It is NOT Our Culture that has Sexualized the Breasts

This (the idea that our culture has sexualized the breasts) is an oft-repeated notion that drives me crazy. You hear it a lot in the breastfeeding literature-- "oh, our society needs to get over its sexual fascination with the breasts... HELLO! They're for FEEDING BABIES". Yes. That's true. They ARE for feeding babies. And they are ALSO for delighting a husband.

Proverbs 5:18-20:
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?

Song of Solomon 7:7-9
Your stature is like a palm tree,
and your breasts are like its clusters.
I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit. Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
and the scent of your breath like apples,
and your mouth like the best wine.

I'm just saying.

American men aren't the only ones who have liked em, ya know? And it's not a sin to like em. It's which ones he is delighted by that makes the difference. So, if you're married, let him delight in yours. ;-) And if you're nursing, don't fool yourself into thinking that discretion is never necessary because "there's nothing sexual" about them. There is. And it ain't new.

And if you disagree, don't take it up with me. Take it up with the Bible, thankyouverymuch.


Mrs. Anna T said...

*Of course* breasts are sensual, and a part of our bodies our husbands delight in. You mean someone seriously argued the opposite??

Yes, breasts are for feeding babies... AND for delighting our husbands.

And other body parts are for *delivering* babies... and also for intimacy with our husbands (Jess, if you feel I've gone overboard, please don't be offended - simply don't publish this).

My point is, our womanly bodies combine multiple functions: pleasing our husbands, as well as bringing babies into this world and nurturing them. We can't stop being discreet about our bodies under the pretext that it's "only for babies".

Jess said...

Here are a variety of articles that all have, embedded in them in one way or another, the view that American culture (or men, more specifically) are wrong for seeing the breast as a sexual thing. Either they outright state this view, or they are discussing it.

Is breastfeeding obscene?

Eyeful Sparks Outrage

Breasts: sexual or for feeding babies?

Breasts Shaped By Evolution for Feeding Babies, not for Men I'd say there's a lot wrong with this article, starting with Who designed the human body. ;)

Breastfeeding Mom Kicked Off Plane

Breasts: Babyfeeders or sexual objects?

Got Milk? Not in Public!

I've seen it a lot in the LLL-type literature that goes beyond just simple how-to-feed-your-baby discussion into a politically correct diatribe about breasts being made for one purpose alone. I don't know why we have to make it an either/or discussion. Like you said, Anna-- it's both/and.

Kara said...

First, love the picture, it made me laugh. I have only skimmed one of the links you had on here...although whoever wrote it obviously takes an extreme view there is A LOT of variety in how we all define "descretion". America seems to be having a surge of support for nursing moms but I did feel frowns when nursing where I lived in the states. And no one was very eager to say anything to low cut or "barely there" shirts. Obviously we should be going for a modesty far from this...but there is a descrepancy here. So, I'd have to side with the mom(in the article) and, I guess, somewhat with the lady who wrote the article.

I'm trying to sort out still how cultures fit into everything. Biblically speaking, they did live in a culture. What say you about peoples who live in cultures where the chest is never covered, male or female? Or often exposed? From my experience the sensuality associated with the breasts is less. My fear with this issue is that coming from the culture that we do come from, where the breasts are more sexually we instantly judge those who don't see it this way? Do we spout Bible verses at them and tell them to change their ways?(cover up) Just some initial thoughts... and thanks for the chuckles today while I read the post. :)

Jess said...

I was just going for a little visual assistance with the whole "cluster" and "fruit" analogy. :)

On your culture thing, it's true... there are cultures near the equator where breasts are seen more utilitarian... in fact, one of the articles I linked quoted some African women laughing it up at the idea that a man would be "like a baby" and be fascinated with the breast. :)

I guess, though, for me, I'm just trying to debunk the notion (at least in America) put forward by breastfeeders with an agenda that there's nothing sexual about the breasts, and that men are base and sinful to think that there is.

Claire said...

Hahahaha! Jess, you crack me up! Another awesome post. I'm so glad you're back!

As to the whole breastfeeding controversy - it always kind of mystifies me that there could even BE a controversy. It's called good manners people! If you're breastfeeding, be as discreet as possible. And on the other side, if you notice someone breastfeeding, don't stare at them and you won't get an eyeful! Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

Modesty is something very important to me. Breastfeeding is also something very important in my life right now. Having said that, I'm not the type of woman who is comfortable just pulling out my "fruit" in public to feed my child - men do *delight* in them. I would never let some random man see my "fruit," so why would I let him see it while nursing? Now I'm not going to let my child go hungry. If I'm out and about, I sit in the back seat of my van...thank goodness for tinted windows! :)

Carolyn said...

If breasts weren't designed to be sexual in some way, then why did God put a whole heap of nerve endings in nipples that can respond in a good way to touch? If they were just for breastfeeding, I know lots of breastfeeding mums who would much rather that they weren't so sensitive - ouch! ;-)God designs our bodies in miraculous and amazing ways, right down to the last detail. I personally think it's an amazing work of art, beautifully balanced with function and pleasure.

Terry, Ornament of His Grace said...

Short, funny, to the point...and true! My kind of post. Thanks, Jess, and ditto what Anna said.

Amanda said...

:D Great post. It brought a huge smile to my face. I'm sooooo excited already to breastfeed my next and I'm only 6 weeks along! :)

Catherine R. said...

So agreed. My husband is condemned as some weird perv because he's uncomfortable watching some lady whip out her boob in full view a few feet away from where he's sitting to eat lunch. This happened to us this weekend.

Thank you! Agree X10!

Trish D said...

Great post - and I *love* the pic :)

Karyn-for-you said...

You are the best. I alway's read your blog first from my google reader!!

Sunny Daydreame said...

I'm going to say that Satan delights in sending us contradictory and harmful messages. On the one hand is the message that it is somehow wrong for us to breastfeed our baby. On the other hand is the message that our husbands should not find the breast sensual because the purpose of it is to breastfeed.

Personally, I think that breastfeeding moms should practice discretion in public but we also need a cultural re adjustment that breastfeeding is a good thing.

While I plan on being discreet as much as possible, I've already told DH that if we are out at a restaurant and someone suggests that I take our baby to the bathroom to feed, I will politely reply, "If you are offended, perhaps you would prefer to take your dinner in the bathroom." I'll get a cover, I'll try to find a quiet corner, but I'm not going to sit on a toilet seat and try to nurse in a bathroom. Somehow that seems contradictory to giving my baby the best.

hopeful said...


Tracy said...

Amen, Sister! I nursed all of my children, and sometimes in public for lack of a better place, but never without a cover. Nor would my husband want me too. He's happy to have shared with our babies, but sure doesn't want to share with the rest of the world!

Luke said...

I'm going to nod vigorously, and leave it at that.

I have so many things to say, but all of them could get me in trouble [smile].

Just nodding and smiling.


Anonymous said...

Way to make a point! Haha! Yes, culture does have a lot to do with it - the reason cultures who don't cover have a less sexual response to the breast is because of the "forbidden" aspect. Anything that's forbidden is more alluring.

Anonymous said...

Funny, but my husband believes that any man who finds a breastfeeding woman sexually attractive is perverted. There is a way to present the breast for pleasure, and then there is watching a baby eat. They do not, or should not, overlap.

While I do cover up when I'm out of the house, I find it uncomfortable and inconvenient and wish I could just feed my baby when she's hungry and not worry that uptight people would be offended.

Joanna said...

My husband loudly applauds and thanks you very much! LOL.

Hannah (for the rest of us) said...

Bwahahahaha! Those fruits look like they're about a 'C' cup. Three cheers for breasts, even if nursing has caused SOME people's to, er, become more like dried fruit. :)

Janel said...

Excellent point. Excellently made too. It's good to have you blogging again. :)

Kelly said...

Great article, LOVE the photos. LOL

Terry, Ornament of His Grace said...

Hey, Jess, I gave you an award.

Ticia said...

There are clearly differing opinions here. So here are mine. Men are what they are and a breast is a breast whether it has a baby attached to it or not. It really makes a lot of men uncomfortable to see a womans bare breast out in pubic.I don't think that makes them perverted. I have no problem with women breastfeeding in public but it is really not necessary to expose your entire breast to do it.

The Simple Shepherdess said...

Great post! LOL here:D

and...smiling and nodding

and...forwarding to dh who will love this post as well:)

MInTheGap said...

I was reading a post on breastfeeding on a Christian's site and she argued the same thing. I took her to the same passages that you listed above, for it's quite clear that the Bible states that as far back as Proverbs and Song of Solomon that the female body's form had dual purposes.

The difference between then and now is striking, though. Then, it was only those that sold their bodies that presented their form for public view. Today those that sell their form do it, as well as an entire culture that thinks that it is not only acceptable but attractive to display their bodies.

There's no question that "they" have been sexual for a long time. The difference is that it's now acceptable to flaunt them everywhere.

darci said...

teehee! I've 'missed' you this summer. I'm not sure my hubby finds nude breasts sexual in the bfeeding context, but i know it is embarrassing for him when certain shall remain unnamed women in our circle pull up their shirt and completely flash him before the baby gets hooked on. I think it's a question of just being considerate of others. I always tried to cover up..i'm sure i had a couple oops and slipped and flashed someone. :)

Anonymous said...

Well said Jess - it's great to have you back.

Blessings from Northern Ireland.

Lindsy said...

For some reason I kept reading "It is NOT Our Culture that has Sexualized the Beasts" on my feed reader, so I got a bit of a surprise when I arrived at the post. Hopefully our culture doesn't go far enough toward beasts that that needs addressed as well!!

Another good post, Jess! Thanks for bringing Scripture to our lives yet again. :)

Anonymous said...

And personally, I prefer women keep the chests covered around women as well. It's awkward seeing such sexual objects even when not attracted to them. Once at a reunion, in taking pictures of numerous people sitting at the tables from my seat, I suddenly realized a woman I'd just photographed was exposed. Wow, was that embarrassing!! The lady just laughed when she saw my shocked face. She said that she might not want her parts captured if she weren't feeding her baby, but she didn't mind the photo as it was. Well, it didn't make any difference to me if she was feeding or not! Awkward was awkward. Staring at nakedness was staring at nakedness, and thus something I had no business to be doing since not a spouse or doctor. I deleted the photo ASAP. Glad I didn't load it on the computer and send a link to any men before realizing what was in the picture. Please, women, consider that other women may not want to see the goods either if they can avoid it.

The Pauls' said...

Point well made :)

Jill F. said...

This was such a great post. And doesn't this go right along with the fashion trend right now of ladies to stick their boobs right out in front-cleavage and all- and then they're (gasp) offended if someone thinks of them in a sexual way?? How dare that person treat them like they
're asking for it!!

There is such a disconnect between how God made us as women (beautiful, desirable and touchable) and how God made men to have God-given urges toward the sight of a woman. Isn't it a hoot how blind we can be?

Mom said...

I love it! I loved the picture. You made some great points!

Mrs. Amy Brigham said...

I see the point from both sides, even if I don't agree that there's nothing sexual about breasts. Yes, God did make our breast for both feeding babies and to delight our husbands, but certain cultures, like ours, are more sex obsessed than others. My in-laws are from Korea where breastfeeding in public didn't require either a cover or a jaw hitting the floor from anybody and to this day is my MIL absolutely horrified with what she feels to be perversion on the part of many Americans, the way they sexualize a nursing baby. She doesn't just talk about the idea of being asked to nurse in a bathroom, but also how people will claim a mother nurses her child for some sort of sexual enjoyment or how a mother who says she "enjoys" breastfeeding is thought of as some sort of pervert. Sensuality and sexuality are not one and the same after all. I do feel for her and other women like her, who were raised to enjoy a more healthful organic idea of their bodies for all their God intended purposes than myself and many of my peers, and honestly would much rather impart this sort of view to my children than the one that is prevalent in the States. Our bodies are lovely God created vessels intended for many, many purposes and should be celebrated for all of their many functions and usages, in appropriate context of course. :o)

Along with this, not every man who might look at a woman nursing her baby is doing it with sinister, twisted intentions. Just as there are women who find a nursing mom & babe to a beautiful, pure sight to behold--as they should--so, too are there men who feel the same way, especially men from countries other than America or those raised by immigrant parents. I'm not saying go flaunt your breasts by any means, but rather to be mindful and realistic that breastfeeding itself is not a "dirty" or sexual act and some people, even men!, do see it in the appropriate light.

Christine said...

Amen! A couple of years ago there was a debate in blogland about this very thing and I quoted the same scripture you did. Some puritanical Christians have made a bad name for us who do love to use our bodies for our husband's pleasure.

Domestikate said...

I don't know if this exactly fits this post but I thought it was too funny not to share.

My husband will be taking our oldest son (12yo) on a weekend get-away so they can have "THE TALK". My husband and I were going over a series of questions to make sure we were in agreement as to what they would talk about. One of the questions asked "What is the God intended purpose of s*x?". I responded simply "Well, it's two-fold, for procreation and for pleasure." to which my husband declared "Oh yeah I forgot about the procreation part!" and diligently started scribbling to add that to his notes. What a clear demonstration of how we are wired so different. And that's what I love!

Polly said...

I agree. I think our culture does *over* sexualize the breast, though. (Look at magazines. TV. Anything! There's even a restaurant dedicated to the breast! There's way too much breast out there!) So I do think our culture is a little TOO obsessed in breasts as sexual objects. (And as you said, the 'wrong' set of breasts--those not belonging to one's spouse!)

But do I cover up in public, or simply not nurse in front of men other than my husband? YES. I do, because I don't know how comfortable they are with it, and I'm not going to embarrass anyone--AND I don't want other men seeing my breasts.

Lindsay said...

While I certainly do agree with you that breasts do have a dual purpose, I don't agree with some of the comments that are implying that that is the reason that nursing in public is unacceptable.

When a woman covers up while nursing, she does so because she's uncomfortable with the idea of somebody seeing her breast. When somebody asks or tells a woman to cover up or stop breastfeeding...more often than not...they're uncomfortable with the idea BREASTFEEDING not the idea of seeing a breast.

And that's where the problem lies. Here in America we've done this:

Breasts = Breastfeeding
Breasts = Sex
Breastfeeding = Sex

And while people might not feel that way on a conscious level...I truly believe that is why nursing in public is seen as such a horrible travesty.

We're inundated with breasts...everywhere we turn our heads there are women running around with their chests falling out of their shirts. We might think it's inappropriate - but restaurant managers are not telling women to cover up their abundant cleavage because it's a family-friendly restaurant.

In all of the nursing in public that I've done and that I've seen done...I see far more skin from those women that are wearing low-cut shirts than from those that are feeding their babies. I do, personally, feel like women should show discretion when nursing and do whatever they need to do to make themselves feel comfortable.

So, yes, I completely agree that God designed breasts for both purposes and I'm thankful for his design...but women should not be told to stop feeding their baby because somebody else is uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding.

Thany said...

Mrs. Anna T: Doesn't that just show how we as women/wives/mothers are absolutely BUILT for multi-tasking?

Great post. Great, great post.

Sanders said...

LOL! I love your blog! While I totally agree with you, I can't help but see Lindsay's point. . I think most of the people who give rude comments and looks to nursing mommas are disgusted by the act of breast-feeding. I make this assumption since I work hard at nursing modestly and have received the comments and looks; not to mention the fact that they'll take the liberty to say rude things to a nursing mother, but not an immodestly dressed woman. Curious how that works.

Christie said...

Just have to jump in here and give my 2 cents. I agree that breasts are sexual and modesty should be used when around men, but I also think that we should uphold a woman's right to breastfeed. A woman shouldn't just whip it out for all to see in order to feed, but putting pressure on her to nurse in a grody restroom or other isolated place seems excessive. I feel that women should be mindful of the fact that their breasts being on display may cause men to be tempted to impure thoughts, but when around just women, I think it's fine for her to do whatever she is comfortable with.

Deanna said...

I can't believe that Tamara (she's my sister) hasn't jumped in here to tell you this - when we were growing up in our conservative church/school environment, our elementary teacher told us that the reason we didn't wear short sleeves was because our elbows reminded men of breasts.
Can you see me rolling my eyes??? ;-)

By the way, thanks for having a boy - I think I got the girl outfit Tam bought for your baby when she didn't know what the gender was. It 's a darling pink Pooh outfit. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Fantastic choice of picture. Haha


bpassmore said...

As a husband, I completely agree!

Stacie said...

I think Lindsey is right on! :)

Mrs. Lindblom said...

This is so true. I've really come to realize this even more so now that I'm nursing a baby for the second time around. In realtiy, being intimate with my husband and also breastfeeding has made me very comfortable with my body (I've had issues from childhood abuse) and now I'm not afraid to nurse in public (although I do ensure that I'm fully covered).