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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I haven't been posting here for long, but I do feel very dedicated to breastfeeding, and the normalization of breastfeeding in our society. I do want to ask a question, and I don't really want to get flamed, so just take this as what it is, a serious question.

I see on here quite a bit, and especially on the 007b website, that breasts are not sexual. While I agree that the breasts primary purpose is to feed babies, I don't know that I agree that they are not sexual. In studying evolution and biology I have always heard the argument that breasts are a secondary sex chararacteristic for humans. Meaning, to me, that breasts are not directly involved in reproduction, but are sort of a signal to the opposite sex, and selected for BY the opposite sex. Kind of for human females what the feather display is for male peacocks.

Now, other mammals have mammary glands, or teats, that are perfectly suited for feeding their young; but they are not large, fatty, and prominent like human females breasts. Even our closest primate relatives don't have large breasts. The evolutionary thinking goes something like, when we started to walk upright, evolution for some reason, favored the enhancement of female humans breasts as a signal to the males. (Basically larger breasts got selected for, for some reason). If that is the case, then breasts are inherently sexual.

I guess my point is... I'm not sure... But why do they have to be one or the other? Why can't they be both? Anyway, I guess I am hesitant to berate others with the message that 'breasts are not sexual, and why can't you get over that?' when I don't feel that it's really true that breasts are not sexual.

Oh, and also, I see the point that not all cultures find breasts as sexual as ours. I'm not sure where that fits into the picture. I'd be interested to know which societies do and do not find breasts to be sexual.

I hope this was at least a little clear. I have a cold, and I feel like my brain is full of snot.
 

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Interesting. I love the science of boobs!

I think it's not that breasts aren't sexual -- it's that they shouldn't be viewed (as they currently are in our culture) as exclusively sexual. And I think our culture has a really hard time with things that aren't clearly delineated, and therefore you end up with two opposing camps, one of which likes to write letters to the local paper about all those disgusting women nursing their babies, and the other of which kind of gets forced into the position of simply arguing that breasts aren't sexual. Nuance gets lost in our present public discourse, and so I guess we just ended up with the sound bite version of the argument.

As I type, it is occurring to me that a sexualized breast gets a lot more leeway than a nursing breast. How much do you see in your average American Apparel ad, versus how much you see when a woman is breastfeeding? Maybe if we all decked out in Frederick's of Hollywood, nobody'd bat an eye at the nursing...
 

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ok with your thoughts.

since starting nursing, my nipples are way more sexually sensitive than they were previously. seems a little backward...but i identify with breasts (or nipples) as enhancing what might be called sexual sensations.

maybe i'm not making sense either...two glasses of wine at dinner tonight, woohoo, a kid free night!

but seriously, i hate dichotomous thinking in general. why DOES is have to be one or the other? why do we insist on creating 'sexual' as some special, OTHER, closeted thing?

i don't like it.
 

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Well, according to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me: An NPR News Quiz Show", Italians don't find breasts all that sexual. That is the only one I can think of without doing any research.

To answer the question "why can't breast be both?" I think they can and should. For the sake of normalizing breastfeeding, ultimately one would want society to first see breasts as a means to feed children and second as tools for pleasure.

Most people agree that the vagina has dual roles: birthing/creating babies and pleasure- it is accepted that this organ can do both. Yet society is only comfortable with breasts having one role- sexual pleasure. And maybe this is beause typically there is only one way out for a baby (however that trend seems to be changing) and a bottle can be a substitute for breasts, eliminating its dual role. I also suspect that it is because Americans are not comfortable with themselves as sexual beings- I think this plays a large role.

I think many people need to acknowledge that breasts ARE sexual (not that they should be used to sell things, but we do derive and give pleasure with them), but first and foremost the nourish. Maybe the public needs to see a clear division, maybe it the the blurred boundaries that make people uncomfortable.

Anyway, I am starting to ramble...
 

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Breasts aren't technically sexual because they don't participate in the act of reproduction. While they may be used to attract the opposite sex (just like feathers, lion manes, brilliant colors, etc), it doesn't make them inherently sexual. Consider these examples of what men over the years have considered "sexy" and "attractive":

Foot binding: Chinese men found small feet attractive. Mothers or grandmothers would bind the feet of their young girls (4-5) and continue to bind them until they were broken, small and deformed. Women would wear "lotus shoes" which were shoes considered to make women walk erotically. Men however, never saw the bound foot "naked" so to speak. It was always bound. More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_binding

Neck stretching: The Padaung tribe of Burma considered a long neck beautiful, so women would place rings on their neck, also starting at a young age. The weight of the rings would break the shoulders, allowing the neck to stretch more. The more rings the woman had, the more rich she was, especially if the rings were gold. http://library.thinkquest.org/J01117...stretching.htm

Legs in Victorian era: Legs and ankles were considered to be erotic, and therefore needed to be hidden. Even the legs of the tables were covered. The word leg would be substituted by "limb". Bathing machines were used by both sexes, but especially by women so they could not be seen in their bathing suits. The concept is pretty funny by today's standards. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_morality
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathing_machine

Slim waists: Women have used corsets to slim their waistline. Some have gone to real extremes in doing so. It was very popular in the 16th century. Here's an entry about tighlacing and its origins: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tightlacing

Modern day examples of things men consider sexy would be feet (either bare, or with boots or high heels), the buttocks, legs (especially with stockings), hair, the neck, the eyes (especially with glasses for the nerdy, studious look). Some men find large bellies or big women (known as BBW, big beautiful woman) attractive as well. Since my hubby is an avid collector of female adult photography, he has quite the collection of what men consider sexy, things you would never (or maybe you do!
) imagine!
 

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I think that all we can say to be true is that for our culture, breasts are sexual.

Anthropologists have looked into the question of whether breasts are inherently or instinctively sexual or if perhaps it is merely a cultural construct that is taught so early and so pervasively it simply "feels" right or normal to people raised that way. They find that statistically, most cultures don't find breasts a sexual turn-on. However, some of the largest cultures on the planet do, so it is at the same time common by sheer numbers of people, but yet unusual culturally.

Biologists have speculated there may be a primal attraction to breasts. They asked why human breasts become full when breasts of other primates remain basically flat. They presumed that the original body part that attracted male primates to female primates was the buttocks, which reveal the genitals when the female is on all fours, and that when the human species began to stand upright, the appearance of the buttocks changed. The idea is that females with fuller breasts attracted mates because the shape of them was/is reminiscent of the original primal attraction to the roundness of buttocks. So fuller-breasted females had more offspring and passed on the gene for it, making it more common. That might be true or it could be some biologist dude's excuse for acting like a male chauvinist pig, lol.

Why breasts are sexualized in some cultures ... who knows? Rather like why the ancient Chinese started thinking tiny feet were a sexual turn-on.
 

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What bothers me is the implication that if breasts are sexual, they should be hidden. That somehow, sex , or sexual behavior, is only something that "immoral" people would engage in....and definately never expose children to!
It seems to me, that many people are disturbed by BF because its involving a child, and the casual passerby, in something they persieve as sexual(and inherently dirty)
I think we should try to change our language to emphasize that breastfeeding, is non-sexual, rather than breasts.
I hope that made sense...I really should be asleep by now.
 

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mine are both
in fact i have had occasion to be nursing on one while being aroused by dh playing w/the other. it was unique but it was definately going on!
 

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I just wanted to say that although men love boobs in a sexual way, they often find boobs unsexy when a baby is nursing on them. My husband loves my boobs, and finds mothering and nurturing very sexy. It seems that people who find NIPing offensive don't usually have a problem with billboards displaying the breast in a sexual fashion offensive. Are they offended because the women NIPing isn't trying to be sexy?

Don't know if I'm making sense, not done my coffee.
 

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I have to say I have felt much the same way as the OP, when someone says the breasts are not sexual I disagree. Breastfeeding is not sexual, the breasts themselves can very much be. Most men are visually stimulated, and just as an example my dh always finds my breasts attractive and wants to see/touch/taste. He even found it to be sexy that when we would be intimate my breasts would leak milk when stimulated when our dd was small, because it represented all the facets I have as a woman. But he never felt turned on when watching me nurse, but he did find that it was attractive to see those nurturing qualities...does that make sense? Perhaps this is better: My 15 year old brother is at that age where his eyes are popping out of his head when a little missy strolls on by with her boobs barely contained in her shirt. However, he is now and always has been my greatest family support (aside from my dh) for breastfeeding. He's not seeing it as a sexual thing, he knows it's the best thing for his niece and more than once reprimanded our father for saying something insensitive, and this was when Ev was 13!! I was so proud, and it's not like I sat him down and told him that bf was the most optimal food and I never explained to him why I was doing it.

I did have a conversation with a friend of my dh's when my dd was about 3 or 4 weeks old. He was visiting us and I was nursing her and he said "I'm really not trying to be disrespectful here, I just want to ask a question but please understand I am not trying to make you uncomfortable" he then went on to explain that as a man he'll never get to have a nursing experience and he was wondering if it felt good. I explained that yes it did feel good, in 2 major ways: 1) it felt good because I was doing the best thing for my baby and taking care of her needs and 2) It can get uncomfortable when my breasts fill up with milk, having her nurse is a relief from that discomfort, so it also it felt good in the way it feels really good when you scratch an itchy spot or pee when your bladder is really full. It's not a sexual thing, but it feels pretty darn good!

I think that the point of this culture "needing" to have clearly defined roles for the body parts to be a great way of explaining those who take issue with nursing. It comes down to body shame, and that speaks of our culture's history of sex being dirty and therefore sexual things must be hidden away. It wasn't so long ago (in the grand scheme of time) that women had to hide their pregnancy because it was evidence of them having had sex, even within the confines of marriage, and when the pregnancy could not be hidden anymore they were not to leave their home. With that in our history, I think it'll be a while before all people are comfortable with NIP.
 

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I'm really glad someone brought this up! I plan on BF'ing and on being a Lactivist and etc, but every time someone here described breasts as "non-sexual", I'd always think, "Well, MINE are sexual!!"

I think that like many aspects of the human body, breasts are multi-functional. They can be for food, they can be for play. It's like asking, is a penis for urinating or for sex? Are mouths for eating, for talking, or for kissing? Do we have to draw a line in the sand and say that it's 100% this way or another?
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by mntnmom View Post
What bothers me is the implication that if breasts are sexual, they should be hidden. That somehow, sex , or sexual behavior, is only something that "immoral" people would engage in....and definately never expose children to!
It seems to me, that many people are disturbed by BF because its involving a child, and the casual passerby, in something they persieve as sexual(and inherently dirty)
I think we should try to change our language to emphasize that breastfeeding, is non-sexual, rather than breasts.
I hope that made sense...I really should be asleep by now.
:

Breasts as they relate to children are clearly not sexual.

My hands can be sexual, but most of the time they are just hands, doing things hands do. Like typing!


And frankly even if they are viewed as blatantly sexual, I'd rather have my child exposed to loving sexuality than violence any day of the week! It's been driving me crazy lately how horrible and violent commercial *on every channel* are (I have watched more tv than usual lately, nursing), and I find myself constantly putting it on mute as I can't deal with the idea of screams of pain and horror seeping into my babies subconcious. Sounds of sex wouldn't bother me a bit. She sure heard plenty of that while she was in me!
:


It *disturbs* me that objectification of women is acceptable (hello, Maxim!), and violence is acceptable, but a breastfeeding child is *horrifying* to so many in our society.
 

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If you look at other primates like the chimp, with their facial structure, they would sufficate if the mother had protruding breasts. Her breasts must be flat so they don't cover up the baby's nose. Humans have a different facial structure and it's easier for them to nurse with protruding breasts and the babies don't sufficate from it. [/end random factoid] ITA men are attracted to them, but they were not chosen by evolution for inherent sexuality. They don't have inherent sexuality.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by Benji'sMom View Post
If you look at other primates like the chimp, with their facial structure, they would sufficate if the mother had protruding breasts. Her breasts must be flat so they don't cover up the baby's nose. Humans have a different facial structure and it's easier for them to nurse with protruding breasts and the babies don't sufficate from it. [/end random factoid] ITA men are attracted to them, but they were not chosen by evolution for inherent sexuality. They don't have inherent sexuality.
I'm going to come back and post some more later (my cold is making me zonked) but I did want to reply to this post.

I guess it's true that big breasts might impede the nursing of a primate baby, but I don't think this is an explanation for why human females have big breasts. Other mammals have protruding noses and not big breasts. Many primates develop big breasts when lactating (although humans are the only primates to get big breasts at puberty and keep them when not lactating) and they don't seem to suffocate their babies at too alarming a rate. Also, which came first the facial structure or the big breasts, or did they evolve together? [I don't know if you were meaning that to be an explanation of why human females have big breasts or not (?).]

Also you say that big breasts were not chosen by evolution for inherent sexuality, but there are many evolutionary theorists that would strongly disagree with that statement. Some of the thinking along these lines is that big breasts were a display that a woman has enough body fat to support a pregnancy. If males were to select (unconciously, of course) based on that it would lead to more big breasted offspring (I'm LOL at my terminology here). In this way they would be pretty strongly linked to sexuality.

Oh, I had another thought about a different post. Someone was describing that mouths can be used sexually, but people don't mind seeing them in public. I just got a idea of someone feeding their baby with their mouth (like birds do, I guess). I wonder if that would be seen as sexual. Oh man, I need more Nyquil.
:

Okay, gotta go blow my nose and give dd a bath. This is very interesting, and I am enjoying reading all the responses. I do agree with the point that nursing should not be thought of as sexual.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by fly-mom View Post
Also, which came first the facial structure or the big breasts, or did they evolve together?
(...)
Also you say that big breasts were not chosen by evolution for inherent sexuality, but there are many evolutionary theorists that would strongly disagree with that statement. Some of the thinking along these lines is that big breasts were a display that a woman has enough body fat to support a pregnancy. If males were to select (unconciously, of course) based on that it would lead to more big breasted offspring (I'm LOL at my terminology here). In this way they would be pretty strongly linked to sexuality.
both could be true. breasts have different functions, depending on the point of view.

"Humans have flatter faces because of the evolution of a larger brain, which necessitated a change in skull shape, as well as some changes in mouth structure, the tongue, the muscles that support the tongue and the length of the throat as language developed. The whole idea is that there was a co-evolution of the human flat face with breast shape, and thus there was evolutionary pressure on the shape of the breast to accommodate the infant."
(...)
But if sexual selection is not the reason for the shape of the human breast, why does the breast respond sexually?
Bentley says, "It could be a combo here. The pressure for the shape of the breast was initially from this need to feed the baby and then, secondarily, men may have evolved to find the breast of this shape and size more sexually interesting. The convergence of the two pressures could have evolved into more successfully reproducing females."

http://www.health24.com/Woman/Medical/711-727,13811.asp
 

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Actually, almost all the body parts human beings use sexually aren't "intended" for a sexual purpose, and have other functions. There's no use comparing us to the animal kingdom; animals don't do 99% of the things humans do sexually. If we stopped using, or seeing as sexually attractive, everything that isn't directly connected to reproduction, our love lives would be pretty damn monotonous!
 

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They ARE both...lots of things are! Mouth, behind, penis, vagina, hand - heck almost anything on the body can be very sexual AND functional. It doesn't mean that you should go around coveringyour mouth when you eat, smile, drink - it doesn't mean you should wear a huge apron covering up your backside when out in public. The issue most people have with NIP and often brestfeeding in general - is that they have never thought of a breast as anything BUT sexual. Everything else has always served dual purposes - but for some reason, in our soceity - breasts miss out on that...
 
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