Posted by : Wendy B Thursday, 26 May 2011

Blog repost from 2007:
Was just discussing the issue of breastfeeding in public with a friend. We both agree that it's a normal, natural act, but they used the word "asexual" to describe it.  I pointed out that it is not asexual [in our culture] - that some women find arousal in it [not I must fuck something now! kind of arousal, but the process does produce a pleasurable experience, and couples can take pleasure from lactation [not when baby is actually there] -- there is even lactation porn/erotica.

This doesn't justify breastfeeding moms being kicked out of various places (read: Texas) or the entire act being considered lude etc, but it does explain the rationale behind the thinking.  The problem is that our culture has made boobies taboo.

[Abstract] In this paper I consider the ways in which lactation has been discussed as a form of maternal sexuality, and the implications this carries for our understanding of breastfeeding practices and sexuality. Drawing on knowledge constructed in the western world during the last half of the twentieth century, the paper identifies a shift between the radical ideologies of the 1960s and 1970s and the newer moral conservatism of the 1990s. The emergence of lactation porn and erotica in the 1990s has meant that the sexuality of breastfeeding has been contained in a subculture outside of dominant cultural values, and so maternal sexuality has become a muted discourse, sometimes bordering on the immoral and illegal. My project in this paper, however, is to argue that breastfeeding pleasure is physiologically 'normal' and should be productively rather than illicitly incorporated into the meanings we make of sexuality and of breastfeeding. 

Further research scored me this article on breast taboo, which includes the following excerpts and quotes:

"Well, we do have a peculiar obsession with breasts in this culture. A lot of people think it's just the human nature to be fascinated with breasts but 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 babies?"
~~~
In the fall of 1993, one of the undergraduate students in my 'Women and Culture' course 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?' That a young woman could reach college without ever having even heard of women using their breasts to feed their children is a sad commentary on American culture.  -Katherine Dettwyler as quoted in The Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton (BACE) report about Breastfeeding at Municipal Pools in Canada
~~~
"It is inappropriate to take the very Western cultural idea that breasts are sexual organs and turn it into a "Law of Nature," applicable to all people, at all times. It is inappropriate to let the very Western cultural idea that breasts are for men overshadow their primary biological function for feeding children, just as it was inappropriate for people in Chinese society to let the cultural idea that deformed feet were sexually stimulating overshadow their primary biological function for walking. Women and children are harmed by Western beliefs about breasts, both directly and indirectly, both physically and emotionally."  Katherine Dettwyler in The Cultural Context of Breastfeeding in the United States
~~~
The less women breastfeed, the less people get to see the real purpose of breasts.  At the same time media everywhere touts the view of female 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 sexualization of breasts.

So of course, Simon and I have been discussing this... But seriously, what is it about our culture that keeps sexualizing everything and thus making it evil and dirty? Damn Victorians!

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This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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