When most women find out they're pregnant and they want to carry the pregnancy to term, they have to quickly decide whether or not they should tell the people closest to them — their friends, their family, their employer. For sex workers, however, that decision is even more urgent. If a woman who works in the sex industry gets pregnant, she must grapple with the stigma associated not only with her profession, but also with pregnancy, a period when women are vulnerable to employment discrimination. And because sex workers rely on their bodies for work, they often have to choose between working throughout their pregnancy (which is often difficult, given the physical toll pregnancy takes on women), or possibly not having a reliable source of income for nine months.
Summer Sebastian, 30, has made the former choice. (Summer is not her real name — like many in the adult industry, Sebastian uses a stage name.) A medical school student and sex worker at the Bunny Ranch, a licensed brothel in Nevada (where prostitution is legal and heavily regulated in eight counties), Sebastian made headlines this month when she wrote a blog post about her decision to work as a prostitute during her pregnancy. "I want to make a statement that supports the right of a woman to choose…to work as a prostitute while pregnant," she wrote.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sebastian's decision to do sex work during her pregnancy has attracted criticism from those who believe that she is putting her baby at risk (even though her doctor has given her the all-clear), as well as those who find the idea of a mother doing sex work simply unsavory. In a world that places enormous pressure on women to embrace a cultural standard of motherhood marked by virtue and purity, what Sebastian is doing is incredibly subversive — but, in many ways, her struggle to balance pregnancy and a career isn't that different from that of many other working mothers.
Romper spoke to Sebastian about motherhood, sex, and what it's like to be doing the world's oldest profession with a bun in the oven, as told to Romper's features editor EJ Dickson.
I found out I was pregnant in December, when I had just moved to Nevada from where I live in Palm Beach, Florida. I was going to school full-time to study forensic pathology, and I was traveling in between semesters. I was feeling ill and fatigued, and I thought it was just from going below sea level to a high altitude and the jet lag and the time zone change. But it came on really quickly.
So I went to the doctor and I asked for about $600 worth of blood work to be drawn, because I really thought something was wrong. I have a history of cervical cancer, so I thought it might've come back. But no. It turned out I was just pregnant. When I found out, my heart skipped a beat. I was like, "Wow." I guess I was a little bit in shock. [But] I never considered having an abortion. I love life, and I love children.
I have identical twin girls who are 5, and they're amazing. They weren't planned, either. This baby and the twins have the same father – he's 40 years my senior, so he's 70. I'm 30. They were a surprise, too, especially because I had cancer when I was 14, and I was told I couldn't conceive, that it would be impossible. After I did conceive, the doctors were trying to get me to terminate, because they said with my history, it was a bad idea, that either I would die or the twins would die. But it was the perfect pregnancy, and there were no complications at all. When I told my partner [I was pregnant again], at first he was like, "Oh, my God, not again." But once he got over the initial shock, he was very happy.
I wasn't sure I wanted to keep working [throughout my pregnancy]. I kinda had mixed feelings about it. I just didn't want to scare anyone away. At the Bunny Ranch, [all the sex workers] stand in a lineup and the client picks one of you, so I didn't want anyone to see a girl with a big belly and be like, "Oh, my God," and then turn around. I didn't want to make anyone uncomfortable, or any of the other working girls uncomfortable, but at the same time, I have to do what's best for myself and my family.
There's a guy who likes to dress up as a baby, and he wants me to breastfeed him.
There was absolutely a financial component involved [in the decision to keep working during pregnancy], because working at the Bunny Ranch is how I pay for my school. My girls' father was very financially secure at one time, but he lost all his money with Bernie Madoff. I don't qualify for financial aid, so I have to pay every penny for school out-of-pocket, and it's very expensive. So this is how I support my education, which I take very seriously, and it's how I'm able to do things with my family. Instead of just getting by, we're able to take vacations, and I can provide for my girls the way I want to, the way my parents couldn't provide for me.
My regular clients don't all know that I'm pregnant. It's a "don't ask, don't tell' type of thing. I don't want to scare them away or make them uncomfortable. So if they don't ask me, I won't say anything. I'm not that big yet, so it's not a surprise they don't know.
Look at the way pregnant women are treated. Even if you don't tell your employer or your colleagues that you're expecting, it's gonna show, and then they treat you differently.
The ones that do know don't seem to mind. They're happy I'm happy about it. It hasn't affected our times together. In fact, to be honest, I'm getting more request emails from people than I ever had before, which I was really surprised about. I guess some people are kinda into it. There's a guy who likes to dress up as a baby, and he wants me to breastfeed him. He wants me to inform him when I'm lactating, so he can come over and have a fetish party. I'm gonna put a high number on it, and I don't know if he can meet that number, (laughs), but yeah, I'll do it.
My sex drive has gone up with the hormone change. For instance, in my personal life, I prefer women, but since the pregnancy, I feel like I enjoy sex with men more. I've gained like 26 pounds already. Everything just blew up. My cup size went from a AA to a small C. It's a totally different pregnancy and a more extreme one compared to my last experience. I'm getting bigger faster. I have all the symptoms of pregnancy, but I actually get night sickness instead of morning sickness, so I try to leave work around 7:00, so I can be off work when I start feeling like I'm gonna be sick. My clients say I'm glowing and that I look beautiful, but I think they're just saying that to make me feel better.
My kids don't know what I do for a living. If in the future they're curious and they start asking questions and all, I'll be honest about it.
My doctor is fine with me working through the pregnancy. She knows where I work, and she's fine with it. She said if there are any red flags, we'll take it from there, but for now everything's fine. I don't do anything at work I haven't done before in my personal life, so I don't do anal or anything to do with body fluids, and we use condoms for oral and anal at the Bunny Ranch, so everything is protected. As long as the doctor says it's safe for me to work, and there are no red flags, I'm gonna keep working.
Now, I'm four months along. I'm hoping for a boy, but it has not been confirmed yet. I want to name him Jesse. My twin girls know that I'm pregnant, and they're so excited. They carry around these little baby dolls all day long, and they're happy to have a real baby coming. One thinks it's a girl and hopes it's a girl. One thinks it's a boy and hopes it's a boy. They kiss my belly and sing songs to my belly. They pray for the baby at night. They're just precious.
Some people think I'm making a statement by working through my pregnancy. Maybe I am.
My parents know what I do for a living. Now that I'm pregnant, they're just like, "What are you doing now?" And I'm like, "The same thing." They just kind of shake their heads. My mom's OK with it. My dad, not so much. He accepts and loves me either way, but he's not proud that I'm a working girl. But he knows I provide well for myself and my children.
My kids don't know what I do for a living. If in the future they're curious and they start asking questions and all, I'll be honest about it. But I won't be the one to bring it up. As for this child, hopefully they won't ever know my stage name. I've been in a number of magazines like Hustler or Penthouse, so I am probably going to hide those so they don't come across my pictures inside. If it comes up, and someone says something, then yeah, I'll be honest about it. I'm just that kind of person. Life is short and experience is important, no matter what kind of experience it is.
Now that I'm pregnant, I'm taking a break from school. I just transferred to UNR, which is in Reno, but I haven't started there yet. I study forensic pathology, and I'd like to be a medical examiner. I always wanted to work in the medical field, but as I got older I realized I'm kinda antisocial and I don't really want to work with the living, or be responsible for someone who could possibly die under my knife. So it just makes sense to me to work in a morgue.
No one there knows [that I've been working at the Bunny Ranch part-time.] No way. We do training courses with the police department, so I would not want that to get out. I'm doing it legally, but still, people would just not understand. I'm pretty well-respected and I have a 4.0 GPA, so I would be looked at way differently if they ever found out.
Some people think I'm making a statement by working through my pregnancy. Maybe I am. This is part of our rights as women in this country. It's a woman's right to choose what to do with her body, even under drastic circumstances. It's the right of sex workers, but also women in general. Look at the way pregnant women are treated. Even if you don't tell your employer or your colleagues that you're expecting, it's gonna show, and then they treat you differently. Whether it's positive or negative, they have a reaction to it. I just think people should be less judgmental about what women want to do with their own bodies. Or, if they want to pass judgment, they should keep it to themselves.
This account has been condensed and edited.