Sexualize Breasts in other Cultures - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 23 Old 03-07-2010, 05:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I would love to hear from people from any other country than the US or even people who are just more aware of other cultures than I. We all know that the US is of course a boob obsessed country. I see mention of that alot on posts here, about how it is different in other countries. I would love to hear how different exactly. I know I seem terribly ignorant... well I am thats why I ask. I am very interested in the sociological aspects around bfing.

My DH is the typical american man where boobs are concerned. He is, however very much pro-bfing... but not at all a lactivist. He will say things before we go somewhere like "What if you have to feed the baby." or "I can't believe you nursed there." He has come a long way from where he was with or first (this is our 3rd) but is still worried not just about strangers seeing my boobs but even people just knowing what I am doing.

Here in the US cleavage is shown everywhere to be sexy, but I understand in europe topless on a beach is common... Or in the middle east woman will have a covered face but nip uncovered. So are boobs seen as less sexy in these places? I would just love to hear some views.

My ultimate mission of course being to socialize my two ds and anyone esle possibly to have the correct idea of breasts. My dh thinks I let them see too much and is worried that they won't view breasts as sexy if they are used to seeing their mom's "flopped out" all the time. I of course say they need to know the primary purpose. He says his mom breastfed his younger two siblings and he NEVER saw her nipple she was so discreet. I said "Yeah, and you have issues. Maybe if you'd seen her breasts instead of you older brother's porn you'd be better off!"
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#2 of 23 Old 03-07-2010, 08:02 PM
 
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Well, I'm not from other cultures, but I have lived in other countries.

I South Korea breasts were seen as sexy, but also the very big breasted were sort of seen as vulgar or fat and not as sexy as most American media would have us believe. The sexy dressed dancers outside store fronts tended to accentuate long legs and the butt area more than the boobs.

In Vietnam I would say similar boob perspective. The breasts were definitely not commonly accentuated, and usually they were covered, even the prostitutes were less about showing boobage than they were about showing their long skinny limbs and teensy tiny butts.

However, in neither Seoul nor Ho Chi Minh did I ever witness a mother NIP. I saw lots in Vietnam ec-ing, but no NIP.

In Buenos Aires (I wouldn't speak for the whole country to be honest) the people I mostly saw NIP openly were members of the lower classes, those living in the villas (like shanty towns?), but no one had a particular problem with NIP, just few of the more affluent people did it and if they did it was always discretely. using a blanket or shawl to cover. The sexualization of breasts was open and obvious to me, but neither was there a taboo about nipples or breasts because of that. It was sort of like, "Yeah, they absolutely are sexy, but that doesn't mean they are OBSCENE!" So on the trains next to an ad for an underwear store you would also see an ad for Breastfeeding with a baby nursing, or you would see a woman checking her naked breast for cancer. It was a healthy balanced point of view. and I think based on what I know very similar to the POV of most continental Europeans.

On a show called Cien Argentinos Dicen (which is like their version of Family Feud) it once asked 100 Argentines how long the average mother breast fed. The first answer was one year, the second answer was two years, the fourth was 6 months and 5th was 3 years. The 3rd answer was SEVEN years of age and when we asked our friends, they said in the more rural areas of the country or in the poorer communities that was not unheard of at all. My co-workers didn't bat an eyelid when I mentioned that ds was still nursing at night before bed and for comfort now and then at the age of 2.5...they were all upper middle class to upper class, and they were like "yeah, sure, they need that comfort from their mama."

The country has laws about breastfeeding leave for, I think it is up to one year, the employer must allow the mother at least one hour a day to pump or feed her child.

Costa Rica has similar laws to Argentina, but they are much more discrete, I have only seen a few COSTA RICAN mums nursing in public, but I work at a very multicultural school with teachers and students from all over and we all have different points of view. Some say, your baby deserves a right to be fed on demand in a quiet, peaceful dimly lit and private place more than you as the mother have the right to leave the house, so if you can't get your baby on a schedule, stay HOME! The Europeans, and North Americans and South Americans tend to be more accepting of the idea that babies need to be fed and the feminists have definitely taken it on as a mission of education to normalize BFing and teach the students that breasts are for feeding babies, and while they may be pretty and soft and sexy, too, their first job is to feed babies. One mum who is from Holland almost seems to enjoy making people squirm by exposing her full breasts, sometimes both at once, sometimes forgetting to pull her shirt back down afterwards, even in coffee shops down town, but she SWEARS it's just not a big deal where she's from, which may be true. Most of the Dutch people I know are very laid back about those things.

I would say that on the whole many countries are more laid back because they have the balance right...yes, boobies are fun, and sexy and soft and pretty, but they are not obscene or taboo. They are just boobies. No more taboo than a Man's pecs or a woman's foot, so they can still look at the medical and practical side of breasts without offending their sensibilities.

Just my experience. Kudos for teaching your kids about the functionality of boobs. I would remind your DH that we are no more conditioned to find boobs attractive than the man with a foot fetish was conditioned to find feet sexy. Some people like juicy bums, some like pencil bums, Some like big bongos, some like itty bitty titties. It's all a matter of personal taste and Breastfeeding in front of them, showing them your nipples won't have any effect on that, anymore than wearing sandals will make them think toes are hot. The only thing it will do, IMHO, is balance it out a bit and give them a healthy attitude towards women's sexuality.

Rebekah - mom to Ben 03/05 and Emily 01/10, a peace educator, and a veg*n and wife to Jamie.
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#3 of 23 Old 03-07-2010, 09:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks so much for all your insight on other cultures!!!!
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#4 of 23 Old 03-13-2010, 02:03 AM
 
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Europe cannot be treated as one conglomerate. It depends on where you are. In Scandinavia, for example, nudity in general is just no big deal. In France, on the other hand, people tend to be more modest (the topless people you see on the beaches in the cote d'azure are mostly Germans).

Breasts in France are perceived as 99 percent sexual and only very secondarily to feed a baby and only if you want (only 60 percent of mothers in France ever try breastfeeding) and then only for the first six weeks after birth. Breastfeeding a small baby in public is not at all taboo in France but it's not something you see very often. You would get weird looks and maybe even some remarks (you're still breastfeeding??) if you breastfeed a baby over 6 months old. Breasts are perceived as sexual, therefore breastfeeding an older baby or toddler is taboo.

One of France's leading pediatric-psychiatrists said a few years ago that a baby should be weaned by 3 months, 6 months absolute latest, that baby has to learn that mommy's breasts are for papa (wth??) and that breastfeeding a baby over 7 months is a form of child abuse!

I would say that France is far, far behind the US in terms of progressive ideas about breastfeeding! Things are starting to change, though.

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#5 of 23 Old 03-14-2010, 11:58 AM
 
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In Egypt, where hubby is from and where I have spent several years, it is very common to see a woman sitting at a tram stop with her head covered and wearing long clothes out of modesty with her whole boob hanging out breastfeeding. (If you have a copy of "the Politics of Breastfeeding," Gabrielle Palmer has a photo of exactly what I'm talking about.)

There's a lovely story of a male doctor who walked onto the maternity ward of a hospital where mums were breastfeeding, and there was a mad scramble as the mums all rushed to cover...their heads.
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#6 of 23 Old 03-15-2010, 02:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies! I am disheartened to here it is actually worse in France than here!

I love that about the women covering their faces and not their babies/boobs!!
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#7 of 23 Old 03-15-2010, 02:34 PM
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I recently watched an episode of "Taboo" in which a mother was carrying out the "ironing" of her pubescent daughter's breast. This was in a West African country, but I can't recall which one. Basically, they heat the end of a wooden pole in the fire, and crush the newly forming breast tissue. They do this to make their daughters less attractive to men if they are developing early, fearing that their daughters won't finish school if men notice them.

So, I guess in that part of the world, breasts are seen as sexual.
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#8 of 23 Old 03-15-2010, 03:29 PM
 
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I think this topic is very interesting. I am not an expert, by any means (on any other culture), but I would bet my boots there are very, very few cultures, if any, where the breasts aren't seen as sexual. They are, after all, sexual in the sense that they can be a site of sexual pleasure for both men and women.
However, I would also bet my boots that legs are seen as sexual in pretty much every culture. I think the differences are the degree to which breastfeeding is seen as an inappropriately sexual act, and the degree that seeing a breasts is seen as immodest. To make an analogy, we are all familiar with the concept of "Sexy legs," but very few of us would consider any woman who wears shorts to be immodest. Does that make sense?

I think the issue in the U.S. is the degree to which we have fetishized breasts to the point where we are no longer comfortable considering them as mammary glands.
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#9 of 23 Old 03-16-2010, 04:33 PM
 
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I recently watched an episode of "Taboo" in which a mother was carrying out the "ironing" of her pubescent daughter's breast. This was in a West African country, but I can't recall which one. Basically, they heat the end of a wooden pole in the fire, and crush the newly forming breast tissue. They do this to make their daughters less attractive to men if they are developing early, fearing that their daughters won't finish school if men notice them.

So, I guess in that part of the world, breasts are seen as sexual.
i saw this too. I don't know if they were sexualized as much as a sign a girl is now a woman. the moms were trying to keep their girls, girls as long as they could so they could stay under the boy's (men's) radar as long as possible.

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#10 of 23 Old 03-16-2010, 04:54 PM
 
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When I was in Tanzania, it was explained to me that thighs were considered the ultimate sexual "part" of a woman. So, a woman wearing a standard American bathing suit (with thighs exposed) is considered basically naked by their standards. (Of course we westerners don't HAVE other bathing attire, so they are used to seeing American tourists wearing bathing suits.. but it's not considered appropriate at all for Tanzanian women).

They said that breasts were considered private and sexual but only marginally so. I did not see any breastfeeding while I was there, but I did see incidental glimpses of breasts in complete public twice so it apparently wasn't considered that huge of a deal. Both incidents were mothers carrying babies on their backs, they wrap them in cloths ("kangas" if I recall correctly) but they tend to slip after a while so need periodic adjusting. The mama leans over far while baby holds on (one baby I saw was REALLY little and still cooperated with holding on quite nicely) and then she tightens and reties the kanga. Leaning over that far, sometimes you get pretty good view of her breasts (um, not that I was trying, lol).

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#11 of 23 Old 03-16-2010, 05:08 PM
 
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I think this topic is very interesting. I am not an expert, by any means (on any other culture), but I would bet my boots there are very, very few cultures, if any, where the breasts aren't seen as sexual. They are, after all, sexual in the sense that they can be a site of sexual pleasure for both men and women.
However, I would also bet my boots that legs are seen as sexual in pretty much every culture. I think the differences are the degree to which breastfeeding is seen as an inappropriately sexual act, and the degree that seeing a breasts is seen as immodest. To make an analogy, we are all familiar with the concept of "Sexy legs," but very few of us would consider any woman who wears shorts to be immodest. Does that make sense?

I think the issue in the U.S. is the degree to which we have fetishized breasts to the point where we are no longer comfortable considering them as mammary glands.
I agree. I don't have an issue with seeing breasts as sexual, the entire body is sexual. I have a problem with our society's views on sex and breastfeeding.

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#12 of 23 Old 03-17-2010, 01:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree. I don't have an issue with seeing breasts as sexual, the entire body is sexual. I have a problem with our society's views on sex and breastfeeding.
Well put, both of you!
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#13 of 23 Old 03-18-2010, 06:48 AM
 
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There are a couple of studies of the anthropology of breastfeeding. Maybe you should look into those. Not many though.

Laohaire, I was told the same things about thighs in Zambia.
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#14 of 23 Old 03-18-2010, 12:58 PM
 
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However, in neither Seoul nor Ho Chi Minh did I ever witness a mother NIP.
I NIP'd in Seoul. I even had a waitress come over & correct our latch one time, lol.

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#15 of 23 Old 03-18-2010, 01:27 PM
 
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I love that about the women covering their faces and not their babies/boobs!!
Me too! I love how this Indian Unicef film blurs Mama's face but not her breast!
http://www.breastcrawl.org/video.htm
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#16 of 23 Old 03-18-2010, 04:01 PM
 
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Me too! I love how this Indian Unicef film blurs Mama's face but not her breast!
http://www.breastcrawl.org/video.htm
oh my...i never thought of that!
i thought it was to conceal her identity!

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#17 of 23 Old 03-18-2010, 04:22 PM
 
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oh my...i never thought of that!
i thought it was to conceal her identity!
But image in the same video made in Canada or the USA - Mama would be smiling at the camera, and her breasts would more than likely be blurred!
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#18 of 23 Old 03-18-2010, 04:31 PM
 
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But image in the same video made in Canada or the USA - Mama would be smiling at the camera, and her breasts would more than likely be blurred!
What I mean is that I THOUGHT that it really isn't okay in India to show her breasts, so to prevent repercussions to her, her identity is concealed, not that it's not okay to show her face at any point (regardless of showing her other parts) due to cultural norms. I probably could try to word that better...

But you are right about the US thing!

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#19 of 23 Old 03-18-2010, 04:42 PM
 
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In Egypt, where hubby is from and where I have spent several years, it is very common to see a woman sitting at a tram stop with her head covered and wearing long clothes out of modesty with her whole boob hanging out breastfeeding. (If you have a copy of "the Politics of Breastfeeding," Gabrielle Palmer has a photo of exactly what I'm talking about.)

There's a lovely story of a male doctor who walked onto the maternity ward of a hospital where mums were breastfeeding, and there was a mad scramble as the mums all rushed to cover...their heads.

This was my experience while I lived in Egypt.

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#20 of 23 Old 03-18-2010, 04:49 PM
 
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I live in Europe currently and have in the past a couple of times too. Here breasts are considered sexy, but at teh same time its not a big deal. Like it wouldn't be shocking ot see frontal nudity on a show if it was relevant to the plot. And nip is no big deal. Its more like the presentation matter more than what you see. Seeing a mom nursing a baby is a sweet tender thing. Seeing an attractive woman in a push up bra is another (for some) Seeing your neighbor on a nude beach is yet another. Its context.

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#21 of 23 Old 03-18-2010, 04:57 PM
 
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Breasts in France are perceived as 99 percent sexual and only very secondarily to feed a baby and only if you want (only 60 percent of mothers in France ever try breastfeeding) and then only for the first six weeks after birth. Breastfeeding a small baby in public is not at all taboo in France but it's not something you see very often. You would get weird looks and maybe even some remarks (you're still breastfeeding??) if you breastfeed a baby over 6 months old. Breasts are perceived as sexual, therefore breastfeeding an older baby or toddler is taboo.

One of France's leading pediatric-psychiatrists said a few years ago that a baby should be weaned by 3 months, 6 months absolute latest, that baby has to learn that mommy's breasts are for papa (wth??) and that breastfeeding a baby over 7 months is a form of child abuse!
Wow I live in France now and I knew the breastfeeding rates were bad but I didn't know that about the ped. That explains a lot though, especially the lack of accurate breastfeeding info doctors seem to possess. Someone in my french convo group said the French only breastfeed for 3 months so they can get their figure back. I don't know that its true but it made us laugh.

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#22 of 23 Old 03-18-2010, 05:07 PM
 
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Me too! I love how this Indian Unicef film blurs Mama's face but not her breast!
http://www.breastcrawl.org/video.htm
Loved the video - and I learned something! That newborn kicks on the belly stimulate the uterus to contract and expel the placenta - neat!

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#23 of 23 Old 03-18-2010, 05:38 PM
 
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I lived in Mauritania, on the western coast of Africa. In general women are very discreet there, though the definition of discreet varies among the different cultures and ethnic groups - for example, some groups wear head-to-toe veils, while others wear more form-fitting clothes but still cover their heads. Similar to what a PP said about Tanzania, the sexual, forbidden zone of a woman's body is the area between her waist and her knees. This area is always, always covered. Breasts, not so much. It was common for even the most conservative women to wear garments that were essentially see-through on top, with openings under the arms that exposed the breasts during movement. Women were always NIPing. Even though there is a huge separation of the sexes, women would nurse in front of men without a thought.
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