or sexual objects?
by Maria Miller
Breasts in North America are a taboo:
going topless on beaches is
not generally accepted, breastfeeding in public is often frowned
on or seen as 'indecent exposure', women going top-free is
considered shameful and immodest behavior.
On the other hand, entertainment industry and the media
constantly show women wearing very scant clothing that barely
covers the nipples and just draws more attention to the breasts.
Fashion swimwear covers less and less of the female body each
year. Media and advertisements signal to people that breasts are
sexual, and only beautiful when big and protruding. But we know
big breasts is a fallacy since women in ads and movies use push-
up bras and breast enlargement to artificially 'enhance' the way
their breasts look like.
Just think what young girls learn about breasts if they
continually see this 'propaganda' without a balancing view of the
real purpose of breasts! Breasts are to be hidden, they are
sexual, forbidden. Parents teach their children the same way,
and many times children don't see a single pair of naturally nude
breasts apart from their own (if they are girls) while growing
up. It is totally possible that a child grows up in North
America and never sees a baby breastfeeding!
How many pairs of real breasts have you ever seen? For many
young women, most of their knowledge about breasts comes from
movies and magazines, so it is no wonder that even teenagers talk
about getting breast implants, and that most American women seem
to be unhappy with their breasts.
If women are obsessed about their breast size and shape to the
extent of surgery, men aren't doing any better. For many men
female breasts are a source of sexual inspiration, fascination
and fantasy. They get inspired from looking at pictures where
they see some cleavage, where breasts are enticingly almost
visible, yet hidden. The pornographic industry gets much good
about the taboo-ism of female breasts by letting men see these
taboo items for good money.
It is not so in Europe or in many other parts of the world.
European women commonly go topless on beaches, and many European
countries also have nudist beaches where people sunbath naked, yet the
atmosphere is decent and non-sexual and people are at ease. The sauna
culture in some European countries makes people used to seeing
nakedness, and they don't view breasts as any special thing or taboo.
Primitive tribes in hot climates wear
very little clothing and it's no big deal to them. It seems that
North American culture is almost alone erotizicing the breasts to
such an extreme.
Carolyn Latteier, the author of Breasts, The Women's Perspective
on an American Obsession, said in a TV program "All about
breasts, "In many cultures, breasts aren't sexual at all. I
interviewed a young anthropologist working with women in Mali, in
a country in Africa where women go around with bare breasts.
They're always feeding their babies. And when she told them that
in our culture men are fascinated with breasts there was an
instant of shock. The women burst out laughing. They laughed so
hard, they fell on the floor. They said, "You mean, men act like
She also said in the same program that of the women she
interviewed, the ones that were happiest with their breasts were
breastfeeding women. They weren't thinking about, "Is it too
small? Is it too big?" They were doing something wonderful -
that which is the REAL purpose of breasts. 
Breastfeeding in USA
An infant formula industry study found that only 31 percent of US
infants are still being breastfed at 6 months, and even though
experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, one study
found that only 13% of breastfeeding mothers at 3 months and a
MERE 1% at 6 months were doing so. 
Why do women fail to breastfeed or wean too early? There are
many reasons. Some mothers think breastfeeding is 'yucky'. The
husband or partner might think woman's breasts are for sexual
purposes and become jealous over the nursing mom's breasts, or
start thinking that the baby is doing something indecent and
pervert when it feeds.
The numerous women who have negative experiences about
breastfeeding pass them on to their friends. Doctors know very
little about breastfeeding and about the dangers of
bottle-feeding. Actually, a study found that the majority of
pediatricians believe breastfeeding and formula-feeding are
equally acceptable methods for feeding infants. 
Some women have problems in breastfeeding but don't receive
enough support and help to overcome the difficulties. Many have
difficulties with breastfeeding in public because of other
people's attitudes towards exposing their breasts. With some,
going to work prevents them from breastfeeding and/or pumping
One major factor undermining breastfeeding in US is the way
infant formula companies advertise their products. They send
free samples to pregnant mothers and to hospitals, give free
gifts to doctors and nurses, and leave the impression in their
pamphlets that formula is almost as good as breast milk. No
wonder the 'supplemental bottle' is often used when there is just
a minor solvable problem with breastfeeding!
Another reason why babies are weaned early is because people have
misconceptions about weaning. Most people in Northern America and in
other western countries think that breastfeeding is only for the first
couple of months of an infant's life, or mostly up
to year. However, in most other cultures worldwide children wean
much later, and in most of the history children weaned much
later. According to Katherine Dettwyler's studies, comparing
humans to our closest animal relatives shows that the natural age
of weaning in humans should be between 2.3 and 7 years. Children
who are allowed to wean themselves, usually do so between 2 and 5 years
of age. 
It seems that everybody agrees that breast milk is better, but
that the whole society is negative about breastfeeding? Why is
that? In the course of history many different parts of the
female body have been fetishes for men, for example ankles,
necks, and tiny feet (in China), so why are North Americans so
obsessed with breasts as sexual objects in our age?
In my opinion the reason is because the whole society is about to
forget what is the real purpose of female breasts. That is shown
for example in Katherine Dettwyler's experience in her 'Women and
Culture' course in the fall of 1993. One of her undergraduate
students was totally flabbergasted to discover that the
biological function of women’s breasts was for feeding children.
With obvious shock and disgust evident in her voice she asked,
'You mean women’s breasts are like a cow’s udder?'  If you
can see breasts as 'wonderful milk-making machines' meant for
babies, then you won't worry anymore what men think of your
breasts or what they look like!
We have a vicious cycle on our hands: the less women breastfeed,
the less people get to see the real purpose of breasts. At the
same time media everywhere constantly touts the perverted view of female
breasts, which makes people view breasts as sexual. That
in turn makes it harder for women to breastfeed, since many of
the reasons for not breastfeeding are linked to the erroneous
idea that woman's breasts are sexual organs.
So the less women breastfeed, the harder it becomes for women to
breastfeed. This cycle self-promotes the view that female
breasts are sexual and that women are mere sex objects, which can
lead to more pornography, sexual crime and abuse of women - all
the while little children are robbed of their best nutrition.
Women, breastfeed your babies! Men, understand the real function
of female breasts! Everybody, forget about breasts being sexual!
 Carolyn Latteier in the TV program
"All about breasts" Transcript available at
 Breastfeeding trends through 2000 Ross Products Division
 Pediatricians' Practices and Attitudes Regarding
Breastfeeding Promotion PEDIATRICS Vol. 103 No. 3 March 1999, p.
 A Natural Age of weaning, Katherine Dettwyler
 Katherine Dettwyler as quoted in Breastfeeding at Municipal
Pools in Canada http://mediaworkswest.com/BACE/BMPC/BMPC-
About the Author
The author is a breastfeeding mother
with a website 007 Breasts at
http://www.007b.com/ discussing how media and society have
influenced us to see female breasts as taboos and sexual objects
and how this relates to breastfeeding. Other topics are why women
fail to breastfeed, wonders of breastmilk and breastfeeding, bras
and breast health, breastfeeding pictures, normal breasts gallery,