Bad Tits

Can tits ever really be bad? The short answer is yes. But I am not going to give you that concise reply. Instead I will blather on about the history of breasts, Freudian theories of desire, and the politics of breast implants, all the while waxing poetic about my own lovely lady lumps. [What again?].

Breasts are unique cultural objects, unlike any others. Of high status, they are often equated with the female body itself. In contemporary western society to have breasts is to be female, a belief which is unfair, not only to women without breasts, or with very small ones, but to mammaried men as well.

This Chinese man, with the largest natural breasts in the world, has got it goin’ on, right PDDs?

Why is identity equated with a bit of tissue, you might ask? Don’t fret, my loyal followers, for the heroic Sigmund Freud can answer your question, using a concept that he calls anaclisis and I call ana-fabulous. According to this psychoanalytic theory, humans are born with self-preservative instincts, including those of ingesting and excreting. During infancy, desire can easily be ‘propped up’ or ‘leaned against’ the pleasurable fulfillment of these instincts. The satisfaction of hunger derived from breast feeding, for instance, can be associated with physical satisfaction generally, transforming both mouths and breasts into erotogenic zones. Same goes for the anus. You still with me? As ‘adult’ sexuality develops—I admit that Freud starts to lose even me with this cloudy notion—the sexual drives are redirected to the genitals, but these earlier stages remain embedded in fantasy. And fantasy is obviously more important than reality, shaping culture and re-shaping women’s bodies in ways that can be both good and bad, as discussed below. Flashback alert: I am now sitting in a graduate seminar with Professor Kaja Silverman, reading Laplanche and Pontalis’ interpretation of anaclisis, marvelling at its explanation of the delicate interaction between biology and psychology. My ‘aha moment’ is almost overwhelming, kind of like when Oprah first read The Secret.

This picture of biology cloaked in culture is for RenMan, who openly admits to loving monkey nipples.

Freud’s brilliant mind suggests that tits have always been erotic, at odds with the standard history of the breast produced by such scholars as Marilyn Yalom (1997) and Margaret Miles (2008). According to them, the female breast was predominantly a religious symbol during the Middle Ages, not becoming thoroughly sexualized until 1750. For most of human history, the survival of the species was quite literally based on the ability of the female body to provide food, making breast feeding a generous, even sacred, act. Today this is no longer the case, at least not in so-called ‘developed’ countries. In these civilized zones, maternity is devalued, and lactating breasts are often considered disgusting, hidden from public view, and then ‘restored’ with post-pregnancy surgery. These days, the holy mother herself would be criticized for showing off her pap in the flagrant display pictured below.

Jan van Eyck, Madonna Lactans, 1430. For God’s sake, put a blanket over that thing!

What’s more, the Roman maiden Pero would be charged with perversion and thrown into jail with her starving father, instead of receiving praise for her selflessness in a best-selling book by Valerius Maximus.

Women’s breasts save the day in this 17th- century print.

Breasts are no longer a life-giving force on which men depend for their existence; they are sexual objects to be displayed on command for men, in exchange for Girls Gone Wild t-shirts and other cheap baubles. Yes, indeed, women are much better off now than they were in the Middle Ages and early modern period. Not.

Although the hapless and potentially regretful girls on Girls Gone Wild adopt the stance of ‘rebellious youth,’ they are actually being good girls, offering up good tits to adamantly heterosexual men. These bare-chested co-eds are ‘people pleasers.’ In contrast, those ladies who withhold their lovelies are bad girls, using their tit power against men in a bitchly fashion. Just consider the ‘machine gun jubblies’ pictured above. Here we find the penultimate image of bad tits: as a feminine masquerade designed to trap and then conquer men. Breasts are women’s secret weapon in the sexual battlefield, which is why they should always be clearly visible—ie non-concealed weapons—and handed over immediately to the authorities so that no one gets hurt. Don’t get me wrong; I am not doubting the reality of women’s unfair sexual power, especially since my personal experience confirms it. Whenever I reveal my breasts at home, my LSP becomes transfixed, compelled to move toward them in a Frankenstein-like manner with hands outstretched. This has happened every single day for the past 25 years. Really? I can only express bafflement at my instant control over him because there is no part of his body, which if suddenly exposed, would have a similar effect on me.

Worship me. Give me money. Do my laundry. Etc.

You will be glad to hear, my gentle and perhaps mildly aroused readers, that I am about to reach the thrilling climax of this post, where I will consider the thorny question of breast augmentation. I have been thinking about this issue for two reasons. First, I recently watched Bad Teacher, a funny movie about a lazy woman who seeks money for breast implants so that she can compete with better endowed lady-sluts and find a man to take care of her financially. Secondly, I have been listening to a friend of mine—previously unmentioned on this blog site—describe her pursuit of breast surgery, which includes filling out forms, meeting with doctors, and increasing her credit limit. Despite trying to be sympathetic, I cannot understand why she wants to pay $10,000 to have sacks of liquid jammed into her sliced-open and then sewn-back-up-again chest. This seems like a painful and expensive assault on her already-very-attractive physical form, one that would have to be repeated every ten years. ‘You have nice breasts and have no idea what it feels like to be an A-cup,’ she protests. Actually I kind of do, for when I dieted down to 118 pounds for my competition last year I was relatively breastless. Still she has a point. I am happy with my re-fattened girls (pictured above) and with my body in general. Apparently I am in the minority. Sigh.

My main bug bear is with the reasons women give for augmenting their breasts: ‘I bought these tits to be more competitive in bodybuilding shows,’ or, ‘I am in the porn industry,’ or—and this is my favourite one—‘I did it for myself,’ …awkward pause…’you are just jealous!’ [Aside: I will not be addressing the reasons why straight men might support breast implants, for in this particular instance I do not give a shit what they think. Please check back with me guys, when expensive and painful artificial penis implants are obligatory in order to be considered desirable]. Now to those defensive ladies: I generally call bullshit. While I am somewhat convinced by the ‘job requirement’ argument, I cannot countenance the neo-liberal, self-help, consumer choice claim. Oh, so you underwent major surgery, enduring complications and pain because you just happened to feel like it? Please admit that you have participated in a commercial transaction designed to increase your market value. This investment will pay off in physique culture and the porn industry, but is unlikely to reap rewards in today’s marriage mill. Presenting yourself as a pair of tits will not snag you a reliable and caring boyfriend. It will simply attract even more of the usual shitheads. Nor will a larger bust increase your self-confidence and self-esteem, for these qualities cannot be purchased.

I am thinking that a number of readers—especially those with substances already added to their bodies—might find me a little opinionated on this matter, wishing to disagree. Please feel free. I welcome debate. In fact, I have been challenging myself on this issue for the past few months, wondering how I can support some cosmetic procedures and interventions while opposing breast augmentation. For instance, what about breast cancer survivors? Well, I think that breast reconstruction is a different matter and should not be conflated with more strictly cosmetic operations. Still, wouldn’t it be great if women’s changing breasts, which sag after breast feeding infants, bear stretch marks after gaining and losing pregnancy weight, and reform after having tumours removed, were simply acceptable, even gloriously loved? Now I am living in a breast fantasy. Although I plan to write another post about supposedly ‘good surgery,’ let me conclude by saying that breasts cannot be lumped in with other body parts. Given the biological, social, and sexual status of breasts, they can never be considered neutral, personal possessions. Choosing to alter them is a deliberate cultural act that sends clear messages about sexuality and identity, messages that individuals neither create nor control.

Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher, a film which ultimately sends a strong anti-breast implant message, suggesting that they cause harm to women and girls. Note the position of the dodge balls in this still image from the film.

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About feministfiguregirl

I am a 49-year-old professor named Lianne McTavish who receives as much satisfaction from working out at the gym as from publishing my academic research. I decided to combine my two primary identities (scholar/gym rat) to create "Feminist Figure Girl," a fictional character who both analyzes and participates in bodybuilding. I competed in my first figure show in June of 2011, and then wrote a book inspired by the process, published by SUNY Press in February 2015. In this blog I will write about and consider my ongoing research on the body, while regularly making fun of myself. I recommend that you start reading my first post from August 2010 (available on the home page), instead of backwards from the most recent one, in order to get the full FFG effect.

6 thoughts on “Bad Tits

  1. “This investment will pay off in physique culture and the porn industry, but is unlikely to reap rewards in today’s marriage mill. Presenting yourself as a pair of tits will not snag you a reliable and caring boyfriend.”

    Consider the counter-example of Anna Nicole Smith.
    Her marriage to Texas septuagenarian billionaire reaped her immediate reward in the deal and, while she died prematurely, in a Darwinian sense she successfully projected her genes into the future by securing the material support for her spawn.

    Your post is value-laden, exposing your endorsement of a traditional post-renaissance marriage – not that there is anything wrong with that! – just that the evolutionary struggle is being fought on many, erm, fronts. Men with assets valuable for supporting offspring seem susceptible to appeals by women with ample cleavage to father and foster their progeny, cf. the trophy wife with the good sense to live in California or some jurisdiction where she gets 50% of hubby’s estate.

    But it’s not only Neanderthals that dig the dugs as it were, cf. Arthur Miller. he won the heart and body of Marilyn Monroe with his big, erm, brain and substantial earning power as an award-winning playwright. Arguably Marilyn knew where her assets were.

    It’s not only the tragic femmes-fataled that succeeded here. Jane Russell won the affections & lifelong devotion of a man who then built a support garment fortune around Jane’s wonderful cleavage. She lived happily ever after.

    It’s just because Marilyn & Anna Nicole were famous that we know of their tragic endings. There are no doubt many unknown women who have augmented their material security and lived happy lives.

    Lest I invite the ad hominem rebuttal, I wish to say that, while I appreciate the loveliness of a perfectly proportioned, though cosmetically constructed woman, I am thoroughly enamoured of more athletic women like Yelena Isenbayeva, Gabrielle Reece or Tina Fey too. (You didn’t see that last one coming did you?) I’d much rather that a woman spent her time honing her intellect, or shaping her glutes than saving up for implants. However, de gustibus non disputandum.

    • Thanks Geoff, for your lengthy and thoughtful reply to my post. Where to begin my response? First I should admit to being confused by your reference to post-Renaissance marriage. Do you mean that after the sixteenth century marriage moved away from goals of reproduction to focus on property management? Or that the notion of romantic marriage was first invented in the seventeenth century? In any case, let me assure you that I am politically opposed to all forms of heterosexual marriage, past and present. I once ranted against marriage in a post called ‘Dumb Blonde Bitch’ (May 2, 2011), which you might enjoy reading. In contrast, I am all for loving relationships between friends and partners, ones based on mutual respect rather than economic gain or legal regulation. Perhaps I am naive.

      I think your main point, however, is that women with huge tits can be happily married and get cash money from men who like huge tits for evolutionary reasons? Yes I agree with this point in principal. I have some questions about your examples, finding Anna Nicole Smith to be a weak case. The other two women you mention, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, had large lovely breasts that were not augmentated. As far as I know, they were also both intelligent and interesting women who had more to offer their husbands than gravity-defying fun bags (ie unlike your first example). I still doubt that breast implants have been good for womenkind in general. But let me make it clear that I am pro-breast all the way, like yourself and the other men you mention.

  2. I have experience with reconstruction breast surgery and I can say without a doubt that it had nothing to do with social and cultural acceptance. Any woman, who has had to live with naturally enlarged breast, endured breast feeding and the major weight gain and loss due to child birth would be able to empathize with the stabbing pain that develops between the shoulder blades. Waking up every morning in tears because you don’t want to get out of bed because it hurts and tires you throughout the day is enough motive a woman to get the surgery. Where social acceptance or rejection comes into play with reconstruction surgery comes from the men population and believe it or not the married women, who see your decision as a selfish act, particularly if your married. Those breast are not just yours; they are also the property of your husband.They seem to lack the ability to understand why a woman would choose to reduce her size when there are so many women increasing their breasts.

    Breast augmentation has a negative affect on public opinion, which is placed upon women who need to go through reconstruction breast surgery. To bad we don’t live in a society that values a woman’s right to choose without negativity, rejection and finger pointing. This is a reality in the world of breast reconstruction surgery. As I woke up from my surgery, my first sights and sounds I experienced was a nurse standing over my bed whispering how brave I was. In her 30 years being a nurse in charge of recovery, giving her a vast amount of experience in helping women recover from breast reconstruction surgery, she was amazed at how young I was. Then she whispered to me so the other patience wouldn’t hear: “Do you know how many women live and suffer until their husbands die and only then will they come in to get the surgery done? Many! Your one of my youngest patience I have helped.” That was 15 years ago, I wonder if it is still that way?

    • Thanks Hope, for sharing your experience with breast reduction surgery, which I did not address because it is so very different in nature from breast augmentation. The two are nevertheless related, as you point out.

  3. In the fashion of the many philosophological papers I wrote post-grad at U of C, I was analyzing the quote I excerpted, to wit the values: “a reliable & caring boyfriend” which I conflated to be aiming at marriage b/c it supports my contention that the end to to secure survival of the phenotype.
    I then attributed that to you b/c, well, you wrote it. 🙂

    To your point about MM’s & JR’s natural endowment, these two examples (there are many) I cited to show that women make a deal when they go after a mate insofar as they must, biologically speaking, have a desire to project their genes into the next generation. Not a contentious point I think.

    Thus large breasts can, and do, aid a woman in getting what she wants in evolutionary terms. how she obtains them: naturally or through surgery doesn’t matter. To quote Daisy Fuentes: “yeah, like men care!”

    To put in more succinctly, large shapely breasts can ensure a female that her offspring will survive to carry on the line. Not a guarantee, but I think I have demonstrated what we all recognize intuitively: it works. As the “newly-buxom Val explains (in the musical: All That Jazz) that talent alone doesn’t count for everything with casting directors, and silicone and plastic surgery can really help (“Dance: Ten; Looks: Three [Tits and Ass]”).” – quote, from wikipedia article.

    “Didn’t cost a fortune neither.
    Didn’t hurt my sex life either.

    Flat and sassy,
    I would get the strays and losers.
    Beggars really can’t be choosers.
    ..
    Just a dash of silicone.
    Shake your new maracas and you’re fine!
    Tits and ass can change your life.
    They sure changed mine.”

    rest of the lyrics here:
    http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/achorusline/danceten%3Blooksthree.htm

    Love your blog, always thought-provoking. Thx, Geoff

    • Thanks Geoff. I increasingly doubt the idea of an instinctual desire to reproduce. Whenever women have other options and access to education, many of them will avoid having children. Maybe we should think about reproduction in wider terms, not only biological ones.

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