Older women like to be called MILFs
Women under pressure to be attractive : "The MILF is a seal of approval"
Ms. Grach, in your book you complain about the pressure of attractiveness that mothers feel exposed to immediately after birth and later. What has changed?
In the past, the topic of sexual attractiveness was not so closely linked to the mother because it was historically excluded. Keyword: saints and whores. In the meantime, the pressure of attractiveness that has always existed on women - but which was related to young women - has also spilled over onto mothers.
How is that expressed?
You can tell very clearly from the way the topic is discussed in public. For example, whether a woman's body is as it was before the birth. This became particularly evident at the photo shoot of Duchess Kate, which took place immediately after the birth. At the first birth, the big aha was that she showed the post-pregnancy belly, which was never present in the media anywhere else. For the further births, however, it was staged again on rather lean. How quickly she always gets in top shape is also a big issue.
What do women want to look like?
As slim as possible. Which is particularly difficult for mothers to adhere to. Especially when you notice how your stomach has changed after the first birth. To be as hairless as possible is also good form in terms of body aesthetics. And it all involves a lot of work. That is a very big investment of time.
What other hardships do women take to be more attractive?
When it comes to cosmetic surgery, labia correction is all the rage. Correction means the reduction of the inner labia. At the same time there is something like a G-spot injection. It pretends to have to beautify everything possible. The trend is also to train yourself a big butt. So not that you just have it because you don't move much. But it has to be as tight as possible and the waist as narrow as possible. For this, squats are done, which are now called squats. And a six-pack, as Veronica Ferres recently announced in a “Bild” interview, is also part of it.
You write that the ideal that many women orientate themselves by is the MILF. Can you explain to the non-porn savvy reader what a MILF is?
The term comes from the teen comedy "American Pie" in the late 1990s, in which a very attractive mother of a college student was named that way. The porn industry took up this term, "Mom I'd like to fuck", in order to have a category that also includes women over the age of 20. The ideal, which is dubbed as MILF in the media, however, relates heavily to celebrity women who are slimmed down again very quickly after giving birth. A Heidi Klum, for example, who strutted down the catwalk at Victoria's Secret just a few weeks after the birth. It's about women who embody everything: balancing children and careers with sexual attractiveness. In addition, relationships that work flawlessly. Or just like with Heidi Klum to keep a young lover happy. Of course, these celebrity women can't do it all on their own, they have an entire court to help them. But it looks like that on the outside.
So it is a general performance concept that is behind it?
Exactly, the main thing is that you can manage that now, among many other things. It wouldn't be enough just to be attractive as a mother. But sexual attractiveness is just the icing on the cake.
What kind of woman is particularly susceptible to emulating this ideal?
We all carry this pressure to perform and to optimize ourselves. It relates to many areas of society. But especially after the birth of the first child, the disappointment that the body is no longer what it used to be is particularly great. Life changes. It is legitimate that there is a great need to continue to be perceived as sexually attractive as a woman. But if this thought comes from outside and is constantly being ruminated in the media, it naturally increases the pressure on women.
Isn't it the case that at least mothers in a stable partnership - who shouldn't have so-called final panic any more - are finally freed from the compulsion to always have to look perfect?
This pressure to self-optimize doesn't stop at relationships. There is now the term power couple. Both partners are practically the super checkers in all areas. They get the relationship to the optimum, with a sexual passion and romantic love up to the age of 80. The household is divided equally and that with the children also works flawlessly. These are demands on today's relationships that our generation of parents did not yet have in mind. In addition, there is also the fear of the failure of the relationship. Given the high divorce rates, it's almost normal to find a new partner in midlife. And then you should be more or less in good shape, so the thought. This is different from the reality of life 40 years ago.
You write that even among attractive celebrity women there are clear criteria as to which mothers are called MILFs and which are not. Who belongs in the circle and who is not there, and why?
There is an American guidebook "Got Milf?" By Sarah Maizes who says, for example, that a Britney Spears is not a MILF. The children were taken from her and then she also shaved her bald head. That doesn't fit anymore. Demi Moore is more likely. While doing research on the MILF, I noticed that women who are not white are not referred to as MILFs in the gossip press. A Jennifer Lopez, who has twins, isn't named that way in magazines. Latinas or Women of Color have been extremely sexualized in terms of cultural history. They have always been considered exotic and extremely fertile. That is why they do not break this taboo. And it's about this contradiction. Even though she is a mother, I want to have sex with her. Economic status is also important. A MILF is well-off, educated, and has money in the bank.
How has the image of the mother changed in our culture and history?
Through our Christian tradition, we have a very strong dichotomy between the good and the good woman, the saint, who is also a mother, but does not bring the sexual aspect into motherhood, but this self-sacrificing, and - diametrically opposite - the whore. It stands for self-determined sexuality and contradicts everything that has to do with motherhood. Demons, witches or the femme fatale are always the ones who have been punished, culturally and historically in literature, in films, or in reality. The women's movement and pop culture in the 1990s increasingly resolved this contradiction. The holy and the whore thing got mixed up a lot. It has become fashionable to be a little wicked and wicked. Being boring, prudish and feminist is almost the opposite of that.
Isn't it also a sign of emancipation that the modern mother has freed herself from the image of saints?
On the one hand, it is a sign of emancipation because there are more variants. At the same time there is this certain expectation. If you don't do all of that, then you're somehow boring or considered a failure. If there is this external pressure, then we don't have as much freedom as we think. The acronym MILF is, after all, an external attribution from the heterosexual male side. It sounds like a seal of approval. If someone calls me that, then I'm worth something. And that's not how it should be. There are a thousand different forms of attractiveness and what is sexy.
Have the demands that men have on the appearance of women really increased so much?
I don't think the men are the culprits. It is not the patriarchy, but more the self-optimizing society in which we live. For all areas of life - whether that is education, nutrition, fitness, work or sexuality - there are a thousand advisors. We should achieve the optimum everywhere. And that didn't stop at the topic of attractiveness. Through digital photography, which enables self-presentation on Instagram or elsewhere, and through advertising, we have a very unrealistic picture of reality.
How does all of this affect the younger generation?
As a sex educator, my main task is to provide relief. On the one hand, teen films like “Twilight” create exaggeratedly romantic ideals of relationships. On the other hand, there is pornography. Many want to satisfy the ideals of beauty and do a lot for it. Boys train early in the gym and girls get the impression that a six-pack grows miraculously during puberty. Just as there is little awareness among boys that girls have body hair too. This work on the body that is behind it is something that young people are much more concerned with than they were ten or 20 years ago. The whole thing is then effectively staged for Instagram. Adults do too. But what brings likes is not reality, but working on the perfect staging. With this we generate a false picture of reality. There is also a falsified body perception through the constant use of filters.
How can you encourage your children not to emulate the increasing pressure of attractiveness too much?
The best thing to do is to touch your nose and see how you talk about your own body and what comments you make about other people's bodies. In girls, the first compliment is often aimed at appearance. How pretty the dress is. How pretty the hair is. We could go out of our way to compliment qualities related to mental or physical ability. Overall, it is about setting an example for more diversity and complexity. Show that beauty has many facets and that people are valuable just the way they are.
Katja Grach is a sex educator and gender researcher. On her blog krachbumm.com she writes about lifestyle, sex and parenting. Saara spoke to her about old people.
The book "MILF Girls' Bills - How Women Today Between Fuckability Compulsion and Child Stress" has been published by Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf and costs 14.99 euros.
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