"Gabrielle Holly spins her stories in a way that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster you'll never forget!"
~Paranormal Romance Junkies

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Boobies, Tits & Gazongas: Our Weird Attitudes about Breasts



A recent French study – which followed 300 women over a 15-year period – concluded that brassieres are a “false necessity.” These mad scientists determined that gravity was a friend to breasts – not a foe – and when allowed to roam free, breasts actually were less saggy than if they’d been trussed up.

While I found the study moderately interesting (a good thumbnail sketch can be found at The Huffington Post), it was my female friends’ reaction to it that really caught my attention.

Rather than being liberated by the findings, they were horrified. When one pal said, “I go braless at home, but – let’s face it – nobody needs to see all that nip action in public” – another enthusiastically agreed “Totally! No one needs to see my ‘girls’ flopping around.”

The banter was good-natured, but I read a deeper meaning beneath the jokes.

Nobody needs to see

Body shame is alive and well and living in the suburbs.

Believe me, I’m not judging. I never leave the house without a bra on. I strap in before I step outside to grab the morning paper. But the discussion got me thinking. Why are breasts such a hot-button topic?

The Incredible, Edible Breast

Let’s face it, for all their allure and mystique, breasts are first and foremost a food source for infants. Small and pert or big and pendulous, the purpose of the mammaries is to feed babies. It’s been going on since the dawn of time, and yet even this most natural of acts is frequently under attack. In the U.S., some states have even had to enact laws to protect the right of women to breastfeed in public.

In 2013, the Texas House of Representatives considered such a bill. In response, Rep. Debbie Riddle (R) posted to her Facebook page “I am all in favor of breast-feeding — however it is important for women to be modest while feeding their baby.”

Really? Why?

Does the gentlewoman from Texas fear that an accidental nip-slip by a breastfeeding mother will frighten young children or drive otherwise sane men mad with desire?

Ridiculous.

Weathering the Elements

I contend that humans wear clothing not as punishment for some colossal fuck-up in the Garden of Eden. We wear clothing because our woeful lack of protective fur leaves us exposed to the elements. At least, that’s why we started. In fact, in the early days – before we worried about whether or not it was okay to wear white after Labor Day – people were removing the fur from animals and adopting it as their own.

In the generations that followed, humans figured out how to make cloth without killing anything, then started fretting about just how much of our delicate skin to cover.  Hemlines and necklines zoomed up and down in response to changing social mores. Somewhere along the line, clothing became less about protecting us from the elements and more about safeguarding our virtue.

Back in the day (the Victorian era specifically), it was considered scandalous for a woman to show her ankle. One glimpse of that naughty bit between the foot and calf could drive men wild and cost a dame her reputation.

Form and Function

Then in 1946, Louis Réard – coincidentally another French guy – unveiled the bikini and all hell broke loose. The two-piece started showing up on beaches the following summer and people were aghast at all the Slutty Sluttertons traipsing about in public with everything showing.

Well, almost everything.

Old Lou Réard might have been a fashion innovator, but he was not a heathen! Even he knew enough to keep the naughty bits covered. After all, nobody needs to see

What’s that you say? But men have been going topless – exhibiting full nip action – since the invention of sunshine without causing an uproar.

Yeah, but that’s different. I studied human physiology in school and I still haven’t quite nailed down how that’s different, but apparently it is.

Titillation Nation

After the bikini busted things wide open, a new standard was born. Women could be seen in public – otherwise completely naked – as long as she covered up certain parts. Over the decades, we’ve gotten very specific – laser-focused, really – regarding exactly what those parts are. It’s now okay to be completely naked as long as the crack and nipples are covered. Hips, ass-cheeks, top-boob, under-boob and side-boob are all fair game.

Seems kinda silly when you look at it that way.

About 40 years before the bikini, the first modern bra was patented. New York socialite, Mary Phelps Jacob dreamed up the idea in 1913 because her corset was just too uncomfortable. ( More uncomfortable than a bra?)

A hundred years later, bra sales account for about half of the $14-billion-a-year lingerie market. Padded, pushup, backless, strapless, lacy and wired… there are plenty of ways to wrap up those boobs.

Whether a bra is purchased with the intent to seduce a lover or keep the nipples obscured so as not to offend anyone, it all boils down to taking part of a woman’s body and molding it to fit the way it’s “supposed” to look.

Shucking off the Bonds

Though feminists have sometimes (and rarely kindly) been labeled “bra burners” no bras were actually harmed in the incident that coined that phrase. In fact, the feminists that protested the 1968 Miss America pageant didn’t burn a damn thing. They just ceremoniously tossed bras, girdles and kitchenware – things that they called “Instruments of female torture” – into a garbage can. The press cooked up the “bra burning” part.

I learned about “bra burners” in college. By then I already had very large breasts and had been restraining them for years. The day’s lesson about gender equality was lost on me. I was too distracted. I clearly remember thinking, No bra? Wow! I wish I could do that!

But, of course, I couldn’t – because nobody needs to see…

Fun Bags

No discussion about breasts – especially a discussion led by an author of erotic romance – would be complete without addressing the sexual component.  Breasts are beautiful. Breasts are sexy. Breasts are sensual. Breasts are erogenous zones.

Whoa! Back up a minute. What was that last one?

Breasts are erogenous zones.

There it is! Breasts – in particular the nipples (of both genders, by the way) – are chock-full of specialized nerve endings that enhance sexual arousal. When these naughty little bits are kneaded, stroked, pinched or licked we get turned on.

And getting turned on is a bad thing. Right? Especially for women.

Clearly, something must be done to prevent women from running amok with animal desire. We must make sure that certain bits of their wicked flesh are always hidden from view. It’s okay to lift and enhance the breasts – so they look like they’re supposed to - but advertising that those lovely mounds have nipples just can’t be tolerated.

It’s going to be a tough sell - bras are uncomfortable. They dig into the ribcage and leave red marks on shoulders. Nobody will want to wear them, so just to make sure, it might be best to make women feel ashamed about their breasts. You know, because nobody needs to see...

10 comments:

  1. I must be one of the few people who is 1) more comfortable clothed than naked and 2) is very comfortable in my bra. I'm of the personal philosophy that people should be able to walk around topless, and if they're going to walk around bottomless, bring a towel, but otherwise hang free if you want.

    We create our own "titillation levels" and act like that's the way it's always been, but all you have to do is look at mores of previous centuries and even of different cultures in this century. That era where the ankles were scandalous...? The breastes were practically falling out over the low neckline. The Egyptians had lots of naked ceremonies. It's utterly ridiculous how much we've made the woman's body not just a sexual object, but a sexual *danger*.

    I love breasts. I think they're the prettiest things ever, small to big. I enjoy mine more than I used to, small as they are, but I only wear bras so that I fit into clothing I like better, so it's a good thing they're tremendously comfortable for me.

    So much politics about the breasts, but just wait until I get started on hair...

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    1. Thanks for dropping by, Aurelia.

      Yes - the politics/to-do over breasts is just mind boggling!

      I would, however, be very interested in seeing a commentary from you on the whole hair hubbub!

      ♥ Gabby

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  2. Great post Gabrielle. I now know so much more about breasts and bras than I did before ;)

    In Australia the breast feeding in public debate rears it's ugly head a few times a year, normally after some restaurant or shop owner has asked a new mother to leave. Shame!

    As to my personal thoughts, after 3 children and reaching the half century mark in age, finding a comfortable bra to keep my girls from flopping to the floor is what it's all about.

    Cheers
    Donna

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    1. Hi Donna!

      Thanks for dropping in!

      Oh, the search for the comfortable bra! Sometimes I feel like Ponce de Leon. The closest I've come is the Cacique line by Lane Bryant.

      As I said to Lisabet below, I never go without a bra. It's a paradox, but I'm actually uncomfortable without one. Honestly I haven't figured out if my unease is physical or mental, but it just doesn't feel right not to wear a bra.

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  3. Hi, Gabrielle,

    Fantastic (and informative) post - but I think the bikini was invented in 1964 not 1946 ;^) (in fact I was there...!)

    For many years I didn't wear a bra most of the time, even though I have moderate sized breasts and very prominent nipples. I actually gave a presentation at a technical conference wearing a body suit with no bra on underneath. As it happens I met my future husband at the conference - but I digress...!

    I hate wearing a bra, but I do most of the time now when I'm outside the house, because my breasts have become significantly more saggy - they just don't look good to me. I do have a few dresses that provide enough support that I can skip the torture instrument, though. (My husband encourages this behavior.)

    You're perfectly right, the whole issue is ridiculous. And definitely discriminatory!

    Maybe it's time to make that bra burning more than a myth.

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    1. Hi Lisabet!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Incredibly, the bikini was invented in 1946! There's a great photo essay on the bathing suit at http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/06/photos-bikini-babes-back-then/

      I never go without a bra. It's a paradox, but I'm actually uncomfortable without one. Honestly I haven't figured out if my unease is physical or mental, but it just doesn't feel right not to wear a bra.

      Odd how a little cotton and Spandex can create such conflict!

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  4. I love it all--bras, braless, corsets, the works. BTW no item of clothing or shoes should be uncomfortable. If your bras don't feel and look great you're probably not shopping at VS. Their bras really are better, sexier and most importantly, more comfortable.

    That having been said--a great commentary on a conflict-laden subject.
    Thank you!

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    1. Suz,
      Thanks for taking the time to drop by and comment! Quality and fit certainly go a long way towards comfort, but I've yet to find a perfectly comfortably bra. The hunt continues :-)

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  5. Great post. I've gone out of my way to find bras that completely hide my nipples, esp. when the bra is covered by several layers of clothing. This is because I teach in a university in Canada, & sometimes my nipples don't have time to recover from the cold outdoors before my class starts. At the same time, I wonder if a hint of nip under my sweater could traumatize students aged 18-22 (and sometimes much older).

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    1. Hi Jean Roberta,
      I grew up in Minnesota and certainly can empathize with the effects of cold weather on the body! When we said, "It's nippy out!" we weren't talking about Jack Frost nipping at ones nose ;-)
      Thanks for dropping by the blog!

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