Woman with a past wants a future
April 1, 2009 7:01 PM   Subscribe

I am a woman in my mid forties. A month ago I met a man, SD. SD and I have spent almost every day and night together since meeting and I think I want to spend the rest of my life with him and he feels the same. However five years ago while single and broke, I worked as a hooker for six weeks. SD doesn't know.

Prostituion in registered brothels is legal in my state/country and I worked in a brothel that looked after its staff very well and the clients were always well mannered. I have no regrets about that time - in fact I came out of it with even more liking and compassion for men.

Including the 36 clients I had paid sex with, I have slept with about 150 men over my 30 years of sexual activity. SD has slept with less than 10 women in his 30 years sex-life. SD is one of those lovely men who needs to have an emotional connection before he is sexually attracted to a woman. He is also faithful to a T.

We have glorious sex together, the best ever for both of us. He really likes my open attitude and enthusiasm for sex. I haven't said in so many words "I have slept with 150 men" but he knows that I have had many more lovers than he has just by the number of different men's names that come up when telling non-sexual anecdotes about my life. Most of my close friends (about 10) know about my hooking. I told some at the time so they could keep an eye on me, and told others later. It was an important time of self-development for me and it has added to the person I am today. As I said, I have no regrets about it and some lovers have found it a real turn on. SD has never been to a hooker; it would not be in his nature due to his personal love/sex attitude, so I don't think it would be a turn on for him.

Every now and again I get a strong urge to tell SD about my past hooking. If it was a deal breaker for him, I figure it would be fairer to get it out in the open in the early days of our relationship. I don't think (read: hope) it would be a deal breaker but I am not sure. And I can't suss it out without spilling the beans.

My sexual skills and attitude were not developed through hooking - I've always enjoyed receiving giving pleasure with my partners - but I worry that if I tell him he'll think that I'm just acting a professional role when we are making love.

My multi-aspect question: If you were SD (and you're not, he's not a Mefite), would you want to know? Do you think he has a 'right' to know that the woman he loves has performed sex for money? If so, what would be the best and most secure way (for us both) to raise the issue? If I didn't tell him soon how would you feel finding out years down the track that the love of your life had been a hooker? Or is this a case of 'ignorance is bliss'? If so, what would I do if one of my friends accidentally mentioned/alluded to my past when talking with him? I can't tell my friends not to mention it - it could result in the 'don't think of an elephant' phenomena. If, for some reason, SD asked if I had ever hooked, I would of course tell him. However I worry that telling him out of the blue would put a strain on our lovely blossoming relationship and make him feel insecure in some way. Sigh: I don't want to fuck up this relationship but even more importantly I don't want to create a climate of dishonesty within it. So, to tell or not to tell - which is fairer?

Throwaway email: ihaveapast@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (66 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
In generally in favor of keeping the past in the past when dealing with relationships but this is something I think SD should know about. If it were me, I'd be really freaked out if I found out about it years down the line.The way you explain yourself here makes me think that you'll do a great job explaining yourself to him. Good luck and I hope everything works out!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 7:08 PM on April 1, 2009

This is one of those things that people say they'd want to know, but they really don't. Hell, I wish I didn't know about any of my partner's past escapades, but when asked of course I said yes, tell me.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 7:19 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would not want to know unless you got an STD.......I am sorry but that it is part of your past and unless I am truly, crazy and over heels in love with you and have been for a couple of years then I would be like ok, is nothing babe.......

I think that it is perfectly ok for you to keep it to yourself....unless this strong urge of yours happens on a daily basis which might mean that you have more problems with the experience than you think you do....
posted by The1andonly at 7:24 PM on April 1, 2009

The key to this is your attitude-- you seem to have a very positive attitude towards this time of your life. I would think it would be very difficult if not impossible to keep quiet about this large chunk of your past for the "rest of your life." The question really comes down to should you tell him now, one year from now or ten years from now? I vote for now. Anything else is going to compound the shock of finding out you were a pro with the shock of finding out you kept such a huge secret from him for so long. You are a good communicator and I think you will find just the right words. Good Luck.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:26 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

If there is any way at all that SD could find out by accident, you need to tell him about it now. Finding out from someone else or by accident would crush him and definitely destroy your relationship.
posted by Simon Barclay at 7:27 PM on April 1, 2009 [7 favorites]

Oh, I forgot to add: If there's no way he could ever find out, you don't need to bring it up.
posted by Simon Barclay at 7:29 PM on April 1, 2009 [7 favorites]

Hmm, this sucks. I understand why you'd prefer to just not talk about it with him, but it's a fairly unusual experience, and I doubt you want to keep a secret that you're obviously torn up about for the rest of your life, if that's how long you stay together.

I think you should tell him, and I hope that if you do, that he handles it maturely and with love and compassion.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:32 PM on April 1, 2009

I agree with Simon...and, since a number of your friends are aware of this, rest assured that at some point, for some reason, he will find out. Do you want that to be from you or through an accidental comment.

Tell him now....
posted by HuronBob at 7:32 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Speaking as someone who is, as you put it, "one of those lovely men who needs to have an emotional connection before he is sexually attracted to a woman" ... hmmm, it's hard to say.

If I had to rank my feelings upon finding out, from hardest to deal with to easiest to deal with, it'd be :
  1. Figuring it out through the odd bits of the detritus of life - curious gaps in stories, paperwork, turns of phrase during conversation, odd little glances from friends at relevant times, etc.
  2. Casual conversation - "hey, anon, remember that story you told about the time you worked as a hooker?"
  3. Being told by a mutual friend - "so, you're ok with the fact anon worked at the Rampaging Rabbit Ranch, areya? I dunno if I could handle that..."
  4. Being told, carefully and considerately, by the person I love
Basically, the chances are pretty good that sometime, somewhere along the line, at least some of your history is going to come out.

"Or is this a case of 'ignorance is bliss'?"

Ignorance can often be bliss, but it's foolish to count on ignorance lasting forever...

Besides, which is easier : telling him, one single person, about your history, and hoping he loves you enough to put it behind you? Or cleaning up your life of all traces of that history, telling everybody everyone else who knows your story to keep it from him, and hoping that nothing slips out or no other long-forgotten evidence appears?
posted by Pinback at 7:32 PM on April 1, 2009 [8 favorites]

I think you should tell him now, and be careful to mention that you've been regularly tested for STDs and protected yourself with every sex partner, so you're not putting him at risk. You did do that, right? Because if not, then the conversation goes way beyond his feelings about prostitution, and in fairness to him, that's a conversation that needs to be had sooner rather than later.
posted by slow graffiti at 7:34 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you weren't so close with your friends, the past might stay the past.
But all it takes is for one of those friends to tell their s.o. or someone, and then it's out of control.
I don't think you have a choice if you want a long term relationship.
(Maybe don't go into detail, just mention you were broke, tried it, got out).
posted by artdrectr at 7:34 PM on April 1, 2009

If he cannot love you for everything you are or have been then he is not the one. I typically don't discuss numbers with my boyfriends, because I feel like quantifying it doesn't matter, only my commitment to him does. However, this was a chunk of your life where you did something most people don't choose to do or come out feeling great about. I would definitely tell him, but beware of being too dismissive or laudatory of your experience, or overly negative.

Men often say that they "just don't want to know." He may be one of those, and you will have to weigh that. But offering up your past as a way of letting him into your life, particularly if you put the option of couple's therapy on the table, is the most honest thing to do. I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't believe that you were okay after hooking, and that his greatest concern would be for you physical and emotional well-being. Putting counseling on the table signals that you are willing to address any and all of his concerns, other that just adamantly stating that everything is peachy.

There is also a chance that he could react badly, as this may be something he cannot and does not fathom or want, and you will have to accept that. It seems that there are underlying issues for you to deal with, or perhaps you have already dealt with them. Either way, letting him in, no matter what painful details you have to disclosed and how far back you have to go, is the only way for your relationship to move forward in a healthy way.
posted by anniek at 7:38 PM on April 1, 2009

Dear, don’t bore him with trivia or burden him with your past mistakes. The happiest way to deal with a man is never to tell him anything he does not need to know.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:38 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't tell him. I am all about open honesty in relationships from the point the relationship began onward. But your past is YOUR past and has nothing to do with him. This whole "confessional" attitude found in relationships seems to me like a personal desire to unburden oneself, and is wholly unnecessary.
posted by thatbrunette at 7:41 PM on April 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

I think Pinback is worth listening to.

Also, on a light note, I look at the first sentence of your fourth paragraph:

"We have glorious sex together, the best ever for both of us."

And I imagine him swaggering around thinking, "She's slept with 150 men...but I'm the best!"
posted by not that girl at 7:43 PM on April 1, 2009 [11 favorites]

Do you think he has a 'right' to know that the woman he loves has performed sex for money?

No. Why? It wasn't illegal, it doesn't represent a particularly significant percentage of your total lifetime sexual partners, and you didn't do it for very long.

If you spent 20 years as a sex worker, yeah, that might be significant. Five weeks? Piffle.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:45 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I feel like you get past a certain age where specific sexual experiences are no longer as important as they may be to, say, a 25 year-old. I mean, at 40, of course you have a rich sexual history, just like SD does in his own way. Are we saying that we value your hooking sexual experience (this includes more than just sex, but your mentality and lifestyle at the time) less than, for example, a particularly emotionally charged sexual experience with a single person?

I fear I might not be making sense.

Let me try it this way: being paid for sex is not nearly the same relationship-qualifier as being a secret parent or secret drug addict is. Those are life-changing things. In a way, hooking is just a sex phase (unless you were forced into it, in which case it's a whole different story), a time in your life when you did that. If you had been into golden showers for a few weeks and thought he might be freaked out that you liked watersports at some point, would you be having this same dilemma? Probably not. You'd probably keep it to yourself and some day, when you're both old and grey, laugh to yourself about those couple of weeks when you liked to pee on men. Or a more serious version: would you tell him about having an abortion just because he may or may not care? It's not dishonest to have hidden aspects of your life that are yours to keep. So I guess no, I don't think he has a 'right' to know.

I think the primary issue is to first be comfortable with the choices you made in your life. Which is sounds like you have. The second is to demonstrate that you love and respect SD, which is also sounds like you have. With these in place, should the topic of your hooking come up you should have a solid foundation on which to work through the drama together.

And, lastly, a little white lie thrown in can help a girl out: tell him you stopped because it was just too hard to fake you were having a good time.
posted by Subspace at 7:46 PM on April 1, 2009

The happiest way to deal with a man is never to tell him anything he does not need to know.

Happiest for whom?
posted by setanor at 8:04 PM on April 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

Ten of your friends know, it'll come out. If it also comes out that ten of our friends knew and didn't tell him -- and that'll come out too --, SD's gonna feel like all your friends were giggling at his gallant ignorance. Which'll humiliate him, and leave him feeling disrespected and blaming you for being blindsided.
posted by orthogonality at 8:07 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am not sure why it appears to be a binary decision; either tell him now or not at all. The timing of telling him is critical. That includes never telling and expecting he will find out eventually. Ask him if he wants to know about your past or is comfortable knowing you are experienced. I would wait as long as possible prior to making a lifelong commitment. I think the more he knows you are the one the less likely it is to phase him. Alternatively, I have no idea what his reaction will be and neither do you. But, it is his reaction that is critical so you might as well find out now rather than later.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:18 PM on April 1, 2009

I think you might want to mention this at some point. But I don't think you have to do it now. It makes sense you'd be excited to - you're in that early discovery phase of a new relationship, which is all about connecting and unburdening and revealing oneself. But this is a piece of the past you might hold onto until you're talking about - really talking about - spending your lives together, exclusively. Right now you really don't need to bring this in and destroy the "lovely blooming relationship" which is all about who you are right now. There may be things in his past you don't need to hear right now, too. I agree that with 10 friends knowing, it might come out casually eventually, so ultimately you should have this conversation. But honestly, it's very early in your relationship and I don't think you need to rush it. Wait until your pasts and future come up naturally and you're already in that serious frame of mind.
posted by Miko at 8:20 PM on April 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

This isn't advice, per se... but, SD might be like me.

If my wife told me this, I'd be really, really turned on. Especially if she viewed it positively and brought it up in a positive light. I am, however, hugely sex-positive--pros are professionals, imo.

Of course, I haven't met your guy, He may not like the idea. He may think it's horrible. But, I wouldn't... so, you shouldn't assume that everyone would view it negatively.

Also, if your friends know... you need to tell him. Otherwise he'll find out from Sue, and you'll look like you were hiding something shameful. Which you aren't.
posted by Netzapper at 8:21 PM on April 1, 2009

Does he manage to please you sexually? Does he know explicitly that he does? Go ahead and tell him.

Oh, and yeah, tell him about your short stint as a healthcare* professional.

*mental, physical, whatever. You were doing a public service, right? Do psychiatrists or firefighters or EMTs or social workers feel guilt/shame in their professions?
posted by porpoise at 8:26 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

But your past is YOUR past and has nothing to do with him

I agree with this completely but unfortunately it isn't the way the world works or has ever worked or ever will work. Your past might be your past but with something like this, if the guy found out inadvertently through a mutual friend or whatever, it would be a major SNAFU and could have very damaging implications for the relationship. My suggestion is to tell him. Objectively it isn't that big a deal but subjectively, well, who knows?
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:31 PM on April 1, 2009

150 sexual partners over 30 years is a lot.

I'm more puzzled by what you might have left out with regard to your relationships with all the men [not the john's] you've slept with--and what this might bode for SD.

You say you enjoy giving and receiving sexual pleasure, but what is it about your relationships with men that kept you going from man to man--I mean how as a woman have you escaped falling into a long-term monogamous relationship?

How have you managed the emotions of being with so many men?

Your description of SD as a "lovely" man strikes me as a bit odd. Lovely isn't a highly charged emotional term, it's mostly descriptive. Vases are lovely. Drapes are lovely.
posted by subatomiczoo at 8:31 PM on April 1, 2009

Why do you want him to know? What would either of you gain or lose from that conversation?

I'm guessing that you're in disbelief that he is falling for you and you want to put it to the test. If that's the case, let it go.
posted by plinth at 8:34 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with the general consensus about telling him soonish. As a similar kind of guy, I think that it would definitely be difficult for me to deal with but, depending on the quality of the relationship, I might be able to accept it and continue with the relationship.

On the contrary if, in the event of the scenario mentioned above, I were to find out from somebody else down the line and find out that everyone knew but me, I think it would be shattering to my conception of the trust and honesty in the relationship and might make me feel like I've been fooled throughout the years. That is a much worse scenario. Along with that is the constant nagging fear that he might find out sometime - an anxiety which could inject problems into your relationship.

I think that it, meaning your sexual development as a whole, not just the hooking, is a part of who you are and important for him to know if a long term relationship is the goal. Having only known him a month, you could wait another couple of months just to allow the relationship to develop a solid foundation. It will be a big deal to him and it will be an obstacle to get over, but it will avoid a much worse possible outcome in the future while concurrently allowing you to find out if the man you love is able to love who you are, not just a part of who you are.
posted by slopepheasant at 8:39 PM on April 1, 2009

Yes, ignorance is bliss in this case, I think.
posted by number9dream at 8:40 PM on April 1, 2009

You're certainly not obligated to tell him. He does not have a "right to know" anything about your sexual experiences that you are not interested in sharing.

But you're right that it very well may come out in discussion or conversation, especially given your nonplussed attitude about it. If it does, I'd expect he'd feel embarrassed that he's last to know. And It's going to be hard to convince him that you're totally okay with your past yet were too [something] to tell him about it.

(Options including such interpretations as: you think he's too fragile of a flower to cope, you think he's judgmental, that you're actually ashamed, or that you're misrepresenting it.)

So, tell him straight out the way you told us. Tell him that you're nervous about telling him, and why. Answer questions if he has any. Tell him that you don't want him to find out some other way, but that he's welcome to NOT think about it if he doesn't wish to.
posted by desuetude at 8:41 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I personally would keep it to myself, but your relationship is new, and this is the time to do this, The longer you wait...

On balance, be up front. He will appreciate this, and would definitely show him your commitment, honesty and openness.
posted by mattoxic at 8:47 PM on April 1, 2009

Oh, and anonymous, no need to share the number of men you've had sex with total.

Subatomiczoo, I would add that smalls of backs and curves of hipbone and nipples and fingertips and are lovely. Gasps of sudden pleasure are lovely. A glass of wine and footrub is lovely.
posted by desuetude at 8:52 PM on April 1, 2009

My first impulse was to say, Don't tell him-- he doesn't really need to know.

However, you seem to want to be able to share this with him, as it was an important part of your life, one that gave you new perspectives. And he's likely to get the news eventually from some of your friends.

With that in mind, you might want to consider warming him up gradually with conversations about the artistry of lifestyle exploration (monks taking vows of silence and celibacy-- fascinating, no?), the radical aestheticism of the geisha, the feminist milestone represented by the independent courtesan of the 18th century, Sex Positivity Yes!, etc.

Show him how open minded you are, before pushing to find out how open minded he's willing to be.
posted by darth_tedious at 9:03 PM on April 1, 2009

Putting myself in SD's position, I'd say I'd much rather know from you than from someone else. And, in general, word will travel.
posted by OrangeDrink at 9:12 PM on April 1, 2009

You have an obligation to tell any partner about STD's you might have. Beyond that, I'd say you're in the clear. Adult relationships aren't about full disclosure, they're partnerships based on a need-to-know basis.
posted by bardic at 9:14 PM on April 1, 2009

If asked directly, tell the truth. Otherwise, I see no reason to tell him.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:16 PM on April 1, 2009

As someone who had the opposite problem - I've slept with very few men and felt silly about admitting it in case I'd be thought of as a prude - I say keep it to yourself unless he asks you. ...for now. If he wanted to know, he'd probably ask, especially if he already perceives you to be open-minded about sex.

OrangeDrink says "word will travel," but who in the world would your guy be talking to? I mean, 150 guys is not the entire city of Los Angeles or something. He's not going to bump into a former john of yours at Barnes & Noble and end up in a conversation about your previous employment. This is your personal business. HOWEVER, if you find yourself in a serious relationship with this man for a while and you're still afraid to tell him, then you may want to think about why you're afraid and consider whether or not you can stay with someone you don't feel you can really be yourself with.
posted by katillathehun at 9:31 PM on April 1, 2009

I'd say to tell him, if only so you don't feel like you've got this anvil that will "make" him dump you hanging over your head for the duration of the relationship. If you didn't feel that anvil hanging over you (and I don't know how likely he is to find out- but really, how many of your friends are going to be joshing at parties about your brief hooker stint? Who does this?), I'd say not to tell, he doesn't need to know an exact number, he knows you're more experienced and leave it at that.

But...you've got the Anvil of Shame hanging over your head right now, clearly. I think it'd be better for the guy to dump you now if he can't live with it before you get in too far, or for you to find out that he can still love you despite your sexual experiences being out of the ordinary. And then either way, you can move on.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:03 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

If he doesn't know, but you have friends that know, there are ways he could find out without your telling him. Regardless of how a person feels about the hooking in general, I think it would be worse to find out from someone else, just because it would feel like you were keeping a secret from them.

Finding out later is worse than finding out sooner, again, because of the secretive aspect. If you tell him later, when he feels like he really knows you, it's likely to be shocking and possibly hurtful to hear. You say that hooking has contributed to the person you are today and you aren't ashamed of it. That's great! But can you imagine how you would feel if someone you were close to never told you about something they felt was an integral part of who they were? I try to imagine my husband telling me something much more mundane, like he's had this secret passion for painting and he does it without telling me. I don't care if people paint, and I'd be glad he had a hobby he likes, but all I would be able to think is, "Why didn't he feel he could tell me?"

If you don't tell him, I think it's too likely things could blow up in your face even if he doesn't care about the hooking. So I urge you to tell him, and tell him sooner rather than later. Plus if he's not opposed to the hooking, then it's not going to be a huge deal. And it's possible that it was so far in the past that, even if it would normally bother him, it might not be a huge deal to him.

Now, if it does freak him out to know, it's for the best to find out now. If he can't accept a part of your past that made you who you are today, do you really want to be with him? I really feel like it's inevitable he's going to find out sooner or later anyway, since other people know about it. So would you want to deal with it now, or later when he's going to feel even more deceived and you have even more of a life together and even more to lose? And even if you're pretty sure you can keep it a secret, are you willing to gamble with his emotions and the relationship when there's still a small chance he could find out?

On top of all this, I just don't think it's fair to not tell him. If he would be opposed to it, he has even more of a right to know who he's dating.
posted by Nattie at 11:18 PM on April 1, 2009

There is no reason that any sexual partner needs to know *how many* other partners a person has had. S/he needs to know if you have contractable infections, and that is it. Logically, physically, it is none of anyone else's business but yours. If it is important to you that he know and accept that fact about your past, then discuss it with him.
posted by so_gracefully at 11:33 PM on April 1, 2009

Forget about SD for a moment. Over the last thirty years, you have averaged five men per year.

The average number of men the OP has been with in a year doesn't tell us anything about the distribution of those hookups, does it, b1tr0t? It could have been a 5 years of promiscuity in her early 20s, followed by a handful of long term relationships with the short stint as a hooker somewhere in between.

The hooking, and the exact number of men she's been with, don't seem like the sort of details she needs to share with her partner, the broad outlines are enough, and it sounds like he has some idea. I think the issue here is the downside if he finds out on his own later and feels betrayed that it was kept a secret.

While prostitution may be legal where the OP lives, it clearly carries some social stigma, otherwise she wouldn't be concerned about how her partner will react. The upside is that it's unlikely that any of her former clients would let the cat out of the bag, but her friends might. I think the real issue is when and how to bring the subject up.
posted by Good Brain at 11:46 PM on April 1, 2009

Man, what the hell is it with foks and sex? Am I right? Look, we all know the sensible rule that governs this issue. Sex with someone you love an care about is a great and beautiful thing. Sex with a prostitute is never that. To think that because a person you care about was a sex worker once somehow taints the sex says more about you than your partner. You were a prostitute, you know this. It was an arms length business transaction every time wasn't it? Or at least as close as it gets while still involving your naughty bits.

You did what you had to do and anyone who would even think about judging you for the choices you made can fuck off so hard they get a nosebleed.

But I'm ranting aren't I? The point is, if I were in this guy's shoes, and you told me, I'd be flattered that you thought I was cool enough to lay this on. If you didn't tell me but I found out anyway I'd understand because us dudes can tend to be assholes can't we? The only thing I could reasonably demand to know is the STD/birth control report so as to facilitate responsible fucking, but beyond that it's all just personal history that paints a more vivid picture of the person I'm with.

You're worried that just laying this on him will freak him out, and in certain contexts it will. That said, you know the dude, and you know how he rolls. Do you tend to run with the judgmental type? It doesn't sound like it from your question. This guy sounds alright, and there is an appropriate context (when you're alone together and talking about shit like always happens in a new relationship) where you could tell a story about your life.

Don't be hella ashamed of it 'cause, hell, you aren't! Right? Dan Savage is really big on this. If you are gonna lay some shit on a partner don't do it like you're announcing terminal cancer. It's a part of you, and it's part of what made you who you are today. He likes who you are today, so it should be all jake with him provided he gets it in the right context. This rule applies even if he finds out without you telling him. Your past doesn't define your relationship, and you should never have to make apologies for who you are, let alone who you were.

Good luck with what your doin'. Whatever way you decide to go, I think you can come out ok. This guy sounds alright.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:01 AM on April 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

Projecting your preconceived notions about 'sluts' much? Geez.

Anyway: I agree that you should tell him, just because you really do seem to want to share it with him. I'd just sit him down and do it, perhaps waiting a few months if things are too new now.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:02 AM on April 2, 2009

Read the book:

Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? By (John Powell)

posted by zulo at 1:05 AM on April 2, 2009

150 sexual partners over 30 years is a lot.

Really? Counting the 30 some that she had as a professional, that makes it an average of 4 a year. I don't find that excessive for a single woman. Geez, this country has gotten prudish!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:33 AM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

However , I think that we should keep private things to ourselves as sometimes when arguing or in time our partners put in our faces the dirties things they know about us to annoy us or to defend themselves.

Now you feel that you want to share everything with him, as all is ok in your realtionship, but one day if things turn difficult he will be for sure taking your secrets or your past as excuse and will try to make you feel bad about it. People change and the bad side of each person always surface in the most unexpected ways.

You can tell him that you want to be a bit more explicit about your past, and tell him you've had a period where you dated a lot. But don't need to go into details,it is your life, and if he one day discovered it, well, you say , I've told you I dated alot in a period, I didn't go into details because I tought that any body could really understand and take it in a good way without judging me. It was part of my past. But I did'nt lie to you.. he will understand, anybody would understand that as we know how generally society reacts towards this topic.

He loves you, and he won't reproch you to keep quiet about it. Don't be afraid of the day he discovers it, you are well prepared , you have your plan, But you don't need now just to open all your past and experiencies to show you love him, he probably is no telling some dark things form his past.

Don't be silly, we don't need to tell our partners EVERYTHING to show we are good.

You reminded me of a Joke in Spanish that I am to try to translate..

There were a old couple in bed talking to eachother celebrating their 50 years of great marriage, . The man asked his wife.."oh my love why we don't tell eachother tonight all the things we've never told to eachother from our past? so she said ok my love , .. well I'll start ..Do you remeber what I said to you when I first met you ,that I had slept just with one body? he replayed .., oh ! yes my sweete! , she said , well my sweeheart, ...that was true, but I did'nt tell you just that that was with the body fire brigade! LOL

Good luck.

posted by zulo at 1:34 AM on April 2, 2009

PS - it's 6 months out of your life. I don't think you need to tell him unless you find it completely necessary. Any friend of yours that feels the need to "spill the beans" to him isn't a real friend, and I have a feeling that you don't have too many fake friends. Enjoy your guy, don't stress on this baloney, and don't listen to the damn 22 year old prudes.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:35 AM on April 2, 2009

I don't think ones partner needs to know everything about everything. If they ask, maybe. If they don't, and what they don't know has no relevance to them (STDs etc) then I don't think they need to know.

If my partner (of 8 years) told me something like that? I would be cool with it, but I think I would prefer not to have known.
posted by tomble at 2:28 AM on April 2, 2009

Well I'd find it immensely interesting but I'm weird like that. So if my partner told me I wouldn't mind at all, and in fact I'd be pleased that they trusted me or liked me enough to tell me - let's not pretend we live in a world where hooking is something without a stigma attached. For the same reason, I'd understand if they didn't tell me and kept it a secret for years, until one sunny afternoon...but I think I'd start to wonder what else might be hidden away in the closet. Not in a suspicious way, mind you.

I would prefer it however if I heard it directly from my partner and not from a third-party.

As for whether you should tell him, I'm kinda veering towards the, well, if he likes you so much then he should still like you after you tell him this. I don't think he has a 'right' to know because we're all entitled to keep secrets - however if you are planning on telling him one day, maybe it's best to tell him sooner rather than later. You never know what people's deal-breakers are.

Best of luck!
posted by parjanya at 3:51 AM on April 2, 2009

One good argument for Telling People Stuff in life in general is that when you've done it, it becomes a finite thing in your relationship: maybe it'll be tough to deal with, but it's there, and it's addressable, and even if it leads to the worst possible outcome you will adjust to that outcome in the end. If you don't tell people stuff, there is no end to the amount of time you can spend worrying about what might happen if you did tell, or whether you ought to be telling. If this kind of worrying is going to damage your relationship anyway, it changes the cost-benefit analysis when it comes to the potential damage to the relationship of telling him.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 4:09 AM on April 2, 2009

As, the saying goes - Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

10 of your close friends already know of your past. It's almost inevetable that it will come out, most likely inadvertantly, but the effect is the same. If it's likely to be a big deal for SD, it might be wiser to address it proactively.
posted by Jakey at 4:33 AM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

If 10 of your friends know he will find out from one of them or someone that they told. A lot more than 10 people know about your past - it doesn't matter how close/trusted those 10 friends are, they all know at least one other person that they trust to tell everything they know to. And so on, and so on, and so on (like that annoying shampoo ad from the 70s).

You need to decide how you want him to find out, from you or them. Before you tell him, make sure that he has known for a while (with lots of reinforcement of the fact) that being with him is the best sex you've ever had.

Good luck!

On preview, what orthogonality said:

Ten of your friends know, it'll come out. If it also comes out that ten of our friends knew and didn't tell him -- and that'll come out too --, SD's gonna feel like all your friends were giggling at his gallant ignorance. Which'll humiliate him, and leave him feeling disrespected and blaming you for being blindsided.
posted by zarah at 4:41 AM on April 2, 2009

Operationally, feels like it's far from a looooooooooongshot that this would somehow come out so something to be said for finding the time, place and tone to have the conversation.

Someone made a good point about the Anvil of Shame, the fact that this rattling around in your head could become a big issue in itself.

At the risk of relieving myself in your Wheaties, after a glorious, nuclear-blowtorch month of dizzying sex, you don't know the guy. Nobody knows the guy (or the gal) after the first month like that. If you tell him/he finds out, he could have the reaction you hope for and he could not. To digress, a hope that your feet are on the ground or occasionally visiting terra firma relative to prospects that glorious first months often don't produce lasting relationships.

More to the point, I long ago met a woman, got to know her a bit, asked her out, went out with her a couple times, she wasn't into it, seemed much more uncomfortable and detached than when we'd interact while not on dates, zero interest in the most modest kiss goodnight. I shoulda asked her about it to see if there was something situational that had little or nothing to do with me and/or at least gotten some feedback about how I was coming across.

So I left the dating thing aside, continued to see and interact with her from time to time, enjoyed that over a couple months. She dropped a big hint that another date sounded good, that she was feeling more comfortable with the concept of dating and me, specifically. Things on the date(s) were much better, things got intimate (not at the speed of light). In talking of general stuff, how we got to where we were, she related a dark, ugly time where she did what you did and some other not-good things that were going on.

My head was a bit of a jumble, but part of the jumble was, as someone above mentioned, feeling flattered that she was open with me about this, trusted me to not repeat this to people we both knew personally and professionally. When she told me, she was almost 2x the age she was when these things happened and she had her act together.

Sure, I was a bit more watchful for things that might indicate that she was going back down that road or tempted, but I was fundamentally fine with it and it did make me more comfortable being open and honest with her--suffice to say I don't always excel in that regard.
posted by ambient2 at 4:50 AM on April 2, 2009

Lots of noise in this thread, obscuring the issues.

I'd say the question of whether he has the "right" to know is a bit of a red herring, what's more relevant is that you will feel like you're hiding something from him if you don't tell him --- that's just because of the way you are, not because you "ought" to feel that way. Keeping that part of your life hidden makes you feel like you're distancing yourself from him, and once that part of your past becomes a secret that has to be protected, it WILL become a barrier -- a barrier that will grow stronger the closer you get to him.

I say tell him -- not because you have some sort of obligation to do so, but because then that information will no longer have the power to make you worry about his reaction. I think if you told him about it pretty much in the terms you've described it here, it's likely he will accept that part of you, even if there's an initial shock he has to get over.
posted by the bricabrac man at 5:36 AM on April 2, 2009

i'm a guy. would i want to know? no, i wouldn't. do i have a right to know? yes--but then all's fair in love and ...

what would happen when i found out: depends on how long i've known you, and if there were other issues of trust. time would erode at my revulsion at the concept.
posted by lester at 5:56 AM on April 2, 2009

Congratulations, both for being so comfortable with your life experience, and for wanting to be honest with your man. If it were me, here's what I'd want (and I've had this agreement with other lovers in the past; it seems to work):

At some time before the relationship goes too much further, there will come a quiet, intimate time where you can tell him that, although you're not anxious to get into each others' sexual history, you'll always be honest with him and tell him anything he wants to know. He'll probably mumble something along the lines of "same here", and drop it. You've been honest, you've told him you have no secrets, and you haven't burdened him with anything he doesn't want to know.

Best of luck in your relationship. I think your man has found a great partner.
posted by dinger at 6:07 AM on April 2, 2009

I make pacts with my partners for them to NOT tell me this sort of thing. Got a blowjob drunk from that girl we both see sometimes? Banged five, ten, twenty, one hundred and fifty people? Had anal sex and wasn't really into it? That's all peachy keen, but I just don't want to know about it. And they know this, and when they get that sort of cautious should-I-tell-her-this look on their face, I just clap my hands over my ears and say no, it's ok, I really would rather not hear about it.

Everyone has a past, and your really isn't any more shameful or sordid than anyone else's, darling. Some people want to share everything, and some people would rather skip the details. I don't know what kind of person SD is. Maybe it's just a dry fact for him. Maybe he's like me, where his imagination is way too good, and knowing any detail leads to lot of agonizing images that are difficult to block.

For me, knowing they ain't a virgin, and seeing clean STI test results, just about wraps up a lover's past for me. I don't need numbers or details or names.

Is there any way you can broach this with SD, asking him how much he wants to know? Myabe something like "I never have believed in disclosing absolutely everything, because a lot of my past is so buried and over for me, and I like to stay in the present; however, I'll never keep anything secret from you. All the stuff I've done in my past doesn't matter any more, because you're the absolute best, and the only person I think about. Next to you, all other men just aren't as interesting, or sexy, or lovely. If you every have any questions about my past, or you're curious, though, just ask. I don't want to hide anything from you."

If he does really want your blow-by-blow life story, then he's asking for it, and prepared, and you can ease into it without just blurting "Thirty six men have paid me for sex!" over steak and potatoes. If he choses not to know, that's his choice, for his peace of mind, and you can't be blamed of hiding it from him if it does come out.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:13 AM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

I am normally a strong proponent of sharing everything, but in this case I think you should not share the info. The risk is so high, the benefit questionable.
posted by alms at 8:13 AM on April 2, 2009

Mod note: few comments removed - please take side discussions and eye rolling ALLCAPS rejoinders elsewhere.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:54 AM on April 2, 2009

Miko is wise, as usual; follow her advice.

But as desuetude said, no need to share the total number of men you've had sex with.
posted by languagehat at 11:37 AM on April 2, 2009

Secrets like this don't need to come out until a year into a relationship (at least that's how long I wait to tell women about the frogboats and the briny seaweed-goddess wars of my amphibious youth). At your ages you can both be patient and forgiving. After a year, come back and read this advice thread and decide whether the benefits of telling him outweigh the risks of keeping it secret. Hail Atlantis!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:33 PM on April 2, 2009

I see no reason to draw a distinction between sexual encounters and sexual encounters for which you've received money at any point when discussing your sexual history with him or anyone else in the future.

At this phase of development of the relationship, I'd mention that you're so much happier now that you've found the connection between sex and love and how much better it has made sex for you. Preferably, say this as you're both sweaty and craving a cigarette.

If you ever need to say more, dismiss it with a laugh that practice improves skills, and that you have found a man worthy of your attention and ability.

If he or anyone else ever makes a big deal out of your brief professional stint, just dismiss it by saying that you traded sexual favors for emotional intimacy for a long time before that and eventually became jaded enough that hard times drove you to a place where it seemed like a good idea to trade them for money. Follow this immediately with a statement that you now know that, when you're truly in love, you don't trade at all: you give.

Some of these statements may involve downplaying this aspect of your life in a way that implies that you're less comfortable with it than you are. Consider this the spin that takes the sting away. After all, if you love him, you'll tell him you don't care that he's losing his hair, even if you aren't thrilled with it. It's not a lie; it's a choice to leave things unsaid that do not need to be said.

Any man that truly loves you will find a way to work past anything. Give him a chance to climb down the mountain, though. Don't throw him over the cliff.
posted by _Skull_ at 1:52 PM on April 2, 2009

I am just not at all convinced it will accidentally come out one day that you were a prostitute. Emphasis on accidentally. Now if you've told anyone you don't really trust and who doesn't have your best interest at heart, that's another thing all together, but given only a handful of people know it isn't the type of thing that just comes out in conversation.

Oddly enough I have 2 friends whose significant others used to be sex workers and trust me, no one brings it up, ever. It's not like mentioning that one time your friend had a fling with your other friend years before they met their significant other or something like that. No one could possibly think it's alright to ever throw into casual conversation that you used to be a prostitute. Unless someone was intentionally trying to hurt you (and yes this always a risk) I just don't see it happening.

Which is why I would advise you not to tell him. I worry about him having a visceral reaction to the revelation that he might not be able to get over, even if logically he wants and tries to. There are some things in this world people have a right not to know and assuming you are STD free, I think this is one of them.
posted by whoaali at 4:39 PM on April 2, 2009

I think you have to tell him for your sake. I don't know if he has a "right" to know, but I don't see how you can be happy otherwise. It's like - the best case scenario for not telling him is that the two of you stay together, growing ever more deeply in love, until you die in each others arms at a ripe old age. Except: you worried the whole time that he'd find out. And: You wondered if he'd love you if he knew everything about you. I'm not saying you should tell him right now - but I think it would spoil things for you to have this hanging over your head.
posted by moxiedoll at 10:24 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you have only known him a month, no matter how strong the connection you feel, it is too soon to tell him. If you stay together, as someone else said, a year from now, revisit the idea of telling him. But now is too soon, I think.

I would not want to know this about my partner. I'm a coward that way. It would affect me deeply. It sounds like he might be the kind of person strongly affected by notions of 'careless love' as well.

You have a past. So does he, it is just a different past, but it is his own history. And you have lived over forty years without him. You've had a life of many choices and experiences that he is not part of. You may have forty years with him starting now, who knows? But there are parts of your life that, if you choose to, are yours to keep to yourself. You are the only person you have to answer to.

I think you are wondering about telling him too soon. Only a month into it seems too soon.

If you are still together a year, two years from now, please do think carefully about telling him. Sometimes the kindest thing is to not burden someone you love with knowledge that will bring grief. A year from now, you will know him better, and know better whether to speak or tell.

Good luck with the decision that you do make, and if it's love--that is wonderful!
posted by Savannah at 10:36 PM on April 2, 2009

It was an important time of self-development for me and it has added to the person I am today.

I want to know everything about my partner that he could say this about, because he is the thing I geek out about most. I love his stories. I love hearing about what has hurt him and what has made him stronger. I want to drink it all up. So, as your partner, I would want to know.

But you've only been dating a month. Too soon, too soon. You're on the high. Let it settle a bit first. Let your relationship grow. See if you still feel this way about him in 6 months. See if your sex life has changed at all. Mutual infatuation has a way of influencing sex. :)

When it's built up a bit more, when you're feeling more settled, when you've had time to develop trust and more permanence, then let him into more of your world. Don't rush it. Yeah, your friends know, but it is completely understandable that he wouldn't know all your stories after a month. Let him learn the current you first, before you expose all the previous you's to him. The woman you were when hooking, the woman she helped you become... treasure and protect them for a little while longer until you build up that trust. Let it be a process.
posted by heatherann at 6:51 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

follow up form the OP
Thank you all very much for your replies, they were very helpful. Even the responses that were judgemental about my sexual history, and those that assumed that I had a deeper 'issues' gave me food for thought. It was useful to use those comments to revisit how I felt, on a scale from pride to shame, about my choices in that time of my life.

My varied life has been adventurous and I have lived it with integrity. I have been married and also had other long term relationships (monogamous). I have also connected with many sex-positive men through my single years, many of whom are still friends. It is true that I sought affection through physical intimacy in my younger years, but as a nurse I was also dealing with some real life-and-death situations. Sex was often a stress-relieving life-affirming act. My experience hooking in a legal, safe, secure and respected environment, totally in control of my hours and client load, with a group of apparently-ordinary but extraordinary women (a student nurse, a fashion-show organiser, a healer, etc) in a 'house' that was very much a place of female power, gave me a perspective on both myself and humanity that I could not have gained otherwise. Most of the clients were single men unwilling to trawl the few local bars for a one-night-stand (my brothel was in a rural town) and most of my professional interactions were really about reconnecting the man with himself through touch which he had been missing. It would be a mistake to think it was all about genitalia. Some clients just wanted to hug me. It took courage to become a hooker and compassion for both myself and men to do it then leave at the right time; I am proud to possess such courage and compassion. While this type of work is not suitable for most people, this part of my past is not an Anvil of Shame, but more an occasional Sword of Social Disapprobation; a possible threat from outside (negative moral judgement, social discrimination etc) rather than a burden carried within. In other words, other's judgement is really their problem, not mine however I am in a situation where I don't want to cause the man I love to have a problem. There are no disease issues by the way - I have been safe-sex strict all my life, and government-paid six-weekly medical checks are required as a condition of working in well-run legal brothels.

The general consensus seems to be: tell but wait awhile for our relationship foundations to solidify. This is good advice. There is also a good call not to tell at all. I'm going to hold off saying anything for a while, maybe a year, and then reassess. Thanks again all for your consideration of my dilemma. Responses I would mark as favourites in chronological order for their insight and/or advice if this post were not anonymous:
not that girl
Good Brain
the bricabrac man
Juliet Banana
Potomac Avenue
posted by jessamyn at 6:38 AM on April 4, 2009

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