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Max Madame Talks About Their Job as a ‘Pussy Stunt Artist’

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Welcome to Brain-Throbs & Blow Jobs, a new column that highlights the great minds and perspectives of Bay Area sex workers through interviews and photo portraits.

Max Madame photographed by Maxine Holloway

I had the pleasure of picking the brain of a local sex worker, performance artist and sideshow freak, Max Madame. They (Max uses gender-neutral pronouns) invited me to their Oakland home. When I walked in, it was as if I had stepped into the dressing room of an old-time cabaret star. Accessories essential to their trade were meticulously placed and on display like trophies hanging on the wall. Handmade costume jewelry from animal bones; second-hand heels that I recognized from my ex-girlfriend’s closet. A significant amount of closet real estate given to items made from sequins, feathers and fishnet. In the corner, there was even a three-way mirror so one can see themselves from every angle, and everything was covered in a thin and familiar layer of glitter.

Max can be found gracing the stages of Bay Area burlesque shows, private parties, underground sex performances and reserved dungeons. Max harnesses the power of their pussy to create a unique and playful art form, captivating audiences with the strength and talent of their pussy, earning them the title of Oakland’s very own ‘Pussy Stunt Artist.’

“Being a pussy stunt artist for me means that I use my pussy to entertain, educate and enlighten people in uplifting and hilarious ways,” says Max.

It’s also a way to confront ill-informed stereotypes. The word ‘pussy’ is often used in a hateful way to reduce someone as weak. Max’s pussy stunt tricks defy fragility by achieving feats of might with their vagina like wheeling a wheelbarrow, vacuuming a stage with a bedazzled vacuum cleaner, mixing a Manhattan, or lifting desert rocks or a ball of fire. Then there is my personal favorite, pouring bubbly into people’s mouths which they performed for a special New Year’s Bottle Walking Champagne Toast.

Max’s pussy tricks are layered with humor, magic and political significance. It was a treat to get deeper into their pussy stunt motivations and practices.

Maxine Holloway: Your performances feel like they are rooted in finding power within one’s body. How did you get to a place where the power of your pussy was a performance piece?

Max Madame: It actually started three years ago when I began doing vagina squirt shows at an underground sex performance party. I wanted to share this really powerful ability to squirt because a lot of people haven’t seen it in real life, or they think it’s fake, or just for porn, or that only somebody else can make you squirt, or all of these other misconceptions…and I’m like, hey I can make it happen in less than five minutes, look at me go!

I really liked doing these squirt performances, and I wanted to perform more. I realized that if I wanted to get onstage more the best way to do that was to put on panties and pasties because there was a lot more space for burlesque performances than there were for XXX shows. Within the first year of performing, I saw a picture of vagina weightlifter, Kim Anami, and she was on the beach lifting a surfboard with her vagina! I had two immediate thoughts:

One: I am in awe of your vagina.

Two: I want other people to feel the way about my vagina that I do about your vagina.

Whether it is squirting or pussy weight lifting, my motivation has always been the same: I want to make people in awe of the radical possibilities of our bodies.

To get an idea of what Max Madame does, check out their promo reel

MH: What is the preparation like for pussy stunts?

MM: I’ve been doing this a while, so it’s less practicing and weightlifting, and more working out the logistics of the stunt itself. Ninety percent planning and 10 percent actually doing it.

Everything is based on a Yoni egg, which is the size and shape of an egg but it’s made out of rock, and on the small end of the egg has a little hole drilled in it and that has a loop of string hanging off of it that I attach to a carabiner. I put a condom over the egg, I put the egg in my vagina and grip it with my pelvic floor muscle. Then I clip things onto this loop that’s hanging from the egg and out of my body. I use that to attach whatever device, or rig, I’m using to do the stunt.

People ask me all the time, how much can you weight lift, and I never tell anybody because it’s not the fucking point! Dudes come up to me after the show and will be like, “How much did that [rig] weigh?” It’s irrelevant! They’re missing the whole idea…it doesn’t matter if its 5 pounds or 50 pounds, it’s just amazing that I’m lifting something with my vagina. I realized very quickly that the cool part is doing weird stuff that’s hilarious! I turn a pooper-scooper into a light-up claw carnival game operating from my vagina  – that’s the shit I find special and entertaining.

The rig that makes helps make the magic happen.

MH: Your performances are mostly at burlesque shows, which are traditionally non-explicit. Yet your performances use your vagina in a really genital-specific, yet non-sexual way. What is that like and how has your experience as a sex worker helped you prepare for you for this type of performance?

MM: We tend to overly sexualize genitals, especially the vagina, but it’s also just a very strong muscle. So I’m using my pussy on stage in a way that’s really unique. I’m not naked, so it reduces the graphic implications of what I’m doing and lets people enjoy the act itself, and less of the fact that it’s connected to a vagina.

I feel like the intersection between performance art and sex education, and body awareness is natural place because it’s all about getting a bunch of people in a room and bringing new exciting ideas to the table. I enjoy the educational magic that happens when I’m on stage with a spotlight, as well as when I’m teaching formal classes about teaching pussy weightlifting, squirting, and orgasmic potential. For me, sex work can be very much the same, we all have a million different motivations for being there, but it’s always my goal to have the client walk away feeling uplifted, inspired. Like wow, that was something new, exciting and different.

I also feel like being a sex worker means that I’m on the entire time. I’m there I don’t walk off stage and stop being Max Madame. Being a sex worker informs how I talk and engage with people, how I hustle gigs and advertise myself. It affects how I get wrapped up in emotional labor even when I’m done performing. People come up to me after shows and are like, “Oh so you did something with your vagina, let me talk to you at my genitals for the next hour!” (laughs)  But yeah, there can be something about the energy, confidence and competence of a sex worker that attracts and interests people. We’re good at holding space for people. It’s hard to turn off.

MH: I find that burlesque performers are often quick to differentiate themselves from strippers, but can also appropriate sex work culture. How does that affect you?

MM: I feel like sex worker is an umbrella term that’s big and open and inviting in an important way because no one who does sex work should feel excluded or isolated. Sex work is complicated and involves a particular kind of community support to sustain itself.

I’ve noticed that there has been a cultural popularization of sex work. There’s something alluring, naughty and attractive about being able to associate yourself with sex workers. But you also don’t go through any of the oppression and negative experiences that many workers face.

The definition of a stripper is not someone who takes their clothes off for money, but someone who works and hussles in a strip club. Though I am not a stripper, I bristle when I hear burlesque performers refer to themselves as such. As people who take our clothes off for money, we may have shared experiences with strippers, however, the context in which we take off your clothes for money is a radically different and that needs to be acknowledged. It’s is important to realize that some kinds of work have such a unique experience, struggle and stigma laid upon them, and it deserves a certain amount of respect.

On the flip side of that, it’s interesting being a pussy stunt artist in a burlesque community where they’re often working hard not be over-sexualized. Some people try to push themselves really far away from strippers as a way of pushing themselves up. It’s a bummer because burlesque performers could be great allies to strippers. We have this power that society still provides by still wearing panties and pasties. I don’t say this to divide the community, it’s more my hope to have these two communities that I care about blend in a way that feels better for everyone. I love when I look out from the stage and see my Oakland burlesque and sex workers side-by-side in the audience. Sex workers have a lot of reasons to love burlesque shows and burlesque performers have a lot of reasons to love sex workers.

Max Madame photographed by Maxine Holloway

Catch Max Madame in the act on March 23 at the Stud or April 28 at the Shelton Theater in San Francisco.

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Maxine Holloway

Maxine Holloway

Maxine is a sex worker, advocate, and new mom. She works for sex worker justice through the ever-intersecting avenues of community organizing, politics, education, and art. Her pornography performances and direction earned her AVN nominations, an XBIZ award, and a Feminist Porn Award. She founded the AskFirstCampaign.org to raise awareness about communication and consent. She co-founded BayAreaWorkersSupport.org, a sex worker resource organization. See more at www.maxineholloway.com (SFW)