If you’ve poked around this blog, then you’ve probably realized that I write a lot about mpreg. Most of my books feature the trope, and many of the posts I’ve written explore different aspects of mpreg.
Mpreg is relatively niche. Despite that, it pops up in the mainstream media time and again—so almost everyone is familiar with it. It’s usually played for laughs in shows like Big Mouth or Fairly Odd Parents.
That comic streak in mainstream encounters can make media that treats mpreg seriously even more baffling for people. One of the most common questions—and probably the most difficult to answer—is “why do people like mpreg?”
Seriously. For most people, mpreg is a love/hate relationship. You either love it or you don’t. If you’re a fan, then you may not know much more than that you like it. A shrug and “I dunno, I just do” isn’t a very satisfying answer when people ask for a deeper reason.
All that said, I think there are a few theories that could at least attempt to answer the question “why is mpreg a thing?”
The Inversion of Nature
Mpreg represents an inversion of what we’d tend to think of as “natural law.” Most people understand that reproduction works by way of a male creature impregnating a female creature of the same species.
Now, that’s a decidedly human-centric or perhaps mammalian understanding of reproduction. In seahorses and pipefish, the male of the species becomes pregnant. Snails, slugs, and worms are often hermaphrodites, meaning they perform both reproductive functions.
Yet without looking for these specific examplest, most people would find the paradigm of “female gets pregnant” most familiar.
Mpreg, then, plays with that. It inverts what we know to be “true” about the universe.
That’s often somewhat taboo—just as pregnancy itself often is. Historically speaking, pregnant women were often confined or hidden away. The process of giving birth was, in some cultures, considered unclean. And birth might also represent a period when both mother and child were metaphorically close to the realm of death.
These are highly feminine rituals in most cultures, which, in patriarchal societies, can seem esoteric and even mystical. When we map pregnancy onto a male figure, we are mapping all of these “taboo” states onto the male body.
Humans Are Always Fascinated by the Taboo
Taboos exist in every culture, and they possess the power to both fascinate and repulse. Sex and kink are often in a similar position. Tension exists between human desire to engage in sex and the pleasure it brings and disgust. We think of sex as “sinful” and “dirty,” even while sexual imagery pervades millions of media messages per day.
Why are we so wound up over sex? Our cousins the bonobos have no qualms with using sex to apologize or even say hello. Humans seem to recognize sex as both necessary—it’s required to reproduce—and natural and normal. Yet we are also ashamed of it, perhaps disgusted by it. Perhaps the “shame” is driven by the knowledge of how children are produced.
Thus sex becomes both fascinating—we are endlessly preoccupied by it—and horribly abject. We must be thankful for the act of creation, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Yet we are reviled by thinking about what had to happen for us to be standing here to be reviled.
Pregnancy might then be an extension of the taboo around sex. It is an undeniable indication that someone has had sex. (I think here of the joke about couples announcing they’re “trying to conceive,” which is effectively telling everyone they’re raw-dogging.) It is both fascinating—the process of a human being giving life—and abject, because we know what had to happen to get to this point.
Pregnancy can also thus be read as a kind of horrifying existential crisis. You quite literally have another living creature inside you. Eventually, it will be a separate, autonomous human being. Questions of identity, individuality, and bodily autonomy necessarily arise from this state of being.
But Why Is Mpreg a Thing?
So, sex and pregnancy are taboos, which make them endlessly fascinating and also abject horrors. Given that, it’s not surprising we see both pregnancy fetishism and pregnancy-as-body-horror.
Another common site of taboo is around the masculine/feminine divide. The masculine woman is more accepted in patriarchal societies, although she is still seen as something “strange” and perhaps “unnatural.” The feminine man is even more unacceptable: gay men, cross-dressers, and trans women receive each more virulent reactions.
At the same time, all three categories are equally fetishized. Thus, the feminine—as mapped onto a “male” body—is much like sex or pregnancy: both endlessly fascinating and horrifying.
Okay, so how does this answer the question “why is mpreg a thing?”
Basically, it bundles up a lot of taboos: sex, pregnancy, and the feminine man or the feminine-mapped-onto-male-bodies.
Thus, there is the mpreg fetish, which is a specific subset of pregnancy fetish. It has the added layer of the feminine man, subverting the seeming natural order of things.
The scenario is thus endlessly fascinating for some—and equally repugnant to others.
Pregnancy vs. Mpreg Fetishism
Pregnancy fetish usually focuses on pregnancy as a creative force. It is interested in pregnancy as the “fertile feminine” and the power inherent in that. As much as pregnancy is weird, in human thought, it is also probably the only time we’re equivalent with god or nature. We are engendering life.
At the same time, pregnancy is completely banal and boring. There are eight billion of us on the planet today, which suggests that a lot of people were pregnant at some point!
Mpreg fetishism usually focuses less on the pregnancy as creative force and more on the uniting of masculine and feminine. This line of thinking is very old. You can find it in everything from Chinese philosophy (yin and yang) to Indigenous ideas of two-spirit people, to modern fascination with drag queens and trans people. The boundary-crossing, the breakdown of the gender binary, is part of the appeal.
Suddenly, pregnancy is not the sole realm of “women” or even of “females.” This supposedly “feminine” act or process is mapped onto masculine bodies. Mpreg is often concerned, to some degree, with how that affects the individual who previously believed themself to possess only “masculine” traits.
This isn’t to suggest that mpreg writers are really doing some high-level philosophical stuff. Rather, it’s more a suggestion that human beings came up with the idea of “masculine” and “feminine,” but we’re also fascinated by things that break those molds, that refuse to allow easy categorization.
An Ancient Preoccupation
The idea of the masculine-being-united-with-the-feminine is very old. We can see it in stories from Ancient Greece. Aphrodite and Hermes have a child called Hermaphroditus, who is, you guessed it, a hermaphrodite.
Whether Hermaphroditus can do “mpreg” is a different story. We don’t see this in the myths, although one might make assumptions.
There are a couple of versions of the Hermaphroditus myth. The more famous version has the original figure being purely male. He’s eventually fused with a female nymph, who loves him so much she can’t bear to be separated from him. The two thus become one, male twined with female.
That’s the dynamic I think we find so fascinating—the fusion of the male and the female, the masculine and the feminine.
The existence of such myths also points to other realities, such as that trans and intersex people have existed throughout human history. This isn’t just some “fanciful” tale, even though the thematic qualities might make it seem so. More often than not, stories, myths, and legends are used to help people understand specific phenomena in the world around them. In some North American Indigenous traditions, Thunderbird is used to explain thunder and lightning.
Thus, we can see Hermaphroditus and other similar mythological figures as a way of explaining another natural phenomenon: trans people and intersex people.
Other Examples of Mpreg and Intersex and Trans Myth
Perhaps more famous than the case of Hermaphroditus in Greek myth is the birth of Athena. Zeus gives birth to his warlike daughter, the patron goddess of the city of Athens.
Unfortunately for modern mpreg fans, Zeus’s “pregnancy” with Athena is rather unconventional. Since she’s a wisdom goddess, she springs fully formed from her father’s forehead.
Nonetheless, this myth is an example of mpreg or perhaps m-birth. Unconventional pregnancies and births are rather common in mythology. In this case, we might see that the gods are quite different in nature from human beings. Zeus’s ability to “get pregnant” and “give birth” to Athena marks his difference from humans.
Thus, with this myth, we might see that masculine and feminine perhaps matter less to divine beings. Thus, the state of being not one or the other or both or all things at once might be closer to divinity. In some ways, this parallels some Indigenous North American beliefs about trans, intersex, and two-spirit individuals.
Without leaving the realm of Greek mythology, we might also look to the gynomorphs, who possessed both masculine and feminine attributes. Specifically, they could both carry children and inseminate others. For anyone familiar with omegaverse and mpreg, that likely sounds a bit like stories modern authors are telling. Of course, we also note the divine quality of these figures as well.
North to Scandinavia
More famous in mpreg circles is the Norse god Loki. Loki is a trickster god. Loki has several misadventures that tell how he begot his children. In both of the most famous cases, we have examples of mpreg.
In the first myth, Loki begets Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse. Loki, a shapeshifter, turns into a mare and lures a giant’s horse away. The giant can’t finish his work for the gods on time (and the gods don’t need to reward him). Loki is impregnated by the stallion and later gives birth.
Here, Loki shifts into a female form. Some people might not consider this “true” mpreg, since Loki undergoes the pregnancy and birth in female form. However, we could easily liken this to a nonbinary or trans individual. Loki, like many divine characters, has no fixed sex; he can change it at will. The shapeshifting allows him to occupy whatever form he feels fits him best, perhaps making him closer to genderfluid.
In another myth, Loki begets his three most important children: Hel, Jormungandr, and Fenrir. The gods are quite worried about Fenrir, as it is predicted the wolf will grow large enough to swallow the sun, which heralds Ragnarok.
There are a couple of different ways Loki begets these children. In one version of the myth, he eats the heart of the giantess Angrboda and becomes pregnant. Notable here is that Loki becomes pregnant and gives birth while in male form. Nobody can argue this isn’t a mythological mpreg tale!
In other versions, though, Loki and Angrboda beget their children in the usual way, with Angrboda giving birth. Nonetheless, the mpreg variant is interesting in that it suggests the inversion of nature. Loki commits an unnatural act and the consequences are unnatural and horrific, setting in motion the end of the world.
Thus, in Norse mythology, we can see mpreg as both normative (Loki as the horse) and horrific (the three “Hellish” children)—similar to how we view other taboo topics like sex, pregnancy kink, and so on.
Other Instances of “Mpreg” in Mythology
Other stories are less clearly mpreg. Often in mythology, we do find male characters who “give birth” to another god or divinity. This reproductive act is a representation of their divinity. Otherwise, it might be, like Loki, a representation of nature gone awry.
One other instance, not so much of mpreg, but of the shapeshifting male-female mythological creature I’d like to look at is the Early Modern belief in incubi.
The incubus is closely related to the succubus—in fact, some authors consider these demons one and the same. The succubus is more familiar in modern pop culture—she’s a sex demon, which means she gets a fair amount of play.
The incubus is also a sex demon—he’s the male version of the female succubus. The succubus was likely an explanation for male nocturnal emissions and wet dreams. The incubus seems to have been more used to cover up cases of rape and subsequent pregnancy.
The succubus and incubus are thus intimately connected with sex and reproduction. Some Early Modern authors said that the incubus and succubus, being demons, were incapable of reproduction on their own. Thus, the succubus stole sperm from a male human, then gave it to an incubus, who went and impregnated a human female.
Some authors opted to skip the step where the succubus and incubus had to exchange the stolen sperm. Instead, they suggested the succubus and the incubus were one and the same—they simply shapeshifted between forms.
It’s not mpreg, per se, but it does show us that same fascination and horror, the mixed reaction that both draws us in and repulses us.
So, Why Do People Like Mpreg?
I’ve skipped over a lot of cultures and mythological traditions. I’m sure there are plenty of other stories out there that showcase the same preoccupations.
The point I’m making here is that this is something that has both fascinated and repulsed human beings for eons now. That means a lot of things: that intersex and trans people have always been with us, that we often think of the fusion of masculine and feminine as divine, and that we’re really, really, really hung up on sex and reproduction.
Mpreg, in a lot of ways, is just the modern extension of those preoccupations. Some people are intrigued or turned on. Others see it as a joke, while others find it disgusting or even horrifying.
If you “don’t get it” or fail to see the appeal of mpreg, you probably fall into one of the latter categories. That doesn’t mean much, other than it’s not your thing. There’s probably something else out there that does turn your crank a little more. Suffice it to say that you needn’t yuck someone else’s yum.
Explaining why mpreg is a thing is difficult, in part because it’s always been A Thing. But perhaps that’s the root of it: humans are endlessly fascinated with sex and reproduction, with gender and sex, with the divine and base, natural and unnatural. Mpreg can occupy all these positions at once, making it endlessly appealing to myriad people.