Maitland Ward on why she went from Hollywood to porn: 'It's scary to forge your own path, but it's the only way that you're going to be happy'
Unapologetically is a Yahoo Life series in which women and men from all walks of life get the chance to share how they live their best life — out loud and in living color, without fear or regret — looking back at the past with a smile and embracing the future with excited anticipation.
At 45, Maitland Ward is unapologetic about "everything" in her life.
"I'm unapologetic about sex…but I think it's me in my truth and everything," she tells Yahoo Life. "When I was young, I was so apologetic for so many years. I will never apologize anymore."
The actress, who got her start on The Bold and the Beautiful before joining the cast of Boy Meets World as Rachel in 1998, has since left Hollywood in favor of a career in pornography. That journey — which she chronicles in her upcoming book Rated X: How Porn Liberated Me From Hollywood, out Sept. 6 — was one of taking back control of her sexuality.
"I was always looked at, in my view, as the more provocative one — people were fascinated by my long legs, and that I'm so tall and I have fiery red hair and, and it was like it almost made that OK," Ward says of her experiences on TV sets, noting that some of what she experienced would not be "acceptable" today. "People would come up and like pat you on the ass or like give you a little pinch or say, 'Oh, look how hot you are. Look at your tits.'"
What was particularly challenging, Ward shares, was that she was expected to be "a sexualized being" for other people, but wasn't expected to actually enjoy her sexuality. She was told to be virginal and chaste, but also appeal to male viewers.
"If I was on a show, like Boy Meets World, I could be sexy. I could wear a sheet with little feathers on it in nude pictures that I had for my boyfriend — that's fine," she says, of a plot point from an episode of the ABC sitcom, in which her character's friends share a risqué photo of her as a prank. "If I ever wore anything like that, or did anything suggestive like that in real life, Disney and producers and Hollywood would've come down on me. Especially the producer, Michael Jacobs — he was very adamant about me being chaste and the good girl."
At the time, Ward says stars like Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson were some of Hollywood's biggest sex symbols, but they also were known for their virginity.
"It was just very confusing. It hindered my sexual exploration and finding out who I was for a very long time," she shares.
Ward says she began exploring adult entertainment after she married her husband Terry Baxter in 2006. She became the number one adult creator on Patreon shortly after launching her account, and a year and a half later, got into professional porn productions. Baxter, she says, was "super supportive" of her decision to embrace her sexuality.
"Our sex life is way better now," she explains. "I mean, it was always good and, and intimate and you know, like a marriage should be. But I think now that I'm really open with myself and I can try new things and I'm not holding back or anything — I think that's really sexy."
As a porn performer, Ward shares that she feels less pressure about aging than she did while working in mainstream Hollywood.
"That was a scary prospect back in the early 2000s, to think, 'Oh my God, you're done. You're going to be done very soon.' So it was also kind of like a race, but men could stay around forever, which was, and they did. And they still do," she says.
"Hollywood is very hard on aging but I have felt less of that stigma in porn," she says. Though she was once told that "nobody wants to see you sexy unless you're 25," she found that not to be the case at all.
"Interestingly enough, the audience doesn't feel that way so much," she explains. "I had more fans coming along as I've been older and been sexual…I was told nobody would come along and now I've had major success with it. So that was bulls*** that they were feeding. I think it's just all part of this Hollywood machine — they want to keep you in a certain place at a certain time."
Ward wants people to know that it's OK to take control of their life, no matter where they started from.
"It's scary to forge your own path, but it's the only way that you're going to be happy. It doesn't have to be porn. That's my more scandalous side," she says. "I didn't just switch overnight. It's about making conscious efforts and decisions over time to get to a place that you want to be, embracing your truth. I want people to embrace their truth and just live how they want to live and be who they want to be. People are attracted to that."
– Video produced by Olivia Schneider and edited by Rasiel Guevara
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