Breasts – The Women’s Perspective on an American Obsession
I believe that sexuality is really important in the world of work. It is
there and denying it denies part of who we all are. However we need to be able
to express our sexuality that builds relationship rather than to build personal
power at the expense of others. One of the themes of this weblog is about how
we might go about doing this. This book by Carolyn Latteier is pointer to one
aspect of this quest.
I have been fascinated by breasts for as long as I can remember. However, for
the life of me I don’t understand why.
I was having breakfast with a male colleague the other day and I asked him
"Why are we so fascinated by breasts?" His face lit up and he replied
"Oh mate, they’re just awesome!" I understood where he was coming
from but it didn’t shed any light on the question.
Most of my female friends and colleagues know that I, like most men they know,
am fascinated by breasts. Sometimes they like it, sometimes they don’t but whichever
way the pendulum swings (excuse the pun) they don’t understand it.
This puzzlement is encapsulated in a story from my teaching days when I was
a Year 11 form teacher. During this particular year I took form assembly each
morning to call the roll and give the daily announcements. One of the girls
in my form was a truly delightful young lady by the name of Mandy. She was also
a very attractive young lady. This day it was still early in the year and the
girls were wearing their summer dresses (which are probably the same cut in
every school in Australia). Our form assembly was held in the Chemistry room
which meant I stood at the elevated desk at the front of the room while students
who wanted to discuss anything stood on the lower floor at the front of the
room (so you already know what’s going to happen next…). I was fairly strict
about uniform. Boys wearing their ties with shirts tucked in and girls having
their top buttons done up. One morning Mandy came to the front desk and her
top button was undone. Given our relative positions I couldn’t help noticing
what was being revealed and in another situation I could have enjoyed it for
a moment. But I just said "Mandy, do your top button up please." Her
response has lived with me to this day. Some girls would have said this as a
throw away, just a tiny bit teasing line. But Mandy did not, at that time, have
an ounce of the tease or seductress in her. She said, almost quizically, "Why
does it matter? It’s just another part of the body." She was genuinely
puzzled why we men are so fascinated with breasts. I hope she learned to appreciate
her own beauty and the mystique that her breasts held. But at that stage, as
a young emerging woman she just wanted to be a person with everyday ordinary
part of the body breasts. So what!
In an ongoing quest to understand my own fascination, I came across this book
by Carolyn Latteier. I snapped it up as soon as I saw it and read the chapter
on "Breast Men". It was comforting and interesting to read the various
accounts of men she interviewed but did not fulfill my fantasy that at the end
of the chapter she would solve my puzzle.
The book is however a very good read. I should point out that if you are looking
for titilation you won’t find it here. Rather Latteier’s rich stories about
women’s quests to regain control of their own bodies is moving reading. I would
recommend it for both men and woment for that reason alone. Men would do well
to read it to help us understand some of the effects on women of our attention
to breasts. About how we have made breasts more our property than the women
whose bodies they happen to be attached to. Here are two passages from the book.
One from near the beginning and one from the last page:
For a growing girl, the advent of body consciousness often comes with the
first appearance of breasts. … The body is no longer the me of childhood
– that bundle of amorphous pleasures and pains, the me that loves to run and
jump and eat ice cream. The body becomes my equipment, my display, and something
I own, something for which I am responsible. My body is a quantity to be judged
by others who draw conclusions about me based on what they see.
The great American breast fetish is alive and well, but more people are aware
of it, and that means that things are changing. I would like to see us face
up to this obsession. By that I don’t mean that breasts should be desexualised
or that breast men should all go in for attitude adjustments. I would, however,
like to see the majority of women feeling OK about their breasts. I would
like to see breast-feeding become a natural and easy choice. I would like
to stop seeing women being judged by the size and shape of their breasts.
I would like to see that too.