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What the Rise of ‘Fauxcest’ Step Mom Porn Says About American Men

Pornographers have figured out a way to play to men's desire for both sex and maternal comfort.

The rise of divorce in America led to the rise of remarriage in America, which in turn, led to a rise in the number of American stepmothers. The meteoric ascent of the step mom porn, a weirdly specific but booming genre of smut, came shortly thereafter. In 2018, the fourth most popular search on PornHub was “step mom.” That’s fairly consistent with data from the previous few years and curious given that “MILF” remains number one and step-mother pornography feels like a sub-genre. Well, it is and it isn’t. Though it plays on some of the same horny older woman tropes as MILF porn (and The Graduate and “Stacy’s Mom” and American Pie), step moms represent a more transgressive expression of the maternal/sexual dialectic. These porn clips fall under the umbrella of what porn producers call “fauxcest,” which may mean that the rise of this type of pornography has less to do with the changing structure of the American family than it has to do with modern men’s desire for comfort.

“Men’s fantasies about older, close, yet off-limits women have been pervasive in U.S. culture long before the current fauxcest boom,” Chauntelle Tibbals, sociologist and author of the book Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment, explains, noting that this includes the stepmom trope present in porn today. “There are, however, fewer overtly stepmother themes engaged in non-porn narratives, which is interesting.”

Think of a classic film about a young man or woman sleeping with their stepmother.  You likely can’t. The 1997 TV movie My Stepson, My Lover did not catch on. Which means step mother sex is a porn meme, not a cultural one.

Why? Part of the reason seems to be that female roles in porn tend to be either submissive or dominant. Aggressive teachers, bosses, and nurses are dominatrix figures. Cheerleaders and, sadly, teens tend to be submissive figures. Though mother figures can be submissive, they generally are not. They are empowered and demanding. MILF porn is very rarely about subjugation, but that doesn’t mean it’s not about power dynamics. MILFs are grown women who know what they want. That seems to be the appeal.

But MILFs don’t often have sex with actors pretending to be their own children. That would be incest and would turn off most viewers. So MILFs are, in a sense, limited in their ability to be maternal towards their sexual conquests. Not so with step mothers. Stepmothers can treat the young men they are having sex with tenderly. They can guide and instruct. They can care for them. That dynamic, if the audience is buying into the narrative, makes sense. And it seems to have a singular appeal that’s not based entirely in the taboo.

“Through sexualizing a female character who is overtly or covertly linked to a feeling of powerlessness in childhood, we can gain a sense of mastery of the situation and turn something unpleasant into something pleasant,” says psychotherapist Mark Vahrmeyer.

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Common fantasies tend to come from common sources. And the sex appeal of a maternal figure may well be tied to childhood trauma, sexual or otherwise. Specifically, the fantasy may be tied to some trauma around the mother-son or stepmother-son relationship. According to psychotherapist Mark Vahrmeyer, the sexualization may represent an attempt to recreate childhood moments as an adult in order to gain a sense of control over the past. That might sound odd given that the step mom characters in porn tend to be in control, but the appeal seems to exist within the tension between reality and fantasy. 

“The idea that a person is in such close proximity and has some measure of unfettered power over a person, while also not being informed by idealized mothering tropes, is compelling,” Tibbals says. “You’re tapping directly into femme dom, which is hugely popular and widely sought out.”

Tibbals argues that though fauxcest porn is viscerally a bit unnerving, it’s ultimately not a particularly alarming phenomenon. Sexy step moms are popular not just because of trauma, but because of taboo and a general desire among porn viewers to see a woman be both powerful and maternal, which isn’t all bad. However, the trope can still cause real problems precisely because there are more stepmothers in America than ever before. Try as parents might try to stop them, kids watch porn and this can send a bizarre, awkward message. All the more reason to talk to kids about porn and what it represents (not reality) before they figure out the trenchant URLs.  

It’s hard to explain to a child that sex isn’t always about sex and even harder to explain that step mom sex is almost never really about step mom sex. It’s also important.

“A young person who is not educated about media may certainly get off mark ideas about actual stepmoms from the fauxcest version of stepmoms in adult content,” Tibbals warns. “People who are maturing into young adults need information that is accurate, frank, comfortable, and appropriate. This includes talking about sexy stepmoms.”