The Paradox of Motherhood and Sexuality
Becoming a Mother
The relationship of a woman to her own sexuality after she becomes a mother is strange and complex. Before motherhood, a woman who freely enjoys her own feminine sexuality is, unfortunately, often met by the judgment of others, whether silent or vocalized. After she brings a child into the world, those who felt free to make judgments about her often feel even more free to do so, as if they somehow are authorized to become advocates for the innocence of the child, or have a duty to promote some amorphous “greater good.” If those critics, and a judgy culture in general, are internalized, the new mother may face a radical shift in her own self-identity.
Caging The Inner Tigress
Of course a new mother will be expected to nurse her child under a shoulder throw (mustn't flash a nipple!) Of course she will give up her nighttime playtime to have one ear open for the baby monitor! Of course she will comfort-sleep in leggings and oversize T shirts! For months, often leading into years, she will dutifully cage her inner tigress to play cuddly mama bear. Her friends will join her in their coffee/stroller mommy meet ups and decry the lack of sleep and the lack of sex.
This will be considered “normal” because, well, isn't that just what happens after baby making? But the shift doesn't just shift back as the child grows, or another comes along. Eventually, the sexy lingerie and the sandalwood oil is pushed way to the back of the drawer because, somehow, these things just don't quite “fit” into this domestic way of life.
Even if there is a date night or a girls spa day, where sensuality is re-embraced, it almost feels like it is an escape rather than something incorporated into the new life. Why is this?
Madonna vs. The Whore
Perhaps there is more to the dynamic than simply the demands of family life. Perhaps there are social constructs at play that discourage the “acting out” of sexual desire, that inhibit a woman and are set deeply into her core. The old trope of the “Madonna vs the Whore” is tossed around, but how much of that is really true? What are the expectations that women unconsciously internalize and are likewise reinforced by her partner, probably also without full awareness?
If she is with a man or another woman, how much do their internalized expectations of “mother” affect their intimacy? Once a mate is identified as “mother” all the Oedipal energies of the archetype “MOTHER” spring into play, and for couples who have not yet worked through identifying and mastering the deep emotions that are carried in the energetic streams of the symbolic “mother”, this will probably present quandaries that can seem unmanageable. Too often, the only way of dealing with them is retreat. Repression, delay, denial. A deadening of all that erotic energy that brought the couple originally to this place of parenthood. Leggings and loose T shirts. Exhaustion.
Finding and Igniting Your Erotic Energy
But erotic energy IS life, and to find a way to rediscover that, and re-ignite that, within motherhood, is possible. It can happen with the a resolution of the paradox. The discovery that motherhood AND deeply desirous sexuality are not mutually exclusive, but actually quite compatible states.
One of the most search-for porn genres is MILF porn. This fact alone is enough to highlight the intense energy contained by the taboo of the sexual mother. Porn thrives on taboos because of how our minds work. Taboos present novelty and danger that, in our brains, are closely associated with sexual excitement.
When women take on the “dutiful” role, there can be an over-identification with one persona, the persona of “Mother/Wife”. When a woman's life is so consumed by the daily efforts of care taking of others, and her identity becomes so much all about that, she may lose access to so many other energies that she might otherwise be able to tap into. By becoming more aware of what those alternative, even complementary, energies are, and how to access them, a woman can immeasurably increase her capacity for life.
To be able to move from one state, the “mother/wife” state, into other archetypal states, is a very useful skill, and fairly easy to learn. In the same way that a woman can move into from into “athlete”, “business woman” or “artist”and carry the energies needed to be successful in each of those areas - without changing her core self - she can embrace personas often internalized as “inappropriate” but actually very powerful: the temptress, the seductress, the bacchanalite, the “whore”.
Breathing Fresh Life
Recognizing that these alternate personas are simply energies that we can “tap into” without abandoning the strong inner core of our psyche, can breathe fresh life and juiciness into our already seemingly full lives for more vitality and freedom. This is not the same as changing personalities or being schizophrenic! Your core personality does not change, these personas are valid and valuable means of self expression.
Whenever one is stuck in one identity that becomes dry or deadening, a useful approach is to consider its “opposite” identity. The “madonna/whore” paradox is a perfect example, there are others. To be able to name and access all these different aspects of one's persona intentionally can be very powerful. Doing so with a cultivated self-awareness can also prevent acting out unconsciously through behaviors that may be damaging to one's self or one's relationship.
It is wonderful to have a partner willing to participate in expansions of self this way. I encourage the partners/husbands/lovers of mothers to honor these women by encouraging them to explore multidimensionally. Making use of alternate settings, role-playing, garments, props, and toys to live into other aspects of yourself and of your partner can open up amazing worlds of possibilities. Remember, all along theway through such an adventure, that the return to one's core self is always the default position, and is always an option, as immediate as blowing out a candle.
Chelsea Wakefield, PhD, LCSW, Negotiating the Inner Peace Treaty: Becoming the Person You Were Born to Be, Balboa Press 2012
Chelsea Wakefield, PhD, LCSW, In Search of Aphrodite: Women, Archetypes and Sex Therapy , Routledge, 2016