Becoming a mother has done so many amazing things to shift, deepen, and otherwise tweak my perspective on a great number of subjects. I've become a critical consumer of children's programming (no, really, there's a big difference between the good stuff and the bad stuff). I've become even more politically active because I literally see the future every day in my 2 and 5 year old. These are changes I appreciate, but even when I appreciate new understandings, they can sometimes be depressing. For example, observing society's views on sex since becoming a mom hasn't necessarily been easy. I always kinda knew, but having children has really highlighted, for me, what a damn dirty dumpster fire we've come to accept as perfectly normal.
I've been pretty well-aware of America's creepy, contradictory, mostly narrow, and deeply hypocritical attitudes about sex and sexuality for a while now. I mean, I'm a woman who grew up in American culture, so I've faced my fair share of it, personally. "We value and shun any displays of your sexuality! So be sexy! But remember that you shouldn't try to be sexy! But you should put in some effort! But don't! Because sex is great! And shameful! It's private, but look at this mostly naked model on an enormous billboard on your way to school." Yeah. It's great.
However, while a lot of this is evident with even a little nudging and analysis, and none of the following items are entirely new information, the presence of my children in my life has allowed me to behold all the hellish splendor in a new and horrifying light.
I Realized We're Framing The Idea Of Sex Completely Wrong
If you're like me, sex was probably explained to you (by your parents and/or sex ed class) in the context of human reproduction. People have sex to make babies. Well, yes, but that's like saying, "People drive cars to go to the grocery store." Certainly people drive to the store, but they also drive to a whole lot of other places.
When you talk about sex more or less exclusively in terms of reproduction, you're only talking about a tiny percentage actual sex. I did some simple math and approximately .002 percent of the sex I have had in my life was done for reproductive purposes. The vast majority of sexing in this world is absolutely not to have babies. Even looking at it from a practical standpoint, sex serves an important social role, above and beyond reproduction. Sex can serve to forge closeness between people. Oh, and also orgasms. Orgasms are pretty spectacular, you guys.
Also, let's make it perfectly clear that talking about sex primarily in terms of reproduction leaves out all non-penis-in-vagina sex, effectively erasing homosexuality from the pantheon of "real sex" and limiting straight couples into thinking it's not "really sex" if they aren't putting the p in the v.
Getting pregnant and a having babies, in essence "realizing the true purpose" of sex, made me realize that reproduction is not the "true purpose" of sex. Hey, I'm glad this is how humans evolved to reproduce and all, but this isn't the first and last word on the matter.
I Realized Just How Many Levels Of F*cked Up The Whole MILF Thing Is
There's so much wrong with the 1999 teen classic American Pie, but among all the disastrously cringe-worthy things going on in that movie, one of my least favorites is the introduction of the term "MILF" into pop culture.
"What's wrong with MILF? It's a compliment! It's saying, 'Hey! You're a mom, but you're still hot!'" you might say. OK, I get what you're saying, but let me tell you why I think it's garbage.
The concept of one being a MILF hinges on the idea that they are unique among mothers. Like, "Mothers are inherently and by their nature not sexy, but this mom is." It's a qualifying compliment. Would you be flattered if someone said, "You're actually really good looking for a [insert race/ethnicity here] chick!"? No. It's insulting AF.
MILF creates a "rule" about moms that states we're not sexual creatures by highlighting the exception the the rule. Trust me, the last thing the world needs is another force delineating women in terms of "sex object" and "non-sex object."
I Realized People Started Talking About My Kids' Sexuality Right Off The Bat
This still happens and manifests in varying degrees of creepy.
First of all, from onesies to cutesy little remarks from strangers in line at Target, my children have been presumed to already be heterosexual. Statistically, sure, that seems to be the most likely outcome, but it's also sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy if you immediately begin referring to the fact that your infant son is "a little ladies man." Meanwhile, when I've joked with a friend that maybe one day our sons would get married, I was told I was "pushing" my little boy into being gay.
Ummm, that's not how sexuality works. I can't get the kid to eat his vegetables, but you think I'm somehow going to talk him into being gay?
This issue goes beyond presumed heterosexuality with my daughter. Before she was even born, people would "joke" with my husband about locking her up, forbidding boyfriends, and sending her to a convent. Seriously, she wasn't even out of my vagina yet and people were already talking about controlling hers.
I Realized Pop Culture Sex Objects Are So Young
Becoming a mother has made me more maternal toward pretty much everyone and everything. (Before I was a mom I was already considered "the mom" of my group, so sh*t has gotten really real in the past few years.) I feel deep empathy with the pregnant goats at the petting zoo. Kittens need me to take care of them. I seriously try to keep an eye on all the children on any given playground. So when I see hyper-sexualized models on magazines, runways, or billboards, and when I know that the majority of models begin their careers as teenagers (in some cases, very young teenagers, such as Kate Moss, who was 14), I get all, "OMG, you're a baby! Come here! Let me give you dolls and braid your hair and we'll jump rope."
OK, that also sounds creepy and I promise my reaction isn't that bad. Still, I do feel icky about just how young our obsession with youth as beauty is skewed.
I Realized "Lolita" Narratives Became Even More Horrifying
For the blissfully uninitiated, "Lolita" is a term that comes from Vladimir Nabakov's remarkable (and very often misinterpreted) novel of the same name. It is about (trigger warning here) a middle-aged man who marries a woman he loathes in order to be close to her 12-yea- old daughter, then inadvertently kills the mother upon being revealed, effectively kidnaps the kid, and rapes her for the next few years before she escapes. So, naturally, "Lolita" is defined as "a precociously seductive girl."
The fact that a story about a serially raped child could somehow evolve in the eyes of pop culture to mean "a girl who is really good at making grown men want to f*ck her" is terrifying. Unfortunately, this idea pops up everywhere.
Lolita narratives, of course, predate the 1955 book. Girls have been blamed for their own abuse from time immemorial. When youthful beauty is seen sexy, and sex is seen as power, young girls are often seen as having had some power over an abusive situation. And so, the logic goes, if it happened they must have had something to do with it.
Being around young children all the time, and especially being a mother to a daughter, has instilled a new level of dread in me regarding this particularly insidious phenomenon.
I Realized People Think The Word "Sex" Can Corrupt Children
I've seriously had people spell the word "sex" in front of my toddlers, as though exposure to not even the concept, but the word, is corrupting and dangerous. This, of course, leads to people growing up with the idea that sex is so dirty it cannot be discussed in public, which in turn leads to a lot of creepy attitudes towards this very basic fact of life.
I willingly and intentionally talk about sex in front of my children for a number of reasons, not least of which is to let them know that it's something they can talk with me about if they have questions.
I'm Seeing Everything, Including Society's Attitudes About Sex, With Fresh Eyes
Having kids will do that to you. Suddenly they start seeing (and asking questions about) things that you've always just sort of taken for granted as "the way things are." Or you encounter something that you've become accustomed to, but realize that this is entirely new information to your little one. When it comes to ideas about sex, so much of it is massively creepy with even a minimal amount of extra thought or analysis.
In other words, as a parent I have my work cut out for me in trying to counteract this dumpster fire.