Erica Jong Blames Momism, Not Motherhood, For Ruining Your Sex Life

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Erica Jong took to The New York Times op-ed pages this past weekend to write about how sex is becoming passé. The Fear Of Flying authoress shares her observations of the new generation of  young women, born to sexually liberated women who in turn have become “obsessed” with motherhood and monogamy. Although she credits the simple generational truth that daughters will reject the attitudes of their mothers, she also points a very clear and direct finger at “momism” — the cult of selflessness and martyrdom that encourages women to be sexless drones to the needs of their children.

Jong writes, and mocks:

Punishing the sexual woman is a hoary, antique meme found from “Jane Eyre” to “The Scarlet Letter” to “Sex and the City,” where the lustiest woman ended up with breast cancer. Sex for women is dangerous. Sex for women leads to madness in attics, cancer and death by fire. Better to soul cycle and write cookbooks. Better to give up men and sleep with one’s children. Better to wear one’s baby in a man-distancing sling and breast-feed at all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him. Our current orgy of multiple maternity does indeed leave little room for sexuality. With children in your bed, is there any space for sexual passion? The question lingers in the air, unanswered.

Having children indefinitely puts a damper on one’s sex life, but what’s poignant about Jong’s observation is that she’s not referencing exhaustion, breastfeeding schedules, or stress alone as the culprit. By citing literary works and cultural examples, she invokes a larger discomfort with female sexuality, which when added to contemporary attitudes about motherhood, places women’s value entirely on their children. When mothers possess any type of sexuality or desire, the cultural question always posed is how dedicated they are to their kids.

At present, momism touts sexlessness and praises disinterest in sex for the sake of “proper” childrearing (for women specifically mind you), telling them that such desires will somehow hinder their abilities to care for their babies. It may be modern motherhood that scares women into idealizing sexlessness, but the tactic and message are as old as Jane Eyre.