Are they big enough? Too big? Perky? Drooping? Breasts are a powerful symbol of femininity, and their idealization represents an impossible standard for most women.
Think of Marilyn Monroe, Jessica Rabbit, or Christina Hendricks on "Mad Men." What makes these women so quintessentially feminine?
“[I]t is not the vagina but the breasts that have come to operate as the central symbol of femaleness,” wrote sociologist Diane Naugler.(2)
Read on for anatomical, historical and sociological facts about breasts:
1) The medical term for breasts is mammary glands.
Mammary glands are essentially a milk factory with a delivery system of ducts that transport the milk. It is then dispensed by a baby latching onto the nipple.(3)
2) Only humans develop breasts at puberty.
Other primates develop breasts only to produce milk for their young, then their breasts flatten out after weaning.(3)[p.2]
3) Breasts come in all shapes and sizes.
“I've seen breasts as varied as faces: breasts shaped like tubes, breasts shaped like tears, breasts that flop down, breasts that point up, breasts that are dominated by thick, dark nipples and areolae, breasts with nipples so small and pale they look airbrushed,” wrote Natalie Angier in "Woman: An Intimate Geography."(2)
4) In the Middle Ages, the ideal woman had little nubbins of breasts.
Large breasts were seen as sinful and unattractive. Women applied rosewater and vinegar to their breasts in an attempt to reduce them.(5)
5) Breast implants were first attempted with paraffin in the 1880s.
The experiment failed as the wax seeped away from the chest and into the rest of the body.(1)
Other early experiments with breast enlargement included the insertion of sponges and wood and glass balls. Breast enlargement achieved widespread success in the 1950s with the adoption of silicone implants.(1)
6) What do you call them?
Bosom? Boobs? The Girls? Naugler came up with an exhaustive list of breast slang.