This won’t be the first time ima write about the subject of birthing, fertility, mothering.
Now, you might say that I’m not totally qualified to talk about this, seeings as I haven’t actually done it. Well, I haven’t birthed a human anyway. I’ve made life of a few other kinds of babies; kombucha, Amber, a few wonderfully erudite turns of phrase which live on in my annoyingly-unsearchable archive of Facebook mail. I’ve never even attended the birth of a human. But lately it’s taken a front seat in my consciousness, calling me to address it both personally and professionally.
I have not always felt a particular affinity with birthing, pregnancy, or mothering. Like any good early-20s gender studies major, I did my time deconstructing my sociobiological imperatives and self-declaring my intentions never to be anybody’s mumma, scoffing at the prospect of having some parasite feed off me. I think working at a Barnes and Noble in Orange County during a release party for a Harry Potter book really sealed the deal for my pre-peak-fertility self. That many under-10s and their objectionably-OC parental units up after 10pm will make any rational eggs shrivel up and die.
But you get older, and your politics shrivel up like your rational eggs. Or at least they soften round the edges. Just as an antagonism towards parenting fell under my feminist umbrella in those petulant undergraduate days, an affinity with parenting, mothering, birthing, and supporting falls under my much larger, functionally intersectional umbrella today. And, like many things in my life, I’ve got porno to thank.
My first close encounter with a pregnant body was in a pornographic context. Madison Young came to town a few years ago, which was pretty exciting for me as a fan of her work; she’s inspired me in more ways than one and I have an affinity with her multi-faceted approach to sexuality. I helped to hostess her stay in Melbourne, interviewed her on camera, fucked her mouth, asked her to hurt me (she obliged), came on her, and brought her some takeaway ramen. Not all of these things happened in the porno, but most did; reader, can you guess which ones?
Madison was in her second trimester at that time (and I do believe you’ll be able to read more about that in her upcoming memoir, Daddy), so her daughter was taking real shape in her body, and so this was very much an element of how I engaged with her and her body. The belly was there, it was something to wrap around and to make space for. Another curve on the frame, but one that seemed to beg even more reverence than the others. There were a lot of reasons why that scene was one of the more memorable in my career, but one most clear to me now was the power contained in and commanded by Madison’s pregnant body. While I didn’t explicitly identify that in the moment, this was the first time I was able to eroticise fertility, to connect with it in the way that I personally prefer to connect with most things (through fucking, obvs). I was humbled by the belly and what it represented in a way that evoked a sense of submission. Fertiltiy worship, I now like to call it. And that was a very appropriate time for something like that to manifest for me as I began to explore the states and sensations of submission that are now a key part of my kinky sexuality.
Of course Madison sexed her pregnancy particularly well. As a performance artist, porn performer, sex educator and advocate, she had a pretty deep connection with sexuality as enhanced by and mediated through pregnancy, and now gives talks, coaching and workshops on that very subject. She’s got a decent background in practices of embodiment, which is one of the ways in which I’ve come to view pregnancy and birth.
While of course my life’s circumstances would make this a more likely occurrence for me than for someone who works in finance, most of the incredibly fabulous, thoughtful, and intentional mothers and pro-birth folks I know I’ve met through porn. Jennifer Lyon Bell, Sadie Lune, Liandra Dahl, Ingrid Ryberg, Anne Sabo, Wendy Delorme, and a few other colleagues and friends who are or were porn performers and producers are doing their mothering in the context of careers that address sexuality, and many of them did their birthing in it, too. While not all of them have spoken with me specifically about the connections between pregnancy, birthing, and motherhood with sexuality, they have all been visions of the ways in which we as women bridge the mother and the lover, the Madonna and the whore, sacred and profane, the imperative (procreation) and the luxury (sexual self-actualisation). Folks who have in some way challenged or blurred the sharp split our culture would like us to maintain between the incarnations of our generative bodies. This force of smutty mums, which grows stronger as another generation of the feminist porn movement comes of procreative age, has provided some pretty fertile ground for me to consider my own relationships to fertility and sexuality.
Doing this comes at a risk to us that begs a certain level of hypervigilance about how we might appear to the wider public. Kids and sexuality, let alone pornography, are simply divergent issues. Never mind that sexuality makes kids, or that kids have sexuality. It’s a no-fly zone. Parenting and porn-peddling or -pontificating can be a risky mixed business, and more than one of my colleagues has endured the hypocrisy of consumers and audiences who will onanise over your words and images with one hand and write shaming commentary of your value as a mother with the other. There can also be backlash from our own communities about the ‘appropriateness’ of allowing one element of our lives to be informed by or engage with the other.
The ways in which these things (sexuality and fertility, birth, parenting) might intersect in my own experience is something I’m driven to observe through the forms of cultural production in which I do my work. But I keep reminding myself to check in with the ‘standards of the community’ from time to time, which I’ve tended do less and less as I de-value the standards of the mainstream. Despite myself, I feel sensitive to the fact that the work I share around my own research and experience with birthing as I train to become a doula (and perhaps at some point a parent) might be such a far cry from that standard that the act of putting it out into the world undoes my intentions and my drive to dig deeply into something so intensely primal and, for me, essential. But this is the process of engaging with taboo.
And so I look to the various ways in which the many mothers in my professional and personal network continue to cultivate constructive discussion about this subject, and relish the times when we are able to share space, compare notes, and appreciate one anothers’ processes and practices of creation, genetic and otherwise.