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Tracy Quan
"Many women in the sex trade hold clients and boyfriends to different standards."
Emru Townsend: Let's go back a bit to relationships. Nancy seems somewhat nonplussed by her married clients. How would you react if you found out your significant other was seeing a call girl?

Tracy Quan: It depends how I find out. And why. Do I find out because my own powers of observation are so bloody acute? Or because he's got some crazy urge to confess? If I find out on my own, I'll probably keep it to myself. Is information more valuable when stored? Or shared? If you find stuff out because you've been snooping, you've made an investment of time and effort and therefore you'll be very possessive of your intellectual property. Or should be!

But you don't see the notion of paying for sex while in a relationship as a moral issue (for want of a better term)?

"A moral issue?" That's very broad. Almost any human experience can be framed as a moral issue. Even if it is a moral issue, what has that got to with my reaction? If there's a moral issue to be addressed, the man himself will know more about it since I was not there and he was. My reaction (or non-reaction) is going to be about my own particular needs, hopes and expectations--not about me judging the morality of a sex act I did not even witness.

The idea that women are the guardians of Judeo-Christian morality doesn't really go anywhere with me. That's often a smoke-screen for female vanity (which I possess in spades by the way.) If a man I love insults my vanity I will tell him that my feelings have been hurt but I am not going to start up with him about the Ten Commandments which, I presume, is what you refer to when you use the term "moral issue?" I mean, what's the "moral issue" here? That it's wrong to commit adultery? If you have sex outside of marriage, whether you're going steady or paying for it, that's already adultery. When secular couples who are not married start ranting about the morality of cheating--in the context of dating!--what are they really talking about? If they subscribe to the Ten Commandments, they shouldn't have sex until they're married. What they're really talking about is something that goes deeper than morality--a feeling of accountability and ownership which is very compelling. Also a desire not to hurt somebody's feelings because, when we have bonded with somebody, we begin to feel empathy--we also don't want them to get so pissed off with our philandering that they leave us when we've grown attached to them. What's amazing is that people who don't consciously subscribe to the Ten Commandments will unconsciously pay homage by cloaking their concerns in the language of sexual morality, by saying it's "immoral" for a loved one to sleep with another. It may be unthinkable, offensive, insulting--but who decides it is immoral?

When it comes to sex, a big moral issue is: Did you lie? Did the man lie to his wife, to his girlfriend--to the prostitute? Does anyone care whether he lied to the prostitute? If he told her the truth, is he less of a liar? Johns typically do not hide their marriages from the prostitutes they see. They typically hide their commercial sex from their wives. The strict moralists would say that a man is accountable to his wife--if he lies to her, he's a scoundrel. My view is that a man is accountable to everyone he sleeps with--if we want to look at the morality of his sexual behavior, let's examine his entire sexual record. I would have to know his entire history with regard to love and sex before I begin to know what the moral implications of his paying for sex might be.

In any case, more hearts have been broken by a lack of manners than a lack of morals.

I knew "moral" was the wrong word to use. What I'm getting at is that a man seeing a call girl while he's in a relationship can be seen as a slight on the woman.

That's about vanity, not morality.

Nancy (and, one presumes, you) only experienced--and tacitly encouraged--this from the perspective of "the other woman." As a call girl you can't afford to see this as wrong within the context of a relationship. But when you're in a relationship yourself, does that equation change for you?

Any sensible adult is attentive to his or her partner's vanity. That is just basic romantic etiquette.

When you say "wrong," do you mean aesthetically, morally, or what? Or do you mean it in the way that Bridget Jones sometimes uses it--"wrong and unnatural?"

Every romantic equation has been different for me and I make my relationships up as I go along. The equation is always changing and love is a mysterious process.

But many women in the sex trade hold clients and boyfriends to different standards.

I meant wrong to you, not in any absolute sense. Everyone has a different sense of what's right or wrong in a relationship in terms of fidelity; I was curious as to how yours intersected with the fact that a call girl's job seems to often entail encouraging infidelity.

It's probably one of the greatest reasons many a prostitute would give for not wanting to tell everyone what she does for a living. Being viewed as the cause of infidelity, even though the customer is equally responsible for the transaction. It's an interesting problem for which there is no slick, pretty solution because those feelings will not go away with a change in the law.

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Photo credit: Hugh Loebner