If there were an award for feeling most conflicted about porn, I’d take the cake, or maybe the creampie. Despite peddling sex and other bodily wares in various capacities for almost a decade, I’m not so keen on porn, at least the mainstream stuff. It feels reductive and hollow—an apologist for the male gaze, as I’m sure you’ve heard before. And yet, feminist analysis does little to assuage my deeply held desires of wielding my asshole to the authority of bleach and fucking uninhibitedly with limbs twisted all around like pretzels. I want to see myself reflected in erotic imagery even while I’m outraged by uninvited, systemic objectification. C’est drole la vie? Bitches be crazy?

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Like all professional equivocators, I may owe everything to a soured teenage love affair. My first lover, in all the tenderness and insecurity of youth, taped porn over a dance recital in which I’d tap-danced my little heart out. Something about finding shaved pussy where I’d anticipated budding Savion Glovers felt excitingly erotic and, yet, grotesquely offensive. Porn still evokes these contradictions for me.

And then, complicating things further, I became a mother. Erasing the pretty pink wink of my fantasies, giving birth charged my asshole with testicle-sized hemorrhoids. My body ripped wide open, maiming the fragile skin of my perineum and flooding my bloodstream with hallucinatory hormones, exercises in monk-like meditation. My body became the source of both life and death, of celebration and of mourning.

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The flatness of porn relative to the wildly human experience of giving birth feels not only contradictory, as it always has, but soulless and, in some cases, downright painful. My Third-Wave comrades might cringe at the suggestion that having a daughter has dramatically altered my relationship to sex work, but if nothing else, having a daughter animates the core of what I despise most about erotic labor. My little girl, like me, will be the object of cultural sexualization while also being denied sexual autonomy.

Being assigned “female” at birth brings forth a particular kind of gross male entitlement—as well as through oceans of judgement about your capacity for navigating said entitlement. Being assigned “female” at birth means that (some) feminists as well as misogynists of all shades will take turns defining consent for you, that respectability politics will take precedence over the complexity of real life—and that any attempt to capitalize on your socially constructed inferiority will be furthermore lampooned as propagating patriarchy. The ever-predictable schoolgirl fantasies, the ego-stroking pretensions towards female docility (even when I’m on top), the invocation of financial privilege and its power—all themes of much of my sex work—do little to help.

That’s not to say the sex industry is to blame, but simply that aspects of it reflect back to us the most rancid aspects of our society, including certain feminist ideologies that leave sex workers in the dust. And my patience for much of this blubbering ridiculousness is negatively correlated to the amount of wrinkles my face collects.

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So, even as someone who has much enjoyed watching porn at other points in my life, I lost my little mind when I found porn on my partner’s computer after the birth of our daughter. Who were these women, my sisters in vice, captured on film with their preternatural beauty immortalized? How could my partner, after bringing a baby girl into the world, still feel entitled to sexualize young women? And how could I feel so entirely self-righteous about it all even while toiling as a pseudo-pornographer and lazy breast milk fetishist? (My days of fucking in hotel rooms and traipsing around like a nymph in stilettos are, at least momentarily, on pause.)


The magic mushroom man lives between the cavernous walls of an old brick building in a humble Midwestern town, underneath vaulted Chihuly glass and vibrant, crooked vines. The magic mushroom man plays the drums while stroking his wizard-white beard; he showcases a blowup doll in the style of Munch’s screaming mummy and hides owl feathers for my curious daughter.

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In another life, my partner and I would have solved our marital woes with an Adderalled afternoon followed by binge drinking and bondage. But when you’ve got a new baby and you’re routinely faced with the decision to either shit, shower, or sleep, there’s very little room for solving things the old fashioned way. So my goddess witch mother referred me to the magic mushroom man, and I came to him offering a task: save my relationship.

Because giving birth saddles you with more than just new time constraints. You could find yourself inexplicably sobbing, haunted by emotion even while inhaling placenta vodka in hopes of assuaging your fucked-up, crazy brain. (Note: if you’re preggo, find a medicine woman who knows the magic spell for turning placentas into vodka. Immediately. Yes, it’s a thing.) No matter what kind of marital arrangement or partnership you’ve made, your baby daddy (or baby daddies or baby mamas or baby whatevers) might as well have one eye and one horn. They become completely extraterrestrial. Tethered to my child by a bloody nipple, I felt simultaneously disembodied, a parable of humanity wading in dark psychic clouds—and, for the first time in my heretofore miserable and meaningless life, an actualized homo fuckin’ sapien on the precipice of enlightenment.

If, as is the case with my family, you top everything off by living in a neighborhood where gunshots sound off with the frequency of church bells, suffice it to say that postpartum-land partnerships really suffer. So my partner and I sought help from the magic mushroom man, a psychedelic therapist with a penchant for psilocybin and Jung. Making a porn, he said, might actually be good for us.


The opportunity to make a porn video grew from the rubble of my postpartum madness. After giving birth, I commiserated with Madison Young—renowned pornographer and feminist performer—on being a sex-working mother. She kindly offered to collaborate with me and other novice pornographers on an amateur porn, which she called “an opportunity to make revolutionary film.” My heart sang. Of course, I agreed, assuming I’d find answers to all my contradictions in ponytail butt plugs and after parties at the infamous San Francisco Armory. (A note—I actually slept through the shoot’s afterparty, though my colleagues glowingly described it as dinner turned bondage lovefest. But it’s as my grandmother always says: sleep comes before dinners-turned-bondage-lovefests.)

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With baby and partner in tow, I flew to California to work with performers Siouxsie Q and Missy Minx for a three-day porn shoot. Marked by sleep deprived water mirages and persistent lactation, the first day of our collaborative porn creation was, at least for me, not particularly pleasant. At least there were free bagels! But I am an awkward emotional wreck by nature, and meeting new friends consisted of equal parts postpartum weeping, verbal diarrhea about my genius baby, and an insistence that we channel Samuel Becket and call our porn “Happy Endgame.” Thankfully, my collaborators were able to roll out a script while I sunk into a dream about shoving Wheat Thins up my vagina.

In terms of fantasies, I was deeply renegotiating. An essential task in postpartum land is the renegotiation of space and boundaries. As horribly philistine kinks, my partner and I never agreed to a “safe word” prior to bebe. Nothing was off limits. You wanna drag me naked through the streets of our small town? Cool. Can we also break into this laundromat and paint naked portraits of each other on the walls? Awesome, praise Satan.

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Things were different after baby. Touch my tits and die, for example. Age play is off limits, too. And after finding hot “nerdy” brunettes bent over school desks on my partner’s computer, I was sensitive to the familiar archetypes in a way I’d never expected. But here we were, having agreed that making a porn was qualitatively different than jerking off to it; the life of creation versus the little death of consumption, I guess. Plus, I hadn’t left the house in over a year, had been living in a town unfriendly to weirdos, and was plainly desperate for the company of witchy hos and pervs.

There were logistical hiccups to consider. Although my little one is quite familiar with my breasts as her life-sustaining nourishment and had no referential context in which to put sex, she was not legally permitted to be around naked breasts in the context of pornography. The little breast milk sommelier also feverishly rejects bottles, binkies, and all other forms of pacification, so, navigating the laws pertaining to erotic material and minors, my partner and I had to figure out out a nursing arrangement for the duration of the porn shoot. We decided that, when legally permissible, I’d nurse in between takes.

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Being raised female means learning to coexist with excruciating guilt, which is magnified when you become a mother, which is further magnified when you take a break from your baby to make a porn. I interrogated myself silently while panning the camera up and over Siouxsie Q’s illustrious curves and onto Missy Minx in anticipation of her cued-up ejaculation. It was the first time since giving birth that I’d spent significant time away from my baby. What business did I have being here, I wondered. What if, in my absence, my little one starves to death? What if she becomes a venture capitalist and, in her rallying commencement speeches at Yale and Brown, passionately articulates how she “overcame all odds” as the daughter of a whore and pornographer? I had the distinct sense that existing in the realm of sexuality necessarily precluded me from fulfilling my duties, which at this moment, it pragmatically, to a certain degree, did.

But the radical, queer, and feminist pornographers I was working with had been through this. Indeed, sex workers have been having this conversation for decades and, to my mind, are quite exhausted with it. They are accustomed to being seen as apologists for patriarchy—in a way that’s sort of like blaming a worker at McDonald’s for the wild success of Pink Slime. It is a kind of flattening; a reductive and simplistic understanding of folks who work in the most contested business on the planet.

In my anxieties, it was clear that my colleagues had already worked through, were still working through, the nuanced, excruciating juxtaposition of motherhood/parenthood and commercial sex—a juxtaposition that often leads state bureaucrats to determine violent fathers to be more suitable parents than sex working mothers. All of us grappled with feminism as a political, social, and personal orientation that simultaneously paints us as victims and perpetrators. “In order to achieve their gains,” Andrea Dworkin famously wrote about pornographers, “they are required to hurt us.” Those words still apply to feminists’ relationship to sex workers, too.


My partner is afflicted with unwavering kindness. He speaks slowly and cautiously, often as counterweight to my brashness. He’d faded, if only slightly, from my understanding of him as flawed and exquisite to a thing mostly composed of floating, helping hands, someone to take the baby at night, after hours of colic screaming and projectile vomiting, and when my hallucinations reared their glittering, prism-like heads.

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Losing sight of his complexity had been detrimental, and had caused me to lose sight of mine. The gravity of simply allowing a little humanity into the mix, contradictions and all, allowed space for a re-articulation of the things that are central to me—namely, that sex and feminism’s philosophical starting point doesn’t have to privilege the experiences of men. It can begin again with the labor and love of gender minorities; it can value the gaze and pleasure of freaks and queers; it can challenge the state’s definition of “obscene.” It can break down ideal types of women as either mothers or whores in the process, and work against the hollowness of society, a hollowness reflected in mainstream pornography.

And I can think of no one more suited for this task than the unapologetic, anti-mainstream pornographers who work harder than anyone else I know at fulfilling the feminist political action where revolution is the goal.

Juniper Fitzgerald likes macaroni and cheese, geriatric animals/taxidermy, and Spencer’s Gifts. She makes babies and other things, and is using a pen name.

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Illustration by Tara Jacoby.