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Mama’s sex work: How the Curator of the Museum of Sex talks to her kids about bodies and babies

“The ‘sex talk’ won’t be a one-time occurrence, vaguely around the time of puberty, it will be an ongoing conversation.”

Mama’s sex work: How the Curator of the Museum of Sex talks to her kids about bodies and babies

Recently, an article caught my eye: “The Challenge of Being a Porn Star Parent.” As a mother and the Curator of the Museum of Sex, I was more than a little interested in reading past the headline. What I didn’t expect was to identify so much with the author, Aurora Snow, a former adult performer and director, and now an established writer for The Daily Beast.


Motherhood is hard enough, but many of us likely haven’t given thought to how this job is complicated by a professional career that falls into the “adult category.” As Snow outlines “mixing parenthood with sex work is seriously tricky business.” As she describes “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.”

When I first began working at the Museum of Sex, just out of college and straight into a Master’s program in Anthropology, having children was still a distant dream. The intersection of my “adult” work, in this case curating exhibitions on the topic, never seemed in opposition to the goal of motherhood. But now as a mother, I must recognize that most mamas don’t spend their time with their nose in a sex book researching or collaborating with sex collectors, sex scientists, sex toy designers, sex educators and at times, sex workers. While I don’t see my work as a being in conflict with my status of mother (it does make for some interesting conversations at school pick up), I must acknowledge that because of the nature of my work that I will be confronted with a set of questions that others may not need to address.

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With my eldest turning four in a few months, and having just entered the world of “Why?” all I do is answer questions. Some are benign, “Mama, what is thunder?” some funny “Why don’t you have a penis?” and some that just stump me with their complexity, “What is heaven?” The constant and ever-present probing makes me proud of his curiosity, as well as exhausted, and I know that some harder questions are just around the corner. Just recently my son started to ask me more about what I do when I’m not with him. While “I’m at work, sweetie” used to placate him, now with a few memorable museum visits under his belt, I’ll tell him that “Mama, works in a museum. Remember the dinosaurs?” With the summer, and a few exciting visits to Papa’s office, he’s now been asking to visit me at work as well. “One day, my love.” So far this satiates him, but we all know that isn’t going to last forever.

But I have it easy.

While I work with sex, and assumptions are made about me, my desires, my interests and my personal activities, “Museum” typically imbues my work with a high-minded, cerebral quality. It’s not that I haven’t been confused for being a more hands on sex worker over the last decade, and many of my days do involve curatorially sorting through various forms of pornography, on the whole, my title as a “Curator of Sex” makes me “safe” enough company. But the reaction isn’t always so kind to other mothers, women who work in many different capacities in the field of sex work, in some cases choosing to work in the adult industry specifically to support their families.

While my work outside of the home doesn’t define me as a mother (as I believe it doesn’t for other women working in adult industries) it has given me a very clear idea of how I want to approach conversations about sex in my home. With over a decade working in the field, I have encountered too many adults who have spent lifetimes thinking about sex as a dirty topic, internalizing their sexual desires and identities with shame. With these professional experiences, I am committed to doing everything in my power as both a mother and educator to keep shame from being a part of the culture of my household. But that means answering, truthfully, but in an age appropriate manner, all of the hard questions that are going to come my way.

Starting at a very young age, in my household we begin the conversation with the body, always using the real words for body parts and not nicknames. We don’t call our elbows “our flower” so why should this be used for genitalia? All this does is signify there is something about this part of the body that we do or should feel uncomfortable with. Instead, from an early age I have discussed with my son (my daughter is less verbal at 17 months), how his penis is a special part of his body, which has made it significantly easier to have conversations about inappropriate touch. Giving children words for these parts of our bodies isn’t just philosophical, it also about health, safety and empowerment.

With my son knowing he has a penis and that his sister has a vulva (that’s the ‘official’ word sex educators use but, confession, even I sometimes call it a vagina), my family has the building blocks to one day talk about sex, a conversation that will evolve in detail as he evolves and matures. While we haven’t begun to talk about sex, I see this foundation of language already at work, making some conversations already easier. For instance, I was recently asked, “When I was growing in your belly, did you poop me out?,” making the association of what happens to food inside our bellies. With an almost impossible to control smile on my face, I could simply say, “No baby, you came out of Mama’s vagina.” But as children are bound to do, he surprised me again with his follow up, “But why didn’t I come out of your penis?”

Although my son is still working out some of the specifics (and seems to be really wanting to work out why I don’t have a penis), I was so proud of him for having the real words to have this discussion with me, in turn making it so much easier for me to answer his questions. As both my children grow I know these questions are only going to grow more complicated and more nuanced, but I intend to have the important conversations about safe sex and healthy relationships in the same candid manner as we did in the toddler days. The “sex talk” won’t be a one-time occurrence, vaguely around the time of puberty, it will be an ongoing conversation, one I hope my children know I’m open to having. But beyond pregnancy and disease prevention, I know this sex talk will also need to acknowledge the access to sexual content our little digital natives will be privy to. If my line of work has taught me anything, it’s that I want to teach my children about sex in a healthy way (and it never hurts to keep a watchful eye on our little one’s internet explorations). As the Curator of the Museum of Sex I know we can’t hide sex from our children, but if we commit to speaking honestly and accurately about the topic we can teach them about it in a healthy and constructive manner.

But part of that frankness, at least in my household, is going to be based on having a very honest conversation with my children about mama’s job. The same will be the case for women like Aurora Snow and others in the adult industry. I’m proud to do the work that I do and look forward to sharing who I am with my children. Sex is one of the best parts of life—and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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