How Porn Brought My Mom and Me Together

I had a tense and antagonistic relationship with my mother when I was growing up. At the age of 16 i already had it in mind that i want to be a porn star, I was sure that I would never speak to her again once I could move out of the house. We were too dissimilar: she, a methodical scientist and introvert; me, a free-spirited writer and extrovert.

It took me many years and 3,000 miles of distance for me to realize my mother was not just a parent, but a person with life experiences of her own. While I thought that she was just trying to ruin my life (as teenagers are wont to believe), I realize now how she was trying to protect me from the trauma that she experienced when she was my age.

Yes, that is an incredibly weird thing to say. So many people I know can barely talk to their parents about sex, or their queer identity, or their multiple partners, never mind their lives as sex workers. I’ve always been grateful that my mother encouraged me to ask any and all questions that my public schools couldn’t answer — questions like, “Oh my god, are the lumps under my nipples cancer??” (No.) Or, “Does it make me less of a feminist if I fantasize about being dominated?” (No, not if that’s what I really want.) That openness was valuable to me.

IT TOOK ME MANY YEARS AND 3,000 MILES OF DISTANCE FOR ME TO REALIZE MY MOTHER WAS NOT JUST A PARENT, BUT A PERSON WITH LIFE EXPERIENCES OF HER OWN.

Still, I tried to hide my work in the porn industry from my mother. She’s a second-wave feminist, so I grew up marching next to her at NOW rallies. By the time I was dabbling in the adult industry, I had read enough about the history of feminism to feel pretty confident that she would not welcome my “alternative lifestyle.” I didn’t feel very close to her at the time, and I certainly did not feel prepared to talk to her about this career choice. As I worked and blogged under a different name, I didn’t think she would ever find out.

She did.

My mother emailed me to say she had discovered that I was doing porn work — and that I was using the name “Stryker,” a family name with which my mother had a difficult relationship. My heart caught in my throat. Not only had I been caught doing sex work, which seemed against her feminist politics, but I was doing it using a name that she hated. I was sure I was about to get disowned.

Incredibly, my mother was amused by my use of the name. In fact, she felt that my using it to do sex work kind of redeemed it for her, which touched my heart. Through that discovery, my mother and I began to talk more, sharing feminist writings on sex work (pro, con, and somewhere in the middle), talking about self-care, and discussing the ins and outs of ethical porn. My mother didn’t yell at me, or talk over me, or dictate to me what I should or shouldn’t be doing.

She listened.

She listened when I had great days and felt like porn was the most empowering thing I could do for myself, how I was claiming sexuality in a way that felt safe and fun for me. She listened when I felt insecure about my body, loving my fatness and my curves but also aware that being this way would mean fewer jobs and less respect. She listened when I had a tough day, and felt anxious about the weird power dynamics in the industry.

My mother never told me to quit. She never told me I had made a bad decision. She never asked me how I could be a feminist and a sex worker. She made space for me and my experiences, and she gave me advice or sympathy when I asked. So I found myself reaching out to her more often, grateful for her analysis and her wit. Now, I consider her one of my closest friends.

MY MOTHER NEVER TOLD ME TO QUIT. SHE NEVER TOLD ME I HAD MADE A BAD DECISION.

I know that my decision to have sex on screen wasn’t easy for her to wrap her head around. I am so appreciative that she opened a completely unexpected door so we could have the relationship we have today. She’s educated herself on various industry issues, becoming a solid and outspoken ally. Knowing she’s proud of me — as an entrepreneur, as a writer, and yes, as a sex worker — has made me feel accepted and loved, and I am thankful every day to have been offered that chance for us to get to know each other all over again.


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