Interview with Maria Llopis on Subversive Motherhoods
EWA had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Llopis, the brilliantly fascinating and piquant Spanish renowned feminist activist, on her current project of writing a book and making a documentary film on subversive motherhoods. Having worked onpro-sex feminisms, post-pornography and subversive motherhoods for years, Maria sees motherhood with a revolutionary power. With talks of orgasmic birth, sexism, failures to properly assist mothers with giving birth, and accompanied by many laughs, be ready to revolutionize your own thoughts.
(Photograph by Laura Rosal)
Can you tell me a little a bit about you and your background? Who you are – what you’re into!
Ok – let’s start this! I’ve been working for many years in the field of women’s sexuality, post-porn and feminism. I’ve always been an active feminist, mainly concerned about sexuality and various trends of feminism, such as queer feminism or pro-sex feminism. Many years ago I began to be interested in motherhood, because I started to realize that motherhood or maternity was another step in women’s sexuality. Wait don’t panic – let me explain myself here! In fact, I was into this big post-porn movement that took place some years ago in Barcelona, and that’s when for the first time I heard of orgasmic birth. I had never heard of the possibility of having an orgasm while giving birth, so I got very excited about it - in the sense of whoa – this is something completely mind blowing. I therefore began to investigate this issue. I did a workshop in Montreal some years ago on the topic of orgasmic birth with Canadian activist Nicole Pino. I then began researching pregnancy and the act of giving birth or breastfeeding as a sexual act. I am doing a campaign right now to raise awareness and funds for my book and film documentary on subversive motherhoods (http://www.verkami.com/projects/8472).
You wouldn’t believe how many emails I am receiving from women who are thrilled at the idea of sharing their personal stories of how they experienced orgasmic motherhood. In fact I was so worried before that I would never have enough data for my book or documentary – and now I have this overflow of narrations of lived orgasmic experiences!
You talked about post pornography – what exactly does it refer to?
The way we approach post porn in our work in Barcelona has been from a political standpoint – the politics of porn if you like. It was more or less stemming from this radical left political side – we wanted to make porn with our political concerns – that is, mainly feminist concerns. Basically at the beginning we thought that porn was a disaster, it’s very sexist to say the least. So we wondered if it was possible to make feminist porn – porn that has a gendered sensibility. Could porn even be a tool for feminism? That’s what has been called post-porn. For example you could have a sort of pornography that doesn’t show any piece of flesh. The main goal of everyday pornography is to turn you on and basically make you have an orgasm, and it’s all very much directed towards men, but the goal of post porn is very different - it’s to make you think about your own relationship with your own body and desires, it may be very hot, you may masturbate – but you don’t necessarily have to. As my godmother would say: it’s a kind of intellectual porn!
The problem with everyday porn is that it doesn’t turn on women, it’s much more for men –
Yes but the issue is there are also many women who try to do porn for women only, and that’s problematic in itself. This insinuates that all men will be turned on by a certain kind of porn, and all women will get pleased by another type of porn. How positive can this be? It’s easy to say that guys like it this way, and girls like it differently – but it’s unfair. Men don’t all fantasize about rough sex and women don’t necessarily want to be fucked by a pretty unicorn!
Very true! Women’s sexuality is still not discussed in many societies - so saying that motherhood is a sexual act must raise a few eyebrows! What’s your purpose of writing a book and making a documentary film on subversive motherhoods?
I want to make a documentary film about the whole process of writing my book. The book I am writing is not only about orgasmic birth and orgasmic breastfeeding – these two topics are just getting a lot of attention from the media. There are other issues I am talking about such as motherhood and the economy, multiple fatherhoods, transsexual motherhood, or representations of motherhood in post pornography. I have worked a lot with porn and many of my friends have children now – so questioning how to keep on with your career whilst doing porn. Also gender queer parenting or matriarchal society - these are some of the issues that I want to treat in the book that I prepared for the campaign. My purpose was to reflect on all the issues of motherhood that I found extremely interesting and yet where very little information can be found on them. These topics always relate to motherhood and sexuality. When I was preparing the book I was thinking – wow this is kind of like… freak motherhood! It’s definitely all of the sides of motherhood that are rarely talked about….and yet it’s not that it’s uncommon but rather hidden and rendered invisible. I had always dreamed about making a documentary film about the whole process but didn’t know if I was going to receive enough funding for it. However now with the campaign doing so well, I have been contacted by so many people who are willing to assist me with it. I am planning on interviewing 13 women on their orgasmic birth experiences, all coming from different places in the world such as Barcelona, California, Berlin or Sweden. I hope to raise enough money to be able to travel and interview each one of them.
I am curious! Are these orgasmic births and orgasmic breastfeeding accidental or planned?
Well, can you plan an orgasm? From the women I have talked to it has been absolutely accidental – these women have just had very pleasurable experiences while giving birth – in the process they finally arrive to a point where the pleasure they experience ends up in an orgasm. They are very surprised themselves! I was just interviewing this 82 year old woman who experienced an orgasmic birth and as you know today this is still not normally discussed, so can you imagine talking about this 50 years ago! Nowadays, even if there are documentary films about it, books, information on the internet and so on – it’s still rather mind-blowing to accept, and it’s very much a taboo issue. And yet it’s not magic! Doctors confirm it happens even though it’s clear it is still considered a cultural prejudice rather than a scientific fact. At the end of the day – it’s not a question of believing it or not – when you have sex and give birth you produce oxytocin which gives you pleasure. It’s the same hormone. Even for breastfeeding you produce prolactin that makes you not want to have sex with your partner and instead it makes you very focused on your baby – it becomes a very pleasurable and sexual experience because you again produce oxytocin.
But I heard that many women find breastfeeding very painful?
It can be painful but that is due to a problem which has not been solved. The first month I was breastfeeding I found it a horrible experience, and then it became very pleasurable. Why? I had never seen breastfeeding before and I didn’t know how to. I wasn’t born with a manual on how to breastfeed in my head, and we no longer live in communities where everyone helps each other with these kind of things. You need a woman to explain how to hold the baby properly and so on….it’s not that easy to get help, and so there can be problems due to the isolation we live in.
On your campaign’s website you wrote something that struck me. You said that motherhood should be revolutionary – what do you mean by this?
All my years working with feminism and thinking about different feminist concepts as revolutionary, I realized that motherhood is one concept that has been left out by all these radical political movements. This is not only in Spain but also in Germany, Belgium, and all over Europe. The instant a woman gets pregnant she then loses all her political power – she’s out. This would make me furious – it’s like as soon as you’re a mother, then you can’t really call yourself a feminist, or be part of any post-porn movement. I think we should embrace motherhood in radical political practices. I mean common girls were fighting for our rights, our bodies and our sexuality’s very own agency! Motherhood is something that is happening at the very heart of our uterus! The uterus is also an organ that is made to give pleasure – so why separate motherhood and pleasure so brutally when it’s happening in the same place? The more I researched, the more I realized that motherhood is one additional step in the sexual development of a woman. I am not saying that all women should be mothers to experience this – I didn’t even know myself if I wanted to be one – but I’m saying – don’t deny that this is happening. Of course orgasmic birth is rare whilst giving birth with pain is much more common, and it makes you wonder: why can some women experience utter pain and others utter pleasure? Myself I experienced both – it was very pleasurable all the time and then at some point I was in intense pain. Everyone’s experience is different, there is no right recipe – but you can improve your experience of giving birth and make it a more pleasurable one.
Let me draw from a comparison I read about which I think puts things greatly into perspective. If you have sex being raped, it will most likely be a horrible experience. If you have sex the way you want it, choosing with whom, when and where – it can be an extremely pleasurable experience. It is the same physical act – but with opposite results. This is a way of explaining birth. I have heard from friends who have given birth in hospitals where they have felt mistreated, experiencing long-lasting awful pain. I myself gave birth at home and it was a more enjoyable experience. So if you try to give birth in a place where you feel comfortable – with the people you want to be around – if you try not to be scared of pain – perhaps the experience may be very different – even though it’s the same experience. I am not saying that all hospital experiences are negative – one of the women I interviewed experienced an orgasmic birth in a hospital. But my point is, too often women who have experienced extremely painful birth simply accept it as the norm, when they definitely shouldn’t. Lying down on a table is made to facilitate the job of the doctor and not the mother. My idea of the perfect world is where all women can have sex, and give birth wherever they feel most comfortable and safe – this is what I’m all about!
Check out more on Maria Llopis: http://www.mariallopis.com/en/.
and her crowdfunding campaign on Verkami: http://www.verkami.com/locale/