A Mind of Their Own: Our Breasts from Objectivity to Functionality, Part II

 

Written by Natashia Fuksman, MA

Trigger Warning: Derogatory language regarding women’s breasts quoted.

Note: All names and client details have been altered to protect each woman’s confidentiality and privileged information.

Part Two of a Four Part Series

 Breast Scenes: Puberty

Moving through puberty involves physiological shifts, like our bodies beginning to menstruate, hormonal increases causing emotional ups and downs and physical changes like growing pubic hair, breast and nipple development. At 12 years old, Kathy (another client of mine) shared a story with me about her first time being “felt up” by a boyfriend. She remembered feeling surprised and then aroused when he touched her breasts. It was overwhelming to both figure out whether she should allow him to touch her in this way and then to experience sexual arousal with another: “It was kind of like, conflicting feelings. I wasn’t supposed to let guys touch me like that and it felt good in a new exciting kind of way.” She remembers she broke up with him soon after with great clarity that the break up was due to the ironic complexity of holding social expectations of what a “good girl” was and feeling safe enough to embrace sexual arousal. In fact, Kathy remembers feeling so overwhelmed and even scared of this complexity weaving together new emotion, judgement and physical experience, that she stopped talking to the boy all together. Whilst she felt badly for hurting his feelings, she remembers a great desire to shut down.

During puberty Kathy was learning about her own sexual arousal and the power in enhancing arousal through the fondling of her breasts. She was also becoming aware of the reality that her breasts could be a source of stimulation for someone else, through touch, in this case, but also through site and/or fantasy.  To be clear here, sexual stimulation is not problematic. However, Kathy’s experience shows us that as she was coming into her sexual self, she felt very conflicted about previously internalized messages dealing with the privacy of her breasts. She did not know whether sharing her breasts with her boyfriend was shameful or not and simultaneously, she was feeling incredibly vulnerable in someone else focusing attention on her breasts for their own pleasure. That was a lot of new information for Kathy to take in at once and carried with it much responsibility. Kathy’s rite of passage during puberty, included the developmental tasks of identifying with her changing breasts and body parallel to and impacted by other’s judgments and interactions about her boobs/body.

The physical changes we experience as pubescent girls are both visible and invisible. One of the most focused changes we experience at this time is with our breasts. Our chest area during puberty, can seem like a public domain—-open to all having their own judgments and breast stories and baggage. Personally, one may be quite curious about her changing breast size and shape, as well as the new sensations she may feel with the unity of breast stimulation and sexual excitement. That said, for many of us, it is not just about exploring the beauty or wonder of sexual stimulation. We have societies baggage and judgment about breasts already as part of our super ego development. This parallel process—that of our personal experience in connecting with what we feel and look like and that of others values/judgements/experience with regards to our boobs makes the authentic relationship with our breast identity quite inextricably woven together–sometimes knotted up. In Kathy’s case, as opposed to feeling open to her sexuality, this complexity was so vulnerable and seemingly contradictory that at the time, her safest recourse was to shut down.

Breast Scenes: Womanhood

Over the years, I have studied the interconnection between the psychological and physiological transitions mothers experience with their breasts. Women entering motherhood are often somewhat versed (not necessarily comfortable, but versed) and/or used to navigating the complex relationship between her personal connection with her breasts and others sexual objectification of her breasts, including judgments about their presentation and potential sexual arousal rating. Then we enter motherhood. Quite suddenly we are confronted with a function to our breasts—- in fact, the reality sets in that our breast area is one of the most essential places for our babies to be. Our babies may be fed at our breasts (breast or bottle feeding often takes place in the nurturing area of our breasts). Our bosoms– the essential area where our babies are cuddled. and warmed. Think about it—our breast area postpartum—we have these two mounds of soft tissue right next to the plump, mushiness of our now empty bellies. Our babies often end up in the shelter of our chests. This is likely the closest our newborns may experience to being in utero. Did you know that when a baby is born, the quickest way to warm her is skin to skin contact at our chest area. In fact, this action warms babies quicker than warming lamps and/or blankets!

A new mother goes from having dealt with objectified breasts her entire life to functional & objectified breasts. Let’s remind ourselves of the major developmental task/transition Kathy experienced during puberty of incorporating her sexuality and connection with her own changing breasts parallel to how others’ perceived and experienced her breasts. When we become new mothers, we have a new dimension of identity forming a spectrum of how we and others will relate to our breasts. We and everyone around us will stare at us, looming over the function of our breasts and the desire of our babies to be at our breast area for feeding and nurturing as often as possible.

So, this idea of expanding our minds to that of both sharing our breasts in a sexualized way with a partner, and then also with our babies is summed up concisely by the Rap Superstar, JayZ, on Beyonce’s recent self-titled album: “Your breasteses is my breaskfast”, says JayZ referring to his wife, Beyonce’s breasts. It seems that even Beyonce, the mega Pop Star and new mother, has both a baby seeking the shelter of her chest, as well as JayZ, her husband. A scenario, many mothers can relate to—Early motherhood being a time where our bosoms are with our babies quite often while we simultaneously navigate their meaning and relationship with our sexual partners.

This is Part Two of a four part series. Part Three will be posted soon! Contact me with your feedback.
This Article was originally published in Milk Mag, 2015, Distributed by Boobie-Palooza 

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