So Time really wanted to sell some magazines. Can you imagine an image more provocative than a three-year-old child with his mouth around the nipple of his young, fit, attractive twenty-six-year old mother–or at least an image that’s that provocative without also being straight up pornographic?
The picture captures a whole range of hotly controversial topics, from public breastfeeding, to attachment parenting, to incest, to the arrested development of kids these days. But what’s truly revealing about Time‘s cover, and the controversy surrounding it, is not the age of the child. It’s our culture’s growing anxieties about Mom and Motherhood. Showing off that you’re a mom or that you’re body is preparing to become one is taboo. It's similarly taboo to show child birth on television or in the movies--and for anything at all to be taboo in Hollywood is really saying something.
Were these aspects of womanhood as taboo as they are today, or is it only a recent development in the history of our culture? That's a question I consider further over at Acculturated. The short answer, it seems, is that they weren't always taboo. The longer answer, which involves the rise of feminism and the decoupling of female sexuality from nature, is here.