It is very interesting for me to reflect on breasts. They are everywhere in mainstream media, from commercials to movies to porn. Most of the time they are put into a highly sexualized context. Which is strange to me…they are literally masses of fat that just hang there (naturally). Their biological purpose is to feed babies. And yet they’ve become something that defines someone’s sex appeal.
I’ll cut to the chase. I have large breasts. Based on my frame and stature, you could call them disproportionate. The funny thing is that people feel the need to constantly point out their size to me, as if I don’t know. Some people will say they are “nice,” others will say they are “huge” (!). What irritates me most is when they are perceived to be my most notable characteristic, or objectified to the point that the fact that they are connected to a person is forgotten. They always seems to be the first physical attribute that people notice.
One of my ex-boyfriends told me, on the first night we met, that I had nice boobs. That was the very first thing he had to say. I figured I should just take it as a compliment, so I did. I had a vague sense that I was being objectified, but I was only sixteen. I started dating him three months later.
Another ex-boyfriend took a special liking to my breasts. He liked them so much that he saw fit to name them. I’ve forgotten the names now. But he thought long and hard about them. This was strange because instead of objectifying them he personified them. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. I realize now that it bothered me, but I didn’t know why at the time. By personifying the inanimate lumps of flesh on my chest, he made me feel that I was worth less. My intellect, my opinions, and my personality just weren’t as interesting as my boobs.
I dated him for six months.
I have come to realize that I actually loathe my own breasts. Because of my experiences with guys and because of the unwanted attention that they attract. Because they are too big. Because I cannot find swimsuits that fit. Because I cannot run without back pain. But mostly because I don’t want to be noticed because of my breasts – I want to be noticed because of who I am.
The technical term for my self-loathing is internalized oppression. Because society puts so much emphasis on breasts I have learned that having large boobs inevitably attracts attention. I once believed that it would just something I would have to deal with. I know better now. But the fact that I have come to despise my own breasts reflects negative body image. Instead of loving and appreciating them as part of my body, I worry about hiding them.
Internalized oppression works on an individual basis and also among oppressed groups. Many women have said that they wish their boobs were as big as mine. In magazines and in porn the most sexualized women have large boobs – and so we are taught that big breasts will make us more attractive. From this stems the issue that bigger busted women are criticized, by other women, for dressing like sluts in outfits that are designed for small to regular-sized breasts. Showing too much cleavage makes you a whore. There is no denying the fact that smaller chested women have more clothing options. It is difficult enough for women with large breasts to find clothes that fit, and then the pressure to look modest is added on.
This situation creates division among women and promotes judgment and criticism (non-constructive). It’s no wonder that we have so many widespread body image issues. It’s not surprising that breast implant surgeries have skyrocketed among American women. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of breasts in our society and I do not think that their true value is often realized.
Luckily, there are guys who prove the exception to the rule. They give me hope that I can be appreciated for more than just my cup size.