The Lovers: Israel, 24 and Damon, 31, in Denver, Colorado
Damon: Two years ago, I moved back to Denver. There’s a bike, punk, queer community here that my brother and best friends are a part of, and Israel’s part of that, too. One of the first things we connected on was sex work. I mostly do erotic massage and some escort work.
Israel: I was working in a house of domination before I met Damon. Now I’m mostly an escort. I do a little bit of video work on the side.
Damon: We’d give each other advice and vent, but it wasn’t that one of us mentored the other.
Israel: We started hanging out a lot. Being cute and flirting. I knew I had strong feelings for him and really liked him, but I just allowed him to feel that out for himself because I didn’t really know where he wanted us to be. It’s been a long, slow romance. I was in a relationship with another person at that time, a couple of other people, actually.
Damon: I was in and still am in other long-term, committed relationships. The other two people I’m in relationships with are women. I have a long-term partner that I live with here in Denver. Israel and I don’t live together but we live close. I have another partner in Tucson. I learned sex work from her.
Israel: I have quite a few consistent sexual partners. In my circle of friends, we all romance each other, and sleep with each other. Some of us form stronger romantic attachments than with others.
Damon and I have never defined out relationship in specific terms. But I witness it by our actions towards each other. We try to spend a lot of time together. We make dates and we text and we talk, which I do with other partners too: keep in fairly constant contact and reach out to them more consistently than I do with my friends. I don’t use the “primary” or “secondary” to refer to my relationships.
Damon: I don’t either; they’re shifting. Even the word “partner” is fluid for me. Sometimes I use it for my best friend who I’m helping raise a kid with, but he and I have never been lovers. In my relationship with Israel and most of my relationships right now, I’m trying to frame it around desire because sometimes long-term relationships are framed around commitment and obligation instead. I don’t feel jealous. Through processing and talking and emotional work, I’ve sort-of let go of that.
Israel: I have felt jealous in the past but it’s mostly been when I’ve been in monogamous relationships, which all of them were with women. For the past year, I’ve had pretty open feelings and the fluidity of all of our relationships make it easy to not be jealous.
Damon sometimes goes to Tucson and I feel fine about that. I feel fine about having space from him for long periods of time, and it doesn’t concern me. I know that he’s going to be in my life. If he needs to go to Tucson or anywhere else, I want him to do that.
Damon: I think our relationship was formed knowing there would sometimes be big geographical and temporal spaces. But the consensus is that we’re going to be a part of each other’s lives. It’s a part of the way we’re building the future.
Israel: I’ve met both of Damon’s partners and I like both of them a lot and we get along pretty well. But I don’t think we’ve ever had sex with each other’s partners.
Damon: It could definitely happen, I imagine. [laughter]
Israel: We’ll probably all end up sleeping together.
Damon: My partner in Tucson sleeps with a lot of people. That’s sort-of her getting-to-know-you process. And I think sex for her—she’s a sex worker, too—is not romantic in the way it’s framed in traditional representations of sex. She basically likes to give her friends orgasms. And in some ways, that’s the context of most of our relationships. We’ll fuck most of our friends.
Israel: We’ve never explicitly set up any boundaries about that, I think because of how our community works. We all sleep together sometimes. For the most part, everyone handles it maturely. I’ve never had issues arise within my relationships because of sexual exploits with my friends.
Damon: The only thing that comes to mind as a transgression would be issues around sexual health and safety. It’s a rule for me that you communicate if you’ve been exposed to something or if you’ve had sex that wasn’t latex-barriered in every way. Then we could evaluate our level of risk together. So if someone weren’t communicating in that way, that would be a transgression.
Israel: It comes down to complete honesty, which sounds easy in theory, but I’ve met a lot of people who promise that and couldn’t follow through.
Damon: I think everyone should break up. I’m really into that right now. I just told my parents they should break up because they’re going through a hard time. I’m surrounded by people in relationships who are totally limited by them. When I say, “break up,” I mean consider the possibility that your commitment doesn’t contain you and you can do something else with your life.
Israel: I don’t have anything more to add. That sounds great.
(If you and your partner(s) would like to be featured in this column, please email us with “Rebel Love” in the subject line.)