Thoughts About Boobs
December 12, 2013 § 7 Comments
I’ve been thinking about breasts lately. Why? Well, I’ve just been confronted with small incidents that made me pause and think. But all this ruminating mostly comprises a mass of thoughts that have yet to lead to a conclusion, so I’ll dump them below in an effort to sort them out. Here goes:
1. Some men are obsessed with breasts
In forums and comment sections where people discuss things like “My husband has a small penis” or “NYC women don’t date short men,” you will inevitably find embittered straight men who compare these perceived physical shortcomings with breast size.
“Women can discriminate based on height and penis size but we’re seen as shallow if we won’t date a woman with small breasts?!??!” they rant.
Sane people usually just ignore them. But the comments make me wonder whether straight (American) men really care about breasts that much. They don’t comment on, say, roundness of posterior or symmetry of face (i.e. other qualities usually seen as appealing), just all boobs all the time. And they’re not just obsessed with breasts — they’re clearly obsessed with BIG ones. Does this body part really mean that much to men? I’d like to think of those trolls as a deranged minority, but I don’t really know.
There’s some connection to the fact that breast augmentation is the most common cosmetic surgery in the U.S., but it takes too many words to parse out so I’ll just leave the thought here.
2. Breasts are oversexualized
This bit of truth should be universally accepted by now. The fact that there’s still a stigma surrounding public breastfeeding is the perfect illustration, though I still can’t for the life of me understand why people would be against it. If you find a nursing baby somehow “inappropriate” or “indecent,” then you need help.
Don’t even get me started on the “Save the ta-tas” and “I heart boobies” campaigns. God, please let them die. In a fire.
3. Breasts = NSFW
The majority of the time when you see something labeled as “NSFW,” it really means “naked boobies here.” Sure, there are lots of things that you shouldn’t be viewing at work — cat videos, illegally downloaded movies, etc. — but once a woman’s nipple has been flashed, that’s when you know for sure it’s NSFW. I helped compile Rolling Stone’s list of NSFW year-end videos (I didn’t help choose them, however), and exposed breasts were pretty much the common denominator. (Yawn.) It’s not the only thing you shouldn’t be viewing at work, but it’s an easy place to draw the line.
I think what confuses my thought process the most is that it feels like contemporary artists — musicians, photographers, directors, etc. — use naked breasts to add some kind of shock value to their projects. (“Look at these nipples! I’m so edgy and avant-garde!”) Whether that is actually their intent, I cannot verify. But we’ve all seen so many boobs that the usage of them in such a manner seems dull and cliché. So basically, seeing naked breasts in media doesn’t surprise me, but viscerally it still kind of does, which I actively have to suppress. Which leads me to…
4. Breasts are awkward?
As someone who grew up in the U.S. (and was raised by Chinese parents), I was imbued with my fair share of conservatism. Seeing another woman’s naked breast is still enough to disconcert me in public and make me uncomfortable in private (e.g. locker rooms). I can’t help it, even if I want to.
5. Breasts should be meaningless
So, given men’s preoccupation with breasts and my own discomfort in looking at them, my natural instinct is to prefer for breasts to be covered up. Don’t let teh menz see them! (And don’t flash them in my face por favor?) But when I say that, I don’t even know what context I’m talking about — I don’t have a problem with cleavage or bikinis or other forms of normalized clothing that show lots of boob. If you got it, flaunt it, is my attitude. (Though I’m still not sure about crop tops that show underboob; those seem bafflingly impractical and uncomfortable.)
So am I just afraid of nipples?? And WHY? When a celebrity phone gets hacked or photos surface of celebrities sunbathing topless, why can’t I stop myself from clicking on those stories??? Why am I discomfited by nipples in real life yet morbidly fascinated with those of famous women??!?
At the same time, I know covering up is not the solution. First of all, it’s kind of too late. Feminists have long pointed out the hypocrisy of America putting sexual images everywhere in advertising while at the same time trying to drag the country back to its puritanical roots in terms of legislation and sex education. The same can be said for breasts: Imagery of cleavage is bountiful and celebrated, but heaven forbid a woman lets a nipple slip!
In New York, it’s legal for women to be topless in public. (Doesn’t stop police from arresting them, though.) I would be taken aback if I saw someone enjoying that right, but I don’t think it’s gross or wrong. Breasts are just breasts. Stop making them into something more!!
Nine hundred words later, I think I’ve boiled down my misgivings to this: I want to support and celebrate women in letting their breasts go free and naked. But in many instances, I still get the feeling that they’re/we’re being exploited, or at the very least leered at by men. (This is why we can’t have nice things.) And that makes me uncomfortable. Also, nipple fear makes no sense.
So those are my thoughts about boobs.