Are Moms Supposed to Want to Be MILFs Now?

Has anyone ever actually taken the term MILF seriously as a desirable thing? Given that it has its origins in teenage boy lust (American Pie) and porn*, where every possible type of sexual appeal clearly needs a convenient shorthand for ease of boner, it seems most of us have simply begrudgingly acknowledged the term's existence in the porn store aisle of life with a quick side eye, then plowed on, eyes facing forward lest we linger too long on the unsavory implications therein.

At least, that's what I thought. I mean, sure, I've seen women wearing MILF T-shirts, and I've heard men and women alike use the term without a trace of sarcasm, and I'm sure they are nice, lovely people. But people who take their pop culture cues from horny dudes are not usually the people I look to for signs of a significant linguistic shift in the culture, proof that now we have embraced the term as one of our own. That would take a lobotomy more convincing argument. But lo and behold, someone has helmed the steam locomotive of Making the Term MILF Desirable, and has done so with (allegedly) the most feminist (if not entrepreneurial) of intentions: a diet book. Fine, I'll bite:

The Conductor: Jessica Porter. LA-based chef, nutritionist. Wrote The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics and co-authored Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet.

Her Literature: The MILF Diet: Let the Power of Whole Foods Transform Your Body, Mind, and Spirit…Deliciously

Her Mission: (From Amazon) A true milf is confident, sexy, and radiates natural femininity. By eating whole, plant-based foods, you, too, can find balance and dynamic health, and unleash your inner MILF. It's simple: you are what you eat. So, to fulfill your true potential for health, happiness, and MILFiness, it's best to avoid refined sugars, processed foods, dairy, and meat.

Her Feminism: Co-opting and repurposing a politically incorrect term and embracing it for positive personal growth.

First off, re: "True milf" used in the book description above — not sure what a fake MILF would be, but I'll leave that alone. Also, "unleashing" one's "inner" anything cracks me up, big time, but especially something so literally physical. Like, the idea of holding a hot, thin, fuckable person hostage on the inside is mega-lolz. No one is definitely doing that. But OK, you!

So as you can guess, back in November, the diet book's announcement on the scene was not instantly met with unbridled enthusiasm from everyone. This take in LA Weekly gives the book, which says the recipes "look kind of boring and health-food vegan-y," the what-for from the get-go:

It begins as soon as the acknowledgments. Among others, Author Jessica Porter thanks "My stepmother, Anna, a MILF and loving mentor." Whoa, whoa, whoa. Does Porter know what MILF means??? Someone should tell her. Like, really quickly. Either that or there's about to be a really awkward moment between Porter and her father, aka Anna's husband, aka, the dude married to the person Porter wants to ... well, you get it.

But it gets better. "One of the quickest routes to becoming a MILF is by eating whole, natural foods." Oh. Cool. All clear now. Wait, What?? Yep, the MILF book is not only full of horrible, squirm-inducing, misguided attempts to empower "older" women to think this is a term they should totally be using about themselves, it's also full of healthful hippy hoo-ha, whith a good dose of bullshit spirituality thrown in for good measure. The chapter titled "MILF Sex" (kill me now) begins in part "... a true MILF is sexy in a deep and powerful way. Because she eats whole and balanced foods, she is whole, and her chi runs through her unimpeded." Of course this is all a set up to say that you should lose weight and that will make you sexy. Which may be true, I don't know, but leave the chi out of it.

Another reviewer took offense at the use of the term MILF to sell her anything when the term's meaning is clearly one of disrespect. She crowdsourced on Facebook and found that most of her peers agreed, and they, too, found the term "disrespectful," "not a compliment," used only for "shock" value, and said the book seemed like yet another product that plays into female insecurity or the need for approval through sex.

MILF diet author Jessica Porter responded enthusiastically to the criticism. You can read her response in full here, but her main message was this:

I have also found that many, many women I have met over the last ten years have actually liked the term. Yes, it's naughty, but I believe that's part of its appeal. It has been used in mainstream media quite a bit over the last few years-on the sitcoms Weeds, and30 Rock, both shows with strong female protagonists who employ it with a wink. Because it is an acronym, it seems to me to have found a positive meaning all its own-beyond the four words that form it-and is often taken as a simple, sassy, compliment for an attractive older women. It's even bandied about between women.

All that said, its cultural currency is not enough to defend its use as a book title. I would never have written a book about healthy food and just slapped "MILF" on the cover as a simple hook. The MILF Diet is actually an approach to food that is specifically designed for women, in order to support our natural feminine energy. You see, I believe (and I'm going to get all Women's Studies classes here) that the term "MILF" actually reunites two very important parts of a woman-our maternity (we love, we care, we give), and our sexuality (we make love, we desire, and yes, we sometimes "f**k" and want to be "f**ked").

So, is Porter onto something? Are there enough women who embrace MILF as a sassy, lighthearted compliment, and more importantly, an innocuous one, one that merely makes an older gal feel like a hottie once more? This New York Magazine piece suggested as much way back in 2007, indicating that the combination of the influence of porn, Viagra, Pilates, later procreation and greater economic freedom for women might all be responsible.

So should we embrace MILF as a desirable status that's here to stay, another hotness meter on our lifelong journey to maintain hotness? Or is this book just a ploy to move units, a faux provocative attempt to look edgy when it is, in fact, the same old (literal) diet of light spirituality and organic eggs repackaged as modern and fresh and MILFy?

Maybe it's a little of both. I think MILF is certainly in the water enough to no longer raise an eyebrow. I think Porter's attempt at reclamation is a little heavy-handed for something that probably, at best, is going to be purchased with a motive that's more tongue-in-cheek and less consciousness-raising.

Because the real issue with MILF is not that women don't actually want to be fuckable, because they do. Pretty much everyone does. It's not that it's bad to combine the maternal with the sexual, either — mothers are still portrayed in lots of pop cultural references as asexual caregivers who only get off on doing laundry, and could use a little diversity in presentation still.

The issue with MILF is about identity politics. For one, a "mom I'd like to fuck" is identifying a woman still, first and foremost, via her role as a mom. And to define any woman off the bat by her relation to others, particularly as a caregiver, is to limit her. (A reason why DILF, perhaps, has never seemed to catch on quite to the same extent.)

Also: MILF as a concept only works if you accept as its premise the idea that moms are inherently unfuckable, which I've written about before. So calling someone a MILF is actually saying that a woman who did a thing that would normally make her not hot — breeding — is actually hot anyway. She's an outlier. A rebel. She beat nature. She avoided the usual kiss of death of breeding and the unfuckability trap that comes with it. She pushed something out of her vagina and, would you believe it, there is a man still standing around wanting to put something back in that vagina. The mind reels.

MILF is a term oddly associated with older women, too, which is confusing, since moms can be young or old. The porn MILF always looks like a woman whose children are long-since grown. Which confuses me more — are these MILFs or cougars? Oh wait, I remember. MILFS are women you want to fuck. Cougars are women who want to fuck you.

But back to MILFs. We all know that becoming a mom is only one of any number of reasons someone could be unfuckable if that's our whole premise here. Just aging can make you gross, and so can just not exercising, and so can just not eating well, and so can genetics. Just sayin'. OILF — "Old I'd Like to Fuck" — just doesn't have the same ring to it. Anyway, moms exhibit a range of body and personality types, just as dads and sisters and brothers and lawyers and teachers and yoga instructors do. In other words, people are either fuckable or not, it's got nothing to do with whether they've procreated or not.

And let's be honest, only a really immature person thinks it does. Which reminds me: The 30 Rock reference to MILFs — MILF island — is satire. The plot is "25 Super-Hot Moms, 50 eighth grade boys, no rules." It's hilarious because it's stupid, but it's not quite the ringing endorsement for cultural co-opting Porter might wish it were.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say most of us aren't interested in investing loads of time and energy to become the ultimate sexual icon to an 8th grade boy or to even make grown-up sense of his grasp on the complexity of human sexuality. But, hey, if you are, please join me for a hot, grain-fed plate of sexual freedom and wellness.

*First use of "MILF" may date to a 1995 Usenet reference to a Playboy pictorial on hot moms.