Sexuality and motherhood: Mutually exclusive in perception of women

Ariella Friedman*, Hana Weinberg, Ayala M. Pines

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of the present two studies was to demonstrate the existence of a split between motherhood and sexuality in men's and women's perception of a woman, and to explore the effects gender, parental status and age have on it. In the first study, 117 men and 121 women (ages 20-60) all Jewish, were presented with one of three descriptions of a target woman varying her level of sexuality. They were told that she is married, has two children and works outside her home, and were asked to rate her on 4 dimensions of mothering. In the second study, 45 men and 45 women, all Jewish, were presented with one of the three descriptions of the target woman, but without the information about her marital/parental status, and were asked to write a short story about her. The findings of the two studies demonstrate the existence of the split. Both quantitative and qualitative analyses concur in showing that sexuality and motherhood are mutually exclusive in the perception of women: The more sexual a woman is perceived to be, the less she is seen as a good mother. The split between sexuality and motherhood is somewhat stronger among men than among women and among parents involved in active parenting than among older parents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-800
Number of pages20
JournalSex Roles
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - May 1998


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