Sexualised boob obsession has origins in lactation

According to evolutionary biology, revered boobs are lactating breasts in disguise

by Elizabeth Willmott Harrop

21 June 2010

In her twitter comments this week, Kim Kardashian summed up the fractured psychology which reveres sexualised boobs and reviles lactating breasts.

Kardashian tweeted on 19 June: “… Im at lunch, the woman at the table next 2 me is breast feeding her baby w no coverup … my sister breast feeds! Its a natural beautiful thing, there’s nothing wrong w it, but she covers herself, not w her boobs exposed”. Oh the irony.

This irony is compounded (and boob obsessed revilers of lactating breasts appear even more ill informed and hypocritical) when you consider that humans are the only primate which has prominent breasts outside of breastfeeding their young. In other words prominent breasts in primates – such as the gorilla mother in the photo album below – equal lactating breasts.

In Mother Nature, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy comments: “What is unusual about womanly breasts is how early they appear. Breast development begins at puberty, even before menarche, years before a woman is capable of conceiving or needs breasts to suckle babies.

“Other primates have prominent breasts, but this tissue builds up only prior to and during lactation. After weaning, monkey mothers revert to the flat-chested, button-nippled look of females who have never had a baby.”

So were Kardashian a member of any other primate species, she’d be the one feeding her infant over dinner, rather than reacting as if the breastfeeding mother had just urinated in front of her fellow diners.

Talking of which, why is it that defecation is generally regarded as incompatible with eating, unless you are a baby. In which case society deems it perfectly acceptable for you to be suckled in a public urinal, rather than offend restaurant and cafe-goers at their tables. How about tray tables in toilet cubicles at restaurants, so that diners can eat there as soon as a mother unclips her nursing bra. I digress.

Kardashian is actually acting true to human primate form by advertising her wares. Blaffer Hrdy continues: “Large breasts helped hominoid adolescents compete with other females for a good husband by advertising … that she had stockpiled enough fat to sustain lactation.”

So, contrary to Western notions, revered boobs and reviled breasts are actually more connected in the human psyche than first appears.

The pictures below show images from mainstream Western culture, illustrating the disconnect between the widespread acceptability of boobs, as titillating ‘advertisements’, and the denigration and revulsion associated with breasts as nurturing life-givers.

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