A – smaller than you think – part of my job as an atypical sexualities scholar consists of analyzing the developments in pornography. Porn does provably and clearly reflects the zeitgeist: the Seventies of the century past were characterized by pseudo-intellectual and heavily politicized erotica; the Eighties worshipped luxury; the Nineties were in love with somewhat immature technologies; the change of millennium played with the queer shock and confusion of roles and genders… Although very simplified, in hindsight it is easy to read the map of social phenomena triggered by external events and often forestalled on adult movie sets. In fact, examining the developments of the fringiest of genres you can even foresee what future trends may be – and they don’t look especially happy right now.
One among the crazes that has struck me most in the last year is the multiplication of very peculiar rape scenarios. While “traditional” ones, so to speak, depict such an extreme arousal as to be uncontrollable, the general preference lately seems to be turning for even darker and unsettling directions.
The first to appear were “racial genocide” fantasies, where the anxiety for incoming migrants is exorcised through grotesque scenarios in which white males are tamed, excluded or castrated while their women worship the Black Man (stereotypically over-endowed, of course) and proudly breed a new, darker-skinned world.
A chilling reaction popped up shortly thereafter: a growing number of groups where fertilization is seen as the ultimate punishment. Their imagery is often very plain, but comments and captions added by people reposting it like memes give them a whole different meaning.
Pregnancies are used as a tool to stop female empowerment through work or other means since they will be forced to waste precious years to care for their “rape babies” inevitably reminding them of their nature of predestined victims. From there, a flood of delusional misogynistic rants that have nothing to do with sex anymore – not even with the most deviant.
Too crazy? Sure, but as I said earlier, trends are born in the outer reaches of eroticism and later trickle down to the mainstream, usually slightly cleaned up for mass consumption. In fact, today the final result of this trajectory is a true mutation. Welcome to the era of the breeding fetish, an entirely new phenomenon in the world of porn.
In this case too what you actually see is nothing special at all. The difference is al in the dialogues and various texts, revealing an obsession for the act of female fertilization in itself. In the best tradition of US pornography they usually are an infinite series of cousins, stepdaughters, stepsisters, aunts and stepmothers, in a chaos of improbable family relations that barely hide the evidence of a morbid incest fixation. But they can also be any stereotypical character, the neighbour, the student, the cheerleader, the MILF… the one element distinguishing all of this from the previous 150 years of porn is the focus on breeding.
What happens next is unimportant: the only thing that matters is the fertility of the womb in question, the quantity of ejaculate, the refusal of using birth control, even the amazing results of male exams certifying exceptionally vital and motile sperm – a practical guarantee of an incoming bump. This is something closer to a gynecology course than 120 Days of Sodom, yet equally perverted.
This bizarre fetishism began as usual in the United States, then conquering Germany, Brasil and Russia – and counting. It was worth the effort of learning what it is really about.
Among the first things that came back to me after noticing the interest spike towards fecundation was a bit of my interview with the biographer of Joseph Farrel, the most extreme erotic artist ever. In a conversation cut from the final piece, talking about the recurring presence of pregnant characters it turned out that they were the symbol of peculiar reasoning. «France got rotten after the postwar golden years,» Farrel apparently said. «The present is a mess and the future will be worse, so you who dare bring new lives into the world deserve any punishment».
Come to think of it, it could be a good starting point. In fact, many paraphilias are born out of the attempt to compensate for a – real or just perceived – lack of control. Therefore they can take an antagonist form (for example: if you feel old and a victim of the clock ticking, you’ll easily harbor sex fantasies involving much younger partners) or of complete surrender. Remaining in the field of the most recent porn trends, the latter case manifests itself, for example, as a fetish for social inequality or ecocide.
This is no longer an issue of just an obscure French illustrator in his nineties: in an era of pandemics, climate crisis, financial instability and more, feeling out of control is rather understandable. And what can prove one’s ability to take the reins of the course of events better than creating life itself?
Of course, I have no certainties about this but my gut feeling of being on the right track was quite clear. And then a wonderful coincidence happened.
One of the podcasts I follow ran an interview with Cristiana Boido, the author of a book titled Pancine fantastiche, about the results of an undercover investigation into the online communities of the terrible “mamme pancine”. They can be roughly translated as ‘bellyhappy mommies’, and are essentially a covert cult of pregnant bellies worshippers who indulge in startingly primitive rituals centered on pregnancy. They use a chilling infantilized and metaphorical jargon to obsessively talk about reproduction and bodily functions, share astoundingly incorrect notions about both, and generally hate any form of science and intellectualism.
Anyway, in one of her answers, she casually mentioned that «those women are pregnancy fetishists». She clearly used the term with a somewhat different meaning than the one I used above – but I wanted to know more.
Here is our chat.
In the Bellyhappies’ lair
It was a rather long process since it involved constantly following their online groups to attempt profiling some Bellyhappy Mommies to prevent the criticism of making the phenomenon up. [Note – This happened a few years ago when a relatively unknown Italian blogger became an overnight superstar by first describing those women. He was heavily criticized for having faked their admittedly incredible culture and of trolling the mainstream news]
Our profile proved instead that they do exist, and there is quite a lot of them. The work was phenomenological, based on language analysis, and aimed to understand what the “ultimate experience” was, meaning the cultural, linguistic and relational models Bellyhappy Mommies are connected by. I mean a sort of archetypal narration, a bit like a modern mythology I analyzed through many possible belief systems.
So, just to be clear… do these women actually exist?
Indeed they do. We profiled 42 of them, and it took a long time to build the confidence that allowed us to gather deep personal information.
What kind of persons are part of such a subculture?
The truth is that I couldn’t discover that. I built several hypotheses: religious maniacs, superstitious, dysfunctional families. On a general note, there is no common social environment generating BMs, as those we analyzed come geographically from everywhere, from farmlands and cities, with various educations from elementary school to university. Even every religious belief is represented.
I ventured that they are defined by invisible borders that are so deeply rooted as to constitute a limit to behavioral evolution. If you think about it, in our society we have many insurmountable ones: if you come from a certain city neighborhood, you are surrounded by very similar persons going to the same schools, who tend to adapt to their group’s future social expectations. We know well how schools almost always don’t encourage a true social ascension, but they cement class differences. No matter your studies, emancipation from the patterns you see in your childhood becomes impossible (that’s why my theory of these women being from dysfunctional families, with very little social capital to evolve and grow relationships upon), so they keep repeating the models they’ve seen. Yet we cannot really talk about just one type of person.
When you stumble on such radicalized phenomena it becomes hard to estimate their actual reach. I’m thinking of TERFs, for example: pseudofeminists who hate transexual females. They sound like a powerful army online, but objectively analyzing data it turns out there are a mere few hundreds worldwide. Is it possible that bellyhappy mommies are an extreme minority, but a very vocal one? Do you have an estimate of their size, both domestically and abroad?
They appear to be a global phenomenon, using similar language all over the world. Unfortunately, I cannot precisely quantify them because true BMs huddle in hidden groups. However, the open groups where radicalization begins are in the hundreds.
A striking observation in your book defines bellyhappy mommies as «bump fetishists» for whom even their husbands and children are merely an accessory to the idealized condition of being able to flaunt their pregnancy. Can you please elaborate?
What feels extraordinary to me is how BMs, once they become mothers, aren’t that interested in their children after all even if they attribute them special talents and rights, even if they protect them from any sensible influence (like teachers’ interventions). They don’t describe their appearance or character: to them, they are just «my little Prince, my Princess» – stereotypes. What they seem to be interested in is the symbol of being pregnant, the bump, showing everybody how they reached a privileged status. They try to immortalize the Bump with plaster casts, birthing pillows, umbilical cord earrings. What connects them to their children is a condition of perennial pregnancy. The way they refer to their ages in months, “like cheese wheels”, is a striking expression of voraciousness – and many of them actually seem ready to eat their youngs to bring them back into their motherly bellies, to the visible condition of the motherhood status. Even the way they prolong breastfeeding to a ridiculous age is an attempt of not letting the children detach from their bodies.
As an unusual sexualities scholar, all of this naturally made me think of pregnancy-related fetishisms – in a strictly erotic sense. A classic is, indeed, the bump fetish, but there are more that are most recent: for the so-called “traditional family” where the woman is just a home- and babymaker; for breeding as a social punishment forcing the victims to be frustrated mothers instead of emancipated persons; for coarse yokels (typically a red-hatted Trump supporter) seen as an “alpha male” and ideal father… Do you see a possible psychosexual element in the bellyhappy mommies doctrine too?
I wasn’t aware of these paraphilias and I thought hard about this. The idea that these women may “erotically” play at submitting feels too sophisticated to me, also because there is no complicity, no arousal, as you would need for an erotic scene anyway. They simply look absolutely ignorant about what normal sexuality is. Sex is “the dues”: the man demands them, the woman yields «so at least he cannot go to his mother and say you don’t comply», or «because if you don’t do it every time he wants it, it is obvious he won’t give you your allowance» meaning the money husbands give their wives for homekeeping expenses. This is chilling, and I can’t see any sexual game but just a stereotyped behavior that seems to stem from very deep pockets of family unease.
And what about sublimating arousal in the power play of managing no less than the creation of a new life? After all, even the paraphilias I mentioned are first and foremost revenge fantasies against a world too hard to control.
Yes, you are right on that. After all, if you had no opportunity to play any other role in life, to embrace it, emphasize it, turning it fanatical and tribal may be an act of revenge. The hate against emancipated women, «those classical-studied prissy teachers», «the easy ones», looks like evidence of that. Motherhood for motherhood itself, procreative but not parental, possessive instead of caring, need no study. And I am not referring to being a mother, which is mature and creative self-realization. To be pregnant can be revenge against broken expectations, against doggone and emotively absent mothers, against little caring families. My idea is of women who married too young to escape their families, maybe ill-married with men who were too young themselves to be real fathers. For these young women, the mythical dyad Mother-Child that practically excludes the male partner looks like the mark of some huge suffering, of serious affection deficits.
What will these women become when their children grow up? Will they begin anew swallowing their nephews, or will they drop into a deep solitude when they’ll be barren, lacking any tool to face it?
The importance of education
I hope you didn’t expect a perfect explanation, but we are not in a movie after all. In the real world, it is improbable that someone will suddenly rise up shouting «eureka!» and waving a pretty diagram of complex phenomena. Even real science proceeds one little step at a time – never mind the simple observation of such odd behaviors!
The parallels are however clear: different categories of people feel insignificant, and in a bout of world-class hybris they play at being no less than god, each one in their particular way.
The difference between extreme website fans and bellyhappy covens is mostly their relationship with sexuality. The former entertain it serenely enough to admit the arousal they feel with these scenarios, and they unload their fantasies on a despicable fetish, yet somewhat contained to a personal and virtual dimension; for the latter, sex is a necessary evil, and to relieve their frustration they end up actually destroying the lives of those surrounding them.
This does not exclude that some disturbed individuals may let porn influence them. However, several studies confirmed that pornography almost always has the effect of disarming the most deviant fantasies – because, in layman terms, once you get off you are more likely to go for a nap than for a massacre. The aspirational nature of the bellyhappy culture realistically follows the opposite trajectory instead, just like with other fanatical extremisms founded on propaganda.
I suppose that this is where a big nice talk on the concept of perversion ought to be, on its perception and social acceptability – but I believe you have been thinking about it for a while yet yourselves, so I can save you from this further torment.
In the same way, I believe we are all asking ourselves also what sort of social impact a true sex and affectivity education would have on such dangerous phenomena.
One thing I would like, however, is to know what you think of all of this. It is possible I am missing the point entirely, or that someone may offer more precise and circumstantiated interpretations. In case, I’m just an email away.