for. Like it or not, we’re running businesses that are all about providing both physical and emotional support. It doesn’t mean we don’t care about you (I’m genuinely fond of my long-term clients.) But it does mean that we need to be paid for our time. Answering emails and text messages takes time and effort, and that’s not fair.

2. It’s going to mess with your head. Your escort might be providing an incredible experience during your dates together, but they can’t be there for you around the clock. If you spend all your time missing them, you’re going to make yourself miserable or frustrated. And you’re missing out on the opportunity to practice good boundaries.

3. You might lose your worker. Having a client with bad boundaries is really tiring. Answering a ton of messages or having them get upset when we don’t reply…all this stuff detracts from any enjoyment we might have had in seeing you in person. And fending off ‘can we date?’ requests and marriage proposals (yes, this happens) saps our energy, so we don’t look forward to seeing you as much as we should. In extreme cases, a worker might sack a client who has become too emotionally demanding, especially if those demands fall outside the session times.

4. We don’t feel respected. They key to an escort’s high regard is to treat them with respect and professionalism. When clients demonstrate good boundaries, it’s the same as saying ‘I respect your work, and I want to make sure you enjoy our time together.’ They key to a good session is allowing your escort to relax – and being upfront and good with boundaries is a great way to do this.

So, what’s the good news? Well, like I said, emotions are a wonderful part of the escort experience. If you can master the art of boundaries – keeping those feelings strictly within your session time – you’ll be able to develop lasting professional relationships without fear of awkwardness or breakdown.

I recommend speaking with your escort about your feelings and asking them what their preferences are around handling them. Some workers might not welcome any contact outside of sessions, while other are okay with the occasional message. Some workers might enjoy allowing you to say ‘I love you’ as part of your date experience, while others might ask that you tone it down a little. Everyone has different boundaries. But if you stay mindful and ask for guidance, you’ll be on the right track.

And keep practicing – just like colouring it, it takes some time to get the hang of it.

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