The Sexualisation of Breasts

Warning: This Article Contains Breasts

Breasts are wonderful things, they look good, they make good pillows and they can feed babies. But recently breasts have gained a deal of controversy, from the Free the Nipple campaign to the controversies surrounding breastfeeding in public. Recently there have been a number of posts on Facebook with breastfeeding mothers talking about the mistreatment they have received for breastfeeding in public. Other breastfeeding posts on Facebook have been removed by for ‘containing nudity’. The Equality Act 2010 says that “it is discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.” Yet it is clear that women still face judgement and now also worry they will face judgement for doing so in public.

 

I recently reported a post on Facebook which someone posted vengefully of another girl without her permission or knowledge. The photo showed the girl with her shirt pulled up, but with her nipples censored out. The issue was not nudity or breasts but the fact that the girl in the photo was unaware that the image of her in a compromising position was used without her permission. I reported the image numerous times and each time my complaint was met with a response that the post “did not go against Facebook’s community standards”. Interesting that bullying and what is basically illegal revenge porn failed to be removed and was acceptable to be shared around eliciting hateful comments, yet a photo a mother shares proudly of her breastfeeding her new-born is seen as ‘inappropriate’. So why is it that breastfeeding is so taboo?

It seems that society's sexualisation of breasts has led to it becoming acceptable to see breasts in sexual ways, in glamour shots and in the newspaper, yet it is somehow repulsive to see breasts performing their natural function to provide nutrition for a child. Think of all the terms that are used for breasts, the likelihood is that words like “fun-bags” came to mind, but have you ever heard them referred to as ‘milk cannons’? Probably not. And why? Because breasts have been sexualised and their natural function has been replaced. Now there isn’t a problem liking breasts. They’re aesthetically pleasing. Sex is part of nature. Sex leads to babies. Babies that need to be fed by, wait for it, breasts!

When asking about what people thought of breastfeeding, I discovered that many people considered it a private matter and something that should be done in the confines of the home. What these people neglect to consider is that it is not always plausible for a woman to remain at home with her baby; she may have things to do and places to go. These people are the same people that have claimed to have seen a woman breastfeeding in an ‘exhibitionist’ manner. Maybe they’re right. But maybe they’re not. Perhaps that woman is not getting her breasts out to put everyone off their food but because, shocker, their baby needs to be fed. It would seem people are disgusted by breastfeeding, yet incapable of looking away. The same people that are so repulsed by the sight of a woman breastfeeding would be the same people judging and getting wound up if her baby was crying out of hunger because the mother refused to feed her child in public. It would seem that breastfeeding women just cannot win!

 

Some have suggested that women should go somewhere private, like a bathroom. Would they eat their lunch in a germ ridden public toilet? You can bet not. So why is it that some people think women shouldn’t breastfeed in public? Someone mentioned to me that it’s inappropriate to do that in front of strangers, and asked what their partners would think. A comment that again comes down to one thing. The view that women shouldn’t breastfeed in public because other men might see their breasts is shifting the blame from the strangers looking, to the mother simply feeding her child. It also shows how breasts have become sexualised and it is not the men objectifying these women but the women that are just trying to feed their child that are being punished for societies sexualisation of breasts.

Sources:

http://www.maternityaction.org.uk/advice-2/mums-dads-scenarios/6-breastfeeding-rights/breastfeeding-in-public-places/

www.examiner.com