Got MILF?

March 17, 2008

Monday morning post-caffeination confession: I hate the term ‘MILF.’

I know that there are a lot of moms out there who’ve appropriated the term and use it as a term of self-empowerment, especially in the context of maintaining some pride in appearance, (which I’m all for, notwithstanding certain evidence to the contrary) but still: I hate it.

It’s not that I think moms shouldn’t regard themselves as – to use the vernacular – f*ckable. Moms are eminently f*ckable, and usually have demonstrated themselves as such in the most convincing way possible: by bearing the children that unadulterated, unhindered f*cking yields. What I reject is the idea – the idea that I think underscores and gives the term ‘MILF’ its force – that mothers, as a group, are ordinarily so obviously unf*ckable that society needs a whole separate category and term for mothers who escape that norm. To say something along the lines of ‘her? Oh, she’s a MILF, totally’ is really to say, ‘her? She’s not like other mothers, who are, as a group, entirely sexually unappealing. SHE’s a woman one could see banging DESPITE the fact that she’s had children!’

Which, you know, is – obviously – demeaning to mothers, and to women generally. (Also? Referring to one’s self as a MILF? Grammatically confusing. Unless you are suggesting that you would totally be into doing yourself – as the use of the personal pronoun, signified by the ‘I’ in MILF, implies – which you might, in which case, more power to you – you should avoid the term. Just say, I AM HOT. That tells us everything we need to know.) Not because it categorizes some of us as sex objects – objecting to objectification is, really, a little bit futile in a society that frames the Pussycat Dolls as an example of feminine empowerment – but because it does, simply, categorize us on the basis of our sexuality and organize that categorization according to the assumption that mothers are ordinarily not f*ckable.

Which is bullshit. I might not be at the peak of my primping powers – and I may, in fact, be too goddammed cranky these days to be sexually approached without extreme caution – but damn if I couldn’t if I wanted to. I am far more interesting as a sexual being having had children – I’ve looked at sex from both sides nowwwww – than I was in my days of undimpled thighs and bra-optional t-shirts and forty-dollar lipsticks. So I resent feeling that I have to carry some outmoded idea of moms as asexual creatures in high-waisted jeans on the back of my psyche, and I resent even more the idea that I can only release the weight of that load if I beat it away with some titty-hoisting bra while proclaiming, loudly, to the world, that horny young men everywhere should want a piece of me. (They should want a piece of me – that, I think, goes without saying – but that shouldn’t be the measure of my physical and sexual worth.)

If it’s good enough for Tori Spelling, it’s not good enough for me. Because, you know, shouldn’t we be reaching a little higher (and deeper) than silicone and tank tops in our quest to feel good about our bodies and our sexuality as mothers? As women?

Or am I just too jacked up on coffee and hormones this morning to think straight?

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    { 66 comments }

    Abby March 18, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    I’ve always been extremely annoyed by that term, too. The term itself, as well as the women who strive for that label. It does bring to mind plastic surgery mis-haps and “accidental” nipple slips. Ew.

    Jo March 19, 2008 at 5:21 am

    Um. The statement that mothers are sexually more interesting is just as offensive as the suggestion that they’re not.
    Mothers are women. Childless women are women. There’s no “winner” but there seems to be this divisive battle going on, particularly in the blogging sphere. Problem is, I don’t see any non-mothers claiming superiority in the way I see mothers doing so.

    Shannon March 19, 2008 at 8:30 am

    Huh, I thought the term was used more by adult men than teenagers. The term doesn’t bother me per se, although I wouldn’t go around wearing it like a badge.

    One part of your post I disagree with:
    “that mothers, as a group, are ordinarily so obviously unf*ckable that society needs a whole separate category and term for mothers who escape that norm.”

    I don’t see it that way. There are lots of terms that reference “hottie” women in general. This doesn’t mean that women, as a group, are obviously NOT HOT.

    Her Bad Mother March 19, 2008 at 8:31 am

    Jo. I said that *I* was sexually more interesting, as compared to my pre-maternal self. It was a personal reference, not a universal one (although I would argue that sexual self-awareness and maturity does make one more interesting as a sexual partner generally. This, however, does not apply exclusively to mothers.)

    The fact is – as one anonymous commenter above makes abundantly clear – that mothers, as a group, are generally universally regarded as asexual or unsexual by the culture at large, and certainly by popular culture. If you can point to an example of childless women being characterized, because of their childlessness (other than the stereotypical aging spinster, who is so categorized because of her age – and now mostly supplanted in the culture by the ‘cougar’ – which, also offensive) I’d be interested to hear of it.

    Her Bad Mother March 19, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Shannon – obviously, women in general do get categorized according to levels of attractiveness. But usually that’s done with some reference to personal preference, rather than to group characteristics. My problem with MILF is that it implies that one needs to distinguish attractive women *within* the category of mothers, which to my mind further implies that there’s something about *mothers*, specifically, as a group, that suggests sexually unattractiveness unless otherwise specified. I mean, can you imagine if there were terms distinguishing members of other groups as ‘f*ckable’ or not?

    It’s the difference between expressing like or dislike toward individual persons versus expressing like or dislike (or attraction or unattraction) toward members of groups on the basis of membership in those groups.

    Laural Dawn March 19, 2008 at 10:59 am

    So, I’ll admit that I think the whole MILF concept is pretty funny to me. But, I think it’s cause we have a long-running joke at work about it. I firmly believe you cannot apply the term to yourself (except in jest). But, really, if we’re discussing MILF’s I think most people think Angelina Jolie – and I’m sorry but Tori Spelling could never, ever fit into that category.
    I hated her on 90210 also, and she’s just gotten more and more annoying.
    The funny thing about her is that because her character of Donna was a virgin she’s made SUCH a point of telling the world that she’s not a virgin. Weird weird weird.

    pkzcass March 19, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    I don’t care for the term, mostly because I have two boys and I shudder at the idea of either of them classifying anyone as a MILF, ever, regardless of their age. It’s degrading to women. But I guess I’m just fooling myself if I think they’ll never think a degrading thought about women ever in their lives. Ick!

    PA March 19, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Of course there are many hot moms out there, but as I am about to become a mother myself, I have to admit that there are many parts of motherhood which might make a woman less sexually desirable than her pre-child counterpart.

    First, there are the changes that often accompany pregnancy and childbirth. Many of these changes (I hear) remain permanent in many woman

    Then, there is the problem of (as I hear it) much less time and energy, in general, to devote to exercise, clothing, and appearance. Also, there is a focus on the child, rather than the mother as an individual.

    Mothers tend as a group to be older than non-mothers.

    I agree with much of your post, but the idea that IN GENERAL your average mother can be expected to be less sexually appealing to the general populace to the same woman pre-child is not true.

    I, of course, hope to be an exception but I am prepared if I am not.

    Her Bad Mother March 19, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    pa, I really don’t think that there’s ANY reason for mothers to be thought less sexually appealing. Yes, the body changes, but not necessarily in ways that make it less capable of sexual captivation – and every woman’s body changes, regardless of whether one has had kids. Sure, most moms go through difficult phases where they’re less likely to wear lipstick regularly, but again – so do most women.

    If anything, moms have demonstrated their fertility by – yes – having children.

    crunchy carpets March 19, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Hur..I have that as a fridge magnet. A FEMALE NON MOM gave it to me.

    Was I offended no.

    Dh and I bandy it about…it is meant lightly and if he states I am looking milfish or soccer momish…I laugh and say thank you.

    I DO get that the term more conotates a mom who doesn’t look ‘mommish,’ but whatever.

    Sweats ain’t sexy. We all know that.

    And yes blah blah..our ‘inner’ woman and all that should be sexy enough..but not in pop culture world and not in shallow just for looks worlds either.

    But whatever.

    the weirdgirl March 20, 2008 at 1:33 am

    I just find the term tacky. The same way I find wearing the word “juicy” across your butt tacky. I’m a big fan of symbols of uber-femininity – i.e. Marilyn Monroe, the stilletto, Barbie (I like Barbie) – but there is a fine line between the powerful feminine (including sexuality) and taking sex to trashy levels (i.e. Pussycat Dolls).

    I thought the term humorously outrageous in American Pie and then annoying once it became widely “accepted”. So I made my own MILF t-shirt… it stands for “my infant loves farts”.

    And personally, I think there are a lot of men out there who consider mothers much more sexy than we consider OURSELVES. (I’ve wondered how that might add to the communication problem.)

    Alison March 20, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    i am searching high and low, but find no explanation or definition as to what this mysterious “MILF” stands for … is that cos I’m British that I don’t understand?? Is it an americanism? Help! I’m lost!!! But would love to have an opinion on the subject!!!

    Her Bad Mother March 20, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Alison – I think it was outlined in the comments above, but if not: Mommy I’d Like (to) F*ck.

    Carmen March 20, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Thanks for this post…it needs to be said over and over, I think. There is such a specific and narrow standard of sexual desirability for women, that many of us do not meet. A sexually desirable woman (one a man would like to f*ck) is no larger than a size 8, with firm breasts. And certainly no belly flab or cottage cheese thighs, right? The changes that pregnancy and breastfeeding bring to our bodies also bring us further from that standard of desirability. And that’s what makes me so angry. I, like you, feel that motherhood has made me more sexy. I feel I’ve truly realized and claimed my beauty as a woman. I’m more comfortable in my skin (even though there’s extra skin on my tummy.) The stretch marks on my belly and the bit of sag to my breast are evidence of the great journey I’ve taken and still take as a mother. They make me more beautiful and interesting, I think. I feel this truth inside, but the voices I hear and the images I see every day do not support that feeling. The media and most men would say I’ve become less sexy, I believe. Sure, we women can bear and raise children, but to remain sexually desirable our bodies must remain perky and slim. It’s not easy. And not typical. And thus the term MILF. And thus my anger. This narrow definition of attractiveness is destructive to womens’ spirit and self-worth. You’ve reminded me to listen more to that inner truth…
    Thank you for your post, and for your insight…Rock on, hot mama!!

    Sandra March 21, 2008 at 7:05 am

    It might be my complete and utter lack of self-actualization but if I am really, really honest, I am not as “sexually empowered” as some of your commenters because I believe that motherhood has made *me* fell, look and think less sexy.

    It’s not just about looks and silicone and tank tops for me. It’s deeper than that. It’s how I’ve come to see myself and how others in my life have come to see me too. I *should* feel good about my body as a woman who happens to be a mother. I *should* feel empowered enough to feel sexier as a woman who happens to be a mother. I get that intellectually. I agree with it too. But I am not always able to draw from that well of knowledge when I need it most.

    So although I find the term MILF is an objectification (that the feminist in me finds totally offensive), I’ll admit if the term was ever thrown at me, I’d see it strangely as a much-needed compliment.

    Anonymous April 4, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    I’m late to this conversation, and to so many others, principally the one on beauty and sexuality. I’ve never been intriuged by a hard body, chiselled chest, refined features till the mouth opens, and some parts of the heart exposed.

    Motherhood is laden with layers of complexity, and contradictions. I wouldn’t want to be viewed as purely an object of lust, but also, quite maddeningly, long for some acknowledgement of my physicality; the way it was, and will no longer be.

    We are inundated with the celebrity mommies parading their lithe, toned, bikini clad figures post-baby creating illusions that run counter to realities of fat, dimpled thighs, sewn parts, leaking breasts.

    I remember running my fingers down my mother’s stretch marks as a child, being nestled within my gradma’s saggy but ample bossom.

    These, to me, are the MILS – Mothers I’d like to See.

    We do not escape the emotional ravages of life, why seek escape from physical marks?

    MILF seems to be a term appropriated from the pages of celebrity culture by teenage boys, men whose views of womanhood centre on one plastic image. A mother who is desirable has somehow managed to retain her pre-baby beauty and fits that stereotypical view: thin, perky, flawless.

    But at heart, what is more comforting, more reassuring, indeed more sexy, than a strong body, marked by childbirth, childrearing, by life itself, that continues to nurture, and love in many ways.

    Views pictures of ebony skinned African women juggling water and food on their heads with children in tow. That is strength, and that is sexy.

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