What Mother’s Day is Like When You’re a Sex Worker & a Mom
Welcome to Brain-Throbs & Blow Jobs, a column highlighting the great minds and perspectives of Bay Area sex workers through interviews and photo portraits by Maxine Holloway.
I gave birth five months ago, and I’m really excited to celebrate my first Mother’s Day with my child. The first one feels special, like I’m suddenly a part of a new club. I’ve been a mother for just a few months, but I’ve been a sex worker for many years.
In my professional life, I’m insulated by other workers who love me and protect me from judgment. But having a kid opens up my life to new people, in new ways, that can often feel risky or complicated. It’s difficult to manage the stigma and judgment that are cast on to sex-working parents. As I schedule appointments with pediatricians, talk with child care providers, and meet other parents at postpartum groups, I realize how grateful I am to be surrounded by people who love and support sex workers—and how difficult it is to open up.
Juggling being a sex worker and a mom isn’t complicated or extraordinary. What doesn’t feel normal is having new people in my life who don’t understand my work. It mostly feels scary. I’m still learning the best way to navigate these complex social and safety dynamics, so I reached out to a few workers who have years of mothering experience all while working in the sex trade. Lotus Lain, Chiara Rose, and Gia DiMarco sat down with me for an incredibly candid conversation about the triumphs and risks that sex worker parents take when providing for their families.
I’m Lotus Lain and I’m an adult performer, the industry relations advocate at the Free Speech Coalition, a writer, and a part-time artist. I’m also a mom.
Maxine Holloway: When did you get into the adult industry?
I was five years into being a mother when I was like, “I have to do this.” I was raising a girl and I was putting ideas in her head that she could do anything she wanted in life and I had not done anything I wanted in life! How could I be that hypocritical with my own kid? I kept going over it and thinking about it, “This is something that you’ve been wanting. Why haven’t you given this to yourself?” And I just, I had to do it, I had to see where [the adult industry] takes me.
MH: Are you out to other people in the adult industry as a mom?
It took a year or two being in the industry before I was fine, “Fuck it. I’m not ashamed that I’m a mom.” After a while, I didn’t want to hide it. Plus, people can clearly see in 4K that I have stretch marks, (laughs). Now that I’ve been a mother for eleven years and doing this for six, I can’t imagine not being a mother, not being in porn, and not having both be my life.
MH: How do you talk to your kid about your work?
I told her about sex work when she was 10, I said, “I am an international sexy woman that people look at sometimes. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And I also try to advocate for other people like myself live a better life or be more aware of how to do their work well.” We had a long conversation about it. I said adult industry equals porn, and when you hear the word porn, that’s where I work. And sometimes people will talk bad about it, and…
(Lotus’ eyes filled with tears)
I know that there’s going to be kids in school looking at porn. What if a kid or another parent at school recognize me? What if they tell her before I did? That’s why I felt like I had to tell her. I laid it all on the table so when someone else comes up to her, she’s not surprised about it. She’s like, “Yeah, I get it. I know. You have to deal with it.” So it puts it back on them instead of her.
I’m really overwhelmed with my kid’s ability to understand complex subjects. She said, “If you introduce things to kids, they won’t be as scared.” The more we hide things from kids and keep them dirty, the more they’re going to poke around. I won’t hide sex, sexuality, and expression from her.
MH: Did you feel closer to your daughter after telling her?
Being so open with her has helped in other areas of parenting. She recently got caught telling a lie and I was like, “Dude, with everything that I do to be so honest with you, I don’t lie to you about a single thing and you know that.” And she really understood the hurt and the deepness of lying to the person that’s being really honest with you. Being in this industry, it’s hard, but it has definitely brought me closer to my child in ways that I didn’t expect.
My kid and I are open and honest with each other. We trust each other. Which is rare at her age (junior high). I remember not telling my mom stuff. I really appreciated it when she was able to come out to me and tell me that she’s bisexual, and she has a crush on her best friend. She told her friend and turns out her friend is not bisexual and wasn’t interested, but they’re still friends. The fact that my child can express herself and her sexual orientation, AND handle rejection like that, from a first crush. I’m so floored. I wish I had that at her age. Maybe showing her all the things I’ve been through or go through helps her to understand things aren’t as devastating as they seem when you’re young …I’m so grateful that that’s my kid.
(Lotus tears up again)
MH: How has the adult industry community shaped your role as a parent?
It has encouraged me to empower my kid to speak up and advocate for themselves. This industry has made it really clear to me that speaking up, standing your ground, and knowing what you’re about is so important. That’s really been helpful in helping me raise an empowered kid that won’t take shit.
I met a lot of lifetime friends in this industry and I’ve never had that in school or any other job. I know if I was to quit porn now, I have friends that are going to be with me for my life, that I would never let go of and will never let go of me. My friend Ana, who is also in the industry, is like a real sister, aunt, family member, and has seen my kid grow up since she was five. She has a cute nickname for my kid, helps with child care, and takes us to the beach when we are sad. I just didn’t expect that kind of depth and friendship out of this industry when I first started. This is the family my child gets to grow up with.
My name is Ckiara Rose. I am an active sex worker. I’m a human rights activist. I’m also an ecological activist and an environmental activist. I’m starting Ckiara’s School For Modern Harlots to de-stigmatize people using their sexuality to gain power, profit, and pleasure. And yes, I’m a momma to my little boy, well he’s not little anymore, he’s 25!
MH: Do you feel sexy as a mom?
Society does this interesting thing when you aren’t a mom, you are a sexual being for your boyfriend or for men, or eye candy. You never own your own sexuality. And then they say, “Now that you’re a mom, you no longer have sexuality.” That’s not how sexuality works, in Taoism and other beliefs, they say when you stop having sexual feelings, you’re dead. Sexuality is always present, having a child has nothing to do with it. For me having a child made me more in touch with my body. I think I got more sexual after birth than I was prior. For me, everything was more intense more open, more luscious.
MH: Do you talk to your family about sex work?
I am very honest with my family.
Ckiara shows me video footage of her talking about her life as a sex worker while sitting between her mother and adult son. In the video Ckiara’s mother declares that she didn’t originally approve of her daughter’s work but over time she has learned to understand and appreciate her daughter’s choices. Ckiara smiles and gives her mom a kiss on the cheek, and then sweetly rubs off her lipstick mark from her mother’s face. The interviewer asks her son what he thinks of all of this:
“I didn’t think about [sexwork] growing up. I remember one time in elementary school someone asked me what my mom did and I said something like, “she’s in movies or she dances,” and I thought it was cool. She was always super honest about things, maybe too honest!” He laughs. “So I never felt surprised or tricked. What my mom did for work was the least of my concerns as a kid. Now as an adult, I tell everyone. I’m proud.” He turns and looks at his mom. “You make your own money, you don’t have a boss…my mom is a badass.”
MH: That’s really special. I haven’t seen a lot of footage of families talking about sex work together. What was it like being a sex worker and mom?
I’m not going to do anything that I am ashamed of. That’s how I always live my life. Sex work allowed me to be there for my family. There was so much going on when my son was growing up. I was in a relationship where a man was abusive and stalking me. He wouldn’t leave me alone and every time I went to the police he would bring up the fact that I was a dancer, I was in porn, or that I did whatever, and then they’d side with him. Once I followed the female officer outside and I told her, “Okay, so all of a sudden I’m no good, I’m nothing because I’m dancing? How does that even work, when he’s trying to beat my ass, and I’m defending myself, and you’re going to believe him over me…because I’m dancing? How does that even make sense to you?”
I had to move all the way to Detroit, New York, and Boston. Then we ended up back over here, it was hard. People don’t understand that if it wasn’t for sex work, I wouldn’t have been able to get away from him, because I could go anywhere and still work.
MH: How was navigating law enforcement and other systems as a sex worker mom?
The system has so much stigma towards sex work. My son was taken from me and put in foster care partially because of my work. My work advertisements were read out loud in court and the fact that I advertised as a “Goddess” was used against me as evidence that I was “delusional,” that’s when he got taken. I had a nervous breakdown in the elevator when it happened. I was shaking and the sheriff had to come and get me off the floor of the elevator. I finally got away from my stalker and now you’re going to take my kid? My mind couldn’t deal with it anymore. I just came off of this whole thing and now you’re taking my kid. My family’s not with me.
After that, I literally lost my mind and became a crack-head for quite a few years. One night, on a run, I was assaulted and almost raped by two men. That was the best thing that could have happened to me because it was the beginning of the end of my self-destructive insanity. Then somehow I found sex worker community – Robin, Carol Leigh, and others. From there I started building myself up. I was happy being amongst my own people, because before I was alone.
When I visited my son in foster care he told me, “Mommy, the lady lined up all the kids at the foster home and she said, ‘Y’all are here ’cause your mommas don’t love you.’” Who tells traumatized kids that their mamas don’t love them. When he told me that he says, “But mommy, I know you love me.” They have all these myths and not really knowing the realities. It’s really horrible because you’re breaking up families that otherwise would be perfectly happy together. Why do you want to break up the happiness because of your ideology? Because of your moral compass? Or whatever. It’s not right.
My name is Gia DiMarco and I have been a sex worker since 2004. I started off with my own website and now I’ve shot porn for all of the companies. I’ve done private dominatrix work and escorting. I’ve done a little bit of a lot in the sex work realm.
I’m also a mom, I have two boys. I became a mom really young. When my older son was a baby I was working two jobs and was raising him all by myself and it was just…I was struggling. I was gone 14 hours a day and it was hard. So when I found there was a better way to do things, I took it.
MH: What are some of the benefits of being a mom who is a sex worker?
For me, being a sex worker has made me a better mom because it’s given me the ability to almost be a stay-at-home mom and still earn a good income. I’m home with my youngest son almost every day, except for when I do have to leave to go to work, which is maybe four to five days a month. It’s been really nice to be able to care for him in the way that I want to care for him.
Once you become a mom it becomes scary, because of the stigma, I am judged for being a sex worker. But I don’t think what I do actually even matters to my kids. What’s going to matter the most is was I present, was I happy, was I healthy, were they loved, did they have happy childhoods? I’m doing the best that I can to try to make all those things happen. So I see sex work as a way to facilitate all of that.
MH: Do other parents know you are a sex worker?
No. I do have to keep my guard up with things and it’s hard because you go to school functions and people are talking about their work, and mine isn’t really something I can talk about. Even if I feel okay with what I do, it’s tricky to see who else might be okay. I have to always be checking the situation and gauging. I don’t want to invite possible trouble by telling the wrong person something. I sometimes wish I could talk about the fact that I’m a businesswoman, entrepreneur, and totally self-supporting…it’s hard.
Lately, I’ve been noticing that I’ve been more self-conscious about my appearance and body, like, am I dressed too sexy to be out with my son? If I’m going to pick him up from school or baseball games I overly try to not come off as sexy, so people won’t think I’m slutty, or connect my appearance to my career, and then think I’m not a good mom. I didn’t realize how much I was trying to please everyone outwardly so that they don’t judge me as a mother.
MH: How do you navigate privacy?
Social media is a huge one. I try to keep my business twitter and my personal Instagram separate. I also don’t openly advertise for escorting and Domme work, because I had my sex work used against me in court. I had to fight for custody and someone printed out pages of porn scenes I had done and descriptions and try to use that to show I was a bad mother. So I have a lot of anxiety about it. But in the last couple of years, I’m seeing a huge movement of mothers that are sex workers talking about it more. So it’s making me feel more comfortable about it. I’m seeing that it’s becoming a little more acceptable, or at least it’s becoming more talked about.
MH: How has being a mom been an asset to your career?
Through sex work, I’ve learned how to navigate so many types of situations and people. I’m really good at gauging and catering to people’s varying emotional levels. I think I do the same thing with my family and children. As a sex worker, I’m caring for other people and the same thing when I’m a mother. I think those things go hand in hand with each other.
MH: Do you talk to your kids about sex work?
No. But it’s definitely something that I am concerned about. Right now I’m taking my oldest son’s lead and letting him bring it up. If and when he does, I will be totally honest and open and tell him that this is a choice that I made because it afforded me the ability to care for you in a better way. I think that there’s a lot of stigma around sex and porn and all that stuff in general, and I’d be happy to talk to him about that and be as open or as not as he wants to be. So right now I’m just waiting. There is so much more pressure that is placed on sex workers to talk about our work with our kids when I don’t think most kids really care what their parents do for work.
MH: You’re an online public figure. How do you deal with the internet trolls?
When people on the internet find out I have kids, they always sarcastically say, “Oh I bet your kids are going to be really happy!” And my response is, “Well, actually, they are, they’re happy that their mom is home with them daily, and that I’m cooking home cooked meals for them, and they’re going to private school, and have college funds!” Yes, they are very happy.
I feel supported and inspired by my conversation with these sex-working mothers. After all, they are making it work personally and professionally, which lets me know I can do it, too. But throughout our discussion, the depth of the repercussions we face grabbed my attention. Being a sex worker is not inherently unsafe for families, but what is unsafe is the ways the state stigmatizes and criminalizes sex work, which of course disproportionately affects women of color. Opening up about the risks and consequences helps me prepare for my own future—as a mom and a worker.
On this Mother’s Day please consider donating to #FreeBlackMamas The National Bail Out Collective, a Black-led and Black-centered organization supporting people who have been impacted by cages and ending systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration.