Have you seen the “sexy mum” at the school gate? You know the one who wears the clingy low-cut top and a red lip at 8.30 am? Or the one with the languidly dishevelled rock ‘n roll hair and bootylicious jeans, who looks like she’s having an affair with an indie guitarist? There is one at my kids’ school who works a golden glittery block heel most mornings. Another one who always has sunglasses in a colour to match her many cute bodycon outfits. How do we feel about these women?
Most of my mum friends say that it takes all their strength to get the kids dressed, fed, dropped off in the morning, which means no time to throw together a killer outfit and full face. The “sexy mum” has the power to evoke admiration but also disapproval. The harsh criticism of women by other women is a well-known conundrum, but the sexy mother attracts a curious level of stigma and prurient fascination from society at large.
Witness Elizabeth Hurley getting beaten down and ridiculed for tweeting a picture of herself showing a magnificent cleavage, whilst standing next to her 16 year old son. It’s fine to see her looking boobylicious on her own, but when reminded that those boobs belong to a mother of a 16 year old, the Madonna-whore complex comes home to roost. Society questions how the sexy mum could possibly get her shit together and prioritise *herself* ahead of her duties to her family. With the amount of time she spends on her grooming regime, she must be outsourcing or neglecting her parenting duties. Her social media feed featuring pictures of her hanging out in bars and looking glamorous rubs salt in the wound. She places too much importance on her own sexy image, which naturally means she must be an awful mother, a slut, a harlot, a witch – all those epithets used against women who are doing nothing different from men, simply because society uses different yardsticks to measure virtue in men and women. In the hierarchy of the roles we play as women, “good mother” has been assigned the first among virtues. Projecting an openly sexy and sensual image is deemed to be antithetical to, and incompatible with, being a good mother.
My own unscientific observations, as a person with no background in psychology or any social sciences, have noted a high correlation between women who don’t feel their own sexiness and those that shame other women for being overtly sexy. It sounds glib and obvious, but it is a problem that needs to be acknowledged and solved, for the benefit of all.
A few months ago I organised a talk for a bunch of phenomenal career women, mostly mothers, who meet with me regularly for networking and sisterly support. We had established that the majority of them didn’t feel sexy any more. When I looked at them, I wondered why. They were largely in solid marriages, with beautiful kids, juggling family life and high-flying professional careers. They were all confident, dressed in expensive designer clothes and looking hot AF. They were living the dream of almost having it all, from the outside anyway. The truth was that they didn’t feel like sexual beings any more. They felt sad that when they walked into a room, no one appeared to be checking them out anymore. Their fading youth meant were no longer the sought-after commodity they once were, which affected their self-esteem more than they wished to acknowledge. This theme comes back again and again with everyone that is in a long term relationship, but seems especially to affect women of a certain age.
I invited my friend Sarah Forbes, author of Sex at the Museum and currently working on her second book, Mama Sex, to a fireside chat with this group of women, to see if we could encourage the sexiness back into our lives. Sarah pointed out that the term ‘MILF’ is one of the most popular search terms on porn sites. How is it that we do not see ourselves as hot mamas when others clearly do? Esther Perel talks about how people in long term relationships can end up shutting down their desires and that we have to take steps to awaken our desires; to own our “wanting”.
I don’t have the answers, but I frequently riff on this theme and wrote a little about it in a post for the terrific Mumsthatslay IG feed. We, as women, are multi-faceted and there is no conflict in being mothers, professionals, intellectuals AND sexual beings. Remember that raising kids is a transient phase and you need to keep your sexual self alive, by doing whatever you need to do. Whether you want to rock up to school in your onesie or in a cocktail dress, there should be more support and less judgment from the sisterhood. Always remind yourself that you are a sexy MUTHA, as well as a mother. There are people out there who think you ARE sexy and would very much like to have sex with you. If you don’t have a person in your life to tell you that and remind you frequently that you are a desirable, sexually vital creature, then make some changes and get that validation you need. (I do it by posing in lingerie and sharing pictures with the world, but each to their own.) The more someone desires you, the more desirable you will feel. That “sexy mum” you see at the school gates is bringing her erotic self to her whole life, maybe to attract validation from others, or maybe just because she wants to be true to herself. Shouldn’t we all do the same?