RED-COLLAR LIVIN'

The Challenge of Being a Porn Star Parent

How does a porn star explain what they do to their children? How do they have ‘the talk?’ Here, several porn star parents tell their stories.

“Mommy, it’s career week at school. Can you come to my class and talk about your job?”

For some parents, this question might play out in a warm exchange wherein they gladly accept their child's beaming invitation. For parents who earn a living in the legal yet publicly-shamed world of pornography, this is another in a series of reminders that mixing parenthood with sex work is seriously tricky business. Parents in adult entertainment are faced with having to build a wall that separates their work and home lives. More secrets, less conversation. And children have lots of questions.

Early in my life I decided not to have kids—a decision that allowed me to pursue a career in porn without the worry of facing the seemingly impossible challenges of balancing the two. How do you explain to your inquisitive offspring that sex is an intimate, important, sacred act to be shared with someone you love, and yet for mommy it’s a job? As a mommy, I didn't feel I could ever explain away the hypocrisy of my feelings. Now here I am, a retired porn star, in a loving, monogamous relationship and with a toddler of my own. I'm still debating how to have those conversations later in life.

The strict separation of personal life and porn life is a lot more common than most people think. Though controversial, it’s important to note that a life in porn doesn’t mean a home saturated with sex toys, orgies, and awards on the wall for “orgasmic oralist”—especially if you have kids. Many adult stars would seem like different people if you caught them on their day off.

“A lot of people don’t understand it. Many of us are in this industry to support our family, to take care of our kids,” says current adult actress Alana Evans. “They think we live this Boogie Nights lifestyle where it’s rock ‘n’ roll, sex, drugs, parties, and they don’t realize that for us moms, it’s a day job.”

Inducted into the 2015 AVN Hall of Fame, Evans has been involved in the adult industry for almost two decades, raising a family and managing a successful career in porn.

“Because my kids are older now we can have certain conversations—like if I’m up for an award they know about it—but when they were younger we sheltered them from all of the details,” says Evans, who has a 22-year-old son, 19-year-old stepdaughter, and a stepson who’s almost 17. “We are working in the industry for our kids, so they get a parent who is home and with them more often. I’ve been a better influence to my kids than the people who raised me.”

One of the biggest challenges Evans faced was dealing with her kid’s very religious private school. “I was told for about six months when they first found out that I couldn’t go to the school, that I couldn’t see my stepdaughter perform in her school plays,” says Evans. “I’ve never dressed inappropriately, I don’t wear makeup to my kid’s school, I do everything I can to blend in.”

None of it mattered. As an off-duty porn star, Evans was practically treated like a sex offender by this school. Occupations aren’t contagious—no matter how morally ambiguous—and being a sex worker certainly doesn’t make one a pedophile. Yet these are just a few of the disturbing prejudices mothers in the adult industry face. Judgment is inescapable, but some women have found a way to decrease it. According to former porn star Ruby, it all depends on where you live—which is why she chose to raise her kids in familiar territory. “I live in a place where I grew up for a reason: they know me, or have heard about me, so I don’t have to face constant judgment. Whereas some of the girls are living in areas where they didn’t grow up, some are watched by the cops just because they’re the porn star in town,” says Ruby. “Here, I can be in the PTA, I can participate in my children’s education. Here I can read to the class and no one calls CNN.”

Supporting a five-year-old and an eight-year-old can be challenging for any working mother, but even more so for a former porn star. Making the transition from porn star to civilian isn’t easy when your body of work is instantly available via Google. Ruby is still an entertainer, dancing at night to support her family—something she makes no secrets about. “I’ve been very age-appropriate with it. I tell them that mommy did movies for grown-ups and that mommy isn’t necessarily like other mommies.” Ruby says it’s about finding those teachable moments, ways of sharing the truth without oversharing before your kids are ready. “My son saw a picture of me on stage in full costume looking like a badass and he looked at me and said, ‘Mommy, you look like a rock star,’ and I said, ‘Well kind of, I’m kind of like a rock star.’ You’ll find your windows. Just keep it simple and age-appropriate.”

“The challenge is having to teach your children that they’re going to take heat for you someday and that sucks,” says Ruby. “Being a sex worker or a red-collar worker does not preclude you from being a conscientious, loving parent.”

Technology has changed the flow of information. The early generations of porn stars had a better chance at hiding their past—and even then it wasn’t easy. Popular in the Golden Era, Long Jeanne Silver is known for her XXX performances in the ‘70s and ‘80s, well before the Internet (and for her amputated leg). Even so, her daughter “discovered” Silver’s legendary past. “My daughter went online to look up one-legged strippers because she knew mommy was a dancer,” says Silver. “She saw an old photo of me with a tattoo she knew all too well on my arm. She called me and said, ‘Mom, have you ever heard of Long Jeanne Silver?’ I hung up the phone. Then I called her back and said, ‘Let’s discuss this.’”

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Following in her mother’s footsteps, Irene Silver has begun to dabble in the adult industry—something Mommy Silver has come to accept. “It makes me uncomfortable sometimes but she’s a grown girl, she’s smart, and she’s a college graduate, so if she chooses that path it’s her choice,” says Jeanne Silver. “I want her to respect her body and not let anyone pressure her. It seems like in films nowadays these girls are pushed into doing things that people don’t normally do. Nowadays it’s like, ‘How many things can you put in one hole?’ Why? It’s gotten so extreme.”

As a former performer you can’t exactly forbid your kids from getting into porn, so you have two choices: you can either be supportive and guide them through the shark-infested waters, or you can be explicitly discouraging. I favor the latter. Just as I refused to allow any of my brothers to get into the business, I intend to do the same for my son. Maybe it’s hypocritical but I want my child to have better choices. I want him to have the options I never had. Like most parents, I want my child to surpass me, I hope he’ll aspire to greater things than I. But that won’t be my choice to make. It will be his.