Here’s a good chicken and egg question: which came first, society seeing moms as asexual; or moms putting themselves in that asexual role.
This conundrum struck me while reading the Maclean’s article, “Why Sex Appeal Trumps an M.B.A” by Catherine Hakim former Senior Research Fellow for the London School of Economics. The article featured her newest book, Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital.
According to Hakim, “If women exploited their sex appeal when climbing the corporate ladder, they would be way ahead of men.” She is, of course, is stirring the feminist pot and yet I believe a lot of what she espouses to be true.
To stir the pot even further and add to her theory, I believe women lose a lot of their so called ‘Erotic Capital’ once they become moms.
Esther Perel’s wonderful book, Mating in Captivity, talks about how North American men, generally, see pregnant women and mommies as asexual. It was only men from non-Anglo Saxon roots that would flirt with moms.
I thought it an interesting observation; that is until I became pregnant with my first child. With the first bloom of baby-bump men shifted their focus to seeing me as a “Madonna”. Then once I sported said baby on my hip, I officially became asexual.
But the full effects of becoming asexual didn’t hit home until six months after giving birth. On a media tour (and childless) I was rushing through an airport wearing a fabulous clingy dress with smashing stiletto heels (see photo below)
Was so preoccupied with not falling over as I teetered along—it had been at least a year since I wore high heels—that I almost didn’t notice men looking at me. At first I thought it a lucky one-off. But no. One fellow even stopped mid-tracks and nudged his friend.
For just a moment things went into slow motion and became surreal. I had gotten so used to being invisible to the opposite sex. Not that men didn’t find me attractive. It was more like I had a big imaginary mommy-off-limits “X” crossed out in front of me.
At first, I chastised myself for being so shallow and needing other people’s validation. But after a bit of navel gazing, I discovered it was much more than that. Somewhere, somehow, I allowed myself to be okay with being invisible; maybe even encouraged it by buying into the “well, I’m a mommy now so I come second” mentality.
You see, 95 percent of the time I’m in full-on mommy-mode, which can only be described kindly as ‘frumpy’. This even when I’m making an effort to look nice for when I drop my child off at playschool.
I’ve been to airports with my kids in tow and I’ve not garnered even a second glance. It’s my kids who get all of the attention.
When I compare those two people rushing through the airport, frump-mom has zero Erotic Capital: clingy dress, stiletto wearing woman has a lot of Erotic Capital.
Which makes me wonder: Is it simply the change in confidence or a lack of kids that makes the difference?
It was then that I understood why so many moms no longer feel attractive/ sexy/ sexual. Even if they are. It is, in part, the acceptance of being invisible to the opposite sex when they are in full on mommy mode.
And so perhaps by genetic predisposition, once a woman bears another man’s child she loses her Erotic Capital. But the bigger question remains is this a part of the reason why women aren’t able to earn as much once they become moms?
I don’t have that answer. Just stirring the pot to see what comes of it.