gestational

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.

 

I, Gala Vanting, have an Amazon Wishlist

Queer porn empress Courtney Trouble wrote this post last week about dusting off her Amazon wishlist as a means of crowd-funding her work, and it kicked me into gear on creating one of my own.  I’ve been thinking about doing this for, oh, years, and I can’t say with any certainty what’s blocked me from doing so.  I think there are a few challenge-worthy fears at play.  The fear of being seen as greedy or needy.  Of being regarded as having such inflated self-worth that I might suggest you buy me a present.  Of outing myself as a broke ho.

But the time has come to address these things and I, Gala Vanting, have an Amazon Wishlist.

Call me a nay-sayer, but I suspect I’d have limited success launching a Kickstarter for kink gear, or a Pozible campaign to make a feature-length film about my cunt (though I could, and probably will, spend a lot of time thinking about what I’d title said campaign).  But I do see the value of utilising the crowd-funding concept for those of us who don’t have access to the outlandish amounts of capital often associated with both the porn and fetish industries (we shall work together to unpack that assumption at a later date).  Titter if you must, but I think that what I do does have a grassroots sort of quality to it.  I’m starting from nothing, from the bottom.  And I’m doing what I do in no small part because I’m trying to make the world a better place for sex.  I’m sure that riches await me at some point down the line, but now is not my time; trainees in pro BDSM don’t make money.  As I’ve only recently re-entered the industry after a couple of years off, I don’t have the smutmaking momentum re-built to be raking in the middle-class salary I once made as a niche market porn producer / persona.  When you are not a mainstream concern, you do not make mainstream money.

This is where my fans and friends come in.  I know you exist – I’ve got an email archive to prove it, and several sex threats.  Tiny things make a difference for me right now.  Not having to buy a $30 book to continue my pro BDSM training means that I’ve got food money for the week.  Stockings are essential, and highly fragile / disposable.  It’s like that, yanno?  Let’s not even talk about latex outfits yet.  Unless you want to.  In which case, email me.  This is the first of several attempts I’ll be making to keep myself above water while I womanifest a living wage.  Financial slaves: you know where to find me.

porn, youth sex ed, and piracy: a complication

Last week Australian broadcasting company SBS aired an episode of its program Insight called ‘Generation XXX‘, addressing youth & online pornography.  Standardised sex ed in Australia is a hot topic at the moment, and I found it refreshing to see youth representing themselves on the matter, as the popular discourse is generally led by adults.  While the program as a whole was disappointing for someone like me who is on the extreme left-of-centre on this issue, it did bring up some interesting questions for me as a pornographer.

I am of the opinion that porn is a useful educational tool.  I’ve worked on pornographic projects that I’ve also used in educational workshops, and have frequently received the feedback that my work and that of my colleagues has been used, at least in part, as learning material.  We need to see diverse representations of pleasure in order to map out our own.  We learn by watching, and then by doing.  Tell me how you learned to cook.  Tell me how you learned to ride a bike.  You saw it done, and then you did it.  Not always well.  But so it goes.  I’m happy to further discuss whether or not porn is a viable educational tool in the comments, but for the purposes of this piece, I’m taking it for granted that it is.

Youth can’t pay for porn.  Their options are what’s shared between them, on and offline, and what they can find on the web for free.  The tube sites (RedTube, YouPorn, and the like) run the whole gamut in terms of quality and content, from the sacred to the profane, and it’s no simple matter to screen for that which has value as a representation of real sexuality, and that which does not.  Especially if you’re of an age at which you haven’t had enough experience to separate one from the other.

For those of us who make some or all of our living peddling smut, tube sites have become the bane of our existence.  Well, that and government regulating bodies.  And the ‘standards of the community’.  And the shitty American dollar.  But I digress.  While I wish it weren’t so and I’d rather not advertise it, it’s fairly simple to find my content for free with a Google search.  On one hand, I’m enraged that my image can be so freely dispersed and consumed with no compensation for my level of personal exposure, my labour, my vulnerability.  On the other, what I make is a hell of a lot better than what a lot of other people make in terms of its ethics, its politics, and its aesthetics.  It’s been made with attention to detail, with a value on aesthetics, with a personal agenda of raw self-exposure of my goddess-given body, and with an explicitly sex-positivist perspective.  Not all of that is immediately visible when you control-click save-link-as, but it does show if you look closely enough.  And I do think youth are looking closely.

I want my work to be used in an educational context.  I’d like you to share it with your children when you and they have agreed that they’re ready to see explicit sexual imagery.  I’d have loved to have something like what I make 10, 15 years ago.  You know where I went for explicit images when I was first web-enabled?  rotten.com.  Remember that one?  Yeah.  Not exactly a great standard to start with.  And had I known better, I would have seen better.  I would have done better.  And I would have felt a lot more ‘normal’.  But that was all I knew, and Google wasn’t yet a thing.

So: my content is 1) valuable educational material, and 2) freely accessible to youth if they know how / where to look.  And of course this is the clincher – we need to guide them to the stuff that’s going to give them a positive experience, the stuff that’s going to foster a good body image, an understanding of the diversity of available acts / genders / styles / safer-sex practices, and an attitude of self-acceptance in regards to sexuality.  But: I’m also broke.  I’m the brokest ho I know (I should note that I know a very particular demographic of ho – the white middle-class sort).  I have something to gain from combatting piracy, however theoretical that combat may be.  I have a financial investment in being able to sell my smut.  But that potentially removes it from the tubosphere, and thereby from accessibility to the folks who might actually need it.  There’s no way for me to control the use of my pirated content, but if it has the potential to show some 14-year-old girl that squirting is different from pissing and a totally ‘normal’ and satisfying thing to do, do I really want to?