Porn tells us a “MILF” is sexy. So sexy, MILF or a “Mother I’d Like to F*&k” is the subject typed into one in every four Internet porn searches. But in the lived reality of so many women, why does MILF feel like an oxymoron?
Why is it, in a culture that now fashionably talks about bondage, sex toys and open relationships, that we still have such a strong cultural taboo when it comes to talking about the procreative sex that makes us mothers and the subsequent sex mother’s have? Why is it that “Mama Sex” is the black hole of our feminine education?
As a “millennial mother” I’ve come of age feeling as if I was constantly striving toward obtaining the total package of existence—-professional success and personal satisfaction. I always considered the prosperity of my sexuality and desire an interwoven assumption of adulthood. And I couldn’t imagine a world where I didn’t make it a priority. Before motherhood, I could only intellectually understand how and why my relationship with sex would change.
I smile at the naivete of my former self. And my former self knew a lot about sex.
Although I had a graduate degree in Anthropology with a focus on gender, had the unique distinction of being the Curator of the Museum of Sex for more than a decade, and was even dubbed by Cosmopolitan Magazine to be a “sexpert supreme,” I can now admit it was officially the process of becoming a mother that was the finishing school of my sexual education.
It was a humbling lesson to learn that in spite of my head full of sex facts, and my uncommon comfort with the topic (I even publicly chronicled my experiences in a memoir, Sex in the Museum: My Unlikely Career at New York’s Most Provocative Museum), none of it had truly prepared me for the identity navigation I would need to endure once becoming a mother. Not only was it a mind, body and soul upheaval, but unexpectedly it was also a confrontation with a societal mirror on maternal sexuality that left me totally perplexed. Was I meant to now prove I’m still sexy in spite of being a mother or did “sexiness” somehow make me maternally inappropriate?
When celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Beyonce, two women who have made their careers on their own takes on sexual empowerment, are lambasted for these very same displays post motherhood, what does this mean for the rest of us? Too sexy, I’m a bad mom. Not sexy enough, I’m somehow failing as a woman (that is, if your lens is the media). More than just mixed signals, it’s identity cannibalism. And I don’t know about you...but I was already having a hard enough time adjusting to my new identity of mama. It felt oppressive to now also worry about my “yummy mummy” status.
And as I negotiated these topics on a personal and professional level, saw the enthusiasm in which the topic was met over mama coffees, drinks and dinners, I knew the black hole had to be filled with our stories. Our stories —- sad, funny, touching and sometimes fantastically gross —- that are at the core of the circle of life. The stories that bind us, and remind us how “perfectly normal” all of it is in this adventure of grown up womanhood.
In the last few years, as I transitioned from a woman trying to get pregnant to now a mother of two, and all the high and lows, joys and tears incorporated, I’ve seen first hand its impact on my sense of self and my intimate relationship with my partner, my husband. From the scheduled sex when getting pregnant wasn’t happening as fast as we expected to the first sex right after baby to the sex now as we try and figure out if our family will remain a party of four.
It can be the sex that negotiates changing desires (mind you, which can happen for both partners) or maybe the desire to try something new and experiment. From quick-before-the-little-one wakes sex to the we-haven’t-had-sex-in-a-while sex and even I’ve-really-missed-connecting-with-you sex, it’s all a part of the evolving narrative of real life “mama sex,” a space that so desperately needs to be normalized —- for our collective benefit.
So if these words struck a chord, and you are a mama willing to share your story with me for my upcoming book (very happy to keep in anonymous!), please reach out at curatorofsex@
I’m really excited to create something that reflects the reality of mama sex...and while it is sometimes a nice ego boost to be jokingly called a MILF, I’d also like something other than porn to define me sexually. Maybe you’d like the same?