I’ve always been into the idea of having children. I have never felt pressured to have kids, but maybe that’s because I’m 24 and have a considerable number of fertile years ahead of me. But as early as age 13, I remember thinking about how neat it would be to have a baby. The fantasy didn’t necessitate a spouse or all the trappings that come with the concept of a nuclear family, I just thought that helping a little one grow was one of the most magical things I could think of.
But here I am, a young woman who owns her own sex toy store, writes articles about all things sex, makes collages out of porn, and has an Instagram account that many folks consider soft-core porn. Google me, and you’ll easily find articles where I talk about the time I had gonorrhoea, why anal sex is fucking awesome, and how I got over being embarrassed about my dry pussy. “I think you’d be a great parent,” my friends and partners tell me, “but what are you going to do when your kid finds your articles and sees these sexy pictures of you?”
I’m definitely not the only one in this boat: There are many “non-normative” sexual identities that mainstream society considers potentially damaging to a child’s psyche. In addition to parents whose careers exist in the adult world, this is a thing that poly and kinky parents have to think about all the time. How honest should you be with your kids about your sex life? What lengths should you go to hide your vibrator from them? Your handcuffs? Your lube? If the kids do find something you’ve been hiding from them, how do you then explain it to them?
Yes, it’s a tricky scenario, isn’t it? Even though I’m a sex-positive person, I can’t imagine what it would feel like to discover that one of my parents had been a personality in the sex industry all along, but that’s also impossible to imagine because that’s not who either of my parents were. I think the real issue in this hypothetical scenario is that when we try to imagine “what if this was one of my parents,” it also means that your parent had been hiding their identity from you all along. The real issue, in my opinion, occurs not when a parent is promiscuous or sexually non-normative, but when a parent goes to extreme lengths to hide truths about their identity from their child.
There are many people today who still believe the incredibly homophobic notion that gay parents are unfit to raise children. There are also people who know that a parent’s sexual orientation doesn’t affect their ability to be an amazing parent, yet would question a non-monogamous or very kinky person’s ability to parent.
I’m not saying that we ought to show our kids our nude photos, or give them a tour of our sex toy drawers, but kids can smell a lie from a mile away.
At a sexuality conference I attended this past fall, I listened to a session that discussed sex-positive parenting and heard from many parents who are also porn performers. “My teenage daughter knows I do porn,” I heard one parent remark. “She’s known all along, and it’s never bothered her, except for one time when the kids at school teased her about it. We talked about it when she got home from school, and I gave her a few different ways she could educate and effectively shut down the teasing in the future. We did a little role-play where I pretended to make fun of her, and that really helped her get the gusto to confidently put the other kids in their place.”
The facilitators of the discussion added that giving your kids knowledge and strategies, instead of keeping them in the dark, also discourages them from keeping secrets from you. If you don’t keep secrets from them and you give them age-appropriate honesty, they’re likely to trust and confide in you. Isn’t that what every parent wants from their child?
A friend of mine once said that while she’s honest with her kid about her work as a cam model, she keeps boundaries around her home office and her computer. When her door is closed, or her computer is open, she’s doing private work that is only for adults. While this can spark curiosity, or make a kid feel uncomfortable, it’s so much more important to have those awkward moments occur during times of transparency, not when you’re getting caught in a lie. My friend has shown her kid age-appropriate documentaries and shared articles about sex work that she says has really helped her kid feel comfortable with the idea, and even proud of her mum for doing such bold work.
In many ways, I think sex educators like myself and other folks in the adult world are possibly better equipped than the average person to raise children. A sex-positive mindset encompasses the belief that sexuality is healthy, so long as it is safely practiced, not done under the influence of a substance, and consensual. Talking about these often hard-to-tackle topics becomes almost second nature when you’re in the sex industry, despite the harmful stereotype that we’re all deviants who set bad examples for children.
We also tend to have robust networks: No matter how sex-positive of a parent you are, it’s a good thing to have other trusted adults that your child can talk to besides you. While I felt very comfortable talking to my parents about my sexual health, I wish I’d had a knowledgeable adult I could talk to about pleasure — masturbation is just not a thing I need to talk about in detail with my mum, no matter how much I love and trust her. My network in the sex industry gives me infinite resources to help my future child develop healthy bodily autonomy and sexuality when the ball is out of my court.
Look, I’m not saying that we ought to show our kids our nude photos, or give them a tour of our sex toy drawers, but kids can smell a lie from a mile away. There’s nothing wrong with telling your kids, “This is an adult toy,” and, if pressed further, responding with, “It’s for adults to have sexual pleasure,” instead of pretending it’s a back massager. They know it’s not a damn back massager, and if they do believe that it is, do you really want them using it on their back? In my opinion, lying to kids about these things at an early age only complicates your ability to give truthful explanations in the future. If you act embarrassed, so will your child. Our shame and embarrassment about sexuality is put upon us by society, and it’s a parent’s job to shift the paradigm of what is “normal.” Sexuality is natural, after all. We need to empower our children to feel comfortable around these subjects so that they can confidently navigate the world as a sexual being one day (because, yes, they will have sex one day, too).
There will always be people who disagree with the way you parent in one way or another, so I say: Live “out.” There’s no such thing as a perfect parent, either. I may never have children, but if I do, I know that the skepticism towards parents in the sex industry has only put a fire under my ass to do everything in my power to be the best mum I can be.