Should Pregnancy Be Sexy?


Photo: Instagram/Kourtney Kardashian

Kourtney Kardashian is eight months pregnant with her third baby, but that didn’t stop the reality star from stripping down this week for Du Jour magazine. In one photo, she wears a soaking wet, white T-shirt; in the other, only a feathered neckpiece. In the third, nothing at all. Kardashian’s photos didn’t “break the Internet” unlike little sister Kim’s controversial Paper magazine cover, however, they do reveal the complexities of a woman’s identity during pregnancy.

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"To me, nudity is not something to be ashamed of," Kardashian tells Du Jour. "I’m not embarrassed of my body. I’m at my best when I’m pregnant. It’s such an amazing feeling, the transformation that your body goes through. There’s something about that that’s so empowering and beautiful and I just really embrace it." She added that she probably wouldn’t have posed if she were not pregnant and, "It’s a wonderful thing to be able to show my children these photographs one day and say, this was you inside."

Kardashian is in good company. In February, country singer Jessie James, then heavily pregnant, and her NFL husband Eric Decker posed for a NSFW spread in GQ magazine. In one photo, James, wearing a sports bra and underwear, is poised to straddle her shirtless hubby on a bed; in another, she’s sucks one finger while inserting the other in Decker’s mouth. There are shots of her in the bathtub (bubbles are strategically placed) and wearing lacy, black lingerie. And there have been no shortage of supermodels and actresses who have posed for similar shots.

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These images are a departure from the classic (cliche?) “pregnancy pose” — side view of a naked pregnant celeb, one hand covering breast — popularized by Demi Moore on her infamous 1991 Vanity Fair cover and reimagined by dozens of celebrities since. They’re distinctly sexualized, an in-your-face affront to pregnancy.

For women who embrace the physical changes that occur with pregnancy— fuller breasts, shapely hips, glossy hair — taking sexy photos can be thrilling. Others view them as a sexy keepsake or a badge of honor during a period marked by hormonal swings and stretch marks. For others, the idea that they “should” look sexy during a time in their lives when they feel anything but, can feel burdensome. “During my pregnancy it was nice to take a break from all that,” Jill, a 37-year-old mother-of-two from Boston, tells Yahoo Parenting. “It was difficult to not look frumpy, never mind try to be sexy. Plus, I was carrying my kid — that’s not sexual.”

“Pregnancy is a transitional time during which woman contend with embracing a new, more selfless identity,” Bethany Marshall, PhD, a Los Angeles based psychotherapist, tells Yahoo Parenting. “It’s natural to want to look attractive and sexy maternity photos can serve as a ‘last hurrah’ before life changes drastically.” Ironic, because from an evolutionary standpoint, once a woman became pregnant, her partner didn’t necessarily hang around for more sex — if the pair did stay bonded, it was only to ensure their offspring had the best chance of survival.

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Fast-forward to our obsession with celebrity baby bumps and chic maternity style. Tight mini-dresses, sheer blouses, plunging necklines, and spiky stilettos were fashion staples for Kim Kardashian during her pregnancy, model Heidi Klum reportedly nixed maternity clothes for regular clothes a few sizes bigger; and pregnant Blake Lively always looks chic. No wonder it can be tough to feel polished while pregnant. And social media doesn’t help — if fun, sexy bump shots populate your newsfeed on a daily basis, you may feel pressure to show up the rest with your own.

Of course, no one is suggesting that pregnant women should be forced to wear muumuus and mom jeans. Impending motherhood is a game changer, but it shouldn’t eclipse a woman’s entire personality. “Part of good mental health is having the ability to fluidly transition between the different roles in your life,” says Marshall. “It’s only problematic when a pregnant woman dresses provocatively to deny the fact that she’s expecting or she has an all-or-nothing mindset that’s fear-based: ‘Either I am sexual or I am a mother.’ Both identities can coexist.”