Great With Child
Many years ago, Demi Moore threw the world into confusion.
The beautiful and sexy actress posed nude on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. And she was seven or eight months pregnant at the time.
No one knew what to make of it. Some people were horrified that she would dare mix sexuality with the sanctity of motherhood. Others were uncomfortable with the idea of a sex symbol showing off a decidedly un-sexy pregnancy. Most men, I'm sure, grimaced at the sight of her bulging belly. Fetishists with a thing for pregnant women were probably the only ones who liked it.
Aside from making us face our own prejudices about the saint and the whore, Annie Liebowitz's photo of the pregnant Mrs. Bruce Willis made viewers face an even more uncomfortable issue: can a pregnant woman be sexy? Must we automatically banish her from the world of beauty and sensuality, femininity and sex appeal, once she conceives a child?
This is a question most people aren't even comfortable asking. It wasn't so long ago that television shows like "I Love Lucy" weren't even allowed to say the word "pregnant" on the air. Women were "expecting", and were covered up in demure, tent-like clothes to shield the rest of us from the scandal of her blossoming belly. While it is more acceptable to talk about pregnancy and childbirth these days, when it comes to addressing the sexuality of pregnant women, we still tend to blush a little, change the subject, wonder if it's against the law to think of sex and babies at the same time.
While pagan cultures used to idolize pregnant women as goddesses of fertility, Judeo-Christian belief came along and put a stop to that, rendering pregnant women "unclean" and shameful, even within the bonds of matrimony. We have them to thank for our confused view of pregnant women - we like babies, to a point, and we like sex, to a point, but we don't like either one of them enough to accept that one is caused by the other, and that neither can exist without the common denominator, fertile women. We would rather just muddle along, unsure of our feelings on the subject, and turn the magazine around when Demi Moore invites us to see sex and fecundity mixed together in such a charming and beautiful way.
While it's clearly important for our society to stop viewing sex and nudity as dirty or disgusting, it's also time we stopped viewing mothers - before and after the birth - as holy relics somehow above the slimy hand of sex. Pregnant women are not radiant angels who leave the confines of the sordid human race for nine months and rise above the mire of sexuality. It's time we saw pregnancy for what it really is. While we all know that the day to day reality of pregnancy and childbirth are not sexy in and of themselves, the essence of pregnancy is.
That's because the essence of pregnancy is sex. No matter how many lace doilies or stuffed animals or pink-and-blue knitted booties we cast over it, pregnancy results from only one thing. A man and a woman, joining their bodies together, creating a new life out of one of the most joyful of life's experiences, the mating dance that has captivated humans for millennia.
There is probably no clearer example of female sexuality than a pregnant woman, who proves that she is not only physically mature enough to have a child, but has also matured into a sexual being who has engaged in sex with a man and has formed, in most cases, a long term sexual relationship around which to build a family. Looking at an average woman, no matter her age or physical development, gives us no indication of her sexuality - she may be a virgin, for all we know, with no interest in sex at all. But there's no mistaking the sexual nature of a pregnant woman. To pretend, then, that sexuality does not touch her, or to ignore this aspect of her life completely in favor of a more maternal, baby-friendly one is a blatant contradiction, an attempt to fudge reality.
Pregnancy reveals men's sexuality, too. Most men feel a surge of pride when their wives become pregnant. They feel a new sense of potency and virility, and feel more masculine than ever before. Their sexual desire for their wives created a new life - it is intoxicating in its simplicity and its complexity. These men are among the first to feel the swell of their wives' bodies, put their ear to her to catch the sounds of a young heart beating and young legs kicking, the first to flush with excitement and announce "that's my baby" to all who will listen - all because of love and desire and, most of all, sex.
It doesn't matter if the wonder of what your wife is going through makes you think of loftier things than a romp in the hay. It doesn't matter that the sight of your children makes you think of anything but sex. And it doesn't matter that sex is the last thing on most expectant mothers' minds. The point is that a woman's sexuality doesn't stop when she gets pregnant, or after she gives birth. It is the ultimate expression of it, the culmination of it, and surely the reason she even got pregnant in the first place.
If husbands learned to see their wives' pregnancy as an expression of their sexuality, of their masculinity and femininity, instead of simply a threat to her waistline, women might feel freer to enjoy the experience of having created a new life. And if women embraced the idea that mothers can still be sexy, that their marriages can still be sexy and exciting and that having a baby doesn't render you an asexual saint, maybe more husbands would allow themselves to feel a small thrill at the idea of making her pregnant. Maybe if couples looked at the child they created as not only the product of their love and admiration for each other, but also the product of mindblowing sex, they might view parenthood, and each other, differently.
It will be a long time before women are seen as truly "great, with child", but perhaps Demi has helped us figure out how to get there. In the meantime, if more women like her refused to button up the flannel nightgowns when the baby comes, pregnancy might just become less of a hands-off turn off and more of a hands on delight, for the lovers whose desire for each other made it happen in the first place.