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Seeing Double: The Truth About Breasts

If there is something we can all agree on, it is that sex sells. It’s no secret that companies use sex to get eyes on their products with the ultimate goal of selling them to make a profit. I know it, you know it, even your parents know it. I remember growing up and going to the movies only to see the screen filled with beer commercials featuring women with large breasts, or women wearing teeny tiny tops with lots of cleavage during baseball games to sell swag. Breasts were everywhere including billboards on the streets, ads in the malls and commercials during PG-13 movies. There was no way to escape it!

As time went on, I started noticing how bras and underwear were marketed. Women in their underwear were selling, well, underwear. No big deal here. I obviously didn’t expect companies to sell a product without actually showing it. Even if I was always a fan of superheroes and their ridiculous getups, I don’t think I would have bought those cute PINK undies after seeing a model wearing them over her pants like Superman. So, I agree, boobs and nakedness sell, especially when the product your selling is undergarments.

My problem with this is not the inevitable fact that sex sells or that it attracts consumers. No; it is the double standard surrounding breasts and nudity, especially when comparing women to men.

Let’s take a look at the history of breasts. Until the 1930s, no one was able to go topless in public. Men and women were both forbidden to show their bare torsos until then. Then in the ’30s, men gained the right to take off their shirts, but women were still not allowed to go topless. It wasn’t until 1992 that women gained the right to even be partially topless. Women were now allowed to show their torsos, but their breasts still had to be covered. Things are a little different nowadays, as it is legal to go topless for everyone in 36 states, and only three states have laws explicitly forbidding women to show their nipples (and nipples are still not freely allowed on Instagram and Facebook, might I add).

So, then what’s the problem?

Many people see breasts as sexual objects, when in reality these body parts are intended by nature for mothers to nourish their babies. It is completely natural for a man to be aroused by breasts, particularly in America, where our culture has blatantly sexualized them. But the misconception that they are solely sex objects only to be seen when engaing in sexual acts is a bit outrageous. Many women have been reprimanded while breastfeeding in public because the act apparently offends others around them. Breastfeeding in public places is frowned upon, even though it is natural and necessary for many women. Some people believe that this is a private act that should not be done in the presence of others, but some mothers feel that they should be free to feed their babies when they get hungry, wherever that may be.

My questions for society are the following: why is it acceptable for breasts to be seen when they are painted as sexual objects and marketing materials, but it is offensive if they are seen when feeding another human being? Why is it so frowned upon to show women’s nipples in public or on social media? Why are men’s nipples not treated the same? Are women’s nipples somehow sexier than men’s nipples? The next time someone moves to blur a woman’s nipple out, think about this: the only differences between a man’s breast and a woman’s breast are fatty tissue and the added function of producing milk. Men and women both have nipples and even mammory glands, so why are we blurring one set of nipples and not the other?

The misconceptions that surround women’s breasts are absurd. If they can be used and viewed to sell products in marketing campaigns, then there shouldn’t even be a discussion about whether or not they can be used in public to serve their natural purpose. I think it is exceedingly important to stop censoring and sexualizing our breasts.

Orly is a Venezuelan senior at Drexel University majoring in Public Relations and double minoring in marketing and writing. In her free time, you can find her in a coffee shop writing, color-coding her way through life or binge watching One Tree Hill for the fifth time. She manages HCD's Facebook page as well as their Twitter and hopes to make a career out of social media someday.