Recession Sex Workers #4: There’s No Place Like Porn: The Unstoppable MILF Zoey Holloway

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“They thought to use and shame me but I win out by nature, because a true freak cannot be made. A true freak must be born.” – Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

You’ve heard the clichés about sex workers: apparent sexual abuse, an absent daddy complex, exhibitionistic narcissism, violent boyfriends, low self-esteem, track marks, and we’ve all had hideous and unstable parenting. Sex workers have been glorified and vilified simultaneously from Oprah to Tyra. Sadly, cliché’s about sex workers exist because they’re sometimes true. The interesting thing is what people do about it. One kid may be sexually abused and grow up to be a really fucked-up violent, antisocial person, and another may be abused and maintain a cheerful, bright outlook on life with a healthy, defiant attitude. Zoey Holloway’s background forced her to reckon with what it is to be “normal,” and she found home in the sex industry.

Zoey is also unique because, unlike many other sex workers in this series, she got back into the sex industry because of the recession; she hadn’t been shimmying since Clinton. When we met in Studio City she told me she had just started doing MILF porn. She had been working previously in a chiropractor’s office in northern California, renting some shitty apartment and doing massage. She got mad because she was broke and unhappy. “I needed something other than what I was doing,” she said, and called a friend who was doing porn in Los Angeles. She was forty-two.

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The Rumpus: You were taken out of your home three times before you were twelve and put in foster care. What happened and what messages did you receive about sex?

Zoey Holloway: My step dad sexually abused me so someone called child services. I was taken into custody of the state of California when I was two. Then my mom got into a car accident and ended up in a coma for three months then a psyche ward. She hooked up with a guy in the psyche ward who became my next step dad. They moved to Vallejo, California and got custody of me again at age five. He and my mom were swingers. He sexually abused me too. Sex meant being sent away while the adults had sex parties and played strip poker. I think my mom was turning tricks out of the house. The neighbors called the cops and I ended up in foster care again at age ten. That foster family knew my parents and took all three of us kids. The father was a lot older. He had a series of heart attacks and died. The mom was on pills. I would go stay in the nearby park. I took care of my siblings. I found out years later that one of the kids she took care of, Cammy, was brutally murdered by her mom’s boyfriend’s biker gang. I went to another foster family in Antioch, near Concord. They were very strict Mormons. I went from an extremely open, dangerously free environment into permanent state custody at ten and then into extreme religious shut down in a foster home where I was told I was bad and shouldn’t wear tank tops or mini skirts or make up. Sex was bad except within the confines of marriage. I became confused and then just shut down that part of myself until I was seventeen years old and then couldn’t stop thinking about sex.

Rumpus: Then you got pregnant?

Zoey Holloway: Yeah. Sex became a quiet obsession when I was a teenager. I remember slow dancing with guys and if I could feel their erection I became wet and all wheels started turning. I had started dating the Sunday school teacher’s son in high school. We were able to go away for one year of college in Idaho together and live in the dorms. Let’s just say I made up for lost time in the sex department. I stayed drunk for months, and then realized at nineteen, I was pregnant! We got married at his parents’ house in Antioch when I was five months pregnant. Then we moved to Utah to be near his Mormon family.

Rumpus: Did you do sex work in Utah?

Zoey Holloway: No. I took accounting classes and had a job as a bookkeeper. I worked retail. But I started having wild dreams like intuitive fits so I decided to go to a hypnotherapist. I was afraid I was schizophrenic, like my Mom. Then I was in a car accident with five cars but no one was hurt except the drunk driver, which never happens. I knew this was a wake up call. My marriage was over, so I filed for divorce. I took my kids and moved into an apartment. I asked for child support but no alimony. Later I was sued for child abandonment because I left for Los Angeles.

Rumpus: Why did you come to Los Angeles?

Zoey Holloway: On my birth certificate was listed an address on Hollywood boulevard where I was born, so I drove there and left my kids with my ex-husband in Utah. I found out it the address was a roach motel. I slept outside that motel in my car or at the beach for a week. Then this woman on a bench noticed I was looking for a job in the paper and pointed to the billiards club across the street, “That club only hires blondes,” she told me. But I needed a job so I told her, “Watch me get a job.” I got hired, but I was a horrible cocktail waitress. I met a customer there who let me crash in his office while I tried to get into modeling and acting. I did a shoot with a photographer from LA weekly. This was 1994. Every agency rejected me, but one woman was looking for me from the model’s guild. She didn’t rep me, but she tracked me down and told me to not give up.

Rumpus: When did you get into the sex industry and why?

Zoey Holloway: The first time was after I left my first husband. I came to LA to pursue modeling and acting in 1994-1995. When I was rejected by every agency and I worked as a cocktail waitress, I wasn’t making enough money to get by so I went to work at a massage parlor. A few months later, a client tore the condom off and held me down, so I went to a motel for a couple of days and soaked in a tub then went back to Utah to see my kids. A few years later, I was living with my second husband, a hairdresser who had a stripper client. She got a massage from me and told me about all the money she was making dancing at a topless place in San Francisco. It was the “Gold Club.” I was burnt out on massage. So I started stripping one week before 9-11: shitty timing. If I’d known how hard dancing was, I probably would’ve opted for flipping’ burgers. I danced at topless clubs for three years in S.F. and Vegas. Now I’m doing porn.

Rumpus: Did you have custody of your kids while you were doing massage and dancing?

Zoey Holloway: No. When I went back to Utah after that client attacked me, I got a telemarketing job and a retail job. My ex-husband sued me for back child’s support and back medical expenses. I lost in court. They charged me with abandoning my daughter and son. I went back to massage school and slept in a friend’s basement. I brushed my teeth at a gas station. I couldn’t see my kids so I worked on my massage license and passed the state exam. I worked in a day spa and kept the retail job. A guy came into the store where I worked and we started dating. His parents took me in. He became my second husband. He was a hairdresser who had stripper clients. I wasn’t making enough money to live so we decided to move back to California, to Napa where there were more spas to choose from and to work. From there, I went into the topless clubs in North Beach and Vegas. I paid the expenses in court and see my kids when I go to Utah. My daughter knows what I do. I’m one of many proud parents in the porn industry.

Rumpus: Then you got back into mainstream massage?

Zoey Holloway: Yes, I’ve always been interested in healing and doing massage and I’m certified so I worked full time at several spas in San Raphael, Napa and Salt Lake City, Utah. Last year, I was at a place in life where the career I had chosen was not sustaining me and I was working six days a week and physically exhausted all the time. It was around Christmas. Everyone was going home or with family. I barely had money to eat and rent a shitty room. Being broke and trapped pissed me off so I researched an agency, had a friend take some pictures and two months later, I was in L.A. making porn.

Rumpus: What do you enjoy about the porn industry so far?

Zoey Holloway: I like the acting, the escape into a character and I enjoy the sex. I’m a MILF cougar so I fuck younger guys and girls in their early twenties. I got into porn February of this year so I’ve not experience the “heyday” of this life yet. It has allowed me to pay my bills although I still rent a room. I feel like I’ve been ignoring my DNA my whole life. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m supposed to help people, whatever that means. I’ve also been trying to heal my whole life. I feel like I was born different and that I have been looking for what’s normal my whole life and I have finally accepted that the porn industry is my “normal.”

Rumpus: Do you prefer stripping or doing porn?

Zoey Holloway: I prefer porn because I’m creating something that lasts. I had been giving away my body for free for years and treated badly for it. Now I feel like I’m accepted and it’s normal. I’m around people who don’t judge me and are not uptight about sex. I felt like I found my tribe when I was dancing. A lot of the girls had interesting stories and became friends with them. In the clubs, I met women who had been kicked out at seventeen. They had similar stories to mine. If I had not gotten pregnant at nineteen, I would have been a stripper much earlier. The women I work with now are mostly educated, interesting people. One girl was a chemical engineer who put herself through school doing porn. I definitely feel like when I go to a shoot or talk about this work that I’ve found home.

Rumpus: Where does the work end and your personal desires begin?

Zoey Holloway: Stripping gave me my confidence about being a woman back that the abuse took from me. I had been a tomboy for years as a result of the abuse. I wanted to be something other than a girl. Stripping allowed me to be a powerful woman again. I could dance for men on my terms, and not sleep with them and take money from them. Porn is a combination of acting and feeling sexual and feeling great about it. Porn gives me the ability to express my sexuality and be around people who enjoy it. The work ends when I’m not hustling for the next job, or expected to perform. I can be myself with someone who knows me and cares about me.

Rumpus: Do you enjoy being type casted as a MILF and do you feel that what you’re doing can help people?

Zoey Holloway: I like being the MILF cougar role. One girl and I were talking and it turns out, I am her mom’s age. We’re creating a fantasy for guys to jerk off to. When a guy is home jacking off, they are not acting out on someone or a kid somewhere. I know I can’t compete with a younger girl or even a thirty-year old. I’ve had two kids and I have stretch marks and my skin as not as tight, but I’ve been around some absolutely beautiful, sexy people in my life who are by societies standards, nothing twice to view. It’s what comes from inside that’s attractive. I’ve also met some stunning people, but they open their mouths and become ugly in two seconds flat.

Rumpus: Do you ever want to quit?

Zoey Holloway: Hell No. I’m just getting started.

Rumpus: What’s next for you?

Zoey Holloway: Music is my first love. I’m a songwriter and I hope to continue making music. My band was called “Militant Miss.” I’ve been singing and song writing for five years. Maybe there will be a resurrection of my band. I love singing naked. I’d like to stop living a nomadic life and settle someplace and have someone to come home to. I will continue to find my place and blaze my path in the porn industry. The only thing limiting me is my own mind and resistance to try something new.

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Photographs © Romy Suskin.


Antonia Crane is a performer, 2-time Moth Story Slam Winner and writing instructor in Los Angeles. She has written for the New York Times, The Believer, The Toast, Playboy, Cosmopolitan, Salon.com, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, DAME, the Los Angeles Review, Quartz: The Atlantic Media, Medium.com, Buzzfeed, and dozens of other places. Her screenplay “The Lusty” (co-written by Transparent director, writer Silas Howard), based on the true story of the exotic dancer’s labor union, is a recipient of the 2015 San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Grant in screenwriting. She is at work on an essay collection and a feature film. More from this author →