Pregnancy porn: sexy vs. lewd

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As I stood at the traffic lights this evening, fixing the lining of my dress that, as a result of my ever-widening behind had ridden up above my knickers, the loud beeping of a passing van caused me to look up suddenly.  My eyes met with the rather startling sight of three male heads pressed against the window with their tongues hanging out as they panted and caterwauled.  Presumably the gesture, though utterly crass and boorish, was designed to be complimentary.  I should have felt flattered.  Given my current walrus-like state and John Wayne swagger, I certainly wouldn’t want to ‘do’ me, so perhaps I should be grateful for the sexual objectification.

But it wasn’t flattering; I felt annoyed, hassled and grossly on display.

On a separate occasion, a young rude boy walked passed me and said to his mate “I’d give that pregnant bird a go.”  How nice.  What a lucky girl I am.

On one level I suppose I get it.  There’s something enticingly fecund about a pregnant woman – ripe, so to speak.  Everything about her is engorged: her belly, her breasts, her vagina and, according to many experts, so is her sexual appetite.  But at the same time, all the engorging can make her feel vulnerable; everything that would be traditionally considered private, feels exposed for all to see.  People oddly feel a certain right in touching a pregnant woman, that because her body is occupied by more than just herself, that somehow gives license to others to get in on the action.  Poking, prodding, patting and generally intruding open her personhood, asking questions and invading both her emotional and physical space.  In such a context, the already offensive objectification of women by men becomes all the more pronounced and grotesque.

I’m not entirely sure why this riles me so.  At the risk of sounding like a traitor to my cause, I’m not completely opposed to the occasional nod of approval by a man.  On my weaker days, it’s nice to have that kind of crude validation.  But there’s just something so baffling about this kind of lewd behaviour toward a woman.  Are we supposed to be grateful?  Should I be even more grateful as a pregnant woman because after all, I’m fat and up-the-duff?  What sort of response are they actually anticipating?  Or is it simply to get a rise out of us because they can?  Or does the sight of a pregnant woman simply trigger a primal sexual response from men vis-a-vis the regeneration of ‘man’?  Aside from these postulations, it is simply an affront to be sized up and intruded upon in this way, when, after a day’s work, a commute and an arduous walk home the last thing one should have to contend with is being gawped at like steak on a plate.  Jesus, I sound like Mary Whitehouse.

Perhaps in my motherly dotage I am becoming increasingly prudish, but there’s something repugnant and a touch creepy about leering at a pregnant woman (leering of women in general is of course repugnant).  If nothing else, she’s carrying a baby inside of her which should at least elevate her from the general sexually penetrative gaze of men.  I’m reminded of a phrase my friend’s mother taught us when we went on holiday to Egypt: “ihtarim nefsek!” was what we were to scold oggling men with.  Respect yourself!  I like the inference of this form of reprimand.

But like most aspects of the sexual realm, the erotic positioning of pregnant women is somewhat dialectical.  There is a kind of irreverence given to her as a result of her condition; she carries a baby and babies signify hope.  Consequently she is treated gingerly, she is offered a seat on the train, she is helped with her bags, she is encouraged not to lift anything or strain herself.  She is instructed by others to rest, take it easy, not get worked up or stressed.  In this sense, she becomes desexualised as the carrier of something more important than herself – a vessel of precious cargo.  This can be frustrating for a pregnant woman who may actually want to continue on her previous trajectory of being independent, autonomous and well, horny.

Yet in contrast and as I alluded to earlier, pregnant women can take on a heightened sexual status in the eyes of many.  It’s not by too great a stretch of the imagination that while some might balk at the prospect of sex with a woman with a baby inside her, others will find her intensely feminine and highly desirable in her abundant state.  After all, it takes all sorts to make up the complex tapestry that is the modern erotic milieu of our society; how else can we explain the proliferation of pregnancy porn on the internet or indeed, as a Radio 4 programme recently pointed out, the UK’s statistically-backed predilection for ‘granny’ porn?

Where I’m going with this I’m not entirely sure, except toward my usual road block of contradiction and complex mixed feelings.  If I were to really tweeze out my stance on this, blurry though it may be, I suppose I feel that there are some things that should simply be off-limits – not so much in the extreme case of say children as that’s a given, but the more hazy area of say, pregnant women and grandmothers (which in itself is a fairly fluid term, given how young a grandmother can technically be; qualitatively it isn’t that different from that most esteemed pornographic category of MILF).  Yet nor do I feel these categories of women should be stripped of their sexuality or those who demonstrate a sexual appreciation of them be demonised.  I am it seems at an emotional/intellectual impasse.

The inherent contradictions here feed into the wider discussion of pornography and my mixed feelings about that.  Conceptually I see no problem with it, in so far as it’s consensual and non-exploitative.  Sex is an incredibly diverse and wondrous thing and in many ways access to various kinds of pornography have helped facilitate self-discovery, increased pleasure and a certain degree of enlightenment.  Unfortunately in practice, sex within the arena of pornography is often highly exploitative and its consensuality (consensualness?) questionable.  The internet has opened up a sexual Pandora’s box which has led society down some pretty ignominious paths, particular in terms of the treatment of women.  Ready access to extreme, hardcore porn has also left a generation of men confused about the sexual appetites of women, believing that acts like anal penetration, ejaculating in the face and general rough handling are part of the standard ‘first date’ repertoire.  In this terrain of ready access and resulting desensitisation, there is an underlying quest to push boundaries, to discover even more extreme frontiers.  Watching a woman service twenty men at once, every orifice rigorously filled at any given time, as Sasha Grey has so effectively glorified, is not enough.  The voyeurs in us are hungry for more it seems.

I’m all for taboo breaking, at least to a point.  But when I encounter a man doing things to me with his eyes, I cannot help but feel I’m being unwillingly and non-consensually dragged down into a dark and violent place.  Those glimpses of horror that stay with you and make you shiver, like the finale of Requiem for a Dream (2000) where Jennifer Connolly throws herself into a pit of sexual degradation.  That ain’t a sexy place to be.

 

*Keith David GIF source

 

 

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