The Vagenda

Why “Mummy Porn” is Medieval

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I am, as I imagine many are, reaching Fifty Shades of Grey saturation point. I’ve read reviews defending it and reviews slating it. I’ve read commentary after commentary: from the blustering pontificators urging immediate incineration of both book and film lest it ‘corrupt’ the youth, to the self-proclaimed sexual savants who welcome a mainstream foray into the BDSM world (however mired in cliché and ill-representative that foray might be). If I wasn’t so utterly bored of it all I might even go and see it in order to come to a judgment myself.

There has been (so) much discussion of the decision to omit the now infamous tampon scene* from the screen adaptation and, to be blunt; I just don’t really care about that. It would seem foolhardy to read anything into it but a bunch of producers totting up dollar signs and deciding they might make more money without it because… y’know… some people might think it’s ‘icky’. That said, if you’re into this kind of thing and feeling short-changed, I’ve just been informed that someone has recreated this using Sims and it is internet-available, so enjoy that.

The thing that has wound me up, for want of a better phrase, more than anything to do with the Fifty Shades phenomenon (if call it a phenomenon we must) is the almost unbelievably patronising, sexist language that has emerged surrounding it most perfectly exemplified in the descriptor, ‘Mummy Porn’. It is more than a harmless extension of that equally patronising term ‘Chick Lit’ (for we chicks enjoy love stories above all things with the same quiet vulnerability of our namesake, those helplessly adorable fluffy little things that go cheep). And yet we don’t talk about ‘Daddy Porn’, do we? Is that because we assume Daddies are all into their porn anyway? Or is it just that they, being men, have a broader pornographic palate than their female parental counterparts? Daddies can be into anything whereas Mummies, Mummies get their kicks from a very specific type of porn, porn that is “especially” for them.

The key features of this Mummicentric brand of pornography appear to be: a) contractually agreed submission b) a man of almost infinite wealth c) clandestine accessibility (the vast majority of Fifty Shades copies were thoughtfully sold in e-format enabling titillation sans blush for Mummies everywhere). So according to this terminology, Mummies crave what is effectively a Medieval marriage (see a) and b)) and sexual satisfaction, such as it is, that is either required to be or can only be facilitated if achieved on the sly. The implication being that those Mummies who are into this so-called ‘Mummy Porn’ are naughty, sexually repressed women just longing to be taken in hand; have their rubber gloves/Filofax (delete as appropriate) flung to the floor and be brought grudgingly to trembling realisation that all they’ve ever really wanted is a good seeing to from a rich, powerful man. Not only does this linguistic failing make some pretty worrying generalisations about women of a certain age but it precludes the idea that Mummies might be able to access such a rip-roaring good time in real life and are forced to live out their sexual desires as fantasy. Disempowering or quoi?

In the same vein, contemporary colloquial parlance also provides a helpful foil to that image of repressive mother, worn down by endless demands of husband and offspring, sitting at home fantasising about billionaires lashing her to a bedstead and removing sanitary products willy-nilly. That foil is the elusive figure of the ‘Yummy Mummy’ or, put somewhat less elegantly, the ‘M(um).I(‘d).L(ike to).F(uck).’ The lesser-feathered MILF. The attractive older woman somehow made more appealing as a sexual prospect by having popped out a couple of mini-persons. You’ll note here, that the language behind the acronym refers to the woman in question only as a mother (for that is the older woman’s defining characteristic) and as an object to be acted upon. Now, just to be absolutely clear, this term refers only to that mould of attractive older woman who waits in patient but sultry manner to be seduced by generic dashing young chap who, in stumbling upon her, cannot believe his luck.

Those older women, though, who have the audacity to take matters into their own hands, are not classified as MILFs. No, no, this is but a subcategory of what is known as the Cougar species. Defined as a North American puma (dangerous, predatory, powerful) and also, in helpfully precise (and offensive terms) by the Urban Dictionary as:

“An older woman who frequents clubs in order to score with a much younger man. The cougar can be anyone from an overly surgically altered wind tunnel victim, to an absolute sad and bloated old horn-meister, to a real hottie or milf. Cougars are gaining in popularity — particularly the true hotties – as young men find not only a sexual high, but many times a chick with her shit together.”

Thank you Urban Dictionary. Thank you for (re?)defining the older woman from the perspective of shallow, misogynist, straight young men – the balance was getting dangerously skewed there for a minute. I’m not even sure what parts of that mean.

This preoccupation with female sexuality has always been inextricable from motherhood. In the good old bad days, wifely fidelity was crucial to the preservation of bloodline, heritage, wealth and titles. To cuckold was not just a personal betrayal but also a route to wholesale disenfranchisement. Any number of little bastards running around somewhat muddies the waters with regards to inheritance, which in a feudal system is of paramount importance. Why do you think Othello becomes so wholly irrational (this is admittedly an understatement) in the face of Desdemona’s supposed infidelity? Why does Lear curse his evil daughters in such gruesome genital terms except in seeking to undo the power he has divested upon them?

That such linguistic patterns continue to insinuate themselves into everyday conversation – as well as media discussion of fairly vanilla erotica – illustrates the continued prevalence of (literally!) medieval attitudes towards women and sex and especially the mature woman and sex.

For the record, I would like to point out that I am not yet old enough to qualify as MILF nor Cougar nor consumer of Mummy Porn. I am twenty-eight and do not have any children. The sense of impolite outrage you may sense here was actually sparked by a conversation with a good friend of mine who, in addition to being intelligent, witty, charming and driven, also happens to be a Mummy in her early forties, and, to my knowledge anyway, has not the least interest in poorly written bondage.

* In this scene, billionaire removes tampon from young woman’s vagina and has sex with her anyway, in spite of her period (“Lawks! Not her period!” I hear you cry…)

Ali Cocksworth

10 thoughts on “Why “Mummy Porn” is Medieval

  1. I’m 24 and have 2 kids. Am I allowed to be a MILF even though I’m not an older woman? Or am I a Yummy Mummy until I reach a certain age, then I graduate to becoming a MILF? Or does pushing babies out automatically make me an older woman? What are the rules here? Is this why I don’t like badly-written tales about abuse dressed up as romance? WHERE’S *MY* MUMMY PORN??

  2. What a wonderful piece, witty and erudite and says it all for me, thank you! I am a mum of 56 so qualify as both a cougar (aka dirty old women/Madonna) and a potential consumer of mommyporn. I am neither. I teach 20 year olds about literature in all its glorious forms, I don’t fuck them, and I read the words of those who respect and enjoy both good writing and sex, not cynical marketers of sex toys (always a rather disturbing idea…). But it is my generation, or perhaps that 40 and upwards group that have read the trilogy. Of the hundreds of young men and women who have sat in my classes, less than 10% have read it and even fewer made it through to the happy end. Said students were comfortable discussing why they had and hadn’t read it as I too write sex, not for teenagers (I always rather hope they don’t do it until they’re minds can cope with the irrational demands of their young bodies!) but for women like me who like their sex consensual and sensual and rather well-dressed, who are financially and emotionally independent and wistful about their past glory but finding pleasure in their confident flesh – now there’s a fantasy!

  3. Cougarhood is for everyone. I considered myself a cougar during a brief time my friends and I seemed only to be getting attention from eighteen and nineteen year olds. We were only twenty four ourselves, but heigh ho.

  4. HOLD UP A DAMN MOMENT HERE.
    I get your point, and I agree with it. Yep, calling something Mommy Porn is indeed ridiculous. Yes, definitely, women’s sexuality is threatening, and yes, absolutely, women have a sexuality/life that is totally seperate from their status as mother. Got that, thanks.
    BUT
    BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT
    Excuse me – a contractually submissive relationship isn’t a fucking medieval marriage, and frankly calling it that is pretty insulting and degrading and problematic to us females who willingly enter into these sexual relationships. I get that you were using that line as a joke – fine, haha, whatever. But seriously. The biggest issue with Fifty Shades is that it takes domestic abuse and makes it seem sexy/desirable by calling it BDSM. EXCEPT IT ISN’T BDSM, IT’S FUCKING ABUSE. So, I’m sorry, but the fact that you, an author on a feminist website talking about an incredibly dangerous novel/film that perpetuates violence against women, are making a god-damn JOKE comparing my sexual identity to domestic violence in the medieval period is kinda pissing me off.
    This might seem nit-picky, but shit like this is pervasive and jokes like this frankly just make it seem okay to abuse a woman and call it BDSM.

    • Fifty shades is not portraying real Bdsm, Fifty shades is compared to medieval marriage > Bdsm is not compared to medieval marriage

  5. Id like to read a book where the bloke isnt a billionaire and the woman becomes a submissve because she bloody well wants too.
    Sadly all books seem to be going the fifty shades route, its getting boring now…

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