Adding to the confusion, of course, are the sexless shrew tropes we constantly see on network sitcoms, which send the message that moms are moody but never in the mood, à la Everybody Loves Raymond. Also among the countless, confounding examples in pop culture are the young women of Teen Mom, who sometimes seem more concerned with plastic surgery than their kids.
The portrayal and perception of motherhood in America is messy, to say the least. Deconstructed, here's how Time relates to all of this: the cover feels inappropriate not just because of its shock value; instead, the imagery fosters the attitude that breastfeeding is freakish per se, and it then links this notion to society's complicated, contradictory prescriptions about mothers' sexuality.
Some might counter that despite the overt opportunism, this is a liberating, challenging portrayal of breastfeeding. After all, the line of reasoning goes, isn't the young mother on the cover challenging stereotypes by proudly, publicly defending her choice to breastfeed – while simultaneously embodying a strongly sexual being?
That does not seem to be at play here, though. The Time photo shoot doesn't set out to challenge taboos so much as exploit them: because it is such an extreme, link-baity example, it prompts a gut reaction based upon what we already believe about appropriate ages for breastfeeding.
Because the "weirdness" element is foregrounded to the exclusion of any other considerations, the Time cover precludes a necessary public debate about the underlying theme: that mothers – be they foxy or frumpy or somewhere in between – should be free to express their sexuality as they so choose, without feeling pressured by shame or constraining stereotypes.