‘You can’t be a sexual mother, that’s gross!’

Elle Beau ❇︎
Jan 20 · 6 min read

Motherhood and sexuality can and should co-exist

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Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash

Recently my friend Junkman submitted an erotic story to the publication I edit, Sensual: An Erotic Life. It was a story about a new mother who finds her breasts leaking while out on the job, and she asks a favorite customer to help her by suckling them. It’s a tastefully done story with a bit of humor in it, but still, we had a conversation about whether some people might find this story to be “too much.” He was concerned that some people might find it too fetish or too taboo.

But why shouldn’t a new mother have a consensual sexual experience, even if it involves her breast milk? There are a lot of mores and expectations that come with motherhood, and one of those is that women should prioritize their children above everything else, including their own needs. It almost goes without saying that her sexual needs should go by the wayside. After all, she’s a mother now. Mixing the two just comes across to many as freaky, gross, or wildly inappropriate.

When Kim Kardashian posed nude, oiled up for Paper magazine, she nearly broke the internet. Not so much because it was a hot picture, or because we got to see her famous derierre featured, but because Kim was now a mother, and it didn’t sit right with a lot of people.

I normally don’t. But…you’re someone’s mother…” That was the note Naya Rivera left on Kim’s Instagram pic of said cover. It wasn’t just Rivera, either. Legions of bloggers and Internet commenters chimed in, trying to shame Kim for posing nude post-motherhood. “But what about her daughter?!” people asked. The implication was that, as a mother, Kim shouldn’t flaunt her sexuality lest it stunt her daughter’s emotional development or just ruin her life forever. But also because she’s a mother! And what about the sanctity of motherhood?!

Though countless articles encourage women to get in touch with their sexuality and bounce back post-baby, the reality is that if a mother openly embraces her sexuality, she is perceived as being someone of loose morals, and even worse, not a good mother. The message? Motherhood and sexuality cannot coexist.

Yet when it comes to fathers, there is little if any criticism when they choose to act in a way that is sexual. Take Robin Thicke and T.I., for example, both fathers, the former to a son and the latter to six children, including two girls. Though there was much said about the “rape-iness” of their song “Blurred Lines” and whether or not it was demeaning to women, no one ever said, “He’s a father! He shouldn’t be dancing around with naked women singing about sex!” Or, “What will his children think when they realize their dad was singing a song about (possibly) non-consensual sex?” Or, “How will the kids feel when they see dad was dancing around with naked women, none of whom are their mother?”

There’s a story, which may be apocryphal, but it none-the-less illustrates this dynamic beautifully. It’s been reported that after Priscilla Presley got pregnant, Elvis would no longer have sex with her. He saw her now as a mother, which on it’s face precluded her from being a sexual being in his mind. It was one of the main things that led to their eventual divorce. If true, that’s an extreme case, but he’s also not the only one to ever think that way. It’s the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. As a woman, you are either good or bad, and since sex, particularly when it’s enjoyed by women, is bad, it must be inconsistent with motherhood.

We view the world through conditioned lenses that have been a huge collaboration by our parents, our community, society, media, relationships, organized religion, school, and our lived experience. Sex, sexuality, and sensuality mean something different for everyone, and depending on a woman’s “circumstances” we make judgments of their sexual expression. For whatever reason, the sexuality of mothers is especially taboo and seems to be public domain for judgment.

This is in large part because in a patriarchal society, female sexuality is seen to be for the pleasure and enjoyment of men, not for the women themselves. Be sexy, but not sexual, is a common cultural narrative. I didn’t realize until I was older and had the opportunity to begin to heal from this narrative how pervasive and harmful it had been in my life. I had internalized beliefs about myself and about my sexuality that supported this societal messaging in ways that kept me as a kind of second-class citizen, there to be pleasing and to create enjoyment for someone else.

Neither my husband nor any man that I had ever dated had made me feel this in any overt way, but it was still the ocean that we had all been swimming in and it did affect me because it was such a part of the larger culture. How can I be a full human being if even I don’t completely relate to myself in that way?

Fortunately for me, my husband James never saw there to be any reason that a mother couldn’t also be a sexual being, and that helped me create a new narrative. When I was in the hospital, in labor with our son, he told me that I was the sexiest woman he had ever seen. For him, the ripeness and fecundity of a woman about to give birth was incredibly feminine and sensual.

When our son was about six months old and still nursing, James and I went on a house-hunting trip in preparation for a move. Baby Hugh stayed at home with my mother, but I still needed to pump several times a day during our trip, or it would become uncomfortable, and like the character in the story, I might have begun to leak. Rather than pump the milk and throw it out, James suggested that he drink it, and we spent several intensely intimate and passionate interludes in our hotel room with him drinking from my breasts.

It was highly erotic, and not once did it seem to be strange or freaky or fetish despite the fact that so many Americans have bizarre views about breastfeeding in general. Breasts can be sexual, and in many instances they are, but often they are just another body part. And when it comes to feeding babies, well, isn’t that what breasts are designed for?

Though countless articles encourage women to get in touch with their sexuality and bounce back post-baby, the reality is that if a mother openly embraces her sexuality, she is perceived as being someone of loose morals, and even worse, not a good mother. The message? Motherhood and sexuality cannot coexist.

This is a way of thinking that comes directly from patriarchal constructs. A woman has a greater identity than to provide pleasure for a man and to feed and care for his children. She is a person in her own right and that includes having a sexual self that is all her own. How she chooses to express that and what she decides to do with her sexuality is hers alone to decide and this right does not disappear if she becomes a mother. She is more than either a Madonna or a Whore. She is a fully human being.

© Copyright Elle Beau 2021
Elle Beau writes on Medium about sex, life, relationships, society, anthropology, spirituality, and love. If this story is appearing anywhere other than Medium.com, it appears without my consent and has been stolen.

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Elle Beau ❇︎

Written by

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

Sensual: An Erotic Life

A sex-positive community for exploring and sharing.

Elle Beau ❇︎

Written by

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

Sensual: An Erotic Life

A sex-positive community for exploring and sharing.

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