The Breast Fetish Is Natural? Afraid Not.
Posted by BroadBlogs
Science has shown that human females develop breasts as a secondary sexual characteristic that signals a woman is of age to reproduce. Breasts in other mammals only enlarge with pregnancy. And, female nipple stimulation lights up the same area of the brain as clitoral stimulation.
Comments like that come in response to this post: Men Aren’t Hard Wired To Find Breasts Attractive.
There, I argue that the breast fetish is socially constructed, and not biologically-based. Some readers tell me I’m wrong.
Here are their thoughts, and mine:
But first, a definition:
Fetish: a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc.
Breasts are a secondary sex characteristic. (But beards are, too)
I never said that breasts weren’t a secondary sex characteristic.
But men are not hardwired to find them arousing.
Secondary sex characteristics like breasts and a waist-hip ratio of around 0.7 on women, or facial hair on men, all indicate maturity. But only one of these things has been culturally fetishized, creating sexual arousal.
Also, men and women both develop pubic hair at puberty. Does pubic hair make our genitals more arousing? If today’s porn is any indication: no.
Meanwhile, the vagina and clitoris are PRIMARY sex characteristics and even more responsive than breasts, yet they aren’t fetishized. And they only attract about 2% of Internet searches.
Prepubescent features are sexy?
Meanwhile, blonde is considered the sexiest hair color. Yet few females past puberty naturally have that color. Like the breast fetish, the wide preference for blonde is a social construction.
13-year-olds are ready for reproduction?
Actually, enlarged breasts only identify a mature-ish female. I say “ish” because they often enlarge around age 11 — not all that mature. And I’ve known a few 13-year-olds with C-cups. Hopefully, guys won’t feel like they are ready to start reproducing.
Where girls do conceive children as soon as they hit puberty, they are more likely to die in childbirth.
And they often develop fistulas — a hole between the vagina and rectum — while in labor. That hole causes urine and feces to seep out, creating an odor. In societies where girls bear children at young ages, fistulas — and the stench that accompanies them — often drive the girls out of their communities. That’s not emotionally healthy, survival becomes more difficult, and so does reproduction.
So yeah, breast development does indicate maturity. But that doesn’t mean that girls should start having sex.
Breast and clitoral stimulation work similarly, so the fetish is natural?
Breast and clitoral stimulation both arouse, it’s true. But is the purpose to enhance sex? Or to motivate breast-feeding and encourage a child’s survival?
Maybe there’s a dual purpose. Maybe the fetish is visually-oriented to encourage men to stimulate their partners. But when a couple is going at it, they will surely figure out the whole nipple arousal thing, sight unseen.
And if the reason why breasts are fetishized and obsessed over in our culture is because they are sexual, then why isn’t the clitoris also a visual focus in our culture? Especially since it is even better at creating sexual stimulation than breasts are?
And nipple stimulation can be fun even in the dark.
Plus, the fetish disappears with long-term partners. Yet long term partners don’t quit breast play.
Meanwhile, most Americans think larger breasts are more visually arousing. But it actually depends on the guy. And smaller breasts typically respond more strongly to touch…
… And then some women get breast implants to make their boobs look bigger, after which about 1/3 of the “surgically enhanced” no longer feel much of anything, at all.
Bigger breasts make better moms?
Do bigger breasts make better moms because they produce more milk? No. All breast sizes provide adequate milk.
Do bigger breasts mean that women have more gynoid fat, indicating long term reproductive value? Well, gynoid fat can be distributed in a number of ways — maybe more up top or more in the hips. But you only need so much of this fat and non-starving women have plenty. Slim Japanese women, without implants, are typically A-cups. But perfectly healthy reproducers.
Unlike nonhuman mammals, breasts are “out there”
Unlike nonhuman mammals, breasts are “out there” so that men can find them arousing, right?
Unlike nonhuman mammals, the penis is “out there” so that women can find it arousing, right? Except that most women don’t find the penis visually arousing.
If you think otherwise, you may be watching too much porn. And believing what you see.
Also, protruding “breasts” perhaps called something else — like udders — exist on other mammals too. Like cows and goats.
And why do men get turned on by cleavage when it’s not natural? You need clothing, like a bra for instance, to create it.
Why would women learn the fetish?
Meanwhile, there is some evidence that women can learn the breast fetish, too, as I’ve written before. And how would that aid reproduction?
Men everywhere are interested in breasts
The assertion that men everywhere are interested in breasts stems from prehistoric artwork that depicts large genitalia and breasts.
The notion that this reflects some sort of fetish comes courtesy our cultural prism. Men today are bombarded by pornography and pornified images in mainstream media, so it’s not surprising that they would interpret the artwork as prehistoric pornography.
And yet men in tribal cultures don’t have this fetish. And tribal life constitutes our earliest human beginnings.
More likely, these earliest peoples were obsessed with ensuring that life was created and nourished. Babies came from women’s genitals and were fed at the breast. So these images were likely created to harness the powers of the universe to propagate life.
You don’t find the fetish in every culture
Straight Western women can find breasts arousing, but tribal men do not.
That’s right. You don’t find the fetish in every culture — which means it cannot be biological.
The great bulk of our human past consisted of tribal societies, where women’s breasts weren’t considered erotic. And yet humans somehow manage to reproduce, anyway. How could the fetish have evolved to aid reproduction if it didn’t exist?
But is this fetish natural – so long as men aren’t desensitized from overexposure? See this: Fetishes are Natural – Unless Desensitized?
Think the fetish is adaptive? Nope. See this.
Am I trying to shame men?
Some guys think I bring this up to shame them. I’m not. I don’t care if they find breasts arousing.
But I do care when our cultural obsession leaves the majority of women feeling like their breasts aren’t good enough. (Which leaves them obsessing over how they look and distracted from sex — which is not so great for men, either.) For more on that, see this: The Trouble With Fetishes.
I am also fascinated by the social construction of reality, including the social construction of this fetish.
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About BroadBlogsI have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.
Posted on February 2, 2015, in body image, feminism, men, psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged body image, breast fetish, Evolutionary Psychology, feminism, men, psychology, sex and sexuality, Social construction of reality, women. Bookmark the permalink. 160 Comments.