Written by Jessie Sage, originally published in the Pittsburgh City Paper.
Given that I am very open about both working in the sex industry and being married, I am often asked by journalists, podcasters, non-sex working friends, and (sometimes) clients how my husband feels about my work. I find these questions difficult because he is integrated into much of my work, but also because they are not mine to answer. So this week, I decided to turn some of these questions where they belong. Introducing: PJ Sage.
What are some of the most fun or interesting parts about doing sex work as a couple?
Porn, in particular, is a creative process, and it’s exciting to make pretty and sexy things together, and to see that other people enjoy our sexual dynamic as much as we do. I think that sex work can be a space of honesty and vulnerability where you can learn a lot about how people think. That even includes us as partners.
What are some of the challenges?
There are always challenges with stigma that both of us have to negotiate, and that can be exhausting. The toughest issue, though, is that doing this kind of gig work full-time requires you to be constantly engaging with fans. It can be difficult (and costly) to take time out to relax together.
Can you describe one client interaction that you think is indicative of what it is like to do sex work as a couple?
It’s hugely varied and part of the work is being flexible and willing to constantly adapt to different clients’ needs. But, I think back to our bi-acceptance video as something I’m proud of, and the kind of socially positive work I hope to do more of through porn. [Jessie:We created a custom bi-acceptance video for a client who was coming to terms with his bisexuality. He told us it was the only time he cried while watching porn.]
While we do a lot of our work together, I also have clients that I interact with on my own. Is this ever a conflict?
It’s sometimes a conflict, but not because I feel threatened or jealous; rather, it’s difficult because sometimes I need your help with a thing, but I also know you need to do your job. It’s a work/life balance issue, which isn’t really unique to sex work.
When people ask about jealousy, they tend to conflate sex and love. I deeply value our relationship, and if I felt that client interactions were coming at the expense of our relationship, then I’d probably feel jealous or concerned. But the work of helping clients realize their sexual fantasies doesn’t really impact our relationship so long as clients respect your boundaries. And I trust your ability to manage clients that have bad boundaries.
Also, it’s important to recognize that the kinds of relationships we have with clients are generally centered on their fantasies. Even if we like some of our clients, sex with/for them is a job, and satisfaction comes more from doing that job well.
In addition to sex work, I have also incorporated details about our sex life into my column. How do you feel about our personal sex life being public? Or publicized?
At this point, it’s just part of the fabric of our lives. It’s closed some doors and opened others. But it’s hard to imagine not being public in this way. We’d be different people in some alternate dimension.
Maybe the more interesting question is: What has having a public sex life taught us? And what I think we’ve found is that people are willing to be open and honest with you when you yourself embrace this kind of vulnerability and that people’s sexual experiences and desires are incredibly diverse — far more than the media, or even sex-positive culture, portrays.