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. Men tend to weaponize them with terms such as "guns" or "cannons."
Food associations are common: cantaloupes, cream pies, cupcakes. As are strange analogies: Eve’s peaks, bikini stuffers, sweater kittens, puppies in a sack.(2)
Feel objectified yet?
7) Breasts are the most objectified part of a woman’s body.
Objectification theory states that women are sexually objectified and treated as objects to be valued for their use by others. Breasts are singled out and separated from a woman as a whole person, reducing her to an object of sexual desire. (6)
This objectification contributes to the “controversy” of breast feeding infants in public. Naugler contends that breasts are scrutinized not for what they do — nourish babies — but for how they look.(2) [p. 101]
8) Yes, he is staring.
Human men are the only species to find breasts sexually fascinating. (6) See below for how to take advantage of this weakness:
9) Trying to convince your boyfriend or husband to do something he is opposed to? Take off your shirt.
Men stimulated by the sight of breasts are more likely to make bad decisions.(6)
10) Pink is pretty, but breast cancer still isn’t cured.
While 30 percent of breast cancer will metastasize, currently only an estimated 2 percent of funding goes to metastatic breast cancer — the breast cancer that kills, according to metavivor.org, an organization dedicated to funding stage 4 cancer research.
Stage 4 breast cancer is not considered curable, and kills 40,000 people a year. (7)
Reviewed June 20, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
1) A brief history of breast enlargements. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
2) Credentials: Breast Slang and the Discourse of Femininity. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
3) Breast Anatomy. MedicineNet.com. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
4) Breasts: The Science Behind Why Everybody Loves Them. alternet.org. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
5) Breast Sacks and Medieval Ideals of Female Beauty. Retrieved June 16, 2016. WillsCommonPlaceBook.co.uk. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
6) Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research. APA.org. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
7) Research. metavivor.org. Retrieved June 16, 2016.