Caroline West-Meads: I’m ashamed about seeing a prostitute

Ask caroline

Q. I am a 76-year-old widower. My wife sadly died of cancer in 2019 after 56 years of marriage. I hardly need say that this was devastating. Initially, I thought I was coping well, but in the past ten months I have begun to feel lonely, stressed and anxious. I realised one of my problems is that I have been feeling the loss of sex very acutely. I decided to visit a prostitute – a dominatrix – to see if she could lift my tensions. She did and I have been visiting her every five weeks. I know this is against lockdown but I have enjoyed her sessions so much that now I find I am hooked. If I don’t visit her for more than five or six weeks, all my anxieties return. Should I continue to see her or should I try to end my obsession and seek help elsewhere? I am happy with the current position, but I am ashamed of my choice.

A. Firstly, I am so sorry for the loss of your wife. You do not say in your letter whether you have children, grandchildren, friends or any kind of support network that you have been able to lean on. I can understand you missing sex, too. For some people, their libido remains strong well into their 80s and I expect that it is not just the sex you miss but also the affection, the closeness and intimacy with the wife you loved so much. You must feel terribly lonely and I expect that you have not really faced this or tried to get help for it – and this will be behind your anxiety. The moral question is a complex one. Grief affects everyone differently and by seeing a sex worker, you are simply trying to fill a void. I see nothing wrong in this. However, you have been breaking lockdown, which is against the law – not to mention dangerous. Also there is the difficulty over whether sex workers are being exploited or choosing to use their bodies in this way. Opinion is divided. Is there much real choice when a woman has to turn to sex work in order to earn enough to live? The money may also fuel a drug habit that might have resulted from her own damaged or abusive past, or she may be controlled by a manipulative pimp. Of course, this may not be the case – and your dominatrix may love her work and engage in it freely. But for you, this has become an addiction and is not healthy. You could always ask her whether she feels she is being exploited. You may not get an honest answer, but any hesitancy on her part will tell you much – and may help change how you feel about seeing her. You should also explore what particular needs you are having met and whether you might find a loving sexual relationship with another partner a better alternative. You could contact the College of Sexual Relationship Therapists ( to explore this. What you need is a great deal of support for your loss and loneliness so also contact Marie Curie ( or Cruse ( for help with your grief.

His loss of faith has devastated me

Q. I met my husband through the Christian society at university 20 years ago. We went to church every Sunday and have brought up our children in the faith. I have always played an active role in our church and thought my husband continued to share our beliefs. However, a month ago he dropped a bombshell saying that he no longer believes in God and hasn’t done for two years, nor does he want to come to church. He has been respectful about it, but I am devastated. I would almost rather he’d told me he was having an affair. I would never divorce because of the children but I feel he is no longer the man I married. I’m too embarrassed to talk to the vicar. What should I do?

A. I can hear how important your faith is to you and how upsetting you find this. But slow down. When you say that he is no longer the man you married, are you certain? I know it took him a long time to tell you, but I am sure that he didn’t come to this decision lightly. He clearly knows how difficult this is for you and is trying to protect your feelings. Is he still a loving and involved dad? Is he still kind and loving to you? Can he still make you laugh? It isn’t easy when a couple hold different views on important subjects such as religion or politics, but as long as they respect each other, it can be managed. There is nothing to be embarrassed about, so do talk to your vicar as I’m sure it will help you. Also talk to your husband. You will probably find you still share the same values that you always have – even if you no longer share a belief.