AMY LYNN BAXTER isn't a typical working mom. With a little
luck, she can make about $500,000 a year. When she works, it's six
days a week. When she travels, which is fairly often, she takes
along both baby and nanny. Like any single parent, the 26-year-old
topless dancer spends as much time with her child as she can, even
when they're on the road.
"It's pretty rigorous," says Baxter, a Penthouse centerfold
whose backstage dressing table is littered with bottles, baby oil
and other infant paraphernalia.
"Especially being a mommy and jumping around all day at
Discovery Zone before I come to work."
She's on the trampolines by day, the stage by night.
Baxter, whose picture appears on the back of Howard Stern's
best-selling book, is just one of hundreds of women working in the
$10 billion sex industry.
While she skips and slinks downstage to fatten her purse and
feed her child, the battle over pornography once again heats up.
This time, the controversy doesn't pit men against women. On
the edge of the 21st century, with feminism an established force,
it's women warring against women. Basically, there are three camps.
Women who work in the industry think pornography is a fine way
to make money.
"It's gotten me financially equal with doctors and lawyers,"
Other women are adamantly against pornography.
"I'm a feminist . . . and I think illegal pornography should
be removed," says Dee Jepsen, president of the anti-pornography
group Enough is Enough! "I think it eroticizes inequality and
encourages an attitude that fosters sexual harassment."
Still other women are pro-choice, believing pornography is an
expression of human sexuality.
Sally Tisdale, who calls herself a "natural feminist" who
enjoys pornography, argued her case in a 1992 Harper's article.
"(Anti-pornography) feminism tells me my very thoughts are
bad," she wrote. "Pornography tells me the opposite: that none of
my thoughts are bad, that anything goes. Both are extremes, of
course, but the difference is profound. The message of pornography,
by its very existence, is that our sexual selves are real."
Historically, women have had a conflicted relationship with
their sexuality, says Susie Bright, author of "Susie Bright's
Sexual Reality: A Virtual Sex World Reader."
"The most powerful reason women feel ambivalent or fearful or
angry about pornography is that sexuality is not a place they've
been able to express and know," she says. "It seems bizarre to
them. It's like the classic old boy's club. Pornography is like
Wall Street . . . It's always ignored female sexual pleasure even
though women are chief among its employees."
The disagreement over pornography is so heated that Marcia
Gillespie, editor of Ms., decided to devote most of a recent issue
to the topic.
"I know it causes great division within the movement," she
says. "It's not going to go away, and we can't pretend it's not
there. . . . The only way change occurs is to air our differences
and keep talking."
Says Leanne Katz, executive director of the National Coalition
Against Censorship: "It's very divisive and has caused a lot of
bitterness. There's a lot of name-calling going on." Anti-porn
feminists, she says, "are calling us pimps for pornographers, the
Uncle Toms of the patriarchy. Those don't seem like very feminist
At the forefront of the anti-pornography battle are Andrea
Dworin and Catharine MacKinnon. Dworkin is a radical feminist who's
written such books as "Pornography: Men Possessing Women. …