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Your Mother Is A Whore!

Sex Working Mothers Chat About Stigma

Lola Luscious and child. (Photo courtesy of Lola Luscious)

Puttering around the Mojave as a child, I shouted “Tu madres es una puta!” to the delight of my father and other day laborers. Before I could even count in Spanish, I knew how to say, “Your mother is a whore!” The colloquialism revealed two truths about living under a heteropatriarchy: first, a woman’s worth is calculated by her perceived sexual currency, a currency that ostensibly depletes with every sex partner she acquires. Second, a man’s worth is based on his proximity to high currency women. To have a mother for a whore, then, is akin to social death.

These truths of heteropatriarchy are intimately tied to the shame of sex. Sex working mothers not only reveal the doltishness of this shame but help dismantle heteropatriarchy in the process.

I spoke to several sex working mothers about shame and “coming out” to their children. While there are varying degrees to which a sex working mother’s social and legal situations allow her to be “out,” (for example, sex working mother Autumn S. cannot be out to anyone about her work because she fears losing her child to the state) one thing is for sure: sex working mothers have profoundly healthier ways of talking to their children about sex than the general population in the United States.

suprihmbé. (Self-portrait courtesy of suprihmbé)

Sex working mama Lola Luscious, who worked as a sex worker through two pregnancies, making, “hot, taboo pregnant porn” with her partner, talks candidly with her children about sex.

“On the sexual education front,” she says, “I’ve explained to [my oldest daughter] that what she may find on the internet is no different than a movie on Netflix. I tell her that is NOT the way to learn about sex. Just like she can’t go flying through the air like Superman, she probably shouldn’t be trying sex, when it’s time, in the way she might see online.”

Likewise, sex working mother Jennifer Stephan says that in conversations with her daughter about sex, shame is never a factor. “I think what worked for me was that we don’t shame. Never have,” she says. “There have been nights my daughter will call me and put someone on the phone saying, ‘Tell them what you do, they don’t believe me!’”

Of course, conversations about sex should be age appropriate. As Autumn S. says, “As with anything ‘adult,’ there are appropriate ways of explaining things at particular ages. Like, if a six-year-old asks what sex is, are you going to explain the physicality of how sex is done? I would hope not!” Like Autumn S., sex working mama suprihmbé does not discuss the mechanics of her work but, “to a certain extent,” she says, “I speak about my job around him.”

If sex work itself makes civilians uncomfortable, the notion that sex working mothers might mention their work to their children likely engenders a great deal of pearl clutching. What I found most heartwarming, though, was the openness and agency that sex-working mothers allow their children.

“I can’t say how my son will feel about it [my sex work],” suprihmbé says. “But I can say that I am open and upfront with him because I want him to know me. I don’t know my mother the way I would like and having grown up with abuse and a lot of silencing, I prefer to maintain an open communication policy and allow my kid to question me, to ask questions in general, and to feel what he feels.”

Similarly, Lola Luscious says, “I’ve told [my daughter] that there are movies and pictures online that she probably doesn’t want to see. We’ve joked lightly about it and I’ve told her to not get curious because she can’t unsee certain things. We laugh about it.”

Juniper Fitzgerald. (Photo courtesy of author)

This is not to suggest that being a sex working mother is always easy. Because while many of us—both current and former sex workers—seek to raise our children in an environment free of shame, that does not negate the fact that society writ large still deems sex-working mothers unfit and incapable.

For those of us who’ve been in this industry long enough to see our friends and peers have children, and for those of us who are ourselves parents, we all know at least one mother who has lost custody to her children for engaging in sex work. We have borne witness to her pain and suffered our own, living in fear that we might suffer the same fate.

Some of us, like me, have relied on the sex work community for assistance in the dark moments of living under a punitive system, a system where our children are always at risk of being taken from us. We have crowdsourced money to hire a lawyer. We have dabbled in sex work even after retiring just to put food on the table. And some of us have been less lucky. Some sex working mothers have lost their lives to these violent systems, systems that, at the end of the day, insist a woman’s worth is wrapped up in her sexual currency. Some of us, like my dear friend Bambie, have even seen our children die.

In addled early mornings on the prairie, before I became a parent, Bambie and I would wax poetic about the millions we were sure to manifest. “Now,” she says, “I need sobriety and God to mourn the death of my son.”

Just like the shame of sex engenders violence against sex-working mothers, the stigma of sex work prevents civilians from fully acknowledging the pain of sex-working mothers. Almost at the legal age for retirement, Bambie should be surrounded by her community, afforded healthcare and social security. Instead, she gives lap dances to drunk frat boys who don’t have the capacity to understand her grief.

If sex working mothers expose the absurdity of systems built on shame and stigma, we also expose the profound cruelty of heteropatriarchy. As Emily Smith recently wrote in response to FOSTA, sex workers are the canary in the coal mine of society. Sex working parents are not only a resilient bunch, we reflect society back to itself.

To all the sex-working mothers out there, to all the putas, putes, horor, huoria, wasichana, आवारा, القحبة, 妓女, বেশ্যা, шлюхи, huren, and whores, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thankyou for this ! This topic of “coming out” to our kids has often weighed heavy on my mind. I am a nongfe provider who thought i was the safest when it came to work but my daughter is a product of the game. No idea who her father is nor will I ever know. I often wonder how i will approach the subject with her when she gets older but i like the idea of age appropriate honesty.

    But I do have to admit that I fear shame from the pearl clutchers and that’s the main reason i avoid mom groups and engaging her in activities with babies her age. I know im a great mom and about as square as they come despite my occupation but the stigma and the fear of repercussions still gets to me and keeps me up at night.

    Thank you again for this- it makes me feel less alone as a mother and a provider.

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