If you assume, as I do, that sex work is legitimate work that should be decriminalized and destigmatized, then ideally it would be something that adults in the worker’s family can discuss openly, honestly, and respectfully. Unfortunately, due to criminalization and stigmatization, that is far from standard in most sex workers’ families. Sex workers often report that one of the most difficult things about their work is the need to hide it (and lie about it to keep it hidden) from family members; this “double life” can lead to a terrible feeling of isolation. For these reasons, I’m moved by the love and acceptance sex worker Ckiara Rose has been able to find with her mother and her son. (Disclaimer: I’ve collaborated with Ckiara on film projects.)
Ckiara, 50, has done almost every kind of sex work since she started stripping at age 19, including escorting and Nevada brothel work; she now focuses on sensual massage, professional Dominance, and porn performing. Ckiara’s mother, Josephenie Robertson, 76, is an artist and an elder from the Miskito people of Central America. Ckiara’s son Saycsar Fleurima, 27, is a filmmaker. They reside in Oakland, California, and work together as a family on activism for the human rights of Miskito people; Ckiara uses much of her funds from sex work to support her indigenous activism.
To my knowledge, this is the first time an out sex worker has been interviewed in the media alongside both her parent and her adult child. Josephenie is a devout Christian, and as she explains in this interview, had a difficult time coming to terms with her daughter’s chosen profession. However, as is evident from the tenderness and humor in the interview, Josephenie is at a place of acceptance and love for Ckiara, and her chosen life path—the same love and acceptance Saycsar has always felt for his mother and her work.
Watch the Full Video Interview Here:
The print version below has been edited for clarity.
Please tell us a bit about yourselves.
Ckiara: I’m a human rights and environmental activist. I’m also a sex worker. I do domination. I do massage. I do modeling, film work, and a variety of different things.
When did you start all that work?
Ckiara: I started when I was 19, when I went as a dancer. I danced at the Hungry I and the Mitchell Brothers [in San Francisco].
Josephenie, what was it like for you knowing that your daughter was doing this work?
Josephenie: In the beginning, it hurt me a lot. I even got sick. And for me, how I was growing up in my country, the world looks at these dancers at nightclubs as something sinful. But as I’ve been studying the Bible more and more, I came to the realization that Jesus said not to condemn the woman that they claimed was a prostitute. He said, “If any of you don’t have sin, throw the stone,” and everybody dropped their stone and went away. And Jesus turned around to the woman and said, “My daughter, did anyone condemn you?” She says, “No.” He said, “Neither I. Go and sin no more.” So, whatever my daughter wants to do for her money is her business. I love her the same, just as if she never became a sex worker. And I’ll always love her.
Ckiara, how does it feel hearing that?
Ckiara: It feels good. It feels good that she’s on my side, because at first she wasn’t, and that really didn’t feel right. When I got into the adult industry, I studied it for five, six, seven months before I even got into it. I weighed the pros and the cons. The more I’ve done it, the more I realize that there’s absolutely nothing wrong. I don’t see how people, who, on a daily basis, have sexual intercourse and create life, or have intercourse to relax, or have intercourse to love, or just to be casual, or whatever [can judge sex work]. I had this disgusted attitude at the very thing that [life] came from, and I can’t be a party to that. I cannot join others in myths and unreality, and to condemn people. My biggest condemnation is to people committing genocide and creating wars in countries that are taking out gold, and silver, and oil, and all this, and killing the actual owners, tribespeople, and so forth. And still, they want to sit up here and look at what one individual, or several individuals are doing [in sex work], and then demonize it.
“I love her the same, just as if she never became a sex worker. And I’ll always love her.”
It’s a negotiation between two human beings. And it has nothing to do with anybody else’s opinion, unless they want to join and have a little group thing going. But if they don’t want to do that, I don’t see how that’s any of your business, and how dare you judge somebody else on that. If you’re going to judge, go judge the emigration problem that’s created by people in high places who are put up on pedestals, but who are robbing their countries blind. And we’re just sitting here thinking about what’s going on in people’s underwear, rather than thinking about what’s going on in the world around us. That’s what we need to be thinking about, not about what I’m doing with my vagina.
Saycsar, hearing your mom talk about this, what was your own experience growing up with it?
Saycsar: I never really thought about it, growing up. I remember one time when I was in elementary school, someone asked what my mom did, and I said something like, “She’s in movies,” or “She dances,” or something, and I thought it was cool. [Speaking to Ckiara]: It never really was about what you did, because I feel like you always put class and respect into what you do, so I was never ashamed. And you’re always just super honest with things. Now as an adult, I tell everyone. I mean, pretty much all my friends think you’re really cool. They’re like, “Oh my gosh, your mom’s a boss.” But yeah, you make your own money. You don’t have a boss, you just… My mom’s a badass.
Critics and haters will say, “This is a very unsafe environment to bring up a kid” or “This is the type of environment that will damage a kid or will be inappropriate.” What would you say to them?
Saycsar: I feel like with all of this, it comes down to the person. People who are accountants hit their kids, and that’s just as bad. My mom never put me in a situation knowingly. I always was with grandma or my auntie [when she was working]. I was raised by just all these strong, crazy women. [laughs] Intimidating a little bit, but it was like a village.
[Speaking to Ckiara]: I never felt like you were putting me in danger of anything. It was other people trying to throw down their judgment. And I was like, “I don’t really subscribe to that.” I had a pretty crazy, but happy, childhood. I mean, my mom did everything for me. She got my teddy bear off a subway. [laughs] She would bake all these cakes. She was a mom. She wasn’t a conventional mom, but she was a mom.
Ckiara: Yeah. Because clients aren’t going to [want to] sit up there and be like, “Oh, your kid? Oh, he’s right there. Okay.” I mean, that’s some sick shit. That’s not what happens in our work. When I was club dancing, they weren’t going to let him in and lose their license. Think about what is going on before you go to judge someone else. For a while we didn’t talk [about it in the family]—they did, but I didn’t. And I’m glad that we have understanding now. [Speaking to Josephenie]: I know that parts of my personal life went overboard, doing stuff just to annoy you, because I was completely against your religion and so forth. But I didn’t understand God before. I was looking at the religion. I don’t like what religion has done to people. How it’s confused people. But that’s man-made. I wasn’t looking at God in the way that God is all accepting and all-loving and unconditional love.
Josephenie: He said, “I, God, love the world so much that I send Jesus Christ to die for the world, for all people, good and bad.” So how can I condemn you or the other person? I cannot. It’s God’s to condemn. And if I can help a homosexual, I help him. If I can help a lesbian, I help her.
“So how can I condemn you or the other person? I cannot. It’s God’s to condemn. And if I can help a homosexual, I help him. If I can help a lesbian, I help her.”
Josephenie, what are you most proud about in your daughter?
Josephenie: Well, what I am proud about her right now is that she’s a fighter and she’s determined. Whatever she wants since she was growing up, she said, “I want that.” She is going to get that. She didn’t care what she would have to do, she would get it. And I’m very proud that she’s standing up for herself. She has her own apartment that she pays and she’s doing everything. And mostly, she’s helping the people that are calling to her all over the world. Not only Miskito, she has helped other [indigenous] nations too.
Ckiara, what has happened in your world since FOSTA-SESTA? Has that changed things?
Ckiara: Well, I’m more careful with what I do. I feel bad sometimes because I have a lot of ladies who call me, asking me questions regarding work, and I can’t answer or say anything. Because I don’t want to be accused of pandering or whatever else that comes with. The inquiries have lessened a lot. I just feel it’s a vicious, ugly attack.
You had Saycsar when you were about…
What had you want to get into the industry originally?
Ckiara: Because I was interested in it. I was raised a certain way, and I felt a different way. My sensuality is very central to me. So it was a conflict between what I was born and raised to think, and what I was feeling. I wanted to explore all of that, and that’s where it started. I wanted to explore all of that.
Your mother raised you with a more traditional religious view of these things?
Ckiara: I think she still wants to see me married. [laughs]
Do you, Josephenie?
Do you want to get married, Ckiara?
Ckiara: Well, I’ve never done it before. Maybe that’d be interesting. [laughs] There’s never a dull moment in my life. I don’t have dull moments. It’s always an adventure. My life is an adventure every day.
Saycsar: I can’t imagine a guy keeping up with you. Maybe a woman… [laughs]
Josephenie, what was your process of coming to terms between the religious values that you raised your daughter with, and then her work? Eventually you came to not view it as a conflict?
Josephenie: I search the scripture every day. And Jesus said another word which opened my senses. He says, “Clean the mote from your eyes before you clean it from your neighbor.” The meaning of that is, do not judge, because when you judge, someone will be judging you. Ckiara is of age, and whatever she does or does not do, it should not concern me, nor bother me. If she hurts somebody, then I am concerned. If somebody hurt her then I’m concerned. But her private life, I let it go.
Saycsar, what are your passions now?
Saycsar: Making movies, helping out my mom and grandma with stuff. And trying not to lose my mind when they call me like fifty times a day. [laughs]
Ckiara: We have to make sure you’re safe! [laughs]