My date of birth is 10-10. I’ve always been fond of it as a date, it feels balanced and I never had to deal with any awkwardness in day/month or month/day formats. I even got to have a quiet birthday at home with my beloved on 10-10-10 which was a great day for a birthday indeed.
Still, I wasn’t very cognizant of the happenings of my birth and things are a bit hazy so far as conscious memory goes. This makes me curious of other birthdays. I started blogging as Maggie Mayhem on October 11, 2008. That means my blog and my porn persona is about to turn 4. But, I started keeping a regular online journal in 2001 and I put essays and small websites up prior to that date. I’ve been sharing intimate pieces of myself online for more than a decade.
Putting up images of nudity and sex isn’t nearly as scary as being a teenage girl online. I wouldn’t say that privacy is dead, I would say that’s gone through substantial rebranding. We share narratives, snapshots, facts, impulses, and feelings but we all have private moments and private lives. Technology is outpacing its cultural adaptations and we are adapting to the tools we’ve made for better or for worse. If anything, we’ve proven that anonymous sex was always onto a great truth about humans: there is intimacy among strangers that is sometimes greater than those we share the regular circumstances of life.
I’ve learned how to process my emotions and experiences online. I don’t think it’s an either/or situation to have another tool for dealing with the complexities of life. I’m part of a small minority of humans who kind of learned how to be human with the aid of a computer. Still, I feel shy and “closeted” about things that never would have even been given so much as a courtesy thought about public disclosure and I realize that with some much light from the monitors the shadows can appear bigger than they are.
We’ve always had privacy settings but none among us ever was or will be “safe for work” because work of all forms has inherent dehumanizing characteristics. People like to make sex work accountable for the alienation of all workplaces. I find that strange in an era where not having a public presence of the mundane details of your life can cost you a job but sharing too much about your anxieties, challenges, vices, individual forms of mental healthiness, and sexuality can do the same.
Still, despite the odds and stigma, we share more and different birthdays with the world and we’re getting to know each better. We don’t know ourselves, let alone one another, but we’re starting.
This year kicks off my 28th trip around the sun. It’s an exciting prospect. There’s a lot to be done on this space station earth. I feel immense gratitude to have a fantastic partner that I can share and develop my sexuality with and I’m also grateful for his other partners and my own. We experience shifting privilege together; the way we fuck and make porn, for instance, sets us apart from our industry because we both have partners across the gender spectrum for sport, pleasure, and work (and sometimes a great blend of all three at once) and this means we get fewer subscribers in this burgeoning genre. But, though it doesn’t bring home the big bucks and “queer porn” survives from lover-to-lover, it’s still a group of people who overjoy me.
I’ve learned more in 4 years of queer porn than I learned in my 4 years of college. Sometimes I think my collegiate studies were a negative distraction from my education. I loved my time in college but the sheer amount of time I wasted on the bureaucratic machine that runs the show and slowly chokes the intellectual life and creativity from the intended purpose of a university feels more frustrating now than it did when it was happening.
But! I learned more about privilege in queer porn than I did in school. I read more diverse authors with ideas that challenged and began to destroy calcified ideas I mistook for reality. I went to a wider array of art events and lectures. I got called out and felt angry, then I got called out and felt frustrated, then I got called out and felt guilty, and then I started to learn how to listen. Call outs are never fun to experience but it gets easier when you start to loosen the walls around your ego and let an old paradigm fall apart to make room for humans. I’m still learning how to listen but I feel like I have an increasing number of tools to use.
I have bad days, sometimes. There are times when I’m so angry at being broke and I’m so angry at the doors slammed in my face and I’m so angry that people have no shame in expressing abject surprise that I’m intelligent and yet the world seems so much more colorful. It’s all relative, though. I think people strongly underestimate my anxieties with social settings. It’s one thing to fuck in front of a crowd, you see, and quite another to make small talk. I have a very hard time going to a party or a club or an outing. Being booked to work makes that easier because my purpose is more clear. In my very early 20s, I literally excised myself from everything social about my time in university. I moved into a remote rock quarry, literally, and stopped answering any and all social calls. My definition of a “bad day” is quite different.
It took an incredible amount of effort to kick what felt like a closed and sealed door loose to let a crack of light inside. If there were any way to describe my life transitions, it feels as though I had to first identify the fact that I was somewhere locked and dark, find the location of the door, and then throw all of my weight against it for years just to break the seal. When that happened and those first bits of air and light snuck inside, that felt like a birthday too, but I can’t say when and where it happened. My emotional work now is about working up the nerves to push it open wide, take a look, and really step outside to see what’s there.
Kink and BDSM presented some interesting tools for me although my relationship to sexual identity politics has radically shifted. I don’t relate to dominance or submission so much as I think of sex with someone or someones other than myself as taking turns holding the rope while the other descends into their interior. “Holding the rope” can mean anything, from fingering someone and saying the dirty incantations they need for the magic to happen but it can also mean taking a consensual whipping or receiving a long boot licking. It involves incredible trust and a sense of mutual adventure along with the presence of mind to pull that rope and bring someone back to the surface when they’ve finished exploring the space or when there is danger down below.
Polyamory feels less like sexual and romantic negotiation and more like a broader ability to ground myself in love for myself and others. I might not make it out to the potlucks but it’s notions of polyamory that make me take pause and more deeply consider what it means to love all the people. It’s brought on a lot of work because that means that I am both willing to love each person I meet and love myself to erect healthy boundaries that we need to interact with one another, however brief, to keep getting through our wild and crazy days. Do not take this to mean I’m particularly skilled at this and holding myself or anyone else to this notion with a critical edge. It’s a state of consciousness that has to be tended to like useful fire. It’s harder to get a blaze going, easier to tend to when it’s already been started. That doesn’t mean we don’t all come across times when we’ve run out of fuel or that we never run around trying to gather desperate kindling because we all do.
I’m also learning that community is an action word. It isn’t something that can be inherited via affiliation or identity, it’s something that is an ongoing process of active participation. A place of social gathering may contain many communities within it and sometimes none at all. I often speak of my communities in words that are broad; the sex worker community, the sex positive community, the kink community. What I mean is often truncated with those words. Because of my public exposure and the stigma of my work, I do have some limitations on me in regards to where I can go and what I can do. I cannot move equally between all social spaces.
Sometimes, I am privileged because of color, class background, education, and a relationship that from the exterior is a “nice-looking” white, heterosexual coupling. Sometimes, I am shocked to be faced with people who think that neither I nor my partner have any place in making porn because men who have sex with men are vectors of disease and I am knowingly working and living with one such specimen and I find myself, my private information, and my work in HIV prevention slandered because of it. Thing of it is, I cannot dispute any claim that I am a “fag lover” because I am.
So, as I near my 28th birthday as Maggie and my 4th birthday as Maggie Mayhem, I guess I’m learning that I have fewer beliefs and more thought out principles. They too will change. I can look back on more than a decade’s worth of cringe worthy evidence to prove that. I expect that I’m going to do a lot more falling on my ass, sometimes I’m going to get shoved, and that I can keep building my resilience.