Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Jessica Bennett (00:00):

If you grew up in the ’90s, you probably know the scene from American Pie that I’m about to tell you about. No, not that scene. This one takes place in a suburban living room at a raging party with bad music and red solo cups full of beer, and a group of horny teenage boys who are gathered in the hallway to admire a photo of Stifler’s mom played by Jennifer Coolidge.

Clips (00:22):

That’s Stifler’s mom?






I cannot believe a fun woman like this produced a guy like Stifler.


Dude! I took some MILF.


What the hell’s that?

Jessica Bennett (00:35):

Yeah. What the hell is that? A MILF? That is…

Clips (00:38):

M-I-L-F. Mom I’d like to fuck.




Oh yeah.



Jessica Bennett (00:49):

MILF. It’s a familiar term now, but where did it come from? And why won’t it go away? I’m Jessica Bennett.

Susie Banikarim (00:58):

And I’m Susie Banikarim.

Jessica Bennett (00:59):

This is In Retrospect where each week we revisit a cultural moment from the past that shaped us.

Susie Banikarim (01:05):

And that we just can’t stop thinking about.

Jessica Bennett (01:07):

Today we’re talking about MILFs, a term popularized by the movie American Pie, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.


Susie, we’re talking today about American Pie which for those who don’t know or didn’t grow up in the ’90s and early 2000s like we did, this was the wildly popular 1999 movie about four high school virgins who are on the prowl to lose their virginity, are essentially horny beyond belief and perhaps defined cringe, before cringe was a term that we used.

Susie Banikarim (01:41):

I mean, we should probably clarify that all the virgins in this particular story are boys.

Jessica Bennett (01:46):

Oh, yes. True.

Susie Banikarim (01:46):

Now we might have a movie like this about female virgins also trying to lose their virginity. In fact, I think we have had those movies, but at this time it was only boys who wanted to have sex.

Jessica Bennett (01:54):

It was only boys. But as far as sex goes, I’m pretty sure this was the film that, for a certain cohort of our generation, really served as sex education.

Susie Banikarim (02:05):

I mean it certainly had a lot of sexual tropes.

Jessica Bennett (02:09):

I mean, not even tropes. Just like actual sex acts in the most awkward way imaginable from masturbation and the fear of mom walking in on you, of course, which happens. Premature ejaculation, spying through a webcam on a foreign exchange student, sex on prom night. It had jocks and cheerleaders and band geeks. It had edging. You could really… It had everything. And many of these moments are seared into my teenage brain. How about you?

Susie Banikarim (02:39):

I definitely saw it at the time, but it’s not one of those movies I’ve seen a million times. This feels like a movie some people have seen a lot. I only remember having seen it once or twice and I had to rewatch it to remind myself what happens. But of course, the scene that I do remember, that I will always remember, is the one where Jason Biggs, who is the star of the movie, has sex with an apple pie.

Clips (03:06):

That’s not what it looks like.

Jessica Bennett (03:08):

I mean first he fingers the apple pie and then he has-

Susie Banikarim (03:10):

Yes, first he fingers it-

Jessica Bennett (03:11):

… sex with the apple pie.

Susie Banikarim (03:11):

… which is in and of itself… You’re like, “Oh God, what’s happening?”


It’s interesting because… I must have seen this movie when I was in my late teens, and I don’t remember being shocked by it at the time. I remember just being like, “Oh, this is a funny movie.” And now it feels more shocking somehow because I’m an adult. So I’m just like-

Jessica Bennett (03:32):

Hah, that’s funny.

Susie Banikarim (03:33):

I know. I don’t know why. It just feels like I notice how raunchy it is-

Jessica Bennett (03:38):


Susie Banikarim (03:39):

… in a way that I think I just took for granted at the time. It’s worth mentioning there are a lot of really famous people in this movie.

Jessica Bennett (03:46):

Yes, there are a ton of famous people-

Susie Banikarim (03:46):

I’d forgotten that.

Jessica Bennett (03:47):

… and people who then became famous after it. Jason Biggs, of course, you mentioned who was the main character. His father is played by Eugene Levy. It’s the father who then ends up walking in on him while he is having sex with the pie. There’s Natasha Lyonne, Tara Reid, there’s of course Jennifer Coolidge. Really big names.

Susie Banikarim (04:06):

Yeah. And Alyson Hannigan, who is a star on How I Met Your mother. So it’s a lot of recognizable faces. Mena Suvari’s in it. People who went on to have big careers after this.

Jessica Bennett (04:16):


Susie Banikarim (04:17):

So okay, obviously there’s the famous apple pie scene, and that is the thing most people remember. But the label of MILF is also something that I remembered. I just didn’t really trace it back to this particular movie. So what made you want to talk about this?

Jessica Bennett (04:31):

I’m fascinated by language and this kind of stuff is fun for me to track down the origins of.

Susie Banikarim (04:37):


Jessica Bennett (04:37):

And I started thinking about that actually when you and I were recording last season, our episode on Dawson’s Creek and Mary Kay LeTourneau, which of course is about younger boys in relationships with older women, and how that is perceived. And I just kept thinking about this term MILF, and wondering where it had actually come from. And was it really from American Pie? Because that’s what I remember and where I remember first learning about it, I think. But that can’t possibly be the first usage of it. So anyhow, that led me down a rabbit hole.

Susie Banikarim (05:11):

I do love when you go down a linguistic rabbit hole. But before we get into it, can you remind me what’s happening in American Pie when the term MILF is first used in the movie?

Jessica Bennett (05:20):

Yeah, let me just set the scene for you a little bit. The guys, the virgins, they’re at Stifler’s house. Stifler is the classic rich, arrogant douche bag guy that everyone puts up with because he throws all the parties.

Clips (05:33):

What’s up, dude?


You’re coming to party tonight, Ozzie, you fuck face?

Susie Banikarim (05:36):

Every teenager has one of these-

Jessica Bennett (05:38):

Yes. Every-

Susie Banikarim (05:39):

… and every teen movie has one of these, I feel like.

Jessica Bennett (05:42):

Absolutely. And so they’re all standing around gawking at this photo, Stifler’s mom on the wall, and it’s all the guys. But one of the really funny things I learned later is that the guy who actually defines the term MILF that we all heard there, is referred to in the credits at the end of the movie, simply as MILF Guy #2.

Susie Banikarim (06:00):

That’s amazing because it’s actually an actor I recognize. I just couldn’t figure out from where.

Jessica Bennett (06:04):

Well, I think you recognize him now because he’s John Cho, who would later star in Harold and Kumar. But at the time, I don’t think he was a recognizable name.

Susie Banikarim (06:13):

Wow. MILF Guy #2 really paid off for him though.

Jessica Bennett (06:16):

Apparently. And so later in the movie, what ends up happening is that one of the virgins, Finch, he’s like the intellectual old soul of the group. He drinks single malt whiskey and reads books on tantric sex. He loses his virginity to the MILF, Stifler’s mom, and this happens on a pool table during yet another party at Stifler’s House on prom night.

Susie Banikarim (06:38):

I had forgotten that detail, but I don’t know how. It’s so evocative.

Jessica Bennett (06:42):

And Finch has this rivalry with Stifler throughout the movie. So him sleeping with Stifler’s mom in a way is the ultimate teen boy “fuck you.” It’s like literally, “I fucked your mom.”

Susie Banikarim (06:55):

Yeah. I mean it’s also just such a teenage fantasy, right? It’s wild.

Jessica Bennett (07:00):

And so in the final scene of the movie, the boys are at a diner post prom, and they’re like giving each other the details, and Finch says…

Clips (07:07):

No, I just got to say that women, like a fine wine, only get better with age.

Jessica Bennett (07:13):

And with that line, MILF, I think the word, but also the concept gets cemented into the cultural zeitgeist.

Clips (07:21):


Jessica Bennett (07:25):

Now I think it’s worth exploring if we can stomach it in our prudish older years-

Susie Banikarim (07:31):

By which you mean my prudish older years.

Jessica Bennett (07:33):

Well, no, it was pretty gross. But just how raunchy American Pie was because, honestly, like you said, it is pretty shocking to rewatch. And we only mentioned a couple of scenes, but there were so many other gross ones in the film.


I was reading one of the early reviews of the film, and there’s this funny line from the New York Times film critic, Stephen Holden, where he says, “Which scene is grossest? The beer scene? The pie scene? The toilet scene? All over the country during the next few weeks, teenagers able to wrangle their way into the R-rated comedy will be comparing notes and debating.”

Susie Banikarim (08:08):

First of all, I think it’s funny that the New York Times took this movie seriously enough to do a full review of it.

Jessica Bennett (08:13):

Well, we’re very serious=

Susie Banikarim (08:13):

That’s amazing to me.

Jessica Bennett (08:17):

… serious of the New York Times. And I should note it wasn’t that kids were only debating. One kid in Idaho actually decided to stick his penis into a pie in real life and ended up getting third degree burns.

Susie Banikarim (08:27):

Okay. I actually feel like I remember this. And I would wager to say that a lot of teens tried this because most of them were smart enough not to do it on a piping hot pie. So we don’t know about it because they didn’t get third degree burns.

Jessica Bennett (08:41):

Yes, exactly. You have to let the pie cool first.

Susie Banikarim (08:45):

I mean, I think the other thing I want to say is that there’s a lot of raunchy things in this movie, but there’s also things that we would consider illegal now. They record a woman without her consent undressing and livestream it, which I don’t even know that I knew at that time what livestreaming was.

Jessica Bennett (09:03):

No, I don’t think we did. But yeah, this is the Nadia scene, right? She’s the hot foreign exchange student, and she asks Jim if he will tutor her, and he’s basically falling all over himself responding…

Clips (09:14):

Absolutely. That would be great sometime. How about tomorrow?


Well, I have ballet practice. Perhaps I could come by your house afterwards? I could change clothes at your place.

Susie Banikarim (09:27):

Right? Of course she’s going to change clothes at his place. What an extremely fortunate twist for Jim who is dying to get her naked.

Jessica Bennett (09:35):


Susie Banikarim (09:35):

And then the weirdest part in this movie of very weird things is… then while she’s naked in his room, she goes through his things and finds his porn magazines and is like, “Oh, you know what I’ll do right now while I’m in this, essentially, stranger’s bedroom? I’m going to masturbate here.” It’s so unrealistic.

Jessica Bennett (09:54):

Right. And then it not only streams to his friends, but to the whole school.

Susie Banikarim (09:58):

Yes, he’s accidentally sent it to the entire school, and that’s never acknowledged as weird. That whole storyline ends basically at that point in the movie, because the next scene, Jason Biggs is like, “Yeah, her host family sent her home.” And you’re like, “What about the crime?”

Jessica Bennett (10:14):


Susie Banikarim (10:14):

At the time I think we just thought “teenage shenanigans.”

Jessica Bennett (10:17):

Also, there’s the semen in a cup scene.

Susie Banikarim (10:20):

Oh my God. That scene. It’s so horrifying.

Jessica Bennett (10:24):

Where Kevin’s girlfriend has given him a blowjob and he ejaculates into a beer cup and-

Susie Banikarim (10:28):

As one does. Yes.

Jessica Bennett (10:30):

I feel like you can picture these red solo beer cups everywhere throughout this movie, but this one is actually clear, naturally.

Susie Banikarim (10:40):

Of course.

Jessica Bennett (10:40):

And so then Stifler picks it up and takes a sip of it.

Susie Banikarim (10:42):

Yeah. Which is first he gives it to a girl and she takes a sip of it. I mean, this is just gross out comedy.

Jessica Bennett (10:49):


Susie Banikarim (10:50):

And those moments don’t shock me as much as I’m just like, “Oh, no. No. Stop.”

Jessica Bennett (10:56):

I don’t know. It’s not even sexy. It’s just so gross in a lot of ways.

Susie Banikarim (11:00):

Yeah. The movie isn’t sexy. It’s just about sex.

Jessica Bennett (11:02):


Susie Banikarim (11:03):

Which I think is an interesting thing. There’s no pretense that you’re going to watch this movie and it’s going to feel hot. It’s not a hot movie.

Jessica Bennett (11:10):

Well, another scene actually that this reminds me of was the flute band camp scene.

Susie Banikarim (11:15):

Yes, of course.

Jessica Bennett (11:16):

So you mentioned Alyson Hannigan. She plays Michelle, and Michelle is the band camp dork who plays the flute. And at a certain point Michelle is telling Jim a story at one of these parties, and he seems pretty bored with whatever she’s saying until…

Clips (11:35):

Oh, and this one time at band camp, I stuck a flute in my pussy.


Excuse me?


What? You don’t think I know how to get myself off?

Susie Banikarim (11:46):

It’s so funny because I do feel like maybe I remember this movie better than I thought or maybe it just became such a popular part of the vernacular. Because I do remember that for a long time after this movie people would just say, “One time at band camp.”

Jessica Bennett (11:58):

Exactly. I mean there were so many things about this movie that permanently lodged in the zeitgeist, maybe without us even knowing I was in the orchestra in high school. I played the violin. And so from the moment we all watched that movie, I don’t think any of the female flute players in the orchestra could ever be looked at with a straight face again. That was permanently their cross to bear.

Susie Banikarim (12:42):

Jess, American Pie came out in 1999, right? So can you just give us a sense of what’s going on in the culture at that time that set the stage for it?

Jessica Bennett (12:51):

Absolutely. Because it was really this era in the late ’90s of not just shock comedy but like, “Sex. Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex.” Viagra has just hit the market.

Clips (13:01):

Who’s asking about Viagra? Maybe it should be you.

Jessica Bennett (13:07):

Bill Clinton has denied, of course, having sexual relations with “that woman,” which is Monica Lewinsky.

Clips (13:11):

I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

Jessica Bennett (13:15):

But no matter what he has said, the late night hosts have made a complete heyday of making fun of him and talking about the cigar that was inserted into her vagina.

Susie Banikarim (13:26):

Oh, God.

Jessica Bennett (13:26):

And sales of cigars have gone up.

Clips (13:28):

Now let’s see what’s going on with Monica, or as President Clinton calls her, “my little humidor.”

Jessica Bennett (13:32):

Anyway, this is in the political culture.

Susie Banikarim (13:35):


Jessica Bennett (13:35):

And then I’m sure you remember the movie There’s Something About Mary.

Susie Banikarim (13:39):

Who could forget?

Jessica Bennett (13:41):

And I’m sure you remember the scene in There’s Something About Mary.

Susie Banikarim (13:45):

Yes. He has semen for some reason on him, and she thinks it’s hair gel and she puts it in her hair.

Clips (13:50):

Is that a hair gel?




Great. I could use some.


No, no, don’t. You don’t have to.


I just ran out.

Susie Banikarim (13:58):

It’s all so disgusting.

Jessica Bennett (13:59):

Because obviously you’d just take a thing that’s hanging off someone’s face and put it in your hair for hair gel. So yes, There’s Something About Mary-

Susie Banikarim (14:06):

This episode is really something.

Jessica Bennett (14:08):

… that was very gross and… memorable scene has just come out. And this is also the era of Dawson’s Creek, which we’ve talked about before, and all of the hilarious, so on the nose, over the top, sexual innuendo that went along with that.

Clips (14:21):

Be proactive and grab him by the dipstick.


How often do you walk your dog, huh?




Jerking his gerking.


I’m just engaged in a little innuendo in the hopes that maybe someday it’ll lead to something a little more tangible.

Jessica Bennett (14:32):

I hadn’t realized until digging into this research that the year that American Pie came out was such a huge year, more broadly, for teen movies. So Varsity Blues, Never Been Kissed, Cruel Intentions, Election, all of these movies came out in 1999. So really big moment for teen movies.

Susie Banikarim (14:51):

Yes, all great movies and also all movies that… I mean, I guess all teen movies to some degree center on sex and the ways in which it’s confusing for teenagers,

Jessica Bennett (15:01):

And I think American Pie had a lot of lasting impacts, but MILF is one of them. And I think that after it came out, it kicks off what we might now refer to as the MILF era.

Susie Banikarim (15:14):

The MILF era? How formal. How does that play out?

Jessica Bennett (15:21):

It basically becomes popularized both as a concept and a term. So in the months and years following this movie, tens of thousands of MILF-branded T-shirts and mugs are sold online. There is this whole new genre of books in the “hot mom” book realm.

Susie Banikarim (15:39):

So it’s moms who embrace this because they want to be known as MILFs?

Jessica Bennett (15:43):

I mean, maybe? Or it’s publishers, it’s people knowing that it will sell. But things like Confessions of a Naughty Mommy, the MILF Anthology, The Hot Mom’s Handbook.

Susie Banikarim (15:53):

I really would like to read Confessions of a Naughty Mommy. I feel like that would be hilarious.

Jessica Bennett (15:59):

I haven’t read any of these things, but it’s not just the term itself that’s being used. There’s this moment happening in television and film and elsewhere of hot “older” women, and I’m using air quotes on older because oftentimes the older was-

Susie Banikarim (16:13):


Jessica Bennett (16:13):

… a bit younger than us.

Susie Banikarim (16:14):

Yeah. Oh, no. Don’t-

Jessica Bennett (16:15):


Susie Banikarim (16:16):

I don’t want to know.

Jessica Bennett (16:17):

TV shows like Desperate Housewives. And as you know well, this is when The Real Housewives began, when the Real Housewives franchise began.

Susie Banikarim (16:26):

Although I would argue that those were not particularly hot women, but maybe at the time they were considered hot.

Jessica Bennett (16:31):

However you define it. And then remember the Fountains of Wayne’s song, Stacy’s Mom?

Susie Banikarim (16:35):

Of course.

Clips (16:37):

I’m in Love with Stacey’s Mom.


Stacy’s Mom.

Jessica Bennett (16:40):

In 2003, it was the number one most downloaded song on iTunes-

Susie Banikarim (16:44):

Oh, wow.

Jessica Bennett (16:44):

… which was the year it came out. And then, actually around the same time this other hilarious thing happens and this is maybe indicative of my home state. I’m not sure exactly what this is indicative of. But in Washington State a resident, not from Seattle, I will say, applied for a GOTMILF vanity license plate and was approved, which is kind of funny. I mean, whatever.

Susie Banikarim (17:06):

That’s funny.

Jessica Bennett (17:07):

It’s funny. Got Milk? GOTMILF. But then people complained and he ended up having to surrender it because on the application he had explained that what MILF stood for was manual inline lift fluctuator, which he claimed was some kind of automotive gizmo.

Susie Banikarim (17:22):

I mean, honestly, that also sounds dirty. I don’t know. I don’t know what to tell that dude.

Jessica Bennett (17:25):

It’s true.

Susie Banikarim (17:26):

But manual inline lift fluctuator sounds like a sex toy,

Jessica Bennett (17:29):

Yes. But then the actual complaints about it, which were written in, and then the documents were revealed by The Smoking Gun. Remember that website?

Susie Banikarim (17:36):

Yes, yes.

Jessica Bennett (17:37):

They were like, “I’m not sure what you people with the DMV have been watching, but you clearly don’t know what this actually means. Here’s what it actually means.” And so they revoked the license.

Susie Banikarim (17:46):

It’s probably also worth mentioning that Got Milk? was this huge ad campaign at the time, so they probably weren’t so happy at the Milk Foundation or whoever ran that campaign.

Clips (17:56):

Got Milk?

Susie Banikarim (18:00):

Okay. So Jess, I think we can finally get to the linguistic rabbit hole. What is the etymology that you discovered?

Jessica Bennett (18:08):

First, let me just caveat. There’s two things. There is MILF, the word, and then there is MILF, the idea. And so when we talk about MILF, the idea, obviously we know that there’s this fascination with sexual mother figures that has always existed or at least existed back to Freud days and the Oedipus complex.

Susie Banikarim (18:27):

Yeah, there is this weird fascination or sexualization of mothers. And for people who don’t know, the Oedipus complex is this concept that all sons secretly want to have sex with their moms. I feel like I’ve always known, but must have been introduced to me in some way.

Jessica Bennett (18:43):

I think it’s in mythology. And then Freud took it on and was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is so Oedepal,” as Freud did.

Susie Banikarim (18:48):

Yeah. And I think they’ve since said that there’s no empirical evidence that that’s a thing, but for some reason it just stuck culturally that all men have some weird affection for their mom.

Jessica Bennett (18:58):

I mean, the most famous example I think is the cult classic, The Graduate, which introduces the character of Mrs. Robinson.

Susie Banikarim (19:06):

Amazing move.

Jessica Bennett (19:07):

This came out in the 1960s.

Susie Banikarim (19:08):

Although in fairness, Mrs. Robinson is not his mom, it’s his girlfriend’s mom.

Jessica Bennett (19:13):

Right. And then you get the song Mrs. Robinson. So there’s this mythology/enduring fascination that has existed for a very, very long time, but the term itself is a different story. Where did this actual acronym come from? And the answer to that, or at least the answer that I’ve seen – I have not or I could not independently confirm this – is apparently an early 1990s issue of Motorbooty magazine.

Susie Banikarim (19:39):

Okay, first of all, I am so happy to learn that there is a Motorbooty magazine.

Jessica Bennett (19:44):

As was I. But I have to tell you, Susie, it’s not what it sounds like. It’s not a raunchy car magazine. It’s actually like an alternative music and comedy magazine.

Susie Banikarim (19:57):

Oh, all right. I mean, I guess that’s cooler-

Jessica Bennett (19:57):

Right? I don’t know.

Susie Banikarim (19:58):

… but I was picturing a lot of women and would take their booties out on top of cars which is what I was-

Jessica Bennett (20:01):

I know, very… I don’t know. Confusing? But that one’s really hard to confirm. What I am absolutely certain of, because I reached out to a pal of mine, Ben Zimmer, who is a linguist, is that the actual first usage case for which I have seen the official proof was in 1991 in a Buffalo, New York newspaper. It was the name of a rock band-

Susie Banikarim (20:28):

Oh, wow.

Jessica Bennett (20:28):

… who apparently adopted it because they’d heard lifeguards at Fort Niagara State Park using it to refer to the women, I guess?

Susie Banikarim (20:36):

Wow. This is actually fascinating that you were able to find the-

Jessica Bennett (20:40):

It’s super interesting, right? This is in 1991. It appears in a local Buffalo newspaper announcing a show for this band. And funny side note, the other bands that they were playing with in this show in Buffalo, New York were called The Tails and Tugboat Annie, which I feel like are also MILF-ishy names. I don’t know. Something?

Susie Banikarim (20:57):

Yeah. And so what is the proof that Ben provides you that made you think this was definitely-

Jessica Bennett (21:02):

Well, so Ben actually spoke to the band members-

Susie Banikarim (21:05):

Oh my God! Okay.

Jessica Bennett (21:06):

… who confirmed because it is basically… Ben was doing research. Ben is a columnist at The Wall Street Journal who writes about language. He’s also a linguist. And he actually MCs the Annual Word of the Year Convention every year for the American Dialect Society.

Susie Banikarim (21:18):

Amazing. We should go to that.

Jessica Bennett (21:19):

It’s very fun.

Susie Banikarim (21:20):


Jessica Bennett (21:21):

So he was trying to find out the first usages, and he found this little band thing, but you couldn’t be sure that Milf meant “mom I’d like to fuck.” So he actually reached out to this band member and was like, “Is that what it stood for?” And the band member, who didn’t want to be named because of course he has a real job so hence-

Susie Banikarim (21:37):

Yeah. He’s probably gone on to things that don’t involve-

Jessica Bennett (21:39):

… didn’t want it on his LinkedIn or whatever, was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was it.” Which was super interesting because then the next reference that we can trace is all the way in California in 1992, somehow between ’91 and ’92 this term makes its way from New York to California, and we’re not sure why. But in ’92 it appears at a conference at UC, Berkeley where a linguist named Laurel Sutton gives this presentation about various words, derogatory words used to describe women. And so she’s collected all of these different terms used by undergraduate students to refer to women, and MILF is one of them.

Susie Banikarim (22:19):

I mean this is actually why I love that you love language so much, because it’s so interesting that words just take on a life of their own like this.

Jessica Bennett (22:26):

They do. They absolutely do. So what you see from there is that it starts being used on early internet message boards and in particular talking about a playboy pictorial of hot moms.

Susie Banikarim (22:37):

Oh, okay.

Jessica Bennett (22:38):

It was called Fabulous After 40.

Susie Banikarim (22:40):

How progressive of Playboy in 1995.

Jessica Bennett (22:43):

I know, right? So it actually makes sense.

Susie Banikarim (22:43):

Fabulous After 40. Yes.

Jessica Bennett (22:46):

And so another funny aside is that the linguist who presented that conference at Berkeley, Laurel Sutton who I mentioned, she would actually go on to write a paper about these findings, and it would be called Bitches and Skanky Hobags: The Place of Women in Contemporary Slang.

Susie Banikarim (23:01):

Also something I’m dying to read, so I will be reading Bitches and Skanky Hobags after this.

Jessica Bennett (23:06):

You absolutely should. Another funny little thread here is that years later in 2013, Ben Zimmer, who’s the other linguist I mentioned, he had to actually let Laurel, the author of Bitches and Skanky Hobags know that her mention of MILF in that paper was actually getting this linguistic honor as one of the first usages in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Susie Banikarim (23:28):


Jessica Bennett (23:29):

So this is jargon for us, but it’s a huge nerdy honor if you’re a linguist. And so at the time she wrote on her blog that she was, quote, “both gratified and mortified.”

Susie Banikarim (23:39):

I’m so happy for Laurel. That’s beautiful.

Jessica Bennett (23:42):

I know, right? I think it’s really cool.

Susie Banikarim (23:42):

Yeah, it’s cool.

Jessica Bennett (23:43):

But she has this funny statement where she says, the word in question is an awful acronym I first ran across while in graduate school when I was doing data gathering on slang used by undergrads. Then as now and always, there was an abundance of words that reduced women to their desirability, mostly of the negative type. If the words themselves aren’t insulting like skank and hobag, they’re condescending, which is what I said about MILF in my paper. She then goes on to say the citation will live on long after she’s gone, and she can only hope that future generations will find this word quaintly offensive and say, “Sure glad we don’t talk like that anymore.”

Susie Banikarim (24:20):

Wow. But we really do talk like that still.

Jessica Bennett (24:22):

We have very much, unfortunately, disappointed Laurel. And now the term is actually in every dictionary. It’s often categorized under vulgar slang. But if you look up Merriam-Webster dictionary or even dictionary.com, it is there as an acronym that stands for “mom I’d like to fuck.” And then in dictionary.com it says, “which is often said by teenage boys about their friends’ attractive mothers or just about women in general who are considered of middle age.”

Susie Banikarim (24:50):

I think the other thing is this just feels like it’s so part of the vernacular now. Isn’t it almost always in the top five searched porn terms in this country? I feel like people love-

Jessica Bennett (25:00):


Susie Banikarim (25:00):

… looking for MILF porn.

Jessica Bennett (25:02):

I mean that part is so disturbing, but it’s not a far jump from this definition saying that teenage boys often say it about their friends’ hot moms too. Then imagining those teenage boys searching MILF on porn sites.

Susie Banikarim (25:15):

I actually looked because I was curious.

Jessica Bennett (25:16):

Love that.

Susie Banikarim (25:16):

And in 2022, PornHub had it as its number three search term in the world. Not just in America, in the world. But it’s also just fascinating that these kinds of words go from being online searches to being in the dictionary. Didn’t they just put the word “rizz” in the dictionary? Which makes me feel a hundred.

Jessica Bennett (25:36):

Okay. Well, so separate thing, dictionary and Word of the Year are different. And I only know these really fine distinctions because I used to go to the Word of the Year conference every year.

Susie Banikarim (25:47):

Okay, wait. That sounds so fun. And why have you never told me about this before?

Jessica Bennett (25:52):

I don’t know. I’ve written about it. I guess you’re not reading my articles, Susie.

Susie Banikarim (25:55):

Oh my God. You know that’s not true.

Jessica Bennett (25:58):

But it’s honestly my the most joy [inaudible 00:26:03]-

Susie Banikarim (26:03):

You get out of an assignment?

Jessica Bennett (26:03):

… my life is going to the annual Word of the Year conference. It’s hosted by the American Dialect Society every year, and people can present papers on linguistic trends, and there’s all these academics there. And then they have this event which people can go to and vote on/debate and argue for the words of the year. So there’s now multiple words of the year contest, and it all gets very confusing. But I just saw that delulu had been nominated for the American Dialect Society’s. That’s for delusional.

Susie Banikarim (26:34):

Which is definitely one of the best words. I feel silly using it but I definitely do use it. Is this how you know all these linguists that you reached out to for this article?

Jessica Bennett (26:45):

Yes, that’s how I know some of them. Yeah.

Susie Banikarim (26:46):

Wow. Impressive.

Jessica Bennett (26:47):


Susie Banikarim (26:48):

There’s always things I’m uncovering about your career.

Jessica Bennett (26:50):

Love linguists. They’re very fun.


Okay, so back to the word MILF. So American Pie we have now established didn’t create this term, but it certainly pushed it into the mainstream, both in term but also in concept. Stifler’s mom became the hottest MILF in America and it seemed, at least in that time, like MILF was everywhere.

Susie Banikarim (27:25):

And Jennifer Coolidge is truly the original MILF, right? Nobody will ever be more MILF than her.

Jessica Bennett (27:32):

Right. Right. And actually I want to pause on her for a second because she’s talked about this quite a bit. And I think in some ways she hasn’t really been able to escape that title or that role, but it also has ended up being good for her in a lot of ways. She plays it super well. After American Pie comes out, Eugene Levy ends up recommending her for Best in Show. I don’t know if you remember that campy movie. She plays this trophy wife character.

Clips (27:55):

We both have so much in common. We both love soup and we love the outdoors. We love snow peas and talking and not talking.

Susie Banikarim (28:10):

She was very MILFy in White Lotus too.

Clips (28:13):

Don’t spend your life chasing emotionally unavailable men.

Jessica Bennett (28:19):

She is always MILFy. It’s also great… The thing is you can’t age out of being a MILF.

Susie Banikarim (28:25):

Yeah, it’s true.

Jessica Bennett (28:26):

For women in Hollywood-

Susie Banikarim (28:27):

I guess you can become a G-MILF like a grandmother, a GILF.

Jessica Bennett (28:30):

Yeah, it’s fun. Maybe it’s good because in every other world it’s like, “Oh, she’s too old.” But if you’re a MILF, you can always be a MILF.

Susie Banikarim (28:37):

But she still does talk about this MILF reference because I’ve seen interviews in the last year where she’s talked about it. She embraces it. I don’t think she rejects it. I think she recognizes that it really did help her become a breakout star.

Jessica Bennett (28:51):

It also apparently led to a lot of sex for her.

Susie Banikarim (28:54):

I mean, good for Jennifer Coolidge.

Jessica Bennett (28:59):

I know, right? And I don’t know if this is a joke or not, she is a comic, but she talks about how there were 200 sexual partners she had after that movie because everyone wanted to sleep with her after American Pie.

Susie Banikarim (29:10):

I mean that makes sense to me. She was an icon of that era. But this reminds me, there was another MILF reference after this that I thought was hilarious. Britney Spears at the height of her fame, wore a T-shirt that said, “MILF in training,” which is pretty funny, and it was before she had kids. So it’s sort of this idea that being a hot mom is something everyone should aspire to.

Jessica Bennett (29:31):

You’re reminding me of something that I think is helpful in understanding the backdrop or the context to when this term was emerging. Because as this is all going on, as this is gaining popularity, as Britney Spears is wearing her T-shirt, the U.S. Is actually seeing a rise in young single mothers like Stifler’s mom.

Susie Banikarim (29:49):

Oh, interesting.

Jessica Bennett (29:50):

And also the postponement of marriage and parenthood. So it’s like these things are juxtaposed against each other or maybe they’re all intertwined, because research also found that young adults were living at home longer than ever before, which you can imagine probably impacted the perception of moms as sexual beings, or single women, and young men just hanging around older women more.

Susie Banikarim (30:15):

I guess it is interesting that there were obviously young mothers before, but young single mothers mean that you have to acknowledge that your mother to some degree is a being who dates and has a romantic life.

Jessica Bennett (30:27):

Right, right.

Susie Banikarim (30:27):

So that would be a shift in thinking.

Jessica Bennett (30:30):

There’s a moment that I really remember from that show, Weeds. Did you watch that?

Susie Banikarim (30:34):

I loved that show. Yes.

Jessica Bennett (30:35):

I mean, I know you’re a weed enthusiast, so figured you’d watched it. So this is Mary Louise Parker, she plays a 43-year-old… I guess you could call her a MILF, but that’s pretty young. And she plays this widowed suburban mom who deals pot to support her kids. And so there’s this amazing episode where she’s introduced to Snoop Dogg who plays himself-

Susie Banikarim (30:57):


Jessica Bennett (30:58):

… and she’s introduced as a MILF. And he says, “I’d do you.”

Susie Banikarim (31:03):

I mean, of course. Of course he does.

Jessica Bennett (31:06):

And then he smokes her weed and declares that it’s MILF weed and performs this hilarious MILF weed rap.

Clips (31:13):


Jessica Bennett (31:19):

But that is so funny because I remember smoking weed that we called MILF weed or referring to weed as MILF weed. Or that became a thing, there’s a culture of it-

Susie Banikarim (31:25):

It must’ve become a strain.

Jessica Bennett (31:26):

… at some point.

Susie Banikarim (31:27):

Yeah. Have you smoked MILF weed?


I haven’t smoked MILF weed, but I bet you if I searched for it in the dictionary of weed strains, which exists online. Yeah, here it is on Leafly, which is where you go to research strains of marijuana for those who are not stoners, it is listed.

Jessica Bennett (31:45):

Does it describe it?

Susie Banikarim (31:47):

It does describe it. “MILF is known as MILF weed from Mother Chucker’s Seeds takes its name from an acronym from Marijuana I’d Like to Flower.”

Jessica Bennett (31:56):

Oh, right?

Susie Banikarim (31:56):

That can’t be true.

Jessica Bennett (31:57):


Susie Banikarim (31:57):

“The MILF strain tends to be led by a strong heady buzz that elevates your mood.”

Jessica Bennett (32:02):

That’s so funny. Yeah. I mean, it is as if the term took on a life of its own, and then people started to ascribe other things to it. Do you remember that Fergie song called M.I.L.F. $?

Clips (32:12):


Susie Banikarim (32:16):

I do not remember the song, but it feels like I should.

Jessica Bennett (32:20):

I don’t think it’s a good song or anything, but it supposedly redefine the term as Moms I’d Like To Follow.

Susie Banikarim (32:27):

Okay. That’s how [inaudible 00:32:28].

Jessica Bennett (32:27):

Oh well, that doesn’t make any sense. And then it had… You probably remember this part. There were all these celebrity moms in various provocative scenes, including Kim Kardashian showering in milk.

Susie Banikarim (32:37):

I do have an image of Kim Kardashian showering in milk, so it must be from this but I did not realize that.

Jessica Bennett (32:42):

Right. So there have been various spinoffs of this term. Some actually using the term and others like SMILF, that was a popular show on Showtime, made by a friend of mine, Frankie Shaw, which stood for “single mom I’d like to fuck.” And it was about her life as a young single mom.


Do you remember recently, Martha Stewart… She is 81 now and she was the oldest woman to pose for the swimsuit cover of Sports Illustrated.

Susie Banikarim (33:08):

Yes. She looked great.

Jessica Bennett (33:09):

And so she was then crowned by the internet as a GILF.

Susie Banikarim (33:12):

I did see that, yes. I mean, also it feels like now there are DILFs, right? Or is that zaddy? Are those different things?

Jessica Bennett (33:22):

Well, I think that there’s a little bit of equal opportunity MILFing happening right now.

Susie Banikarim (33:25):

So now there’s DILFing?

Jessica Bennett (33:28):

Especially with the popularity of these actors like Pedro Pascal, everyone calls Zaddy. There was some big thing about whether Timothee Chalamet, who obviously does not have children and is maybe also a child, was a DILF.

Susie Banikarim (33:40):

Timothee Chalamet is so young to be a DILF. I think of MILF as comparable to a cougar, right? It’s like a hot older woman.

Jessica Bennett (33:49):

Yeah. So it’s worth making that distinction. They are different. Both are used to describe older women, but a MILF is a woman who’s desired. I see that as someone where the horny teenage boys are pursuing her, whereas a cougar is the aggressor where she is pursuing the younger man.

Susie Banikarim (34:08):

Oh, right. That makes sense. So the cougar has more agency, I guess.

Jessica Bennett (34:15):

We’ve been talking about early 2000s, 2010s, but this is very much still occurring today. There is a new, I think it came out last year, reality TV show on TLC called MILF Manor.

Susie Banikarim (34:28):

I’m sorry, how did I miss this?

Jessica Bennett (34:30):

How did you miss this? Because the premise is that eight older women are dating each other’s sons.

Susie Banikarim (34:36):

I’m sorry. They’re dating each other’s children?

Jessica Bennett (34:40):


Susie Banikarim (34:41):

That is a bizarre concept for reality show.

Jessica Bennett (34:44):

That’s the premise.

Susie Banikarim (34:44):

I mean you’ve got to give it to TLC. They know how to really go there.

Jessica Bennett (34:48):

I guess it goes to show there is this enduring fascination with mother figures. It’s so weird. And I guess in some ways they’re often viewed as tragic. I don’t think anyone is aspiring to be on MILF Manor, I hope.

Susie Banikarim (35:05):

I mean that feels tragic to me. But I don’t know that the concept of MILF has ever felt tragic to me because it’s kind of cool and aspirational, right? I feel like-

Jessica Bennett (35:13):

Well, is it? Or is it objectifying?

Susie Banikarim (35:16):

So that’s the thing, right? Often in culture I feel like women embrace, or find aspirational, being objectified. It’s just so rooted in the way we think about what it means to be sexy, is to be objectified in some way. I told a friend of mine we were recording this, and she has children, and she was like, “I am available for an interview.” You know, it’s like a joke that we all embrace.

Jessica Bennett (35:38):

So she’s considering it a point of pride.

Susie Banikarim (35:40):

Right. I think if you’re a mom and you have kids, you want to still feel like you’re a sexual being. You want to still feel like you’re desirable. So while it’s objectifying, I think we do have a complex relationship. I mean, as women in general with things that are objectifying you want to be hot enough to be objectified, but not objectified.

Jessica Bennett (35:58):

Yeah, you’re right.

Susie Banikarim (36:00):

It’s like a weird conflict-

Jessica Bennett (36:01):


Susie Banikarim (36:03):

… that we have about all of these kinds of terms.

Jessica Bennett (36:03):

That cyclical idea is interesting too because… So American Pie is a wild success. Then it goes on to franchise. There’s a number of American Pies and the-

Susie Banikarim (36:12):

Oh, I didn’t know that.

Jessica Bennett (36:13):

Yeah. And the MILF idea becomes a major plot point in them. Basically, Finch goes off to college but he only wants to be with Stifler’s mom. And so he’s teaching himself how to be a better lover.

Clips (36:25):

You learn to channel your body’s energies, your chakras. When you can do that you can have sex for hours, even days.

Jessica Bennett (36:33):

And it goes on and on and on until he ends up ultimately with somebody his age who is age appropriate. But it’s funny because in the first, the main American Pie that we’re talking about here, you don’t ever learn the name of Stifler’s mom. She’s just Stifler’s mom, similar to Stacey’s Mom, the song.

Susie Banikarim (36:51):


Jessica Bennett (36:52):

It’s just Stacey’s Mom.

Susie Banikarim (36:53):

Well, there’s no character beyond just being the sex object, right?

Jessica Bennett (36:57):


Susie Banikarim (36:57):

She’s just a very flat two-dimensional character. She’s just a hot mom.

Jessica Bennett (37:01):

Exactly. And so then later at the very end of American Pie 2, you learn that Stifler’s mom is actually named Janine and-

Susie Banikarim (37:11):

Wow. That is not a hot name, isn’t it?

Jessica Bennett (37:11):

Isn’t that so funny? And we only learn that because Finch drives off with her to have sex, and we hear him call out her name in an erotic way, and she tells him to call her Stifler’s mom.

Clips (37:21):

Ah! Stifler’s mom!

Susie Banikarim (37:25):

Wow. I guess apologies to all the people who are named Janine I probably just offended-

Jessica Bennett (37:29):

It’s going to be okay.

Susie Banikarim (37:29):

… but I really wasn’t expecting Janine.

Jessica Bennett (37:31):

I don’t know. It’s just funny to think about how these terms evolve and how, in that case, it was a joke. It was a punchline. But she doesn’t really get to have a developed personality.

Susie Banikarim (37:42):

I am genuinely fascinated though with this idea that all things that can initially be good or bad, eventually become embraced as aspirational among a certain set of women. Even cougar, which may have been at some time predatory. There was eventually a TV series with Courtney Cox in it called Cougar Town, right?

Jessica Bennett (38:06):


Susie Banikarim (38:06):

So people eventually embraced that term, and also were-

Jessica Bennett (38:10):

Or did they though?

Susie Banikarim (38:10):

… like, “I want to be a cougar.”

Jessica Bennett (38:11):

I mean there are a lot of things about how MILF makes inherently sexy a character, then in a lot of these pop culture representations is actually a predator. That’s a very real thing.

Susie Banikarim (38:25):

Right. Where it’s like there’s this predatory thing that happens with older women that we’ve turned into something that’s funny or-

Jessica Bennett (38:33):

Right? And often it’s like you had the boys, the virgins, or whomever, they’re high-fiving about it. They’re not referring to it as a statutory rape.

Susie Banikarim (38:41):

Right, of course. Which it is, even in this-

Jessica Bennett (38:44):

That just has become a plot point in so many films, I think.

Susie Banikarim (38:47):


Jessica Bennett (38:48):

Of course, it wouldn’t be the same if the genders were reversed.

Susie Banikarim (38:51):

Right. Like if a father had sex with a 16-year-old virgin.

Jessica Bennett (38:54):

I mean that’s the Lolita trope, I guess.

Susie Banikarim (38:57):

Yeah, that’s the Lolita trope.


I think the other thing that’s interesting about this is just this concept that women stop being attractive or appealing after a certain age.

Jessica Bennett (39:13):


Susie Banikarim (39:14):

So I guess part of the reason women sometimes embrace these monikers is because that is just not true. There is this rejection of the idea that you are put out to pasture.

Jessica Bennett (39:26):

Right. Well, I mean, that’s why there needed to be this term in the first place because it goes against the conventional wisdom, which is you can’t be attractive after a certain age or after you have children. And so thus you are defying the norm, and we’re going to call you a MILF.

Susie Banikarim (39:39):


Jessica Bennett (39:40):

But you know what’s actually super interesting? I was talking about this subject with my students and one of them who is very, very online. She spends a lot of time on Stan Twitter. She knows everything that’s going on on the internet.

Susie Banikarim (39:52):


Jessica Bennett (39:53):

She was telling me that MILF is now being used as a compliment.

Susie Banikarim (39:57):


Jessica Bennett (39:58):

Not just for a mother, and not for a middle-aged woman, but for anyone gender not withstanding, who is serving, giving icon status. You know how people use mom and mother as a compliment these days?

Susie Banikarim (40:12):

Yeah. They’ll be like, “Taylor Swift is mother.”

Jessica Bennett (40:14):


Susie Banikarim (40:14):

And what they mean is, “She’s like an icon.”

Jessica Bennett (40:16):

Yes, she’s an icon. She is queen mother. It’s like another way of saying queen or giving a compliment, paying a compliment to someone. You often see it in comments on posts.

Susie Banikarim (40:25):


Jessica Bennett (40:25):

So MILF has just sort of slotted in there with that. So it’s like Margot Robbie is a MILF-

Susie Banikarim (40:32):


Jessica Bennett (40:32):

… even though she doesn’t have children. Or Billie Eilish could be a MILF based on something interesting or cool that she said. Or Timothee Chalamet, maybe he’s even a MILF.

Susie Banikarim (40:44):

Okay, this is blowing my mind. I had no idea this was a thing.

Jessica Bennett (40:47):

Isn’t that so interesting? And then she was pointing me to these Twitter accounts. There’s one called archive milfs, and there’s one called archive dilfs. And from what I can tell they’re basically just long, long scrolls with many, many followers, daily content of DILFs. Which is hot guys, I guess?

Susie Banikarim (41:07):

Yeah. These are just pictures of hot people-

Jessica Bennett (41:09):

It’s just pictures.

Susie Banikarim (41:09):

… but we’re just calling them MILF-

Jessica Bennett (41:10):

It’s just pictures.

Susie Banikarim (41:10):

… and DILF.

Jessica Bennett (41:11):

And we don’t know if they have children. We don’t know what age they are. It’s just become maybe another term for a hot person. Or maybe not even hot, maybe just intellectually sexy.

Susie Banikarim (41:20):

Wow. Laurel Sutton would be so proud. We have reclaimed MILF.

Jessica Bennett (41:25):

Yeah. I actually think that’s a nice place to end it, that this term has in effect evolved from a sexual thing reserved for, I guess, moms or middle-aged women to something that’s just a compliment for anyone who’s really bringing it.

Susie Banikarim (41:42):

Yeah. I mean, look at us. We’ve really evolved as a culture, I guess.

Jessica Bennett (41:46):

Susie, you’re MILF.

Susie Banikarim (41:48):

Thank you so much, Jess. That means so much to me.


Jess, I want to tease what we’re talking about next week because it’s a fun one.

Jessica Bennett (41:57):

Ooh, do we finally get to talk about my boyfriend, Jordan Catalano?

Susie Banikarim (42:01):

Yes. We do get to talk about Jordan Catalano-

Jessica Bennett (42:03):


Susie Banikarim (42:03):

… who was everyone’s boyfriend in the ’90s. And we also get to talk about a lot of other subjects our listeners suggested.

Jessica Bennett (42:10):

Can’t wait.

Susie Banikarim (42:15):

This is In Retrospect. Thanks for listening. Is there a pop culture moment you can’t stop thinking about and want us to explore in a future episode? Email us at [email protected] or find us on Instagram @inretropod.

Jessica Bennett (42:29):

If you love this podcast, please rate and review us on Apple or Spotify or wherever you listen. If you hate it, you can post nasty comments on our Instagram, which we may or may not delete.

Susie Banikarim (42:39):

You can also find us on Instagram @jessicabennett and @susiebnyc. Also, check out Jessica’s books, Feminist Fight Club and This Is 18.

Jessica Bennett (42:47):

In Retrospect is a production of iHeartPodcasts and The Meteor. Lauren Hansen is our supervising producer. Derrick Clements is our engineer and sound designer. Emily Marinoff is our producer. Sharon Attia is our researcher and associate producer.

Susie Banikarim (43:02):

Our executive producer from The Meteor is Cindi Leive. Our executive producers from iHeart are Anna Stumpf and Katrina Norvell. Our artwork is from Pentagram. Our mixing engineer is Amanda Rose Smith. Additional editing help from Mary Dooe. We are your hosts, Susie Banikarim…

Jessica Bennett (43:19):

And Jessica Bennett. We’re also executive producers. For even more check out inretropod.com. See you next week.