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I need a different perspective on our relationship as it stands
September 19, 2011 8:03 AM   Subscribe

I just found out that my girlfriend does web cam shows for money I need advice/perspective on the situation.

My girlfriend and I have been together for a little over a year and a half. I love her very much and, I have made a very serious decision to stay committed to her, regardless of marriage or engagement. We both are very depressed with our lives, I know this is an illness and, will continue to see our mental health as such. I think waiting till we are both happy with our lives is the most prudent thing to do before considering marriage.

A lot of our troubles comes from money or, lack of. We're the working poor in middle America where dollar signs keep the world turning, unfortunately. After a particular week of financial hardship She admitted to me that she has been doing web cam shows for money.

Needless to say, I was appalled. Yes money is important to keep the lights on and, pay the rent. But had I known what she was doing, I would have taken a third job. She started telling me that it was for us, which I quickly corrected her that I wasn't interested in making money in this manner. There are plenty of ways to make a buck without exploiting your body. So, money is not the whole issue.

As far as who is watching her cam shows, she assured me that she was able to block anyone from our state to prevent any awkward encounters in the real world. She also reminded me that I was the only one to hold her at night, I was the only one that she was interested in having sex with (even though she is Bi and has brought up on many occasions that she would like to have a female companion purely for sex. She said that she has no interest in the people that she chats with, she's merely looking for tips to take her top off, flirt and opened up the potential for her viewers to chat privately (more money than open chat), to buy her presents on her amazon wishlist, buy her used panties etc. She said it was pure customer service. She said that it was short term, That she wanted to get enough money to buy a car. I think she wants to buy things that she wants versus what she needs. In a consumer based world, there will always be something else that you want. Although, I understand that she does need a vehicle.

I looked at the site, the other cam shows the girls were putting on. I watch porn on a monthly basis (not that frequently but, I'm not above it) and this was boring. Most of the girls were just sitting there chatting with the people in the room fully clothed , making small talk. My girlfriend said that she talks a lot about star wars etc. From what I could discern, these are very lonely people for which, I feel sorry for. It was like a strip club designed for nerds.

Later on, she admitted her fears that her looks were not going to last forever (she's 23) and she wants to take advantage of her looks now before it's too late (for what, I don't know). She's treating this as a feminist issue (my body, my rights) and, I continue to look at it as exploitation. I'm not one to forbid someone from doing something unless it has the potential to do permanent damage to themselves. Ultimately, I still disapprove of the whole situation.

I cannot put into words what I feel exactly, which made me look like an ass when I was trying to describe the anger, hurt and betrayal that I've felt. I'm through with ultimatums, I found out a long time ago that they don't work. I realize that I'm either going to take it, or leave it.

If I leave, She will be evicted in a short amount of time. She will be out on the street. I love her too much for that. Her family is gone, more or less. Her father killed himself when she was three, and her mother is a raging alcoholic. I am the only one she has and, she's killing me with her choices. There is no doubt in my mind that her mental illnesses and traumatic childhood are playing a huge part in this situation. Six months ago I helped her get therapy, and psychiatric help, she's on medication which is very expensive as well as her treatment is paid out of pocket (inadequate health insurance). This voyeuristic behavior has only started after she started her medication. Although, she said that she has been interested in doing something like this for a while.
Obviously, I'm not a doctor or psychiatrist but, could the meds also play a part in this? Is she eventually going to get tired/bored with this and give it up on her own? Should I leave her regardless of the consequences? Am I overreacting to the situation? Is this a breach of fidelity? I'm desperately seeking a different perspective on this situation so that I can feel better about myself, is that wrong? Above all, I want to do the right thing.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I understand entirely how you feel, and I know it's going to be hard but you need to find a way to get over this. She has the right to decide for herself what she does and, if you love her, you'll find a way to be supportive.

From my personal experience, you'll feel a lot better if you can be involved on some level, even if it's just being present but out of sight while she's working and then having a good laugh with her afterwards about her clients.
posted by Nick Jordan at 8:15 AM on September 19, 2011


I think that she is in a very bad spot in terms of money and that she is doing the best she can to stay on her medication in order to get and stay mentally well, and ve that she would also like to have some independence.

I don't understand what you mean by her buying things that she wants...a car and psychiatric medications are needs, not wants. Not only that, everyone wants to have a little bit of money that they can control to buy something like a candy bar or some eyeshadow. It doesn't make her shallow or frivolous.

In terms of exploitation, I'm not quite sure what you mean--is she being exploited? Is that your issue? If so, what makes it okay for you to look at porn? I can understand your jealousy, but if your disapproval is simply due to the fact that you think it's wrong for women to take their clothes off for money, you are not likely to get far with her using that line of reasoning.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:16 AM on September 19, 2011 [31 favorites]


Well, it was shitty for her to hide this from you and, as such, it's a violation of your trust. Sure, it's her body to do with as she pleases and you have no right to forbid her to to anything, but it's okay for you to be hurt and feel like you've been lied to or misled and it's okay for you to say that you don't want to be in a relationship with someone who does this.

Don't load her potential eviction onto your plate. She's a grown-up and she'll have to make grown-up decisions. It's okay to decide to do what's best for you.
posted by inturnaround at 8:16 AM on September 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


She's treating this as a feminist issue (my body, my rights) and, I continue to look at it as exploitation. I'm not one to forbid someone from doing something unless it has the potential to do permanent damage to themselves. Ultimately, I still disapprove of the whole situation.

Does she feel exploited by this? Is it something she'd choose to do even if she didn't need/want the money? It doesn't matter how much you disapprove, if she wants to do it, she gets to do it.

Am I overreacting to the situation? Is this a breach of fidelity?

However, it is totally OK that you're not cool with it. Everyone's relationship is different, and only the two of you can decide whether or not its a breach of fidelity as defined by your particular relationship.

Obviously, I'm not a doctor or psychiatrist but, could the meds also play a part in this?

What does her doctor or psychiatrist say?


If you don't want her to participate in the website, and she does want to participate in the website, you two should probably go your separate ways. I realize that decision would put her out on the street, but you are not her keeper. If you want out of the relationship, you should be able to get out, free and clear.

It sounds like you two have an awful lot of issues you need to discuss, openly and honestly, before taking the next step, and I suggest doing that as soon as possible.
posted by phunniemee at 8:21 AM on September 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


(If you're worried on some level about the commitment thing - like, "how can she be committed to me if she's doing all this sex work?" or " can our relationship really be private and intimate if she does all this stuff in front of strangers?" - I will just add that I have friends who do sex work of various kinds and it has not been like that at all for them. What they do as work isn't even on the same page as what they feel about their actual partners. It's like, as part of my (non-sex-work) job, I listen to people talk through ideas and sympathize when their work is frustrating. But this is work; it's not at all how I feel when I'm listening to friends or sympathizing with them. Affective labor (like sex work or being a secretary) is complicated, but the emotional work that you do with clients/bosses/coworkers is really, really different from your life.
posted by Frowner at 8:23 AM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Also, once she has a car, her employment options will probably open up a lot, maybe leading to being able to drop the sex work. I'm sorry that this is happening - the economic situation now is so cruel and unjust, it's like a science fiction dystopia.)
posted by Frowner at 8:25 AM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


I am the only one she has and, she's killing me with her choices. There is no doubt in my mind that her mental illnesses and traumatic childhood are playing a huge part in this situation.

The "she is killing me with her choices" is pretty much the only thing you need to say. You sound stable and reasonable, and you do not need all this drama in your life. What you're telling us about her makes it pretty damn clear that she will bring nothing but pain into your life.

She has the right to decide for herself what she does and, if you love her, you'll find a way to be supportive.

Yes, she has the right to decide for herself what she does. But you absolutely do not have to support her in this, even if you love her. You have every reason to want to get away from a woman with so many problems and so little judgment that she is defiling herself in this way---and especially that she was doing it behind your back.

There's a lot to be said for having certain hard limits to what you will do for money. The fact that her limits aren't where they should be, is a strong signal that she's not a good bet in terms of a person to be in a relationship with. You say you're struggling with depression, too. You need to get far, far away from this woman for your own good.

Is she eventually going to get tired/bored with this and give it up on her own?

She lacks judgment and boundaries. That's probably not going to change. So regardless of whether she gets bored with this, you're going to be with someone who lacks judgment and boundaries.

Should I leave her regardless of the consequences?

In my opinion, yes. Her problems are not your problems. She's already betrayed you and hidden her behavior from you; so you should not take her problems onto yourself. Who knows what else she's doing that you don't know about?

Am I overreacting to the situation?

No, not at all.

Is this a breach of fidelity?

Yes.

I'm desperately seeking a different perspective on this situation so that I can feel better about myself, is that wrong?

No, it's not wrong.
posted by jayder at 8:30 AM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


There is no doubt in my mind that her mental illnesses and traumatic childhood are playing a huge part in this situation.

Well, obviously, you know the situation on the ground better than any of us do but in no way would I personally make this connection. Creating of pornography is not a sign of mental illness, self-esteem issues or a history of trauma.

The questions about whether you're over-reacting, if this is breech of fidelity and if you should leave are not questions anyone here can answer, because the answers are specific to your boundaries in your relationships and not anyone else's.

However, I do not share the basic position you hold that this is a bad thing for her to be doing. In fact, you don't really articulate why you think it's a bad thing to be doing other than that it's "exploitative." However, your view is inherently problematic: either porn exploits women and it's not OK for her to make it or for you to look at it, or it's not. I really don't think you can cut this both ways without massive amounts of hypocrisy at play here.

I don't know how you perceive women in the adult industry, but I would encourage you to challenge your assumptions. I was tangentially in this business for a long time, and the women I know who are still in it - phone sex workers, strippers, erotica writers, indie porn queens and one outcall service provider - are all healthy, normal, feminist women with a strong sense of self, of integrity and of bodily boundaries. They are also all faithful to their partners as defined by their own relationships. I love and have enormous respect for this group of friends.

My only issue in your case would be that she hid this from you. Personally, that is the aspect I would tackle, but you're going to have to be able to get over the sex trade part to deal with the trust part. Only you can know if you're going to be able to do that, and if it is worth it.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:30 AM on September 19, 2011 [16 favorites]


I watch porn on a monthly basis

I continue to look at it as exploitation.

Perhaps you should examine this disconnect before making any decisions. Do you truly look at this as an exploitation (which is ok for you to take part in, but not her)? If your disapproval of this is for another reason, you need to be honest with both yourself and her about it and quit framing it in a protective/you're being exploited way.
posted by frobozz at 8:31 AM on September 19, 2011 [36 favorites]


I understand entirely how you feel, and I know it's going to be hard but you need to find a way to get over this. She has the right to decide for herself what she does and, if you love her, you'll find a way to be supportive.

She does have the right to decide for herself, but that decision is not without consequences, which may include the OP deciding that his (I'm assuming you're a guy, apologies if I'm wrong) girlfriend's decision to do this is something that has a negative impact on his own mental and emotional health. "Being supportive" does not mean "do whatever you want, regardless of how it makes me feel."

I don't know, OP, if this will be a dealbreaker for you. Your feelings may change once you've thought things through and had a chance to get used to the idea. They may not, and that's not necessarily a judgement about what your girlfriend does for money, nor does it make you an anti-feminist jerk. In any relationship, you really need to pay just as close attention to your own feelings as you do your partner's, and you need to be honest (diplomatically and constructively so, which is not easy) with them and yourself about how you feel and how their behavior affects you.
posted by rtha at 8:32 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a complex situation and while there are many, many sides. Now, people far deeper into the sex industry (this is basically the kiddie pool) have significant others who love and respect them, but that comes with the giant-ass caveat of being okay with their work, but that doesn't mean you have to be okay with this. And if you are utterly not-okay with this, there has to be an compromise, otherwise the relationship will turn to shit and it'll be over anyway. Or, worse, you two will stay together, being miserable to and at one another.

The compromise doesn't have to be "stop this right now or we're over." Like Frowner said, the economy is in shambles and not having a car in a place where you need a car. If she can do this until she has enough spare cash to get a car and enough in the bank to keep up her meds.

On the other hand, of course, it can be "stop this right now or we're over." It might be her body and her choices, but the choices she makes affect you and the relationship. You can't stop her, as a person and a human being, from doing this, but you can stop your girlfriend from doing this, if need be.

Finally, regardless of what she does and how you feel about it, once the reason you are not with your significant other because of strictly love, but love and their (perceived) complete dependence on you, is the moment the relationship needs to as fast as humanly possible step away from that edge lest you stop being her boyfriend and become her nurse.
posted by griphus at 8:34 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


As someone who used to work at a strip club and dated a stripper that worked there at the same time I did, I never got over it. Yes, there was disconnect and so on, but if what's happening bothers you emotionally, I think it is time to say goodbye. At least for now. I could have saved myself a lot of emotional pain if I had taken that route. In the end there wasn't some mental problem to be solved where I would be ok with it. I just wasn't and wish I'd acted on it sooner.
posted by josher71 at 8:34 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the most troubling aspect of this situation is the lack of honesty and consideration for your feelings that your girlfriend showed when making this decision. That, rather than her line of work, is what would bother me the most about this situation.

I don't think the cam shows in and of themselves are that big a deal, unless your girlfriend wants to run for President or something like that. (Although, in the interest of full disclosure, I used to make some money off cam shows, as well as doing more blatantly sexual work.) It really is basically "a strip club designed for nerds" -- as sex work goes, your girlfriend is on the tamest possible end of the spectrum. But it *is* sex work. Customer service, yes, but sexy customer service. The people paying for her companionship would not be paying for it if there wasn't a cute girl showing her boobs. And I feel that sex workers should let their partners know that they're doing sex work.

Also, in terms of the exploitation thing, I do want to say that with no car and probably not that much spare time, sex work jobs probably have the highest ratio of (money earned:effort expended) of all your girlfriend's employment options. Like I said, I've done some sex work. I've also worked fast food, waitressed at diners, and done a lot of other lower-wage customer-service jobs. I felt the *least* exploited doing sex work. My clients always appreciated me (even though some of them were a bit creepy), I had a much more attractive and comfortable set of "work clothes", and I got to set my own hours.

In general, it sounds like this cam-show issue is a symptom rather than a problem in this relationship. It's up to you whether the secret-sex-work issue is a dealbreaker or not. If it were me, I wouldn't be bothered so much by the cam shows themselves as by the dishonesty and secrecy surrounding them. Your girlfriend has shown you that she is okay with hiding important things from you, things that you deserve to know. I think it is very wise for you to wait until both of you are doing better in terms of your mental health before making more serious commitments to each other, and I would be asking myself if I really wanted to be with someone who kept secrets from me, regardless of how much I loved that person.
posted by kataclysm at 8:36 AM on September 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


This may have been said before, but I want to put it into sharp contrast.

There are two things happening here:

1) She's webcamming for $

2) She's been doing a behavior outside the agreed-upon boundaries of your sex life for awhile, and made the choice not to tell you.

You can have feelings about either of these, and she can respond as she wants, but I do feel that it's super important to recognize that these are two very different issues and should not be connected when it comes to negotiating this out.

I'm not sure her sexuality or fidelity or whatever are particularly relevant to the discussion as much as those two issues.
posted by softlord at 8:44 AM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


There are really two separate issues here:

1. Girlfriend is doing web cam shows, which you find appalling and exploitative.

2. Girlfriend has been hiding something significant from you.

You've really got no leg to stand on with #1. You have a hang-up that you need to get over. You are admittedly an at-least-occasional consumer of porn, which gives you no right to pass moral judgement on what she's doing to make extra cash, especially given that it's both "tame" by your standards, and involves no physical contact with anyone else. It's utter hypocrisy for you to object on moral grounds to something that you're actually consumer of. Stop consuming, or stop condemning. Period.

However, number 2 is a real problem. That's what you need to be focusing your energy on resolving with your girlfriend. Relationships can survive a lot of things, but a lack of trust coupled with long-term, ongoing deception is seldom one of them. You need to have serious discussions about why she felt the need to deceive you about this (largely because she knew you'd disapprove, I'd guess), and what each of you can do to make such deceptions unnecessary. She felt like she couldn't trust you with the information about what she was doing. Now you feel like you can't trust her to be honest with you. If you want your relationship to survive, that's what you need to resolve.
posted by dersins at 8:48 AM on September 19, 2011 [21 favorites]


You say that if you leave, she will be evicted... bu you also say that "we are working poor," which indicates that she does have a job, and the money from the cam shows as well. I understand that she may not be able to afford your current apartment alone on this income, but as you describe it, she does have income -- more than you thought, actually. Surely there are other housing options that would be available to her even at a low level of total income she's generating from these two jobs, no?

Obviously we don't know the full financial details here, but it does seem like it would be helpful to analyze your emotional concerns about her choices, and your relationship, independently from the financial considerations and perceived dependencies.
posted by argonauta at 8:58 AM on September 19, 2011


The with-holding of her work info is probably coming from the same cultural construct as your judgment of her. You've probably got to be forgiving, especially since, according to your beliefs shown here, you're a consumer of other men's partners' bodies n clearly regard online relations as being somewhere on an infidelity spect

I think it's interesting that nurses, psychologists n beauty therapists also perform 'intimate' functions - for money and satisfaction n arouse far less emotion.
posted by honey-barbara at 9:01 AM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Infidelity spectrum. (I don't believe this btw, it's to unpack the construct you appear to have internalised)
posted by honey-barbara at 9:06 AM on September 19, 2011


These things are unrelated!!

What she is doing is fairly benign. Yes. You are over-reacting. It's not your taste or something you might do, but plenty of people who do this type of thing for money are smart cool people and you should get off your high horse about it.

However.

That you are both depressed is a big problem. I'm not sure two depressed people can really be there for each other without significant outside assistance. Or something. I dunno. IANAD, and all that.

I don't really like how you are painting yourself the saintly and martyr-type boyfriend while you detail her problems.

I think you should worry about your own side of the street, your own depression, your own roof over your head.

Make sure you communicate your plans to your GF. Maybe if you give her a heads up she can find a roommate?
posted by jbenben at 9:11 AM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


You are admittedly an at-least-occasional consumer of porn, which gives you no right to pass moral judgement on what she's doing to make extra cash

This notion keeps popping up in people's comments. I don't agree. One can be a pot smoker and not want one's SO to be a pot dealer, etc etc etc. The fact that you enjoy something does not mean you have to be okay with your loved ones being involved in its production and sale, for many reasons.
posted by jayder at 9:13 AM on September 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


The feeling that someone else can "kill (you) with their choices" is a red flag for codependency. Other aspects of your question support this.

Seek therapy. She doesn't need saving; you do.
posted by longtime_lurker at 9:17 AM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know, you're talking about your girlfriend like she's a child. You don't like what she does for money. You don't like what she spends her money on. You talk about her decisions like you know why she makes them better than she does. Apparently you're dishing out ultimatums! She says it's her body, her choice. You're saying "No, honey, you're being exploited." She says she's been interested in doing this for a while. You: "No, it's the medication making you crazy." It's okay for the women in the porn you watch to do it, but not her. If that's the dynamic between you two, is it any wonder she hid this?

I don't blame you for being upset that she concealed it, but you have to accept what you even said yourself - that you aren't her psychologist. You can't make her feelings your own, either. I would also take it a step further and say you need some counseling yourself. There are all kinds of issues making themselves present in your question. "We're both depressed." "We're broke." "I promised to stay committed." "It's not the right time to get married." "I love her too much to put her out on the street." "Her family is messed up." "I watch porn, but this is boring. (Is this a fidelity breach?)" "Her choices are killing me." "Ultimatums don't work."

Do you even know what the real problem is? You're all over the place. This doesn't sound like a healthy relationship for either of you. It even sounds like you already know that and are too worried about being the bad guy to do what needs to be done for both your sakes. Maybe it's time for that talk with her. Not an ultimatum.
posted by katillathehun at 9:23 AM on September 19, 2011 [17 favorites]


The morality of doing porn is a red herring. The main issue that the OP needs to focus on is the fact that his girlfriend started doing this without telling him about it first. I would have no problem with my girlfriend doing cam shows, but I would have a big problem if she never mentioned it to me.
posted by auto-correct at 9:23 AM on September 19, 2011


One can be a pot smoker and not want one's SO to be a pot dealer, etc etc etc.

This analogy only works if someone were to believe that pot smokers were exploiting pot dealers but yet continue to smoke pot. The OP says that he thinks that porn is exploitative, yet continues to "exploit" other women every month. How is that not hypocritical?
posted by peacheater at 9:34 AM on September 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


FYI; it's not exploitation if the grown adult, who consciously chose to be a cam performer, does not feel exploited. That's not your call to make.

To be honest, your post is full of language that shows something of a "white knight syndrome" on your part; lots of wording about how messed up your gf is and how you're somehow the heroic guy saving the day. I respectfully suggest you may want to reflect on this or find a professional to talk to about it... it's not a healthy attitude.

Sounds to me like she's doing just fine, making choices to get cash in a way she enjoys and that's working out for her. She's doing it mindfully and responsibly, taking precautions to avoid awkward social situations, she's doing nothing to harm her health or wellbeing.

Could it be, possibly... that your problem is not so much with her doing the cam shows, as it is with her being independent?
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 9:37 AM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Your question, as written, sounds somewhat patronizing. Like this:

"I'm not one to forbid someone from doing something unless it has the potential to do permanent damage to themselves."

A few questions. How do you know what does permanent damage and what doesn't? What sets you up as the authority on that issue? And even if you are the authority, what gives you the right to forbid a thing? God forbids. Parents forbid. Boyfriends and husbands, unless they're part of a particularly strict religious tradition, don't forbid. They discuss, disagree, dislike, but don't try to unilaterally dictate the terms of a person's life.

I also urge you to get away from the idea that you are the only barrier between your girlfriend and homelessness, or worse. If she is well enough to work two jobs and save up for a car, she is well enough to find a new living situation, should yours suddenly change. Have some faith in the woman with whom you've chosen to pursue a life.

Also -- and this is important -- just because a person has a traumatic past, it doesn't mean she can't have a healthy attitude towards sex. Sometimes that healthy attitude is non-traditional, but that doesn't make it bad or wrong. You need to stop looking at your girlfriend as someone who needs to be protected from sex, and look instead at her as someone who is an adult and who participates in sexual activity of her own volition and interest.

You need to think and talk through the concepts of fidelity and harm and exploitation, and you need to do with an open mind if that's at all possible for you.
posted by brina at 9:39 AM on September 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


I would wonder if your money situation improved--would she really stop? Or is the attention and validation becoming important to her?
posted by Ideefixe at 9:43 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I see his use of "exploitative" as being a bit more nuanced here, or maybe it's just being used more loosely. She's exploiting herself. She's exploiting her body in a way he's uncomfortable with. She's putting herself forth as masturbation material for people online. She doesn't necessarily have to be exploited by others for him to feel that she is engaged in something exploitative. I don't know if that makes any sense. I guess the bottom line for me is that it doesn't really help to get really analytical about his hypocrisy; he's uncomfortable with it and his hypocrisy is not the issue.
posted by jayder at 9:43 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could it be, possibly... that your problem is not so much with her doing the cam shows, as it is with her being independent?

Maybe I'm completely out of line with this but I'm guessing that his problem is his girlfriend stripping and masturbating for strangers on camera without telling him. Based on the op's words

I cannot put into words what I feel exactly, which made me look like an ass when I was trying to describe the anger, hurt and betrayal that I've felt.

I'm thinking that the exploitation issue is the red herring; the op seems to think that he can only object to her webcamming if he's doing it to protect her, rather than the relationship. I think it's pretty clear that he's upset at his girlfriend having sexual contact outside the relationship.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:45 AM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


You are uncomfortable that other guys are feeling those nasty feelings about your gf that you do for the women you see when you look at porn.

Get over it or get out.
posted by txmon at 10:01 AM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I really don't understand the attitude that if you watch porn you can't object to your significant other performing in it. If I eat meat does that mean I can't object if someone cooks my cat? If you polled the room my guess is that most people watch porn and also would not want their boyfriend or girlfriend starring in it. And if they would then that's terrific, but the op never got a chance to decide if he wanted to be in a relationship with someone who did (minor) sex work and that's not how a good relationship works.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:11 AM on September 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


No, but it does mean that if someone buys your pic and cooks it you can't object.
posted by txmon at 10:16 AM on September 19, 2011


sorry ..... buys your pig. (or goat or cow or chicken)
posted by txmon at 10:19 AM on September 19, 2011


Its tough, but you gotta either loosen up and set some new ground rules, or stay the same and leave the situation.

I can help you with the first one. Loosen up, look inside yourself, read some Dan Savage, go read forums and get some self-help going on. Second, set boundaries. Seems like she is already trying to do that with you.

You either accept, or reject, but you don't get to decide for her.
posted by roboton666 at 10:21 AM on September 19, 2011


She's treating this as a feminist issue (my body, my rights) and, I continue to look at it as exploitation. I'm not one to forbid someone from doing something unless it has the potential to do permanent damage to themselves. Ultimately, I still disapprove of the whole situation.

Its her body, her rights, but its also your heart, your rights. You are entitled to want a situation you feel comfortable with. You are perfectly allowed to say that yiu don't want to date someone who fakes attraction to other men for money and who lies by ommission.

She's totally entitled to do what she wants, but you are not required to date her.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:08 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Loosen up, look inside yourself, read some Dan Savage, go read forums and get some self-help going on

Again, as someone who was in a roughly analogous situation, I tried these things and it didn't happen for me. YMMV. However, I hope you know yourself well enough to know if it can happen at all. For some it can. For those such as myself who suffer crippling anxiety, it wasn't an option.
posted by josher71 at 12:13 PM on September 19, 2011


I was most struck by I love her very much and, I have made a very serious decision to stay committed to her, regardless of marriage or engagement.... and the subsequent comments that you seem to be on the precipice of leaving her.

Serious displeasure about her not telling you about this is understandable, as is the level of emotion in the wake of finding out, but it seems there's a contradiction in your statements. If you're that serious about the commitment, accept it or find some sort of middle ground.

By the way, seems quite possible that she wants to be able to pay for her therapy and meds, doesn't want to leave you burdened with another job, in a time of what you said was financial hardship, and sees no realistic alternative (which is not to say she should have kept this from you).
posted by ambient2 at 12:43 PM on September 19, 2011


If you polled the room my guess is that most people watch porn and also would not want their boyfriend or girlfriend starring in it.

I watch porn, I would not want my wife starring in it. However, my reasons for not wanting my wife starring in it would be for my own privacy, my wish to have choice over who our sexuality is shared with, my worry about friends/family/prospective employers finding it, etc etc.. not be because I believe it to be exploitative and morally corrupt somehow. If I did feel that way about porn, I would be morally compelled not to watch it. The relevant part isn't that he watches porn and doesn't want his girlfriend creating it, it's that he feels that being in porn exploits her, but is still ok consuming something that he views as exploitative.

Anyway, as others have said, this is mainly a red herring. The only reason to bring up this argument is to let him know that when he talks to her about how he feels about this, the "you are being exploited" claim is not likely to fly very far.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:53 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wow. OP, for what it is worth I don't think you should listen to the folks saying things like

Yes. You are over-reacting. It's not your taste or something you might do, but plenty of people who do this type of thing for money are smart cool people and you should get off your high horse about it.

Because the question isn't about the morality of doing things like webcam shows it is about whether you should feel okay with your SO doing webcam shows. And you absolutely do not need to feel okay with that. Some people are okay with it and that's fine too! But, seriously, I think it would be a dealbreaker for the big majority of folks and this thread might be giving you the wrong idea about that.

There is some truth to the idea that you need to rethink your holier-than-thou attitude about this being exploitation when you yourself view porn. But that is a completely separate and for the purposes of this discussion irrelevant issue. Whether or not you are a hypocrite or whether webcam shows are "exploitative" has nothing to do with whether you need to be okay with your girlfriend stripping on camera while other dudes masturbate to her.

If I leave, She will be evicted in a short amount of time. She will be out on the street. I love her too much for that. Her family is gone, more or less. Her father killed himself when she was three, and her mother is a raging alcoholic.

I won't say this is irrelevant since that would be too callous, but it is not a reason for you to stay long term in relationship. You are not responsible for her childhood nor for her lack of money, you are only responsible for being a decent boyfriend. "Being a decent boyfriend" might include breaking up if you find you cannot support her choices.
posted by Justinian at 1:24 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


If my significant other was in the depths of deep depression and grappling with family issues, I would worry that any decision they made might be unduly influenced by their current frame of mind. Especially if they felt the need to hide it from me.

In my mind, wandering into the kiddie pool of sex work falls in the same category as alcohol. It's not inherently exploitative, but it can be a horribly self-destructive activity when indulged by a vulnerable person.
posted by politikitty at 1:27 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


As far as who is watching her cam shows, she assured me that she was able to block anyone from our state to prevent any awkward encounters in the real world.

Just as a data point, her shows are absolutely being recorded by the people who watch them, and are being uploaded to porn sites. There is no way she can control her image so that she knows who will see her image and when.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:03 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Annnddd yeah. this whole attacking you for not being down with your lady friend being sexual with other people is absolute bullshit. For money or not- she took what was private and exclusive between you and her and shared it with others. I would be all kinds of pissed off if my SO did that behind my back, especially in a way that is not in any shape or form discrete.

Whatever that sex work isn't the same thing as cheating. It's more than a little freaking dicey.

And in her state of mind and level of financial vulnerability, I would say there IS a good chance she is going to look at it later as exploitative. Porn might not be bad in theory, but there is a reason that there is a stereotype of "daddy touched me" for porn actresses.

ALSO. In adult relationships, there is conversation and a level of agreement that needs to be reached in regards to fiances and life paths. I talk to my SO about where we're going to be in five years and what jobs we need to do to get there, and we both get input. If he felt very strongly about something- you'd better believe I would take a hard listen because it's part of our SHARED LIFE.
posted by Blisterlips at 3:06 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know what, I feel for you both. I remember being a little younger than you in the rural Midwest, broke and struggling with depression and the legacy of crazy and indifferent parenting. Working awful jobs while attempting to figure out my own independence and a better way to live, to escape the exhausting suckhole of being poor as shit.

When you are that up against it, concepts like "codependent" look like bourgeoisie luxuries you can't afford. Given the background, situation, and the current economic crisis, she is dependent. I don't think you are being dramatic when you say her choices feel like they are killing you. What I am reading is that you are feeling totally understandable panic and confusion along with a very admirable, honorable desire to protect the person you love from homelessness and exploitation.

I would start by having a real serious conversation with her about her motives for withholding what she was doing with you. If you guys are going to have a relationship of help and comfort then fiction is a luxury neither of you can afford. You guys have one action plan -- surviving -- and figuring out how you make and spend money, and what you can tolerate emotionally and morally to do so, is too important. If she can't agree to be honest with you, or you can't agree to give her reasons a hearing and talk openly through your feelings and thoughts, I don't see how you can make it.

Everyone has to find their own way through it, and figure how their own heart -- but since you asked for our thoughts, mine are: as far as sex work goes, she's found just about the most benign way to make money. My own experience as a poor young woman was that most jobs available to me had some component of "sex work" that was usually unstated and far more humiliating than taking my top off for a cam and talking about Star Wars would have been. I would have much rather done that than have had to wear the skirt I was issued as a cocktail waitress -- I haven't forgot the day an older coworker took me aside and gently warned me that even slightly bent over I was showing a lot more than I realized. "This is one of the things I hate most," she said, a 30-something woman with kids who had permanently hurt eyes. And I know the things that men had been saying and doing to her for all her working life -- including our disgusting male manager, who wouldn't stop bugging me to fuck him until I finally quit -- had put that hurt there. It was sex work, trust me -- but way more poorly paid and dangerous than anything virtual.

So yeah. This is hard to talk about. Really hard. Inchoate bad feeling is natural. What doesn't help, in my experience, is politicizing that hurt before dealing with it on a very personal level. Ask her if she can set aside the feminist implications for a moment, as you will set aside anything resembling a moral objection, and see if you can't talk about your feelings before doing anything else. How it feels to be someone's object at work even when that's not your title -- how it feels to fiercely love someone who shares a kind of pretend love with others -- and how that all ties in to the immediate question of paying the rent. And the future question of how to pay the rent in the far future, when those options are gone. I respect you for wanting to figure this out and for the love you feel for your girlfriend. It's a hard, awful world too often -- and it only looks to be getting harder and awfuller -- and I hope you can find a way to get through it with strength and love and kindness.
posted by melissa may at 3:22 PM on September 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


I think it's perfectly reasonable to consider the girlfriend as exploited by sex work (mentally ill, very poor, not her Job of Choice), and the porn stars that the boyfriend watches as not exploited (paid much more, glamorous lifestyle, likely their Job of Choice). There are lots of different types of people who do sex work with differing degrees of desperation about it (or for some, no desperation at all). It sounds like anonymous's gf is well on the "desperation" side of things, so it's perfectly normal to be intensely bothered by it. I mean, would she be doing it at all if she had the option of a decent paper shuffling job? I really doubt it. Maybe it bothers him more because he knows she wouldn't choose it if she had any other options.

It's okay for this to cross your personal line. You are not a bad person for feeling the way you do. Leave if you must, and of course because you love her you will be as kind as possible about it. I wish you good luck.
posted by marble at 5:21 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't really have any advice on what to do to offer, but I might consider the idea that she hid this from you not in order to deceive you per se, but rather that she knew you'd disapprove and wanted to keep you and make some money in (in her mind) the easiest or perhaps only way available to her. She may be feeling just as bad about not telling you as you feel about her not telling you. I'm just saying she may have had, in her mind, reasons to not tell you.

She may have also not have had any real idea what she was getting into, a sort of white lie that turned out to be more than she could deal with in terms of telling you. And now it's snowballed into this situation.

I'm not trying to excuse, rationalize or otherwise pass judgement on either of you; just thought you might want to consider that she didn't really want to hide it from you, not forever, but it just got out of control.

I guess I'm just saying that as long as you're talking honestly now, very few things are truly insurmountable in a truly committed relationship.
posted by digitalprimate at 8:39 PM on September 19, 2011


I'm just saying she may have had, in her mind, reasons to not tell you.

"I didn't tell you because I knew you wouldn't like it" is not a reason. I didn't tell you about my seven affairs over a six month period because I knew you'd disapprove!
posted by Justinian at 8:52 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


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