So, this post from the website Scary Mommy has recently gone viral:
The Five Types of Sex Parents with Young Kids Have
When it passed through my news feed in Facebook, I clicked.
I clicked because I’m a sucker for funny listicles, and because I hoped to be mildly entertained. I clicked because I hoped that I might see something of myself reflected there. I clicked because, let’s face it, as the mother of two young kids I can only come up with three types of sex, and so I was hoping to find some inspiration.
But this post did not inspire me. What it did was bum me out by repeatedly suggesting that, to mothers of young children, sex is rarely more than an unpleasant chore.
For instance, in item #2 on the list, Half Sex, the author describes a scenario wherein one half of the couple discovers, mid-intercourse, that he is the only one enjoying himself.
This is usually the man, who later, in a paroxysm of bitterness and resentment, stays up until the wee hours Google stalking his hot high school ex-girlfriend who used to “really like making [him] happy.”
Ouch. Am I the only one who isn’t laughing yet?
Item # 5 on the list, Birthday Sex, is introduced this way:
Obviously, I am referring to the guy’s birthday here, because often, the mother of small children would like her birthday present to be a signed (in blood) and notarized contract stating that no sex will be asked for during the entire month preceding her birthday.
Not only am I still not laughing, but I am flummoxed, tired, and disappointed. In the end, this list turns out to not so much be about how parents are having sex, but about all of the ways that mothers are avoiding sex, or not enjoying sex, or getting burned by husbands.
[Side note: At the end of this post, there’s a link to another post by a different author called 5 Ways to Please Your Man! (Or, Not). This one presents a list of hypothetical scenarios where a wife goes to great lengths to initiate a sexual encounter with her husband, and they all end in the wife’s humiliation. In one scenario her husband responds to her advances by pointing out that she has spinach in her teeth. In another, her son makes fun of her ass.]
Maybe, as lesbian, I shouldn’t even be responding to these posts. Maybe they really do speak to universal truths that have nothing to do with me. Who am I to argue with 190K likes on Facebook?
But something is nagging at me. It’s this narrative of the wife who struggles (and fails) to keep up with her husband’s sex drive after having children. She’s no longer desirable to herself or her partner. Every attempt at intimacy ends with her as the butt of a joke.
Why is this the only story I see represented? For every woman out there who eschews sex after motherhood, I’m sure there’s a woman who wants more sex than she’s getting, and also a woman who’s more or less happily aligned with her partner. We mothers, we’re not all sexless fools, furiously trying to distract our partners from their adolescent fantasies.
It’s true for me that motherhood has changed my relationship to sex. I live in a different body than I did seven years ago, before I had ever been pregnant. It’s a body that has been stretched beyond its former limits, a body shaped by the daily demands my kids place on it. My arms are toned from years of lifting toddlers. My belly sags. On any given day my breasts grow and shrink, lift and drop from the practical work of lactation. And it’s true that most nights, more than anything, I just want to reclaim my own body, to spread out across the bed alone and sleep.
But motherhood has also freed me of some of the cultural myths I’ve learned about sex. I no longer have to close my eyes and pretend to be perfect. Sex is no longer the Very Serious Thing it once was. It’s okay if I haven’t showered since yesterday morning, or if I’m fatter than I was two weeks ago, if there’s spinach in my teeth, or if I can hear Barney songs playing in the background.
None of that matters, because my body is still capable of pleasure. And isn’t that the point? Sex isn’t just for the young and the firm. Sex is also for the aging, the broken, the sagging, for those of us tethered to earth by this thing we call a body. We might as well use it for as long as it lasts.
Ah, your gorgeous skin. I lovingly call mine my kangaroo pouch. And with the sudden leaving of collagen, it’s become a double cheeked, hang dog face over the top of my bikini bottom. It’s the new sexy.
🙂 After I finished writing the post, I was scrolling though all of my pictures. When I came to that one I thought, Oh no. That would go really well. Oh no. I had a photo of a bee on a flower. I tried to tell myself I could use that one instead. But it just looked like a bad pun. So radical over-sharing it is.
I read the article you referenced before I read your blog so that I would be in the know. I was thus relieved that you didn’t like the article. Not only was it, in spite of the author’s transparently pandering efforts, deeply unfunny, it didn’t contain one thing I could relate to as a mother. My experiences with my husband were nothing like what she describes. If anything, our shared delight in our baby brought us closer. I can’t imagine that is an uncommon phenomenon. Mothers, for some reason, are easy targets; I’m surprised though, that her stereotyping post with its complete lack of originality is so popular.
I like the photo you chose of your sweet belly with Baby’s appreciative finger poking it. 🙂
Thank you, sweet Kathy.
The comments are playing on stereotypes, which can have a kernel of truth. But which can be over-interpreted — and create their own problems that way — too.
I’ve seen some studies that show many women enjoying sex more as they age.
At the same time, Because of the way women’s sexuality is so repressed, And women are made to feel their bodies aren’t attractive (which may affect straight women more, Since whoever has sex with men tends to have more body worries) there can be some truth to these points.
But we need to get at the core problem: a society that teaches women that their bodies are not attractive, that’s their bodies need to be attractive in order to have sex, and that being sexual is bad (at least if you are female, young and unmarried, or not in love and in a long-term relationship).
I certainly believe those studies you mention…and find it interesting that our culture doesn’t want to reflect or acknowledge that.
Also true that any signs of sexual life in old women provokes horror and disgust to most men. I think it’s a way to keep female power in bearable containment. Good fuckin luck with that.
Okay, so this is TMI, but I have dated only one man who actually had a stronger sex drive than I do (and that was a disaster but OMG it was fun while it lasted). I skimmed through the article. Not my kind of humor. Mothers are the most disparaged human beings on the planet and I don’t buy into it.
“Mothers are the most disparaged human beings on the planet”–absolutely! I’m all for a little self-deprecation, but at some point it just gets depressing. And thanks for testifying–I think that to break down these stereotypes we all have to weigh in about our true experiences.
I loved this post and I’ve been waiting til I had time to say so. I’m glad you wrote the narrative that has been missing. I love the different layers that you identify to what it’s like having and wanting sex post-motherhood. This makes me think about the whole divide put up for categorizing women– virgin, mother, whore, crone–etc…. splitting up our wholeness when in our totality we can be all things at once- and not in a negative either even if there are dark aspects to each.
“Splitting up our wholeness”, yes! That gets at what it feels like for me to be a woman in our culture.
[…] honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d follow on a post from two weeks ago where I responded to a viral post on Scary Mommy about parents and sex. My complaint about this post was that it was so incredibly depressing; central to many of the […]
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