I look at several depictions of birth in popular culture that seem to be breaking ‘Hollywood’s last taboo’ against showing graphic representations of the birthing body. I offer four illustrations of this relatively recent departure from conventional birth imagery and discuss (1) the 2006 sculpture of Britney Spears birthing on a bearskin rug, (2) the crowning scene in the 2007 movie Knocked Up, (3) a 2012 birth scene depicted in the HBO show Game of Thrones, and (4) a birth montage from an episode of the Netflix show Sense8, to suggest that representations of birth no longer solely depict asexual bodies. I consider the consequences that these sexualized representations of the birthing body might have for women’s embodied experience of birth and evaluate this sexy birth imagery in light of a cultural shift towards an increasingly (hetero)sexualized femininity. In particular, I am interested to explore how normative (hetero)sexualized femininity may align with the growing medical management of childbirth and the uptick in surgical delivery. I investigate whether graphic depictions of birth leave us with increased sexual objectification or the possibility for a new sexual subjecthood. I close by offering a queer reading of the birth depictions in the Netflix drama Sense8 and consider how its non-normative depictions of women’s laboring bodies may unsettle the powerful norms that constitute (hetero)sexualized femininity and refigure women’s experiences of childbirth.
Jolly, Natalie, "Sexy Birth: Breaking Hollywood’s Last Taboo" (2017). SIAS Faculty Publications. 743.