Recently I was accused of being an unfit mother because I write openly about sexuality.
The accusations were based in part on assumptions about my work. I was accused of running a lucrative (if only) porn business because I did a provocative photo shoot with two men. While those photos are racy and sophisticated, they are not explicit, nor did any actual sex take place during or after the shoot: they are fantasy, intended to titillate, leaving plenty to the imagination.
Although I purposely chose to use a pen name so that both my children wouldn’t have to bear the sting of others’ disapproval, they now know that “Erica Jagger” and their mother are one and the same. I worry especially about what will happen if the parents of my 13-year-old daughter’s friends find out about my blog. Not because I’m embarrassed of it, but because I don’t want her to feel that she’s being judged because I write about sex. She is just beginning to navigate her own sexuality, and she doesn’t need to be overshadowed by her mother’s.
At her school’s parent meeting earlier this week, I sat among several hundred midlife mothers, and wondered what kind of sex these women had when they turned the lights off at night, or shuttered the blinds on a balmy Sunday afternoon. I scanned their faces, both lined and Botoxed, their well-appointed bodies taut and soft, and I strained to see who rested a hand on her husband’s knee, perhaps beckoning a late-night coupling.
I wondered: how many of these mothers, so clean on the outside, preferred their sex dirty?
Who craved spankings, who loved to cuff her husband to the bed post? Who begged for anal sex, who’d had threesomes, who stashed an arsenal of sex toys high atop her closet shelf? Who walked down the street with ben wa balls in her vagina, per her husband’s command, or orgasmed when her thighs rubbed against her clitoral hood bar? And for the women whose taste for sexual adventure runs high — do their preferences sully their value as mothers?
If you extend this line of thinking, should Sharon Stone be childless because she flashed her vulva in Basic Instinct? Does Anne Rice give mothers a bad name because she’s written some of the most erotic novels of all time? And what of the moms who devoured 50 Shades Of Grey? Are they also unfit because they got turned on by reading about kinky (and abusive) sex? Finally, what about actresses who perform in porn? Should they be permanently Depo-Provera’d so they’re unable to procreate?
I have never understood why society punishes women for being sexual.
When I was in 12th grade, my high school published a pamphlet for students on how to write a good essay. One of mine was chosen, an expository piece on double standards. I questioned why teenage boys got a pass for sleeping around, but teenage girls were branded as sluts. No one has ever been able to explain this phenomenon to me, and I am saddened that, thirtysome years later, American attitudes towards sexuality haven’t progressed all that much.
I think that some of the shaming I’ve received recently has to do with my single mother status.
As a society, we are much more tolerant of what a married woman might do in the bedroom with her husband than we are of unmarried mothers who test their erotic boundaries with different partners, and in my case, are brazen enough to write about it.
I have to admit I was rattled when I was accused of being too wanton to parent. I rarely go to therapy at this stage in my life, but I paid a visit to my therapist and asked her what she thought. She rolled her eyes when I told her the story. She’d read my blog and thought it was rather innocent.
“Do you know how many women have done what you’ve done?,” she said. “Gotten out of an unhappy marriage and went a little wild because they were stifled for so long? Millions. You have nothing to be ashamed about.“
I know my story isn’t unusual; actually, it’s timeless. I know because I receive e-mails from middle-aged women telling me they’ve followed the same path and are relieved to have found my blog. Why? Because they’re afraid their married female friends will disapprove if they tell them how much they love sex now that they’re happily re-singled. When they read my story, they know they’re not alone, and that there’s nothing wrong with them.
One upside to being outed: it’s paved the way for some frank conversations about sex with my daughter. Although I don’t think children ever want to imagine their parents having sex, she seems to have taken the concept of my blog in stride. I hope that the meaning she makes of all this is that her sexuality is a gift she’s entitled to enjoy.
As long as she lives.