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'I Could Eat My Baby to Bits'; passion and desire in lesbian mother-children love

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Mother-children love and adult-sexual love tend to be differentiated by the absence/presence of passion and desire. In the course of my research on lesbian parent families, the artificiality of this distinction has become transparent. In attempting to describe 'mother love' mothers said repeatedly they loved their children 'to bits', wanting to 'eat them up', feeling 'utterly passionate' towards them. This challenges the traditional sexual-sexless boundaries between parents and children. The intensity of 'maternal love' often means that mother-child intimacy becomes a site of delicate negotiations between desire and love. The legal-moral boundaries that are invoked prohibit intergenerational desire, upholding the incest taboos that dominate Western culture. However the construction of these boundaries neither stop adult-child 'border skirmishes' nor quash children's 'natural' exploration of their sexuality. I explore how bodies and bodily boundaries are used to manage sexuality and desire in families. I consider how mothers negotiate their way through the contradictions of mother-children love, incorporating the passion and desire of this love. I suggest mothers' acknowledgment of their passion does not mean that 'maternal love' is potentially sexual/incestuous, but instead questions its conceptual framing. I suggest that future research on mother-children love might usefully look outside the traditional discourses used to describe and delineate love, towards ones that incorporate non-sexual desire.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Faculty of Social Sciences Open University UK

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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