TIME sexuality

Butt Out! In Defense of Hot Moms

Kim Kardashian Paper Magazine
Jean-Paul Goude—Paper

Claire Howorth is the books editor at Time.

We Americans like our Moms and Wives a certain way—and only that way

I’m about to be a mom. And I love Kim Kardashian’s butt. Would that it were mine, well, it would be on the cover of Paper instead of sitting here writing in defense of hers. (Kim, I hope you’d do the same for me.) Would I pose glistening and naked? No. But do I think as a wife and mother Kim is beholden to some absurd notion of postnatal propriety, as some Glee cast members and other folks with wag-happy fingers seem to? No. In fact, I wish there were apron strings hanging down each cheek in that first photo—it’d be all the more winking an image. If you’re going to chastise a mother for indecency, why not get a head start and say women in general should never pose naked? Most of them will be moms one day. It’s as if, in the words of a foolish paragon of archaic decorum, “We can have a good time, but we cannot be wild.”

We Americans like our moms and wives a certain way, for the most part. We like them in minivans and on the sidelines—spread the Jif, not the legs. Just look at our advertisements (which have come a long way, even in my adulthood). There’s the Cadillac mom, so chic, so pulled together, so … fully dressed. There’s the series of LG Appliance ads—humorously written, but nevertheless relegating moms to the kitchen, the laundry room, the home front.

This is not to say we don’t want them to be attractive. No, we want that. We want postpartum bikini bodies and the jogging skirts that maintain them—marionettes on puppet strings, in G-strings, if you believe DirecTV. We fetishize famous moms throughout and after the gestational period—from bump watch to bounce back, and the faster the better. (Remember how hideously we treated Kim when she was pregnant?) We are okay with—enthusiastic about?—the classic Mom I’d Like to [This Bleeping Acronym Is Not Allowed Here], but even she must carry a few wholesome attributes: unconditional love, a sense of devotion, some bosomy, lipsticked comfort atop the five-inch heels.

How do we not like our moms and wives?

We do not like them dancing dirty.

We do not like them acting flirty.

We do not like them being lewd.

We do not like them in the nude.

We don’t want moms to be naked-naked, nipples that recently breastfed a baby reverted to something perverted (we have enough problems with nutritionally exposed breasts as it is). Surely a mo-om (say it in your best multi-syllabic teenage voice) should not be getting a bikini wax. Or perching a crystal coupe on her behind while an arc of bubbly squirts suggestively over her head. It’s part of the overall “mommy problem” that the writer Heather Havrilesky nailed just days B.B.I. (Before Broken Internet)—”You might feel like the same person deep inside, but what the world apparently sees is a woman lugging around a giant umbilical cord.”

So in a few weeks, do I officially enter some sort of Sisterhood of the Sexless, whereby we stop celebrating the very thing that made us mothers in the first place? Grab the twinset and pop the chardonnay! For whatever else you can say about her, at least Kim is putting forth—very, very forth—the person she always has been, before baby and now beyond.

What about when North grows up? Will she be embarrassed? Well, there are many other problems in the family tree of more serious psychological concern than Mama’s wanton nudity. As far as Kim’s body parts go for the rest of us, we’ve seen it all before, on ourselves and on her. If she wants to strip down in a puddle of sequins, baby oil and champagne, great. I’ll take a judgment-free gander. Maybe some moms will feel sexually reinvigorated or newly liberated by Kim. For anyone who prefers not to see all of Kim, make like a breastfeeding scold and look the other way.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Books

Harvest Boon: 7 Great Fall Books

A month of reaping great reads

  • Fragrant: The Secret Life Of Scent

    by Mandy Aftel

    A perfumer by profession, Aftel offers a combination history-slash-recipe book-slash-meditation in Fragrant. Instructions for homemade “Coca-Cola” and flower-infused chocolate, among other aromatic concoctions, are woven through scent-based sections: Cinnamon, Mint, Frankincense, Ambergris and Jasmine.

  • Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

    by Neil Patrick Harris

    Life is anything but linear in Harris’ whimsical take on the celebrity memoir. Written in the second person, the book uses a hopscotching format that invites the reader to jump around the text (“To kill someone, turn to page 165″). “You” are Harris, careering through a highlight reel of your past, from childhood to Doogie Howser to the arrival of your own kids via surrogate, with contributions from celebrity pals.

  • Lila: A Novel

    by Marilynne Robinson

    Robinson completes a trilogy of Midwestern novels that began with Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, and which she followed with Home in 2008. Where Gilead told the story of John Ames, an Iowa preacher–and Home concurrently recounted that of his best friend–Lila brings us the tale of Ames’ much younger wife, who struggles from a hardscrabble youth to a quiet Christian life and eventual hard-won contentment with Ames.

  • The Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms The Way We Think, Feel, And Buy

    by Joel Beckerman with Tyler Gray

    Beckerman, a composer who specializes in “sonic branding” (he created AT&T’s four-note tune), combines experience and science to explain how we process sound. Using familiar examples from the sizzle of a Chili’s fajita to Apple’s soothing boot-up tone, The Sonic Boom will alter how you hear the world.

     

  • De Niro: A Life

    by Shawn Levy

    Levy, the biographer of his share of Hollywood heavyweights (Rat Pack Confidential; Paul Newman: A Life), takes on the iconic but deeply private actor in nearly 600 pages. Levy paints a detailed portrait of De Niro’s career and life, from his early days working with Martin Scorsese to the serious family matter, a son’s bipolar disorder, that drew him to his role in Silver Linings Playbook.

  • Breaking In: The Rise Of Sonia Sotomayor And The Politics Of Justice

    by Joan Biskupic

    A veteran Supreme Court reporter charts Sotomayor’s evolution from a poor Puerto Rican girl living in the Bronx to the first Latina Justice on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor’s sense of ethnic identity, Biskupic argues, may be as important a legacy as the Justice’s legal contributions.

  • Glass Jaw: A Manifesto For Defending Fragile Reputations In An Age Of Instant Scandal

    by Eric Dezenhall

    In this primer on modern scandal, Dezenhall, a crisis PR manager, explores reputational disaster in the social-media age. The author uses his expertise to examine high-profile fiascoes (Paula Deen, Tiger Woods, the Susan G. Komen Foundation–Planned Parenthood fight) and how they might have been avoided. There is, he posits, such a thing as bad publicity.

TIME politics

A Zagat Guide to ‘Hard Choices’—According to Amazon Reviewers

Hillary Clinton's new book already has as many reviews as the hottest restaurant—so why not harness the "wisdom" of the online bookseller's crowd?

On its first day out, Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices hit #2 on Amazon’s bestseller list (sorry, Hillary—John Green trumps Tom Cruise, too), and is picking up around 12 user reviews per hour. Whether or not the reviews are based on actual digested information, well, you be the critic…

Hard Choices

by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Political memoir | Ubiquitous

Prose: 25 | Poesy: 17 | Candidness: 12 | Cost: $35.00 $21.00

This “well-written stage setter” of an “engaging memoir” comes across as “election propaganda” “designed not so much to enlighten as to persuade” to some; others think it could give The Manchurian Candidate some competition “in the fiction section.” Clinton’s “resume is quite impressive” stands among the fainter praise, though another reader “had to stop myself from vomiting”—perhaps there is some political salmonella in the “low-salt, low-fat, low-calorie offering with vanilla pudding as the dessert.” Or maybe that was from someone else “just here to troll the Democrats.” For anyone “hoping for something more,” um, duh, get the net—“Hello, people, she can’t reveal too much until AFTER her presidency.” (I mean, really, “It’s a memoir—did they expect her to paint herself in a negative light?”) Several reviewers were skeptical of peer ethics: “Unless you’re really fast readers, I doubt that you finished reading the book, let alone bought it.” To read or not to read, ain’t that the question? “Under no circumstances would I ever read this book even if Hillary paid me a million $$… I am serious!” (And we will bet another million “$$” you’re not serious.) Nevermind all the Benghazi brouhaha, though; Hillary failed to answer that other all-important question: “I was really hoping to find out who killed Vincent Foster.”

Claire Howorth is an editor at Time and a writer for other publications

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