Advice – I used to be a cam girl. Should I tell my boyfriend?

About four years ago, I [22F] was a web cam girl for a few months. It still haunts me to this day and I am very fearful of my now partner [28M] finding this out because I know that he will torture me over this. It is such a slim chance of him finding out but there are pictures and videos of me online that have been reposted on some websites and that makes me feel so sick to even think about. I love him so much and I am a great girlfriend to him but this makes me feel undeserving and shameful in a way. Should I tell him this or does it even matter much? I would rather die than have him know. I want to get them removed online but I just don’t know how. I feel like if I tell him this it will just define me and I don’t ever want him to see me differently.

Melody, Reddit.

Dear Melody,

There are so many different types of pain and misunderstanding packed in such a short post.

There is such a powerful, pervasive, negative cultural stigma around sex work. And it looks like you have internalized some of the shame (“… this makes me feel undeserving and shameful”), disgust (“… that makes me feel so sick to even think about”), and guilt (“I am very fearful of my now partner finding this out”). Each of those are interwoven into not just the way you conceptualize and experience your romantic relationship with your partner but also with yourself.

I want to spend some time with each of those feelings and what they could mean. Each of those feelings intersect with each of the relationships you have with your past self, your current self, and your boyfriend. Then we will talk about whether or not you should tell your boyfriend and how you should if you do decide to share this part of your past with your partner.

Photo by Hoang Viet on Unsplash

Let’s first focus on your relationship with yourself.

Through all of these internalized social stigma about sex work, it is very clear that there is a major disconnect around reconciliation between your past as a sex worker and your present reality as your partner’s girlfriend. And deeply imbedded in that disconnect is a self-inflicting wound that unfortunately acts as the mouthpiece for many of the negative feelings you are experiencing right now. And each time those negative feelings come up, they are immediately measured against the dysfunctions within your past self (shame), dysfunctions within your current self (disgust), and dysfunctions within your romantic relationship (guilt).

Shame is a fundamental reflection of external societal pressure making an impression on your past. In reality, sex work is work. People engage with sex work for multitude of different reasons. So camming might have been a means to support yourself financially. It could have been born out of self-empowerment exercise through which you explored previously unrealized parts of your sexuality. Ultimately, your rationale surrounding why you chose to pursue camming is unimportant. What is more important is recognize that it happened, reflect on what it meant to you as a person, and move forward with new experiences.

Disgust is a more nuanced feeling that has deeper roots around how you perceive your experience with sex work. Based on what you have shared, it is unclear if your sense of disgust is just a different manifestation of the same shame or if there are deeper roots in your general attitude about sex work. It might be more beneficial for you to do some digging by yourself or with a sex-positive therapist to heal and recover from your experience.

Out of the three, guilt is the easiest to explain. Some of your guilt originates from obscuration of your past from your partner. As in, you feel that you should have come clean about your sex work experience with your partner before you got into a romantic relationship. It could also be possible that your guilt stems from internalization of negative stigma around sex work. As in, you have difficult time moving beyond your sex work history. And because you have such struggle moving past it, your inability to move past it manifests in guilt.

Now let’s talk about your relationship with your boyfriend.

I was quite alarmed to read that you feel that your boyfriend would “torture” you if he found out about your history with sex work. I wondered if that could be a sign of a very dysfunctional relationship with your partner where your partner never reacts well to aspects about yourself and your past, even in your most vulnerable moments. I also wondered if that was another manifestation of the internalized social stigma around sex work on his behalf as well. Either way, your pre-emptive reaction to this hypothetical conversation with your boyfriend tells me two things.

First is that your relationship does not feel like a safe place to share this very vulnerable aspect about yourself. If his immediate reaction is to assume negative judgment about your previous work history, it says a lot more about how little foundational trust there is to support any of the vulnerability you want to share with any prospective partner, much less this one. We will talk more about this in the next section when we discuss if and how you should approach this discussion.

My second thought is that being a great girlfriend has nothing to do with your previous sexual or work history. Your experience with sex work was only for a few months several years back. And while that might be a pertinent information that your partner might want to be privy to, absence of that sharing does not predicate that you are a bad partner at all; it just makes you a hesitant one. And perhaps, for a good reason.

A good partner should enthusiastically embrace as many aspect of your personhood within reason. And if you feel that your boyfriend will shame you for your past, then that is unbecoming of him as a partner.

Photo by Lisa Hobbs on Unsplash

I think it would be worthwhile to consider why you might want to disclose your sex work history to your partner.

Since we have just established why you don’t feel that it is safe to talk about your camming experience, we will need a better way to determine what you need in order to feel safe to share.

Perhaps a good start to that discussion is by first gauging how his real-life reaction might be like by bringing up a similar experience someone else might have had. This accomplishes two goals. First is that it takes the burden off of you since you’d be talking about someone else’s experience. But more importantly, this helps you gather more data on how he might react if this did apply to you. This would provide valuable data for your current relationship predicament.

Another valuable exercise that you can implement today is to shadowbox and project what that safe space might even look like. Imagine in your head what context you need in order for you to feel safe talking about your sex work history. What level of trust do you feel that you need to preemptively establish with your partner? Does this take place in a one-on-one setting or with other loved one in attendance? Better fleshing out what that type of dialogue might look like should help you do the necessarily emotional labor associated with the actual dialogue itself.

You should only have to share that which you feel comfortable sharing. And if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your history (and you aren’t even sure how to get to that level of comfort), you should know that your boyfriend is absolutely not at all entitled to know every aspect of your sexual or professional experience.

I also want to touch on possibility of videos and pictures that might be posted on internet without your permission.

I strongly urge you to contact organizations like March Against Revenge Porn, Without My Consent, and Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) to help take down those videos from websites who published your contents without your explicit consent. Doing so will greatly alleviate the anxiety you feel about not just your boyfriend but all the people who are non-consensually engaging with unethical sexual material online.

You are not alone.

Good luck.

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – Dad hired a female sex worker for me even though he knew I was a gay man [NSFW].

A year ago I (20M) made the decision to tell my parents I’m gay. A week ago my dad made the decision to surprise me with a female sex worker (25F) for my birthday. If that sounds weird to you, you’re normal. If it doesn’t, welcome to my world. My old man gave me the whole “nothing beats pussy” speech before leaving me alone in the house with a random stranger. I was so embarrassed and awkward I didn’t know how to react. The sex worker introduced herself as “Zoey” and encouraged me to relax. Without wasting time I apologized and made it clear that I’m not interested in girls. Zoey asked me a bunch of questions about my sexuality. Questions I never had to answer out loud before. Her attitude seemed really sincere. Like she genuinely just wanted to learn about my life. The two of us ended up having a good time talking. However, talking turned into touching, and touching turned into my first sexual experience with another person.

As soon as we were both naked, Zoey wrestled me onto my stomach and started humping my butt. She humped me harder and harder without slowing down. Even though nothing was penetrating me, the feeling off getting pounded from behind was enough to send me over the edge. I came from that alone. Nothing touched my penis. Didn’t even know that was possible! It wasn’t over though. I wanted to be inside Zoey. I’ll be honest, it felt amazing. It made me question everything I thought I knew about my sexual orientation. It’s been a week and I still have no idea what to make of it. My dad is now convinced I was never actually gay and that all I needed was the right woman to remind me I’m as straight as they come.

Is my dad right?

Can you be gay and still enjoy sex with girls?

Even now I don’t feel any sexual attraction towards other girls, but when I think about Zoey it makes me excited. Is she a unique case?

I’m lost.

Chris, Reddit.
Photo by Oleg Ivanov on Unsplash

Dear Chris,

Let’s first talk about sexuality.

For many, sexual expression and sexual orientation exists on a plane or a spectrum. It is the easiest to explain this complex concept by first visualizing a triangle. In this case, the first point of the triangle represents a homosexual sexual response, the second point a heterosexual sexual response, and the last point an asexual sexual response. And somewhere in that triangular plane – between each of the extreme endpoints – lies your true sexual orientation as a simple point on a plane. Many people decide to use the endpoint labels (gay, straight, or asexual) to describe their sexuality even though they actually don’t lie in the extreme ends of the sexual orientation plane.

It is so wild how much power we lend to the words we created ourselves.

It appears that for you your sexual orientation also exists somewhere in that plane of sexual expression; not all the way at the gay end of the plane nor all the way at the straight end off the plane (like your father appears to believe), but somewhere in between. If it is comfortable for you to hear, I am connected with many self-identified gay men who have had semi-successful long-term relationships with opposite sex partners in the past. They still identify as gay. So it could be possible that this particular experience need not alter your self-identity as a gay man, but represents a minor blip in the radar that is your sexual orientation. Or this experience could be more than an incidental point of data that might help you question where specifically you belong on that plane. Perhaps homoflexible or queer might be better words to describe your sexuality if you decide that gay no longer represents your sexual orientation.

And the fun part is that you are never static in your sexual expression. Sexual orientation is often flexible and grow as life circumstances change. You are never beholden to the label itself. In fact, it’s the other way around. So even if you believe that you were more homoflexible now, your sexual expression and orientation can lean back towards identifying again as a gay man sometime in the future. Part of the fun in life is in wading through the unknown and figuring out what does and doesn’t work for you. So keep an open mind and don’t feel hurried to shed your previous sexual orientation just because of this one experience.

I do think that there is a different, more profound conversation to be had about your relationship with your father.

What your father did was really awkward and inappropriate. It is very difficult to look past the negative intentions imbedded in not just the words he shared with you but the actions behind his decisions.

It is possible that your father had good intentions when he hired a sex worker that he knew to be incompatible with your sexual orientation. But I do not get the sense that his decision was framed in a compassionate way to allow you to expand upon your sexual expression. However, it is much more likely that he thought you might change your mind “about the whole gay thing” if you had a successful sexual encounter with an opposite sex partner. The truth is that your father just happened to hire a really great, professional sex worker who worked with your sexual expression to help you to experience sexual pleasure in an otherwise very unsexy sexual context. And digging deeper into his decision reveals a more dangerous and scary thought – that he is willfully ignoring your gay identity.

I think it is important to be in a place of mind where you can be both appreciative of his decision which allowed you to more holistically experience a wider range of sexual expression but also apprehensive about your father’s obvious boundary violations.

It could be that your current inability to rationalize what just happened to you is tied up behind how upsetting and humiliating it was to have your father boil your entire identity down to your sexuality. As such, you lack the proper resource to accurately gather data about what happened, to internalize what this experience means to you, and to externalize what changes you need to make. And until that stressor – your father in this case – has been acknowledged and addressed, this can’t move forward.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Your father is not entitled to know anything about your sex life.

There really needs to be a healthier set of boundaries around how much influence your father has on your sexual orientation. That could mean that the next time he asks you about your sexual orientation, you remind him how weird and awkward that experience was. And keep mentioning until he understands how weird it made you feel. Do note that this doesn’t reflect on what your actual sexual orientation is or even what specifically happened with Zoey. It only calls into light that it is weird to talk about it with your dad who is weirdly engrossed in ensuring that his son is straight. The goal of this approach is for him to acknowledge and understand that what he did was not acceptable and that your sexual orientation is for you to validate, not him.

If you are currently living with your father, this would also be a great time to start looking outward for a new place to live. I’m not sure what other weird things your father might do to keep encroaching on your boundaries. But I am willing to guess that this won’t be the last time he disregards your boundaries or willfully ignores your sexual orientation. You mentioned parents in plural form, so you might also want to check in with your mom about how weird your dad has been about this. Perhaps she can address this in a more productive manner, especially if the message is clear from two of his family members.

And if your father keeps pushing, you have my permission to lean into his boundaries and tell him all about the gay porn you masturbate to and the sexual scenarios you fantasize about. Two can play at that game.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!