The more ‘sexual’ a woman is perceived to be, the less she is perceived as a good mother.
Can we talk about this for a minute?
When I uncovered current research recently, I was just blown away.
According to numerous studies, the more ‘sexual’ a woman is perceived to be, the less she is perceived as a good mother.
This perception – shown to be held equally by men and woman – inhibits women’s expression of sensuality, impacts their relationships and reduces their enjoyment of sex.
– Women who are mothers are shown to have more negative sexual beliefs than non-mothers.
– Two-thirds of women surveyed felt that women’s sexual expression should change after becoming mothers.
– Over half the mothers interviewed for the study believed they shouldn’t dress provocatively now that they have children.
As screwed up as these perceptions and beliefs seem, they are very real.
Over and over, I see women’s perceptions of themselves and their sexuality change as they become mothers.
As a Sex Therapist and Sexologist, I often hear from mothers struggling to find their sense of sensuality and desire again. I also work with couples whose sex lives have changed enormously since having children.
I hear things like:
I just don’t feel sexy now that I’m a mum
I feel like I’m doing something wrong if I take too much time getting ready in the morning
I just don’t think sex should be a priority anymore.
I don’t think mother’s should wear revealing clothing
And I hear their partner’s changed perceptions too:
I see her differently now that she’s the mother of my children.
I don’t want to have dirty sex with her anymore.
These beliefs can be traced to numerous biblical stories.
The dichotomy between sexual and virtuous is emphasised repeatedly in biblical mythology and continues today, becoming culturally ingrained as the Madonna-Whore complex.
Adam’s first wife Lilith, (present in Jewish mythology and Genesis 1:27) is said to have seen herself as Adam’s equal, with a strong sexual appetite and refused to take the female submissive (missionary) position during sex. This contrasts with the more submissive and virginal Eve. We also see this when comparing depictions of The Virgin Mary to Lilith, Jezebel and Mary Magdalene.
Thus, the message is that a woman can either be motherly, virtuous and supportive of her husband like Eve and The Virgin Mary or sexual and sinful.
The difficulty in viewing mothers as sensual and sexual isn’t solely to blame for the sexual challenges women face post childbirth.
Changes to hormone levels, body image, vaginal sensation, sense of self, changed roles and exhaustion all play their part.
However, these cultural perceptions help to explain some of the issues associated with new mothers and how they feel about themselves – and perhaps why many feel conflicted when wanting to regain their sexual power.
Many might believe that with the rise of celebrity mums (think Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian) sharing pregnancy stories and post birth pics, this perception is slowly changing. However, overwhelmingly research shows, that women who are mothers continue to struggle with their own sexual perception daily.
These celebrity trends can also add pressure on women to regain pre-pregnancy bodies, in order to be seen as sexy.
Sexuality is too important to our lives and relationships to be overlooked.
Sexual intimacy has a profound impact on our overall well-being, relationship satisfaction and ultimately the happiness and strength of our families.
It’s time for women to stop struggling alone with these perceptions and unconscious biases.
By bringing light to our unconscious beliefs, we set ourselves free.
I hope that by starting a discussion on this, we can bust some of the myths, judgments and misconceptions that hold women back.
We can remove the roadblocks that stop women expressing – and enjoying – their sensuality and sexuality, and inhibit the intimacy they experience with a partner.
It’s time we stopped holding men and women to different standards, especially when it comes to sex.