Connect with us

PDA – Parental Displays of Affection

Photo: Shutterstock


PDA – Parental Displays of Affection

Once people become parents, a lot of us generally don’t allow ourselves to be sexual beings anymore.  Why is that?

When we were young and as we grew up, some of us desexualized our own parents (and sometimes our siblings as well).  That is, we removed all aspects of thinking of them as being or doing anything sexual.  There is lots of input in this society from peers, movies & media that older people and sex is “gross.”  This includes parents too.  Recently, there was a Modern Family episode where the kids walked in on their parents “doing it”. The parents stayed in their room and agonized over how best to explain what they were doing.  The kids were worried sick about the talk that would ensue.  Eventually, these kids realized on their own that seeing their parents in this situation was better than any alternative including fighting and divorce.

Modern Family “Caught in the Act”

We may have had a hard time thinking about our parents as sexual beings.  And then, when we became parents ourselves, we avoided trying to reconcile this discrepancy.  Many women’s attitudes or behavior toward sexuality shifts after childbirth.  Lots of women complain about their post-baby bodies.  Pregnancy is a bear on our bodies so it’s not hard to understand this feeling.  Many women start wearing t-shirts or sweats to bed.  Some husbands wish – mostly in silence – that the woman they fell in love with would dress in something a little more attractive, like the sexy lingerie, nighties or naked like they did B.C. (Before Children).  I have friends who, in wishing to spice things up again, went out and bought a comfortable yet sexy nightie, something not too over the top but yet sexy enough, for themselves and reported feeling more desirable.  That’s totally an unofficial study and hardly a valid sample but I can understand completely. Dressing in sexy clothing can make one feel sexy. If you want to try sleeping naked again while the kids are still young, go to bed naked.  Kids don’t know naked as good or bad or shameful until an adult scrambles to cover themselves up or slams a door in their face. If you notice, your children probably don’t have any shame about their little bodies and are rather proud of them.  This may have been a source of embarrassment for you.  It is this way typically until an adult tells them to keep themselves covered up. Mothers, think of your post-baby body this way: your partner isn’t seeing the flaws you sense in your own body.  They are simply thinking that they won the flipping lottery to be there with you naked!  Celebrate it!

Some men have a hard time seeing their wives as sexual after childbirth.  Freud described what’s known as The Madonna/Whore Complex.  Roughly, the thought is that once a man’s female partner becomes a mother – this person with whom he has had tons of great, pre-family forming behaviour sex – he no longer can see her as the dirty girl of his earlier fantasies.  A mother is nurturing.  His mother was perhaps nurturing and he certainly didn’t think of HER as sexual (see above).  Now, the woman he used to ravage is a mother … reminds him of his feelings toward his mother… nope can’t do it.  Another factor could be whether or not the father witnessed the childbirth from behind the curtain in the Catcher’s position.  Most guys are ok with all of this, but a few guys may be unable to remove the image of the blood, placenta, etc, from their minds and as a result, they perhaps become hesitant to see them as “sexy parts” anymore.  Instead these guys think of them as functioning parts and lose their exclusivity as a playground. Either way, before children, chances are they were sexually active, enjoyed sex, and wanted to have it with their partner(s) often. Before you act on something outside the marriage (unless you have a spoken and/or agreed upon arrangement with your spouse), the best case here is to talk to a sex positive therapist about this.

The fallout of Abstinence Only Before Marriage Sex-Education is that children are not learning about love or pleasure as a component of sex. Pleasure is an important aspect to learn about sexuality because it doesn’t set the child up for potentially self-sacrificing behaviour.  Since kids aren’t getting this instruction in school, parents can model this lesson for their children. I’ve written a few posts (here and here) in which I explain why I feel tying sex and love and pleasure together is important when teaching kids so I won’t bore you by repeating myself here.

I want to tell you it’s ok for your kids to see you as parents who are in love with each other.  A child doesn’t know shame around affection until s/he sees other adults model that behaviour.  Picture this scenario: everyone is in the kitchen, one parent lovingly squeezes the others butt, and the squeezee shrieks, swats at the spouse, and says “not in front of the children!!”  Those love pats and small signs of physical affection are not a bad thing at all.  Imagine now, the same scenario, and instead of swatting at the squeezer, the squeezee turns around and plants a big wet kiss on him/her.  There’s the Element of Surprise for all involved and the kids might smile at the playfulness of it all.  Try the “Aunt Jemima Treatment” on your spouse.  Being a little silly might turn you and your spouse on. Of course if your kids are in elementary school or junior high, you might get an, “Ewww” but who cares?  That’s how some of these little beings came into this world in the first place, no?

It’s ok for us as parents to show each other love and affection in front of our children.  Do so early and often so as to normalize the behaviour.  Talk to them about it too!  They will get used to seeing you together.  It’s healthy for them to associate love and sexual feelings modelled in a healthy adult relationship.  Being a parent and a sexual being, these two things are not mutually exclusive.


2011 The MamaSutra

This article has been republished with permission from Lanae St.John. Please visit Lanae St.John’s website  to view the original post and more of Lanae’s works.

Lanae St.John

Lanae St.John is a San Francisco Bay Area based Sexy Mamas Blogger, BoardCertified Sexologist, and Sex Educator. Her work with clients normalizes conversations about sexuality between parents and children, while helping adults to discover a more sexually positive outlook. By teaching parents to nurture the budding sexuality of their children in ways that foster self-respect and acceptance for the totality of their personhood, she helps them raise children who become empowered, beautiful, strong, sexually healthy adults. Lanae also coaches couples and individuals on their sexual questions and concerns, helping them to optimize their sexual experiences and achieve healthy adult sexuality via a sex-positive approach to sexual education. Lanae received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin- Madison in 1991. She completed the Associate in Sex Education and Clinical Sexology before going on to receive her Masters in Human Sexuality in 2011 from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. Currently, she is a Ph.D. candidate studying Human Sexuality. Ms St.John is a contributing sexpert on the sex education site What They Are She is also co-founder for the site, a site that seeks to empower women to discover and enjoy their own sexuality. She is a Sex & Relationship Panelist for the popular site and is also an expert on, a website combining sex educators and medical professionals together to talk about the female orgasm. Her blog, “The MamaSutra®” on Good Vibrations’ website, was voted into the Top 25 SF Bay Area Mom Blogs in 2011 and she was listed #1 in the 30 Must-”Like” Sex-Positive Facebook Pages. Lanae also co-hosted Season 1 of a show called Sexxx Talk Radio on the Progressive Radio Network – the podcast can be found on iTunes. As The MamaSutra®, Lanae has been featured as a sex-positive parenting expert in SSEX BBOX – a web series documentary featuring people and experts from four cities around the world. Lanae is also featured in the not-yet released feature length documentary “Revolutionary Sex” (working title) by NuReality Productions. In March 2013, Lanae was part of a contingent of Sexologists to travel to China. She lectured on Childhood Sexuality: Fostering Growth Into Sexually Healthy Adults to the Chinese Sexology Association and was asked to submit her paper to The Chinese Journal of Human Sexuality. Coming soon, Ms. St.John can also be found as one of the Expert Faculty of Sex Coach U and as one of Dr. Ava Cadell’s “Love Coach All Stars”. A Board Certified Sexologist (American College of Sexologists, A.C.S.), Lanae is also a member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (S.S.S.S), The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (A.A.S.E.C.T.) and the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (I.S.S.W.S.H.) Lanae is the proud mother of two daughters with whom she actively embodies her message of empowerment, freedom of expression, and a sex- and body-positive mentality.

Get in touch with Lanae via email at


More in Lifestyle

To Top