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You Asked: Am I Being Too Judgmental?

Dear Sugar,

My sister-in-law is an escort/stripper, and she lives nearby. We see her three times a week or more, and I love her dearly. But do you think it's judgmental or prudish that I don't want my daughters to ever find out about prostitution in the family? She knows that I know what she does, but we've never openly discussed her occupation. My husband thinks it's just a matter of being young and we'll all be able to joke about it later, but she's 35! With a history of sexual abuse, I think she needs more time on a therapist's couch and less time in bed with married men. So, am I just making something out of nothing?

— Possibly Prudish Paige

To see DearSugar's answer,


Dear Possibly Prudish Paige,

Unfortunately, your sister-in-law's career choice is her own to make. And while it may not be the most reputable job or healthy as evidenced by her history of abuse, there's very little you or anyone else can say to make her change her mind about it. Obviously you care about her and just because you want to be supportive doesn't mean that you have to approve of her chosen profession. I think it's perfectly reasonable to want to keep it from your daughters, especially while they're young. And both your sister-in-law and your husband should be able to respect that decision.

However, if this is something that really bothers you, I think you owe it to your sister-in-law to address it with her. Perhaps a discussion with her will illuminate something for you and give you a greater ability to understand what she does. Or maybe it will only serve to make you feel more sure that you don't want your daughters finding out, but either way at least the unspoken will finally be said.

If you do sit down with her, let her know how you feel about her career and your concern for her well-being, rather than just your personal opinion on the industry. Also, explain to her why you're making the decision to not disclose it to your daughters. Again, you can't expect her to change, but if you refrain from passing judgment then she should be able to respect your feelings on the matter.


Join The Conversation
onesong onesong 9 years
I agree with Eilonwy--I think you're using protecting your children as an excuse to be judgmental--which is normal, but not something you should act on. Of COURSE you don't want your kids finding out--and as Dear said, they shouldn't. But you would never go up to an accountant and say "I think you were traumatized by being poor when you were younger, and that you're acting out by being an accountant. Instead of controlling money, you should get some therapy for having been poor and having had no control over money," would you?! No, of course not. I would certainly NOT sit her down and talk to her about this, period. If you truly are worried that she will say something to the children, have your husband say something. Otherwise, drop it. It's nunyabidness. Also, as a PS, I know the majority of sex workers are trapped and hate the situation, and I am the first person to say "Not all of them have a great life!" when a "I Love Being A Sex Worker" documentary or whatever comes out. However, some of them DO enjoy their profession. If she is having trouble in other ways (drugs, problems with the police) then by all means disregard what I've said above and say something. If not (and it seems this is the case), keep your lipped zipped.
nikodarling nikodarling 9 years
I don't think its overly judgemental for you to not want your Children to know - I wouldn't either if I were you. You are kind enough to open your life up to her and accept her which alot of people in your position wouldn't have done so good for you. I say have an open and honest talk with her about all of this. I am sure she loves your children and doesn't want to see them hurt or confused or see them go down the same path as her. What concerns me the more than your kids is your sister-in-law. This isn't the safest, longest career and at 35 how much longer can she do this to herself. There is no easy way to tell someone you think they need help but maybe you and your husband should talk to her and let her know you are there for her if she ever wants to change.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 9 years
I think you are handling this situation really well. You are still including your family member in your life, even though you disapprove of what she does. Look, it's NOT bad to judge other people if you disagree with what they are doing. If a friend or family member is doing something illegal or dangerous you have every right to disapprove! What is this idea that it's worse to judge someone than it is to be a prostitute, involved in an industry that objectifies women and is ILLEGAL?! What the hell, seriously. People on here said "if it as any other profession, she wouldn't judge." Uh, isn't that kind of the POINT? That being said, you clearly seem to value her presence in yours and your children's lives. This is one of those things that needs to be said, if ever, only once, "I'm not crazy about your line of work, and if you ever want to talk about it, I'm there for you." Then drop it. You will waste more time and energy worrying about her than just enjoying your relationship with her, and she doesn't need to be constantly reminded you don't approve. But god, don't feel guilty about not thinking prostitution is the greatest career! As far as your kids go, I agree with Berlin. If they are young, it definitely does not need to be brought up. If they are teenagers and curious, have your sister in law talk about it with them, and then you can give your opinion later. Women are more than their bodies and to me it is sad to make a living selling your body. That's a good message for kids. They can still love their aunt, and you can still love your sister in law despite her profession!
kittykat12369 kittykat12369 9 years
Is prostitution not illegal? If your uncle was a drug dealer who would be ok with that? Its gross, and although not really your business, she is lucky that all you are doing is refusing to tell your children rather than calling the cops.
thelorax thelorax 9 years
WOW this is a tough situation. I respect you a lot for being a good mom and protecting your family, and I hope your husband does too. I would have a really hard time personally having a relationship with my sister in law if I knew that she spent time "in bed with married men" or even taking her clothes off in front of them, because I would think of how devastating it would be if MY husband sought out that kind of company. I don't have any advice, unfortunately...but I applaud your efforts to do the right thing for your family, especially your daughters as they are paramount to everyone else.
geebers geebers 9 years
I agree- you certainly do NOT want to have your kids know about this and that is your right. Unless your SIL plans to reveal it or is not discreet- why talk to her? She is not a child. I agree with you and I personally do not approve of a profession that treats women like objects but I don't tell other people what they can or cannot do. Keep your judgement out of it and place your kids first. Unless your SIL is being inappropriate, just let her know that you care for her but do not under any circumstances want your kids to know what she does. She will and should respect that.
Kristinh1012 Kristinh1012 9 years
I meant HER occupation
Kristinh1012 Kristinh1012 9 years
I know you started your question out about not wanting your kids to know (which I totally agree with, ESPECIALLY if they are teenagers) I have to young girls and I would NEVER want them to find something like that out about someone they look up to. Your sister-in-law, her husband and your husband should repsect your decision because what it all comes down to is it's YOUR daughter. Anyway, it sounds to me like you have your own judgemental problems regarding your occupation. You say you love her dearly, but it does't sound like it when you say things like "she needs more time on a therapist's couch then in bed with married men." I think you have something against her career. It is none of your business what she does for a living. It is also none of your business that she was sexually abused nor how she decides to deal with it. I would be very upset if I told someone something so personal like that and then found out that they were judging me in anyway at all about it. I think you should worry about yourself and your daughters and not if this woman is getting help or not.
sarah-lynn sarah-lynn 9 years
Don't discuss it in front of your kids and they won't find out! Problem solved. I think, even though you may not even realize it, that you are being judgmental (the comment about married men's beds did it for me, as I am sure they are not the only consumers)...besides, for all you know this occupation may be a good fit for her, profitable- GASP she might like it! Also, don't presume that her job choices and past history with sex means that she needs therapy (also judgmental)...It doesn't sound like you have the background in psychology to decide that something is wrong. Until you walk in her shoes, don't begin to presume!
Jinx Jinx 9 years
I can understand not wanting your daughters to know what she does. They will have to be a certain age even to comprehend it, and I wouldn't particularly want them to think I thought it was okay, because I would have bigger aspirations for them. But other then that, its none of your business.
jaxon jaxon 9 years
It seems to me you arte using your kids as an excuse to be judgmental. Like many others have said "When would the topic of her career come up with your kids?" I highly doubt she is going to be asking to come to career day at preschool. Let her life be a lessoned learned once they are older. It's her life and HER choice. Her choice of prefessions MAY or MAY NOT have anything to do with her childhood abuse. Either way that's her burden to bear. If he comes to you and wants to open up then fine but otherwise, let it go. YOU are not judge and jury. It's not up to you to decide how a person should lead their life. You may not think it's right, which is fine, but to voice your disdain for it is wrong. Unless she is abusing drugs or something to go along with it I say pause the "intervention".
looseseal looseseal 9 years
Unless your SIL practices stripping at your house and/or inviting pimps over, I really don't see how her career choice would ever come up with your kids. I had no idea what my aunt does for a living until I was an adult and she needed my help setting up her work email on her home PC. Only then did it occur to me to ask, and I found out she's a scientist working on curing freakin' cancer! You know, if an aunt with a job as awesome and brag-worthy as my aunt's job can manage to not have the nieces know about it, I think an aunt with a job where discretion is very important would be more than able to handle keeping quiet about it. But I gotta say, I never did become a cancer curer even though I look up to my aunt. If your daughters become strippers/prositutes just because the aunt does it, I'd blame the (lack of) parenting they received a lot more than the presence of the aunt. So as long as you parent them like every mom with the old "Just because everyone jumps off a cliff doesn't mean you should do it too" lecture, I wouldn't worry about the kids. Especially when it doesn't sound like the aunt is in any way promoting her career choice to the kids (would be a different matter if she is doing this). You're certainly entitled to have your own opinion about it, but keep in mind she doesn't have to accept it if you bring it up with her, and it has the potential to blow up in your face.
lolalu lolalu 9 years
I can't imagine being in this situation, and I definitely don't blame you for wanting to keep it from your kids, I would do the same. Also I think its wrong to just accept someone's profession as being their business and their business only, because in a family 1 person's decisions effect EVERYONE. I don't think you would be out of line by talking with her about it. A 'job' like prostitution is extremely dangerous, and I think it would be in everyones best interest if she went into a different line of work. It might be a really awkward conversation, but for her personal safety, it would be worth it. Good Luck!
kurniakasih kurniakasih 9 years
Honestly, as a mom, I can't imagine telling my daughter (if I have one--I have a son) to find occupation like stripper and escort to be a great option for her future. I can't fault you if you don't want to expose your daughters to that line of work (many mothers won't). It's your choice. But you can't also force your SIL to change her profession, that's what she's into, then you just have to accept it for the way it is. If things don't change with your SIL's line of work, you do need to face up the possibility that in the future you will have the hard task to explain to your daughters should the object of her profession ever come up. And the possibility that you may be 'forced' to either 'bash' or 'attack' your SIL's profession in front of your children when the time comes. And when it comes, and you already know what you want to do out of the situation, I'd say that you shouldn't hesitate letting your children what you think. Be honest about your opinion without being too fearful of being 'judged' as judgmental yourself. :) Remember that you're also your children's teacher, so you need to teach them as well as you can. Good luck to you.
sarah_bellum sarah_bellum 9 years
Uh... I don't think you should feel bad about not wanting your children to find out. In fact, I would think any mother who exposes her children to prostitution and normalizes the idea of sex for money is pretty awful. I don't understand when being a little judgmental became so horrible. Isn't one of the main points of raising children to teach them how to JUDGE the difference between right and wrong behavior?
annebreal annebreal 9 years
Here's what tripped me up - is she a stripper or is she an escort or is she a straight up prostitute or some combo? All are selling sex (and I think the line between escort/hooker is fairly minor, but I do see a slight difference in working for an "agency" vs working a street corner) but there's differences in the severity/stigma/danger involved. Personally I think you should just go with your gut. If you've got young kids they definitely don't need to know, but I'm not sure keeping it a secret their whole lives is the way to go either. Hopefully when they're old enough to understand it'll be in your sister-in-law's past and can be used as a learning experience about some complex issues for them that everyone, especially girls, needs to learn.
lickety-split lickety-split 9 years
she wouldn't be at my house anymore. i would tell her that her choices are not something i want my daughters exposed too. this is actually pretty shocking to me that you think the problem is YOU being judgemental. you aren't her mother, but you do have young girls looking to you for what is appropriate behavior. you want to hear "i want to be a hooker like by aunt judy!" in a few years? yeah, no thanks. and not caring if the rest of the family (including dh) is offended. this woman is modeling adult choices, as are all of the adults you choose to associate with.
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 9 years
I can definitely understand why you wouldn't want your daughters to know especially if they look up to their aunt. I would talk to my husband about it and see if he thinks you should talk to her about it or not. He knows her better than you do. In the meantime, if you've never even talked about it than your daughters aren't going to know. YOu can always talk to your daughters when they are old enough to understand and tell them that it's not okay to do that. I would say to talk to her but I don't think you want to be in the middle of a family feud if things blow up. See if other people think you can talk to her. You're probably not going to be able to talk her into another profession but you can let her know you'll be there for her if she needs. It's a really tricky situation to be in.
Jesi_Oh Jesi_Oh 9 years
I agree with Berlin about the kids being the focus of this discussion not the profession - I don't think the poster was being at all judgemental about her SIL because although she has her reservations and concerns about her occupation she still seems to have a good relationship with her. I strongly believe that this is not something that young kids should have to deal with and no matter how much respect you have for the SIL's personal choice it's not ok to have the "aunty sleeps with men for money" talk until they're equipped to deal with it.
Sun_Sun Sun_Sun 9 years
i dont think any parent would like to give their daughters the option of an escort as a "career" choice. and once u tell them their beloved and probably respected Aunt Whoever is an escort, it automatically tells them that this is an option. i personally think ur not being judgmental at all. u love her and u get together alot and i dont see how ur demeaning to her at all. and kudos for that. its illegal and dangerous and a poor "career" choice. but i guess u love her out of love for ur husband u respect her. u have every right to guard ur daughters from this information. and if she loves her nieces, im pretty sure she will understand.
Eilonwy Eilonwy 9 years
I have never told anyone except two people (my family and friends don't know), but I was sexually assaulted (I prefer not using other terms although they apply...) when I was in my teens. It was very very traumatic, and was very, very painful. I think it unfair to presume that her profession is somehow symptomatic of her former abuse, especially since it seems merely to cloak your disapproval.
Eilonwy Eilonwy 9 years
"[Letting] her know about how you feel about her career and your concern for her well-being" - I think it is subversively judgmental and superior (condescending!) to do this. No one would do this if she were any other profession. How is letting her know how you feel about her occupation constructive *at all* save for furthering your slightly intolerant views (sorry) and appeasing your *own* discomfort?! If you want to "protect" your children, then you have every right to do so. I am a little taken aback however that you would simplify her circumstances by branding it automatically wrong and then claiming that because of abuse that she sustained she should somehow cease her current employment. That is her choice. So many assumptions are being made...
RockAndRepublic RockAndRepublic 9 years
Well, they are your children and you get to decide what to expose them to. But i dont see the conversation where suddenly her profession comes up.
em113 em113 9 years
It's not judgmental to not want your kids exposed to that, it's logical. You just want to be a good parent. Eventually they'll be old enough to know and at that point you should probably talk to them about it, so they at least hear it from you and you guys can have an honest discussion.
Berlin Berlin 9 years
Maybe it's just me, but I think your main issue was concerning your KIDS not knowing what she does and being "Judgmental" about not letting them know. And yes, I agree that you absolutely should not let your kids find out, if they are very young. If they are stable teenagers, then it could be a very good lesson for them about the direction they want their lives to go in. You are allowed your opinions, but as long as she's being safe (and it's legal where you live) then by all means she has her right. And if she's just a dancer then there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but prostitution (or escorts) is illegal and unsafe.
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