How Can a John Become a Sex Worker Advocate?

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 08:18
Submitted by Betty Dodson

Hello Betty,

My name is A and I was recently reading your sex workers column on your blog site and I was curious to ask you how can a client of a sex worker become an advocate for sex workers and their clients?

I ask this question because I have been seeing Sex workers since the age of 21 and I truly believe sex work should be legalized. I've read several books on the issues surrounding the sex work but the books seem to only focus on sex workers perspective and not the client side of sex work.

I feel that clients of sex workers should have a voice in sex worker advocacy because for far too long johns have been stigmatized as contributing to sex trafficking which we know is not true, and I believe men who use the services of a sex worker whether it be gay, straight or transgender, they should have a voice in the fight for legalized sex work because I believe it's the clients who also are impacted by stigmatization in sex work.

where do I start betty?

Dear A,

Your attitude is very admirable and I applaud you. Since you see sex workers where you live, ask one of the women who is advocating for prostitutes in your city. Maybe you can find the information online. Although I do consider myself a sex worker, I've got too big a name for John Law to mess with me. I've always wanted to get busted as it's the best PR you can get. But my friends say I'm being nieive cause it's no fun to even spend one night in jail. Let me know what you come up with and I'll pass along your info for other clients who appreciate our sex working women.

Dr. Betty

Liberating women one orgasm at a time

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


Fri, 08/15/2014 - 09:09
Lexi Lipstick

What a great question! I'd also suggest reaching out to a local chapter of SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project) in the nearest big city to you. They're all over and do wonderful activist and support work. :)

Sex workers, safety, and stigma

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 13:21

SWOP describes itself as primarily devoted to reducing violence against sex workers, which is admirable and necessary. Legalizing sex work would also reduce the gross hypocrisy of persecuting people for consensual activity that is only disapproved of because it's sexual activity. We in the US (despite all the relentless titillation in the media) have one of the most anti-sexual cultures on the planet. I also think that there is a real place for sexual healers---those who work with persons whose options for sexual fulfillment have been affected by disability or other personal issues.

Having said that, there is a difference between making the conditions for sex workers safer, and glossing over the gravity of the associated issues. I worked in an acute-care hospital for many years. The sex workers I met were almost without exception poor, addicted to drugs, and desperately miserable. They knew they were being exploited and they hated it. What they wanted was options for a genuinely better life. If my johns really cared about me, one woman wrote, why don't they offer me a real job?

I realize full well that many readers on D&R will disagree with my position, but I don't believe that most sex work is benign even in the best of conditions. Legalizing sex work and reducing its dangers is necessary, but it doesn't mean that sex work is inherently harmless.  There are real psychological dangers in making intimate sexuality just another consumer product to be bought and sold on the open market. We human beings have an innate capacity for caring and intimacy. When we treat that capacity the same way we treat calling a plumber when we have a leaking pipe, I think we're misusing it.

Patrick R I agree with you in

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 19:21
anonirama (not verified)

Patrick R I agree with you in the trascendance of sex, but apparently it isn't like that for everyone...
It has been long since I figured this one out but sexual relationships are as different as people are. Some are more physical, others more energetic, others more profound, others all intermingled....
I am a sex advocate in favor of sex work and sex worker admirer (for their strenght amongst other things).
Many years ago I voluntereed in a NGO that provided syringes for heroin addicts and condoms and lube for sex workes. I had the opportunity to see not only their working conditions one thing I remember the most is the smell, sweet perfume, stale air of smoke and spirits looking for the exit, and bitter-sweet condensed sex. I guess this wasn't the worst, the worst is the street. The majority of places I saw where in basements even if they were in the second floor. It seemed that way like if everything was shut to keep the ''sins'' inside and light outside unless it's red. This organization was in favor of abolishing sex work but I still found the work incredibly interesting nurturing and neccesary. 
because I was the only one in favour of sex work, but after seeing all the things they had to, in a lot of ways you can understand Many questions arose and debated Does a man want to be with a sex worker because he wants to coerce, apply his power over her or get what he wants because he is affraid to ask his partner or be rejected or judged does he just want to receive pleasure without haVING TO GIVE ANYTHING BACK, physical or emotional. You could say that this man is a very insecure person or how with you describe him? Sorry for putting a male example but it is the general rule. This was the average man I encountered in these brothels (is brothles the right word, excuse my english). And he wasn't a very pleasent man to be around, I felt sorry for them, they seemed lost and alone, most of them where looking for company. I felt sorry for the men even though it was the sex worker who had to put up with him, a lot of times just agreeing and admiring him.
I can tell you one thing, the strong ones there where the sex workers not the clients. In a documentary of channel4 UK presented by Rupert Everett called ''Love for sale'' which I recommend a sex worker said: '' there are 3 types of clients I've encountered the majority ones that just want company,  the ones that want to relieve tension after a hard week and go back to his family more relaxed and the ones that think that because they pay they can do anything with/to me. She concluded: ''these are not my clients''.
Seeing how many ''normal'' men act with women and myself sexually I have started to have a knew view of Johns I thought to myself '' at least they pay' in this sense Johns are appreciating that selling your body has a price, that it doesn't come at any cost, that a body can be rented but not owned by another only by one self. A lot lot lot of guys just want to get IT for FREE just go out to any night club, you can sense the hunter mode in the air. The start of do you work or study, what a beautiful name and the final act of The ''i've ejaculated I have to go...'' Is I line too often heard by women... through resentment and anger when it happend to me I thought next time (hope their isn't one) I'm going to say at least give me a fiver for petrol or condoms...but no money is going to heal the feeling of not being appreciated. I mean the bare minimum of human kindness nothing extraordinary. And this was supposed to be a ''good man'' not a one night stand, we knew each other a little. I don't know what emotional turmoil he was in, but that is the explanation I need to give myself to understand his behavior and not classify men as ''all the same''. If it wasn't that he was just a selfish pig (no offence to pigs). So maybe we women may just have to start to charge if there is no fair exchange: you give me carrots I give you butter..... 
of course speak up if we can, about what we want take control? I wonder.
sex education should be another subject at school as important as maths
and self-love. not only through masturbation though it is the foundation and as a women self pleasurer I can tell you I need to feel the love the emotional intelligence. create secure people, that feel whole. I don't know very well how to achieve this in practical form but I know it is possible.
 a few times when i've despised my body so much that I thought ''maybe if I payed someone he would at least get something in return for being with my awful body but then I thought I would even be shy on that situation'' or even thought about it to have no emotional attachment even if normally desired for the feeling of not being able to be all the things required.
So much fear.
I know how much shyness can repress and how much self loathe can depress
It seems in men is more a release,and that they release emotional tension that way too, maybe if they where more open emotionally. It's like they want to relieve too many aspects of life through sex.
I don't see more happiness in men because they supposedly masturbate more often, have more sex and are the principal sex worker consumers. So I think the question is what type or quality of sex are they having, what do they really want? do they know? and what is their intention? Guns are not shot by themselves.
Will self-love and sex education be the foundation not of all human sexuality but of human relationships based on self-esteem, equality,respect, growth, curiosity, pleasure, play, consent....?

Hi, anonirama

Sat, 08/16/2014 - 10:04

Sexuality and human behavior are complex, as your thoughtful post shows. No two people are alike, whether sex worker or client. Most sex workers are simply doing what they have to do to survive, and taking significant risks to do so. If they could provide for themselves and their families in some other way, stop working in a brothel or on the streets, I think that most would gladly do so. Since the laws against sex work arguably make the work itself more dangerous for everyone rather than less dangerous, it can also be argued that as long as there is a demand for sex work, it's an industry better brought into the open so that working conditions can be supervised and basic protections put into place.

My ideal, though, would be to have a society that's so nurturing that sex work essentially disappears for lack of demand. If we gave everyone a decent start in life and decent options for making a living, and raised them with a deep respect for one another's humanity, I believe that virtually nobody would choose to go into typical sex work and virtually no one would want to exploit another person by using them in that way.

I'm sure that clients come in all forms, from lonely ones who mostly want some human contact to cold-hearted people who want to get off with no strings attached. What they have in common is a willingness to use someone else's body with little or no regard for the human being who inhabits it. That is also the problem with those men (or sometimes women) who scheme to seduce other people, use them, and then disappear. One of the problems for men is that so many of us are raised to be disconnected from our own emotions. That impairs empathy, and empathy is what we need to be able to feel what life is like for someone else and to put ourselves in their position. If we could all do that, we would never play with another person's emotions, pretend to feel something for them we didn't, or put our desires above the well-being of another. We'd treat one another with that basic kindness you speak of; we'd appreciate one another. Fundamentally, we all want the same things: happiness, intimacy, a decent life. But so many of us don't know how to behave so that our lives turn out that way!

"Human relationships based on self-esteem, equality, respect, growth, curiosity, pleasure, play, consent . . . ?" Yes, that's exactly what we need. We need to transcend the objectification of human beings for any reason: sex, money, security, status, career. Nothing is as important as treating one another with basic compassion. Self-love and sex education are certainly important here, because when we have a deep understanding and appreciation for our own sexuality and humanity, we can also understand and appreciate other people. And when we do, we will want to genuinely help them, not just 'use' them.

peace go with you brother

Sun, 08/17/2014 - 17:43
anonirama (not verified)

Patrick R thanks for replying 
this has been an endless debate between my friends and me for years. Specially a feminist friend who is against sex work. She says if a man is horny why doesn't he just masturbate why does he want to ''abuse'' a vulnerable human. Why does he want to use his power? The answers to these questions may say a lot. The way that men act sexually is revealing a lot of things  about where they are at, the demand of sex work, the porn overdose, wars, anger, violence...

But Patrick, you say ''decent'' in your reply. Is sex indecent?. I know you mean the situation, conditions and having to share your body with a stranger. Really I understand you and that is why I so admire sex work because I would find it so hard.

But...if a women with degrees a career....decided to do sex work would it make her an indecent person? With recession this is becoming a popular outcome it simply gives more money and it is less hours must someone feel bad for wanting to have to work less or have more time?. Many people would say that cleaning toilets it is more decent and that of course you won't have emotional damage (is it intrinsic to sex work? 
i know it would be with me, but it may not be for others)and so many women have to multi-task or have families or have to pay the bills or maybe something more trivial. Does it matter?

I guess it is a tricky subject. Sex is still tabu, And even though women are up front the ones that most suffer I think men do so equally or more, because they seem to be always looking outside for what they want or need. They can't seem to find it in themselves. they are dependent on external sources sex workers,porn....
Women seem more self-sufficient.

Does how many people you sleep with or how often define you? I bring this question about because of ''the slut'' stigma. Boys will be boys, but girls are labeled and judged. If she is a sex worker, it is because she has no choice so at least she is understood and if she has a choice she is not a decent woman. We really have to think about this

Patrick I know a lot of people with difficulties with meeting other people or have any body contact. Many are not diagnosed with any illness, but they problems or self problems, I don't know how to call it. I see them suffer and really sometimes I've thought about becoming a sexual therapist or offer not only company but touch. Touch is so important it is the only reciprocal sense'' you can't touch without being touched''
 I don't know if you know people like this, it doesn't seem you have felt this way. You may not understand them they may not seem to have physical or mental problems. They may even be social, beautiful and wealthy. But intimacy is hard and can be painful.
What would you say are the main reasons for someone going to a sex worker? 
maybe we should tackle the reasons and not the manifestations. We do the same with western allopathic medicine treat the symptoms not the cause.

The compassion that you rightly talk about should be shown to those who suffer the most and need more help and I think that in this moment in time it's men.
Sometimes I don't have a clear answer, I would like to know more about what you think

This is a song that I recently sent to my friends and family and epitomizes what I'm feeling towards men and what we are encountering even though it was written in 1973 by a very wise, compassionate man ahead of his time that maybe because of all his emotion and awareness got caught in the prison of drug addiction. Gil Scott-Heron

Now, more than ever, all the brethren must be together 
Every brother, everywhere, feels the time is in the air
 Time and blood flows through common veins
 And in the common eyes all see the same
 Now, more than ever, all the family must be together
Peace go with you, brother
 Though I ain't so proud anymore 
Peace go with you, brother

Recognition don't come cheap anymore
 You my lawyer, you my doctor, yeah

But somehow you forgot about me
 And now, now when I see you
All I can say is, peace
Peace go with you, brother
Peace to you, brother
Don't seem to matter much now what I say
Peace go with you brother
You're the kind of man that think he's got to have his own way
You're my father, you're my uncle and my cousin and my son
But sometimes, sometimes I wish you were not
But I manage to smile and I say: Peace go with you brother

Peace go with you brother
Don't make no sense for us to be arguing now
Time is right up on us now brother
Don't make no sense for us to be arguing now
All of your children and all of my children are gonna have pay for our mistakes someday
Yes - and until then may peace guide your way
Peace go with you brother; wherever you go
Peace go with you brother

Sex is inherently decent, clean, and natural

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 16:10

Thank you anonirama, once again you've raised some thought-provokiing questions.

First, sex workers are as worthy and decent and respectable as any other human being. That's a given. And there are numerous personal and economic circumstances that might determine why a person would turn to sex work. Economic survival, feeding an addiction, coercion, a desire to help their fellow human beings (as sexual healers do).

Some even go into sex work mainly as an escape from low self-worth, boredom, and depression, like the American ex-Olympic athlete, Suzy Favor Hamilton. She was quite well-off and didn't need money, but she became a pricey Las Vegas escort despite her already comfortable life and her husband and child. When she was 'outed' she was predictably savaged in the press; she was treated like a pariah and lost most of her sponsorships. I wrote her a brief note of support; to my surprise, she sent me a note of appreciation a couple of months later. Nobody had to tell her that her judgement had been poor, but she also didn't deserve to be torn to shreds by a mob of hypocritical, moralistic jackals.

Sex workers are inherently decent human beings worthy of all respect. The question for me is, how do we show them that respect? Based on what I know of most sex work, we first offer them alternatives if they want them. Treatment, if it was drugs that drove their decision. Employment and education, if it was poverty. Rescue and protection, if it was coercion or human trafficking. Since we have no idea why a particular woman (or man) became a sex worker, that is all the more reason not to use them as a human masturbatory device, as if they had no feelings, no history, no needs other than money. It's precisely because sex workers are decent human beings that it's wrong to treat them that way. Sexual pleasure is very important, but there is nothing more important than empathy and compassion.

Why do some people visit sex workers? Again, numerous reasons. A desire for sexual relief, boredom, loneliness, a callous sense of entitlement, the need to be held and touched. I agree with you, by the way, about the need for caring touch. There are people who are socially and sexually very awkward and have never learnt how to make those interpersonal connections that can lead to a reciprocal relationship. There are other people with physical disabilities that have limited their opportunities to explore their own sexuality or to meet others and to be accepted by them. That's where sexual healers can be a godsend, and we should honor them rather than punish them.

I appreciate that you care about men, because that's not always the case. Life is not easy for any of us. Men are socialized to disown our own emotions. We may not even know how frightened or desolate or loving we feel, because any sign of such emotions was shamed and punished when we were young. What's rewarded, on the other hand, is 'toughness', hardness, control, aggression. Having little tenderness towards ourselves, it has traditionally been more difficult for men to access those feelings for others. And that lack of tenderness is reflected in how boys are treated in our society. Of children who have been physically abused, boys are significantly more likely than girls to be seriously injured or killed. Feminism has been so important not just because it advocates for women, but because it overturns the whole system of gender oppression that has damaged all of us.

Thank you again for your kind words, and for pointing me towards Gil Scott-Heron, who was surely a man we could all learn something from.


Tue, 08/19/2014 - 16:49

This topic leaves me very conflicted.

At some level, prostitution seems to degrade sex from an act of intimacy to one of cash exchange & I struggle to see this as positive.

For most of the people involved in sex work around the world, it rarely seems to be a positive life choice but rather a choice forced upon them, by economics, drugs, abuse etc.

None of this changes my view that sex workers are human beings deserving of respect.

None of it would stop me advocating for the decriminalisation of sex work and the abolition of the ridiculous double standards that we as a society apply to those who work in the sex industry versus those who consume porn and use the services provided.

But I keep thinking back to Patrick's comment from a sex worker: "If my johns really cared about me, one woman wrote, why don't they offer me a real job?"

A pleasure ''speaking'' with you

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 18:25
anonirama (not verified)

Men have made me discover one of the most important things : energy 
Sometimes I don't understand them, why? is a frequent question. Too many times I don't like what they say or how they act.
And still I feel atracted to them. why? again rises. It is the natural thing. Isn't it?
There must be something that can't be seen, some invisible force.
But when you are attracted by someone that is hurting (himself/you) you can't help but wonder if you want to be hurt (unconsciously) or that's the way love goes or you have some kind of magnet that sends off the message ''vulnerable woman that will love you no matter what'' Come and hurt her she will forgive you.
So a sense of fear is established, fear of hurt, fear of men and fear of one self for allowing it. Intuition and intelligence go out the window and you start questioning and doubting your self and your capability for discerning. You can't trust anything, anyone. And you think ''do I really know how to take care, give me what I need, what I want?''
Will I ever be able to love, must I love unconditionally? It seems inherent to women, this type of motherly love. What is love?
Many sex workers take an aversion towards men, I remember many would speak terribly about them, they would put them down and would say: ''you just have to tell them what they want to hear and you'll have them wrapped around your finger and joke and laugh about how they would cum so quickly, etc and how they where so gullible. I remember feeling uncomfortable and sad. I know men are portrayed as the perpetrators. But aren't we all victims? These particular sex workers, the ones I met at least seemed to have some kind of ''control'' over their clients. I guess the need to have some control over something must become necessary when you have to give so much of yourself to someone that ownes-rents you for a while. 
As in the last D&R video says we are sexually abused by our culture
How can we be empathic and compassionate without selling our souls? being forgiving but at the same time letting them know that they hurt you? and not hurting them in return? sigh... This blindness of men astonishes me, how can they not see? how can they repeat and repeat the same errors not only in one life time but through history? Have men have had permission to act this way?  How can they become more empathic and compassionate? maybe seeing their own shadows?, if you don't see your shadow you can't grow and you will live an eternal child in ''never land'' 
I think this is the great importance of the Internet, and what is helping men see their shadows a.k.a GROW, everything is exposed everything is under the sun and moon. No where to hide. Masculine and feminine energies are finding their balance, but this is another story, sorry for rambling on...

The pleasure is mine

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 03:07

Thank you for our interesting and enlightening conversation, anonirama.

You point out that sex workers typically despise their clients, and that's one huge clue that the whole interaction is simply not a healthy one. They don't want their johns to 'last a long time'---that would cost them money. In fact I've heard of 'femdom' sex workers kicking men out of their rooms if they take longer than 15 minutes. The point is that for the most part it's an uncaring relationship on both sides, and that's the whole problem in a nutshell.

To paraphrase something Dr Betty once said, she can't help being attracted to men sometimes but she often wishes she wasn't. No doubt a lot of men feel the same way about women. The thing is, our culture damages all of us. We can't be very sensitive to other people's vulnerabilities if we're insensitive to our own, yet that's how most cultures raise men. Women typically have more 'social intelligence' than men, but they're socialized to be 'nurturers' even at the cost of inappropriate and unnecessary self-sacrifice.

We never set out to be hurt by the people we're attracted to, yet you may have noticed that the identical negative relationship pattern may repeat itself time after time, each time leaving us bruised and bewildered and wondering what we did wrong. Every person is different, but when the same hurtful patterns keep happening it may be because we need to devote more time to getting to know ourselves---practicing self-love, cherishing our good points, understanding how the events of our lives have shaped us and influenced the choices we make. The more grounded and compassionate we are with ourselves, the more likely we'll be to attract (and be attracted to) the kind of giving, loving partner we really want.

Somewhere in all this confusion is who we really are: just human beings sharing the same world, trying to work out how to live together in harmony despite ten thousand years of rigid sex roles designed to keep us apart.

We can transcend these old roles; the process has already begun. The key to being compassionate towards one another lies in realizing that every single one of us has been damaged by sex roles that work against our real needs. Deep down, we all need intimacy and adventure, love and self-worth. Once we know that about one another, we can feel compassion when we see someone who needs love but is clueless about how to get it. We can stand up for ourselves without feeling the need to strike back when we've been hurt. We can encourage our daughters as well as our sons to create and explore and take risks. We can teach our sons as well as our daughters how to nurture and love a child. I'm actually very hopeful, because just in our short lifetimes we've seen more compassionate social changes than in all the thousands of years that preceded us. It could really be quite a wonderful world someday. Some of it is pretty wonderful right now.

Patrick R

Sat, 08/23/2014 - 08:50
anonirama (not verified)

just finishing reading ''the art of loving' by Erich Fromm for the second time. Wishing that the number of times I read it will make a difference. Perhaps you have read it, If not I recommend it. It says just that: ''it is impossible love others if you don't love yourself''. I wish this wasn't true, because it could mean I don't love anyone and that is a quite horrible thought. Or maybe I just don't know how to love and as an art I need to learn. Or maybe as many of us my concept of love is wrong or distorted. Or maybe I'm too severe with myself and want to love more than what I can, or sometimes I feel that I'm asked for more than I can give. Or maybe I'm not making enough of the effort required. He says discipline, concentration and pacience. Qualities I'm not sure I possess.
 A lot of maybes in something that should be more simple. Or should it?
Patrick i'm going to take advantage of kindness and my anonimaty with a question that may not fair to ask you and I would understand if you decide not to answer
because of some issues I can't seem to appreciate my body fully and even though I don't dispise myself within I do end up despising that person the doesn't appreciate her body and ends up comparing herself, wishing not to be herself, even feeling envy and then eventually just sad and alone. That person is and isn't me and I know we are not our thoughts and that identifying with them is the basis for any mental block or ''malfunction''. That person feels she is not worthy of love. And then there is that part that says that my body is not the most important part of me, and the guilt of giving so much importance to something so vain but the source of so much pleasure (&pain). An time passes and with it age and my body withers, even so, will my mind grow?
I know it seems superficial and you don't know how embarrassed I am to even mention it. And in this manner. Being immaterial gives courage, I guess this is the strength many people feel through the Internet, a place where you can express nearly every thought, weakness, sorrow, an image of who we think we are or would like to be, daily chores, recipes...
I go to ''my history'' to see my interests of the day. What does your ''history'' say about you? Mine has a lot of D&R.
So I guess I want to know if I still have a chance of loving even if I don't love myself totally or should I accept that I won't love anyone totally?
Do you have any words of wisdom for something that is so superficially profound?
What would Fromm say about our present anxieties? 


Sat, 08/23/2014 - 12:07


Apologies for replying despite not being invited, and also for not being as wise as Patrick but your post really touched me. At different stages in my life, I have struggled with the issues you describe.

There are two ideas that have really worked for me:
- try to see love as something you do rather than something you feel; and,
- aim for self understanding and acceptance.

Of these two ideas, the first really takes a lot of the pressure away. It sounds counter-intuitive given the romantic view of love we see in the media but actually loving someone, loving ourselves even, is all about how we behave. Are we kind and forgiving? Do we treat our lovers (or ourselves) well and with respect? Can we wake up in the morning and decide to do something nice for another human being?

Similarly the second idea takes away the pressure. Self-love is setting the target too high. Accepting ourselves for who we are is very difficult but very rewarding. Working to the make the best of our physical, intellectual and emotional reality is reasonable. Striving to be "photoshopped perfect" in real life is a disaster.

And finally, life is a process or journey and as we practice skills, behaviours and attitudes we get better at them but we have to keep trying.

Wishing you all of the best going forward.

Anonirama and NLH . . .

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 01:19

Thanks to both of you once again for your honesty and thoughtfulness.

Anonirama, I read 'The Art of Loving' but it was many years ago. I don't remember it in detail, except that I found it moving. I would first say that you are as fully able to love, and as deserving of love, as anyone else in the world. What has happened to you is what happened to almost every one of us: We were raised by fallible human beings who, because of their own limitations, were unable to reflect our true beauty back to us. We were scolded for wanting things our parents didn't think we should want. We were punished for being playful and noisy when our parents wanted us to be quiet. We were told we were bad for innocently saying 'the wrong thing'.

Because we needed our parents' love in order to survive, we tried in vain to please them by being 'perfect', but we soon began to distrust our own perceptions and desires. We began to think that there must indeed be something deeply wrong with us---otherwise, wouldn't our parents love us just as we were? But they couldn't, because they never got that kind of love themselves, and they didn't know that things could be any different. Many of us also got religious training that told us that we were 'sinners'. So what we've all done, to one degree or another, is to internalize the scolding, critical voices of those authority figures. Even if they're all long dead, we keep repeating to ourselves the same negative things they once hammered into us: We're not pretty enough, we're too fat, we're greedy, unlovable, dirty-minded, ungrateful, and on and on. As children, we thought the adults telling us those things had to be right. Don't adults know everything? And our own parents wouldn't mislead us---would they? Not purposely, perhaps---but they were certainly very much mistaken when they talked to us that way.

Our culture is full of false ideas about love, which I'm sure you're aware of. We might have heard that love involves total self-sacrifice, or a mystical union in which nobody ever disagrees about whose turn it is to prepare dinner or take out the rubbish. A lot of being a genuinely loving person is stripping away those false notions and learning to live our lives with (as NLH says) more and more kindness, forgiveness, and respect for ourselves and others.

In a way, our bodies stand for our overall sense of how lovable we are. Our culture pushes a constant struggle to sculpt 'the perfect body', and we're given the message that imperfection means rejection. (Never mind that the 'perfect woman' of 1890 would be scorned as too fat today!) You've found yourself in a double bind. You worry that you're unacceptable because of the way your body looks, and then you beat yourself up even more because you worry that you're being superficial and vain to be so concerned about your appearance. Can you see how hard you're being on yourself? Whatever your imperfections or disabilities, they just make you human, not less lovable. Any decent and mature partner will have no trouble seeing through those superficialities.

You could ask yourself what's really important to you about another person. Is a perfect body at the very top of your list when you envision the partner you want? Or are kindness, honesty, and respect considerably more important? Well, those inner traits are also going to be more important to any worthwhile person you might be interested in. Learning to be a loving person is our lifelong task. Because it's a process and a journey, as NLH points out, there's no need to stress about whether your love is 'total' or not---that has no meaning. There's no need to over-think the concept of love, either. Rather, take it as a given that you were born a lovable, loving person, and setting that person free just means un-learning anything that's in the way.

Thank you for reminding me of Erich Fromm's classic book---I will give it another look. Two books that have helped me are 'Compassion and Self-Hate' by Dr Theodore Isaac Rubin, and 'There's Nothing Wrong with You: A Compassionate Process for Accepting Yourself Just As You Are', by Cheri Huber. My browing history has a lot of D&R too, as well as everything under the sun: natural history, spirituality, sexuality, current events, early photography (because the tangible past fascinates me). And much, much more, like yours I'm sure. I'm grateful that you felt able to share your concerns. Please just remember that you were born worthy and lovable, and nothing can ever change that. Your journey is to let nothing stop you from discovering these truths for yourself. I wish you the very best.

poor man A that made the

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 12:15
anonirama (not verified)

poor man A that made the question ''how to become a sex work advocate'' it has turned into a self-help commentary on how to become a loving person. It may be the same thing, it may have helped him too. I hope so, it is all about getting to the roots of things, he may have started questioning other things...

D&R never seizes to amaze me I guess as all things in sexuality as it is creation it is always changing, evolving, growing...

I have found that when you reach out for help it is always given, maybe it is because we know how hard it is to reach out and admit we are human.

I'll take it to heart NLH ''Love as something you do''.

 when I was growing up I didn't know where my parents were for a long time, a lot of times they where physically there but in another place or state of mind. They had drug adicction issues, and I remember feeling like nothing I did was enough or helped them; good grades, good didn't matter. Their happiness didn't depend on me, but that thought at such a young age left me so alone. if nothing that I am or do matters. What am I, why am I?. I could be anyone or no one. What was left was my body as a shell and sometimes a cage. I wondered what was so awful about life that made them want to leave, be far from their bodies, themselves and me too. With any problem I had I didn't know where to go, I didn't want to give them more reasons that made them have to get high and fly from this earth. (That was until I was 10 then they got rehab and now they are greater and their experiences and sincerity have really helped me even though I'm living other matters of my own I can really understand them now and then but as I was a child amongnst other things it meant I had to grow up too fast). But for me it was too late in the sense that then I started to have problems, my mother says that it seems that I was waiting for them to be ok so I could crumble. And that is what if what I am or do doesn't matter my worth must be in my body, so imagine...adolescence wasn't a '' very good year''

Patrick R  you are right and that thought that we are ''born loving and lovable'' is what has always baffled me; the ability of life to hide that truth and we have to learn what we naturally know? and all the barriers, illnesses,etc that we have put around,in, on ourselves along the way we have to take down if we are lucky they will be made of straw and just by blowing as one wishes on a candle will do, if not no huffing and puffing will tear them down. Is this life? I just wish there were another option. What might we do with future generations so they know they are ''loving and lovable'' without all the suffering. I guess we can't protect them from society. It didn't work for me, well I have been an nonconformist unconventional and it has enriched my life so it has besides from the battle. 

The un-learning process is hard and most of all telling the difference between those things. 

My mother taught me this piece of the serenity prayer that they say in A.A and I cherish as I will your words

grant me the serenity 

to accept the things I cannot change; 

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 

Enjoying one moment at a time; 

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 

Taking, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it.....

Thank you both so much for such wise words from a wisdom that only experience can bring. I will keep on reading your posts as I have for sometime, I have even cut and pasted some to read them with care and not forget.

The very best to you too hoping we will meet again on D&R

Anonirama, thank you

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 22:32

In a way, you and I have similar histories. My parents were also physically present but emotionally absent (grief and alcohol). It's typical of children to blame themselves for all the family's problems; I was sure that my parents paid so little attention to me because I must not be 'worth it'. It took many years for me to understand that what troubled my parents had nothing to do with us children. You yourself had to grow up too fast and probably had to take care of yourself too soon, as well as feeling responsible for your own parents. More than any child could understand.

One thing my childhood did for me was to make it crystal-clear how I want to treat children myself. We can't single-handedly make society kinder, but we can make our homes truly loving places and help to inoculate our children against some of the toxins out there: prejudice, bullying, exploitation. And we can help to nurture their joy in living. Society does hide the truth of our value, by telling us constantly that we're not popular enough, or 'too fat', or whatever the current form of de-valuing may be. We can't prevent our children's being exposed to all those negativities, but we can help them to survive them by letting them know that we love and cherish them no matter what. I hope to see you again on D&R---take care.