In 2020, moms are doing it all (or as much as possible). More of us are working outside the home, there are more moms in Congress than at any point in our nation’s history, moms are increasingly becoming the breadwinners of their families, and we’re still handling more of the parenting responsibilities than our male counterparts.
But one thing we moms can’t do yet is be openly, unapologetically sexy.
During this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, two moms — Shakira, a mom of two, and Jennifer Lopez, a mom of two and soon-to-be stepmom of two more — performed an all-out celebration of Latin culture and threw in rolling hips, booty shakes, pole and rope work, and a “tongue wagging” zaghrouta, an Arab expression of happiness. Their performance, surprise surprise, was met with more than a few raised eyebrows.
Noted troll Piers Morgan wrote, “J-Lo & Shakira’s semi-naked, pole-writhing, crotch-grabbing halftime show was outrageously hot & sexy — but had nothing to do with feminist empowerment & was totally inappropriate for a Super Bowl watched by millions of kids.” Evangelical leader Franklin Graham likened the performance to the “sexual exploitation of women,” writing via Facebook that the halftime show is teaching “young girls that sexual exploitation of women is okay.” Graham's post was shared more than 125,000 times.
Lopez was specifically targeted after her 11-year-old daughter joined her on stage. One Twitter user wrote, “Grabbing your crotch is inappropriate with children watching.” Another asked why Lopez didn’t “put on more clothes and tone it down when her daughter came on stage.”
The systemic desexualization of women the moment they procreate would be rage-inducing if it wasn’t so predictable. We moms are used to losing this element of our identity immediately after we give birth, and sometimes by the same people who just a year prior found no issue with Adam Levine, a father of two, taking off his shirt and performing half-naked at Super Bowl LIII. (To be fair, he also spurred complaints.)
Kim Kardashian West, who has four children, has been consistently shamed for posting naked Instagram photos — a part of her brand that was at the very least tolerable to many before she became a mother. Even her husband, Kanye West, has commented on her so-called “too sexy" appearance. “Like the corset, underwear, all that vibe, I just feel like I just went through this transition,” West said of his wife’s 2019 Met Gala gown. “I didn’t realize that that was affecting my soul and my spirit as someone that’s married and loved, and the father of now, what … about to be four kids.”
Similar comments were leveled at influencer and fitness blogger (and mom) Sia Cooper who was told to cover herself up (she was wearing a bikini) specifically because she was a mother.
The pressures levied on moms are intense and contradictory. We are praised for raising families — as long as we don't talk about how those families (often) came to be. We are praised for losing weight after giving birth — just as long as we don't show too much skin or otherwise "flaunt" our bodies. Although there certainly are exceptions, women who have children are expected to pretend their sexual identity has simply disappeared.
“A lot of this is due to the Judeo-Christian values our society is based on,” Rose Robbins, a psychologist at Ottawa Hospital, told Global News in 2018. “There’s a common duality women deal with between the mother figure who’s asexual and the Magdalene who is a sexual being. There’s no equivalent for men.”
Jason Momoa, himself the star of a rather bizarre Super Bowl commercial, is celebrated around the world for his physique. He is the subject of dozens of compilations of sexy photos, many of them featuring the "Aquaman" star partially clothed. He’s also the father of two.
Evangelicals like Graham know how children are made — they know that moms do not bear our children via immaculate conception.
The problem, of course, is that the performative pearl clutching — but think of the children! — can and often does translate into public policy that harms women, the pregnant and children. Suppressing our sexuality isn’t just about appearing to adhere to a religious or cultural moral code — it’s about exacting power, authority and control over the bodies of people who can and do become pregnant.
Evangelicals like Graham know how children are made — they know that moms do not bear children via immaculate conception. They also know that the majority of people who have abortions are moms. The 25 abortion restriction laws enacted in 2019 will hurt moms, particularly black, brown, and poor moms, the most.
If the people who think we moms should stifle our inherent humanity “for the kids” really cared about the well-being of this nation’s children, they wouldn't force mothers to make decisions that can end up hurting children.
If those calling for Lopez, Kardashian West, Shakira or any other mother to “cover up” truly cared about decency and morality, they would, every day, take issue with the words coming from the president of the United States.
If protecting “family values” was of the utmost concern, those horrified by a rotating hip here or a wagging tongue there would be repulsed by the forceful separation of over 5,400 migrant children — moved to action because family values cannot exist if a family is disembodied, caged and demonized based solely on where they’re from.
Sex is normal. Moms having sex, for the sole purpose of enjoying sex, is normal. And so is expressing that sexuality. Women — just like men — should be able to celebrate all that our bodies can do, whether it be giving birth or twirling around a pole when you're 50 years of age.