Over the summer, Maxine Holloway shared a photograph of her growing baby bump on Instagram, excitedly announcing in a caption, “I’m pregnant!” The accompanying image showed her reclining in a floral swimsuit with the near-universal hand-on-belly pose. But then the caption diverged from the usual cliches of a social media pregnancy announcement: “Due in December, I’m feeling great and excited to keep working throughout my pregnancy.”
Continuing to work through a pregnancy doesn’t usually need to be defended, but Holloway is a sex worker. She understood that the very fact of doing her job while gestating a human would expose her to criticism, judgment, and condemnation.
“To be honest, I’m nervous about navigating my career as a pregnant professional naked person, and then new mom,” she continued. “But at the same time, I’m ready to face and push conceptions of what bad-ass women, sex workers, and moms can and will do (and HAVE been doing 4 ever!). I really don’t care about most people’s opinions about what I should or shouldn’t be doing with my body during this time.”
Since then Holloway has embarked on several cross-country tours to see clients. She dubbed the first trip “Pregnant Pleasure Rush.” More recently, at nine-months pregnant, she called it the “Last Chance Tour.” Holloway recently tweeted, “Until the babe comes, I’ve been using my new diaper bag to tote around sex toys & lingerie. The multi-compartments are incredible.” She added the hashtag, “
Sex work is arguably the single most stigmatized profession in the world. Add pregnancy and motherhood, and all of their attendant cultural and political baggage, into the mix and that stigma increases one-hundred fold. Last year, when Summer Sebastian announced that she would be working at the Bunny Ranch, a legal brothel in Nevada, throughout her pregnancy, it made for international headlines. Holloway hasn’t even given birth yet and she’s already been harassed online by people saying that she’s harming her future child.
I visited Holloway at her home in Oakland, California to talk about pregnancy fetishes, mommy role-play, and the stigma of doing sex work while pregnant.
What was the decision process like around choosing to work through your pregnancy?
It’s kind of two-parted. Throughout my whole sex working career, I’ve been pretty open about sharing my body, my sexuality and my experiences somewhat publicly. So, it felt like a very natural progression in some ways to share this part of my body and sexuality in this stage of being pregnant. Part of me was just really excited about giving some visibility to a pregnant sexual person.
The flip-side of that is: How could I not? I don’t have the luxury or privilege of not working while pregnant. A lot of it was an economic choice. I also really like my job and didn’t want to stop—just like a lot of people that get pregnant want their careers to continue [laughs].
So, in some ways, it was kind of about visibility and showing that there are lots of ways to be sexual and that getting pregnant doesn’t change that, and also very practical and economic. I need money in order to support myself and my growing family. There wasn’t a lot of other options but to keep working.
That’s interesting what you said about being a pregnant sexual person because you’re not supposed to be that, right?
It’s supposed to stop the moment you conceive or start to show. I felt like, yes, there are so many things that are rapidly changing, but I’m still the same person. My desires, my sexuality hasn’t halted or stopped just because I want to start a family. The idea that that’s supposed to happen or should happen or that should change is interesting.
I definitely experienced a version of that, being pregnant and feeling suddenly like my fantasies had to change, like I wasn’t allowed to even think about certain things as a pregnant person—and that was on such an internal, private level. Did you struggle with that sense of sexual prohibition at all?
A little bit, but also I was really curious about pushing that, not so much for myself but more publicly. What can this pregnant sex worker put out there and get away with? I was very curious at what point would people be put off. I really tried to approach it with no limits in the public sphere. Like, okay, I am going to try to talk about more hardcore fantasies about being pregnant and talk about breeding fantasies and mommy stuff and see how that goes. I’ve found that most people are a little more open-minded than I thought, with the caveat that I definitely received a ton of hate mail of just like “you should be ashamed of yourself, you’re scarring your future child for life.”
As far as personally, I feel really lucky to have partners and lovers and friends that are so open-minded and have really helped me embrace not holding myself back. A lot of people don’t know anything about pregnancy and sex. I have clients who have gone through the screening process, booked a session, and then asked, “Are you sure this is safe for the baby?” And I’m like, “Yeah, have you ever read anything about pregnancy and sex?” And, no, they haven’t. They really have no idea. There is this idea that pregnant women shouldn’t be sexual, but then these myths lack an understanding of how bodies work and how our sexuality works.
Are the clients you’re seeing now the same clients as before or are they new clients who are specifically into pregnancy?
Both. I was actually really nervous when I started working as a pregnant person, I didn’t know how it would go over—if people would be into that or not. I thought I would lose a lot of my regular clients. But I ended up keeping a majority of my regulars from before I was pregnant, which felt really nice—like, our connection is about us, not just me in a certain state. They were like, “This is the next stage in your life, and I want to be a part of that in a client-provider way.”
Even in a romantic context, that transition from not-pregnant to pregnant in one’s sex life can be difficult, so it’s interesting that they’ve felt interested in participating as clients.
There’s something about that that did feel romantic in some ways. And there is romance involved, client-provider relationships have that kind of magic as well. But, yeah, I was pleasantly surprised.
I was a little bowled over by how much of an interest there was from new clients, too. I did my research, and I knew that pregnancy porn is highly searched, but you never really know if that’s going to transfer to other areas of the sex trade. I was amazed at the number of people that were actively seeking out pregnant escorts. Now it makes sense because it’s pretty rare. Since I got pregnant I’ve been touring in L.A., New York, Boston, around the Bay, and there’s not a lot of pregnant providers out there.
Some clients are really seeking out this very specific fantasy, which is a fun dynamic to be a part of. But I’d say a majority of my clients are just very curious. It’s hard to break down where that comes from. There’s a lot of things that can tap into, whether it is that more specific fantasy role-play of impregnation or mommy stuff, versus it’s this taboo thing that, kind of like we were talking about earlier, pregnant women aren’t supposed to be sexual and when our society doesn’t understand something fully or is wary of it, more often than not then there can be an eroticization of it. A lot of my clients aren’t able to articulate what it is. They’re like, “I don’t know, I’m a little confused about it.”
Then there are people that are not quite fetishizing but really appreciative of pregnant women’s bodies and just this heightened femininity—you know, bigger boobs, bigger hips, all that kind of stuff. There’s a lot of connection to the physical attributes of sex—engorgement, swelling, leaking.
With the impregnation stuff, that’s interesting, because you’re already pregnant. What’s going on there?
People seem to be into the cuckolding thing, where they want to be the cuck where they are humiliated because they couldn’t get me pregnant, so I had to go somewhere else to get pregnant. Or it’s “you’re pregnant by someone else, but you’re still with me,” where it’s a taboo affair fantasy.
A lot of them are more mommy role-play. That doesn’t always add up—like, I’m already pregnant, but maybe [in the fantasy] it’s my second child. It’s more like I’m this mommy figure and symbol. Sometimes I’m the MILF neighbor or the stepmom. And my clientele has gotten younger. There’s a lot more public discourse about daddy fantasies and what that all means, but I think the mommy dynamic doesn’t get talked about very much.
I wonder if that’s because it makes us even more uncomfortable.
I think it does make us more uncomfortable, and for a lot of reasons. I’m thinking of the Madonna/whore complex that we touched upon earlier. You can be sexual or you can be a mother, but how dare you be both. But, like, dads are completely valid in the whole breadth of their identity. They can be a good dad and a hot dad.
Even MILF versus DILF, there’s so much weird stuff put on the MILF label. It connects into these other things of beauty standards and expectations of women, it’s more about being hot than it is about being a multidimensional human being who is a mom and also has sexual desires and needs and a sex life.
I think it makes sense in a lot of ways, people wanting to explore mommy role-play stuff, especially with the younger clientele. I don’t want to reduce it down to just “they have mommy issues,” because I think it’s more complicated than that. I think it’s a dynamic that isn’t really socially sanctioned, younger men and older women—or even just women being the more dominate caretaker in a relationship. People feel very comfortable with a male dominant, a male daddy. When the gender is switched, people aren’t used to that. But just because it isn’t talked about doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
That’s the great thing about providing sexual services, you’re giving people one of the only ways to access their fantasies or desires that they really don’t know how to get met any other way.
Has pregnancy changed your experience of your job or your relationship to it?
The first thing that comes to mind is that it’s really made me hustle hard these past nine months, because I do not have any type of paid maternity leave or benefits, which is really scary, especially when my body is so much a part of my job. My body is going to need a break after birth, so knowing I’m not going to be able to work for a time, whether it’s three, four, or six months, really made me step it up and try to really hustle hard so I can take those few months off. My partner and I started a Clips4Sale store so when I do start maternity leave I can still bring in some income. We’ve been shooting clips, I’ve been doing custom videos. I’ve been doing a lot more photography and portrait photography. Diversifying felt very urgent.
Has pregnancy changed what it’s like seeing clients?
Even before I was pregnant, sex work has taught me a ton about boundaries and what I feel okay with and what I don’t. But I think being pregnant has made me even more intense about that. It’s helped me practice and exercise setting boundaries and being able to verbalize them at the moment, because—I don’t want to say that I feel more vulnerable, but it’s not just me anymore, so things feel heightened.
People are extremely interested in lactation. Ever since I got pregnant I will receive three or four emails a week, like, “Are you lactating yet?” In the past couple of months, people have been really demanding on this liquid that I don’t even have yet. I’m like, “This is my milk, my job is to feed my baby. If I decide to share that in my professional life, I will let you know.” I’ve gotten a little protective and angry. People I’ve never even met are telling when they would like to start consuming my milk.
I wonder how you’ll feel about that once you’re nursing, because having a really demanding baby—an actual baby—who wants milk, and then having a bunch of—
Milk-hungry man babies?
I wasn’t going to say, but, yes. I wonder if you’ll have any kind of energy for that.
In some ways, the commodification of that seems really powerful and exciting, but nursing can be really hard, so I’m curious how that’s going to feel. It’s a potential revenue stream, and that feels good to know, going back to the fact that I’m taking an undetermined amount of time off of work and I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. But I’m feeling protective and a little “mama bear.”
So there are a lot of men who want to nurse, not just witness lactation?
Oh yeah. And I get it. Even myself, before I got pregnant, I had lactation fantasies and thought it was really hot. I like the idea of engorgement and release and white creamy liquid, there is something very enticing and erotic to me about that.
It sounds like you haven’t come across many sex workers who have worked through their pregnancies.
There are a few people. A good friend of mine, Sadie Lune, who is an amazing sex worker and porn performer, she made porn and worked throughout her pregnancy. That was really nice to be able to connect with someone about what that was like for them. There’s another woman, Lola Luscious, who just went through two very public sex working pregnancies. That’s really it. I was really trying to find some more people to see how they worked while pregnant. I was looking for that community and inspiration and guidance. But, yeah, it’s pretty rare.
I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me in the last couple of months that are sex workers that are recently pregnant and are like, “Do you mind if I ask you some questions? I’m really scared.” People are very scared that they won’t be able to work anymore, so there’s this economic fear. If working while pregnant is something that they want to do, I’m letting them know that this is not a career ruiner. You can definitely support yourself through the pregnancy. In my experience, I was able to support myself even better than before I was pregnant.
Why do you think there aren’t many pregnant sex workers?
There’s a lot of sex working parents, but a lot of people take a break during pregnancy. Safety is a big thing—just dealing with the amount of hate mail and the stigma that comes along with that. As a sex worker, you deal with all kinds of stigma. But being a pregnant sex worker, it’s like the butt of really bad hooker jokes.
There can also be a lot of real-life consequences. Being a sex worker and being a parent really ups your risk for getting CPS called on you or having the police called or any type of social service interaction. I was very publicly criticized for working while pregnant by some other sex workers a few months ago. That was really scary, because I knew I would get shit from the general public, but coming from my own community that felt very painful. They said that what I was doing was child exploitation. Putting those seeds of doubt in the general public’s mind, like, “Is that child exploitation, should I call CPS?” feels very real and scary for both my partner and myself. I think there is definitely a lot of really valid fear of why someone would not want to work while pregnant or not be public about their pregnancy.
Are there health or safety measures that you’ve had to take while pregnant and working?
For safety stuff, I’ve always screened hard. But you can make mistakes when screening clients, so I’ve just been really diligent on my screening practices and not budging or being flexible. My safer sex practices haven’t changed. I’ve always used barriers for everything and not had any type of fluid exchange.
Have you been able to find an OBGYN who is supportive of your work?
When I first got pregnant, I went to the hospital for my first checkup, and I didn’t feel comfortable going on the record and saying, “I’m a sex worker and I have specific healthcare needs.” I didn’t want anything on a hospital record that says that I’m a sex worker. I just don’t know what type of flags that will raise in a very institutional setting.
It was really important for me to find a midwife that I could be candid and honest with about that. I got a lot of recommendations from queer femme conception groups on Facebook and found this woman who has been so supportive and great. Just being able to let her know that I’m going to New York to tour for work, having support without judgment has meant the world. That’s such a rare experience for a sex worker when receiving any kind of care, whether it’s your doctor or your chiropractor.
There have been a few media frenzies in the past over pregnant sex workers—notably when a sex worker at the Bunny Ranch in Nevada announced that she would see clients until delivering. It made international headlines. What do you think of the outrage at these kinds of stories?
I think it’s connected to a lot of things. The general public has such a fear and lack of understanding of sex work already. At the same time, people have a lot of judgments about what makes a good mom and about women’s sexuality in general. You can’t look at a mommy blog without someone getting shamed for breastfeeding too long or not breastfeeding long enough. You just can’t win as a woman, and then you add sex, power, and money, and people’s minds melt. When you break that stuff down, it shows that in 2018 people are still so fearful of women having bodily autonomy and making decisions that work for them.
I find it really interesting when supposed feminist women have such an opinion about sex work in general or choosing to work while pregnant. People feel very comfortable criticizing and having an opinion about that, even if they’re much more progressive on a lot of other issues. But I really wish people would examine those beliefs more. How do you support abortion rights, but not the right for someone to do sex work or do sex work while pregnant? To me, that all boils down to how women are empowered and supported by each other in our communities to have bodily autonomy and make decisions for themselves.
You can’t have this conversation without having a conversation about economics and what it means to be a working mom and the amount of privilege people have when they say you should stop working as a sex worker. Are you gonna pay my bills? You can’t talk about that without talking about economic justice and racism. I have a lot privilege moving through this world as a white cis person. Sex workers of color that want to work while pregnant are going to face a lot more shit and discrimination and stigma.
I think sex work is this fascinating lens to look at economics, justice, racism, feminism, body choice, money, and power. All of these things intersect when you look at it with a sex worker lens. I consider it this ultimate test in social justice, like, okay, you’re against police violence and racism, but when you see that all collide under sex work and that makes you uncomfortable, what’s the difference? Often, it’s the sex part.
I’m in a more privileged position than people who don’t have the safety or security to be as out as I am. I hope to leverage that to make things safer and easier for myself as a sex worker mom who might get pregnant again and to create more space for other women and people who want to have families and still do sex work.