Is it Friday yet? Mothers talking about sex online


Inspired by the media furore over ‘penis beaker gate’ (October 2013), this article investigates the discussion of sex on the UK parenting website Mumsnet. It asks why there was such shock at finding mothers discussing sexual matters online, what types of discussion related to sex can actually be found on Mumsnet and why women use Mumsnet to discuss these matters. It suggests that the Internet in general offers a new place for women to discuss and discover their sexuality and that Mumsnet in particular offers an interactive and anonymous forum for women whose needs in this area are not met by the mainstream media. On Mumsnet women seek advice and support from others in similar situations, attempt to establish ‘norms’ relating to sexual behaviour, and supplement information given by health professionals.

sex; mothers; Mumsnet
Author biography

Sarah Pedersen

Author photo Sarah Pedersen is Professor of Communication and Media at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK. Her research interests are focused on women and the media. She has published on subjects such as women and blogging, Mumsnet, gendered use of Facebook, the history of the book and the suffragettes and the media.

Albright, J. M. (2008). Sex in America online: An exploration of sex, marital status, and sexual identity in Internet sex seeking and its impacts. Journal of Sex Research, 45, 175-186.

Attwood, F. (2005). Fashion and passion: Marketing sex to women. Sexualities, 8, 392-406.

Attwood, F. (2009). Intimate adventures sex blogs, sex 'blooks' and women's sexual narration. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 12, 5-20.

Bogren, L. Y. (1991). Changes in sexuality in women and men during pregnancy. Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 20, 35-45.

Boynton, P. M. (2007). Advice for sex advisors: A guide for ‘agony aunts’, relationship therapists and sex educators who want to work with the media. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 7, 309-326.

Brady, E., & Guerin, S. (2010). 'Not the romantic: All happy, coochy coo experience': A qualitative analysis of interactions on an Irish parenting website. Family Relations, 59, 14-27.

Chan, A. H. (2008). Life in Happy Land? – Using virtual space and doing motherhood in Hong Kong. Gender, Place and Culture, 15, 169-188.

Clarke, J. (2009). Women’s work, worry and fear: The portrayal of sexuality and sexual health in US magazines for teenage and middle-aged women, 2000-2007. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 11, 415-429.

Daneback, K., & Plantin, L. (2008). Research on parenthood and the internet: Themes and trends. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 2(2), article 2.

Daneback, K., Månsson, S.-A., Ross, M. W., & Markham, C. M. (2012). The Internet as a source of information about sexuality. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 12, 583-598.

De Judicibus, M. A., & McCabe M. P. (2002). Psychological factors and the sexuality of pregnant and postpartum women. The Journal of Sex Research, 29, 94-103.

Döring, N. M. (2009). The Internet’s impact on sexuality: A critical review of 15 years of research. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 1089-1101.

Drentea, P., & Moren-Cross, J. (2005). Social capital and social support on the Web – the case of an Internet mother site. Sociology of Health and Illness, 27, 920-943.

Dunham, P., Hurshman, A., & Litwin, E. (1998). Computer-mediated social support: Single young mothers as a model system. American Journal of Community Psychology, 26, 281-306.

Dworkin, J., Connell, J., & Doty, J. (2013). A literature review of parents’ online behavior. Cyberpsychology: The Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 7(2), article 2.

Ferree, M. (2003). Women and the web: Cybersex activity and implications. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 18, 385-393.

Fisher, C., Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Dodge, B., Satinsky, S., & Fischtein, D. (2010). Exploring sexuality education opportunities at in-home sex-toy parties in the US. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 10, 131-144.

Friedman, A., Weinberg, H., & Pines, A. M. (1998). Sexuality and motherhood: Mutually exclusive in perception of women. Sex Roles, 38, 781-800.

Frith, H. (2013). Congratulations! You had an orgasm! Feminism & Psychology, 23, 252-260.

Hine, C. (2012). Headlice eradication as everyday engagement with science: An analysis of online parenting discussions. Public Understanding of Science.

Hucker, A., & McCabe, M. P. (2014). A qualitative evaluation of online chat groups for women completing a psychological intervention for female sexual dysfunction. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 40, 58-68.

Madge, C., & O’Connor, H. (2006). Parenting gone wired – empowerment of new mothers on the Internet. Social and Cultural Geography, 7, 199-220.

Madge, C., & O’Connor, H. (2005). Mothers in the making? Exploring liminality in cyber/space. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 30, 83-97.

Markham, A., Buchanan, E., & AOIR Working Committee. (2012). Ethical decision-making and Internet research: Recommendations from the AOIR ethics working committee. Retrieved from:

Miyata, K. (2002). ‘Social support for Japanese mothers online and offline’. In B. Wellman & C. Haythornthwaite (Eds.), The Internet in Everyday Life (pp. 520-548). Oxford: Blackwell.

Muise, A. (2011). Women’s sex blogs: Challenging dominant discourses of heterosexual desire. Feminism and Psychology, 21, 411-419.

Murray, J. (2013, October 25). After candidly dealing with sex issues on Woman's Hour for 20 years, Jenni Murray felt she was unshockable. Then she logged on to the sleazy confessions on Mumsnet. The Daily Mail, p.16.

Peck, T. (2013, October 25). The dark side of Mumsnet: My shocking tour of the website’s nether regions. The Independent, p.21.

Pedersen, S., & Smithson, J. (2013). Mothers with attitude – how the Mumsnet parenting forum offers space for new forms of femininity to emerge online. Women’s Studies International Forum, 38, 97-106.

Pedersen, S., & Smithson, J. (2010). Supporting or stressing out? A study of membership, activity and interactions in an online parenting community. In R. Taiwo (Ed.), Handbook of research on discourse behavior and digital communication: Language structures and social interaction (pp. 88-103). Hershey, Penn: IGI Global.

Pedersen, S. (2010). Why blog? Motivations for blogging, Oxford: Chandos & Woodhead Publishing.

Plantin, L., & Daneback, K. (2009). Parenthood, information and support on the Internet – a literature review of research on parents and professionals online. BioMedCentral Family Practice, 10, article 34.

Sarkadi, A., & Bremberg, S. (2005). Socially unbiased parenting support on the Internet – a cross-sectional study of users of a large Swedish parenting website. Child: Care, Health and Development, 31, 43-52.

Seale, C., Charteris-Black, J., MacFarlane, A., & McPherson, A. (2010). Interviews and Internet forums: A comparison of two sources of qualitative data. Advancing Methods, 20, 595-606.

Shipps, L. E., & Caron, S. L. (2013). Motherhood and sexuality: A 20-year content analysis of sexuality-related articles in popular magazines for mothers. Journal of International Women’s Studies. 14(1), 94-110. Retrieved from:

Skea, Z. C. Entwistle, V. A., Watt, I., & Russell, E. (2008). ‘Avoiding harm to others’ considerations in relation to parental measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination discussions – An analysis of an online chat forum. Social Science and Medicine, 67, 1382–1390.

Suzuki, L., & Calzo, J. (2004). The search for peer advice in cyberspace: an examination of online teen bulletin boards about health and sexuality. Applied Developmental Psychology, 25, 68-698. 10.1016/j.appdev.2004.09.002

Trice-Black, S. (2010). Perceptions of women’s sexuality within the context of motherhood. The Family Journal, 19, 154-162.

Trice-Black, S., & Foster, V. A. (2011). Sexuality of women with young children: A feminist model of mental health counseling. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 33, 95-111.

Williamson, M. (2008). An Australian perspective of fatherhood and sexuality. Midwifery, 21, 99-107.

Wood, E. A. (2008). Consciousness-raising 2.0: Sex blogging and the creation of a feminist sex commons. Feminism & Psychology, 18, 480-487.

Woong Yun, G., & Park, S.-Y. (2011). Selective posting: Willingness to post a message online. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 16, 201–227.

Zeavin, L. (2011). What about the episiotomy? A response to Katie Gentile’s article ‘What about the baby?’. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 12, 59-64.





HTML views