The Problem With 'Mommy Porn'

fifty shades of grey and the problem with mommy porn
Family, Sex

Mommy porn is a phrase that's been bandied about a lot lately—as we all know—because of the wild success of Fifty Shades of Grey.

But why the term when it's really just erotica? Is it because women's sexuality is still taboo and needs to be categorized? Is it because the idea of women enjoying something as "scandalous" as BDSM is so threatening that it needs to be termed "mommy porn" to diminish its potency?

In a society where sexually experienced women are "hos" but their male counterparts are "players," women are branded as sluts for wanting birth control or bitches because they're aggressive at work, the term "mommy porn" is just another way to demean female sexual desire. 

Categorizing porn as something only mothers would find appealing is a subtle dig aimed at women who are expressing their sexual nature. One would think from all the media hoopla that mothers are sexually repressed bores who are suddenly finding themselves turned on again. Calling the book "mommy porn" is another way of saying this isn't serious. Your desires are silly. It's an innately derogatory term, like "mom jeans." Moms are meant to be put on a pedestal and adored with kid gloves—not sexualized.

"Calling Fifty Shades 'mommy porn' is similar to the way men call romantic comedies 'chick flicks,'" sex therapist Sari Cooper says. "Unfortunately, it is done with a tone that infers that the male version is the real deal while what turns women on is long, involved, complicated and emotionally challenging."

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The obvious corollary is that there is no "daddy porn." It's assumed that men will remain sexual beings after having kids and even into old age, while mothers turn into asexual creatures whose sole needs are taking care of their children. Growing up, everyone knew about their dad's secret porn stash. I first discovered my friend Dacia's father's stash when we were seven. Stacks of Playboys were hidden in his dresser drawers. Bored one day, it was by accident that we stumbled upon them, but once we did we were intrigued by what her father could find so fascinating about naked women sprawled out on furry rugs or bending over motorcycles. Curious if my dad had such a stash, I rummaged through my parents' closet to find not Playboys, but some sort of low-rent nudie mag. It seemed all dads liked porn. So what gives?

"Human sexuality is traditionally viewed through the eyes of a straight man," says American University professor of Social Media and Sexuality, Stef Woods. "There isn't a need for additional 'daddy porn' since men's needs and fantasies are already satiated. As a society, men are expected to be sexual creatures. If 'daddy porn' existed, it wouldn't receive as much criticism or controversy."

Woods brings up a good point. The idea that women are sexual creatures and have valid needs is seen as something of an anomaly by society in general. What the critics don't understand is that women of all shades, stripes, races, and economic classes can and do enjoy porn, erotic literature, and BDSM. Women want to be ravished and adored, whether they are moms or not. Why Women Love '50 Shades Of Grey'

Yes, the writing in Fifty Shades of Grey is horrific, but since when has erotica or porn been prized for its writing? No one really cares that Debbie Does Dallas or porn de jour from Vivid Video sounds like it's been written by a horny teen. It's commonly accepted that porn exists simply to get off, writing be damned. There's something to be said for the allure and excitement of sex that isn't, as Fifty Shades character Christian Grey puts it, "vanilla."

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Women's sexuality is a huge source of power. A woman who feels comfortable in her sexuality, not for the sake of serving men but for herself, is a threat to a patriarchal society. After coming into her own power, she may realize the man she's with is not all that. She may want his job. She may no longer feel obligated to pop out kids. She may realize she doesn't have to listen to or believe everything her partner says. 

Unfortunately, the media and other proponents of the "mommy porn" term may not realize the derogatory nature of the term. They also may not realize that the popularity of women's erotica—read by moms and otherwise—is nothing new. Why Romance Novels Are Smarter Than You Think

"The fact is, many women read erotic books," Good Vibrations' resident sexpert, Dr. Carol Queen, says, "Women have really been at the forefront of erotic writing in the US, in fact, for at least the last 20 years. That the media has not noticed that [until Fifty Shades of Grey mania hit] ignores really significant cultural history."

Whether the pundits like it or not, the win here is that Fifty Shades is successfully poking a hole in the idea that women simply enjoy lights-off, under the sheets, missionary-style sex and that women become asexual after having children.