The Sexualisation Of Breasts – What Has Caused It?

The Sexualisation Of Breasts - What Has Caused It?

When a photo of a model breastfeeding her baby appears on the front cover of a fashion magazine, it not only grabs global attention, but it also sparks widespread controversy.

If the same model had posed without her baby in a low-cut dress exposing her cleavage, there would be no headline, no viral sharing of that image, and no debates.

Breastfeeding in public is a big deal because women’s breasts — and even breastfeeding — has become sexualised.

As a result, countless breastfeeding mothers around the world are forced to deal with the anxiety and challenges of nurturing and nourishing their babies outside of the safety and privacy of their own homes on a daily basis.

Why and how did this happen?

What Has Caused The Sexualisation Of Breasts?

Here are some insights into what’s behind the sexualisation of breasts and ideas on how we can normalize breastfeeding:

Sex Sells

Breasts are big business, because sex sells. We see women’s breasts everywhere. On television, at the movies, in magazines, on billboards etc. Yes, breasts have become a sexualised commodity and profit hungry companies will use them for all they are worth.

The Sexualisation Of Breasts - What Has Caused It?

Cartoon by David Horsey

The Problem With Porn

The addictive and harmful nature of porn is likely another reason why women’s breasts have become sexualised in our society. Porn addicts tend to see others as sexual objects. Unfortunately, cases of addiction are exploding due to readily accessible technology. What kind of a world are we bringing our children up in? How do we shelter them from all this? See BellyBelly’s article on the talk you MUST have with your children about porn, here.

Why Women Have Breasts

What is the true purpose of breasts? Why do women have them? To lure the opposite sex? To sell magazines? To entice men to get their car washed at a certain carwash?

Some might want to touch them or fondle them, but this is not why women have breasts. The true biological importance of women’s breasts is to feed human babies. When it comes to breastfeeding a child, there’s absolutely nothing sexual about that.

A mother breastfeeds her child, not to flaunt her breasts, not because she’s an exhibitionist, and not to try to turn the male species on. How many breastfeeding mothers have you seen walking around topless, flashing the general public or shaking their lactating breasts in the faces of onlookers? None.

A mother breastfeeds simply to nourish and nurture her baby. Nothing more, nothing less.

Breastfeeding Indiscreetly Doesn’t Exist

Some are of the opinion that breastfeeding has to be done ‘discreetly’ in public because they seem to confuse breastfeeding with sex.

What exactly does ‘discreet’ mean? Should a mother cover her whole chest, arms and baby with a blanket? Would you like to eat this way? Have you ever even tried to cover a baby while he or she is feeding? It’s impossible fighting against their flailing little arms. They want to see what’s around them, just as you would! Should a breastfeeding mother leave the public place to go to her car or to a public toilet to breastfeed? Would you like to eat in these places when in public?

It’s commonplace in our society for women to wear skimpy clothing and low-cut tops, and to see exposed and semi-exposed breasts on beaches, in movies, and in advertising etc. It therefore seems strange that breastfeeding in public may ever be perceived as being scandalous or ‘indiscreet’.

What messages are we sending to girls and young women when we talk about having to breastfeed discreetly? We’re telling them that feeding their baby is something that has to be shut away or at least covered up. That the natural God-given act of breastfeeding is something that others shouldn’t see. Why the heck not? It’s just feeding a baby!

In some parts of the world, it’s not uncommon to see a fully-veiled mother baring her breast to breastfeed her baby in public with no one taking any notice, except perhaps a foreigner.

Breastfeeding mothers have varied levels of comfort in what they expose when breastfeeding in public. Some are okay with taking their breast out uncovered. Others prefer to use a cover of some description. It’s up to the mother and the mother only, as to what she prefers to do. If you don’t like it, then don’t look. It’s really that simple. A certain individual’s offense over seeing a breastfeeding baby should never get priority over feeding a baby the way nature intended.

There is no such thing as indiscreet breastfeeding. End of story.

Appropriate Role-Modelling Is Important

Children need good role models to grow up around. Girls and young women need to be able to see women breastfeeding, at cafes, restaurants, on public transport, at football matches, on aeroplanes — everywhere. They are the mothers of the future. We want them to feel comfortable and confident in their own skin. We want them to feel proud of their own bodies and what their own bodies can do.

Breastfeeding And Norms

Breastfeeding is the biologically normal way to feed babies. Yet, biologically normal doesn’t always mean culturally normal. Our society still has a way to go for breastfeeding to be seen as the cultural norm and we all have a role to play in this.

Make Your Opinion Count – But Make Sure It’s An Informed One

People are entitled to their own opinions. However, there is a big different between an informed one and one based on ignorance. Think about it.

Read what BellyBelly’s Creator, Kelly Winder, has to say about breastfeeding in public: Women Should Cover Up When They’re Breastfeeding!

 
Last Updated: June 11, 2015

CONTRIBUTOR

Renee Kam is mother to Jessica and Lara, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


7 comments

  1. This article is hogwash! It’s an effort to suggest the female breast has been sexualized due to modern advertising, marketing and pornography. It goes on to suggest due to this sexualization if hampers women from breast feeding in peace. The fact is, back in the day more people breast fed then than today. However even with the huge numbers of breast feeding mothers back then they covered up or went to a secluded place to do it. Back in the 70’s, 60’s and 50’s the sexualization of breasts were virtually non-existent! Pornography wS much less as well. However, women were much more reserved as they fed their babies. So, to suggest the opposition to jerking out a bare breast in public is as of late is just not true. Additionally, to suggest that the sexualization of the female breast is due to outside influences is also not fully true. Women themselves has sexualized breasts! They get breast augmentations by the millions. They buy and wear garments that enhance and showcase the breast. Clearly women themselves are responsible for the hyper-sexualization of the female breast.
    Here’s the bottom line…women exposing their breasts in public for any reason is disturbing to many. The difference is that today the breast feeding advocacy wants to act like breasts are not connected to sexuality and that everyone should accept women whipping out their boobies in the process of breast feeding.

    1. Sorry but you are just wrong. I have witnessed (and experienced) appallingly rude behaviour towards breastfeeding mothers, from people who could not possibly see anything at all. I was abused verbally and told to get off a bus, despite sitting in the front seat upstairs, with my back to the entire bus, and the challenged happened as I lifted him onto my shoulder to wind him and they put two and two together.
      ‘f**ing disgusting’ said the man, and he went downstairs and commanded that the driver threw me off the bus, With a six week old child. Time and again I hear of mums being abused despite NOTHING being visible. Basically it’s just none of your damn business – look away, walk away and stop being such a bully

  2. I particularly like “biologically normal not culturally normal” wonder how the culrural norms came about, agree, advertising has something to do with it but also wonder if ecliastical expression that demonises ordinary women may also be responsible?

  3. I fully agree with this article. We are not sex objects but unfortunately as a society are forced to believe many sexist stereotypes about women and a lot of teens and young women believe the stereotypes due to low self esteem. Women are sexualised all the time and are led to be unless you are sexually attractive you have no purpose in life. Women who have careers are pressured into having children, those with children but stay at home are called lazy, women who dress revealing because they are led to believe they have to dress that way to attract a partner are branded sluts and whore, women who cover up are branded prudes. We still have a 1950’s mentality and its disgraceful

  4. It makes me uncomfortable when women show their cleavages- I am a woman without a cleavage. They are ugly. I don’t understand how men find cleavages sexy.. They look like a crack of another part of the body you sit on. I have small breasts and am happy with the way I am. Our society is so superficial, my boyfriend loves cleavage. So, I think it is other people who make one feel inadequate, that is, even though I am happy being small, I feel like he wants me to have larger breats so he can play with them.. it is the nipple though that is the sexual part really. This whole sexualization and objectification of breasts has gone way too far. It is pathetic when you look at it objectively, with women showing cleavages. They should be hidden, do guys show their crackoin their behinds by wearing low-cut pants? It is the same thing, really.

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