CAMPUS AND CULTURE
Boobs: here, there and everywhere
Does size matter?
The supporting role of bras in history
Getting to know your chest
Boobs: here, there and everywhere
By Lindsay Satterthwaite
Hooters. Boobs. Melons. Gazungas. Tits. Honkers. Ta-Tas. Apples. Headlights. The twins.
No matter what you call them, they are still just BREASTS.
But they are not just breasts. Viewed differently than any other part of the body, the word "breasts" conjures up many different perceptions. For example, men may see female breasts as personal, inflatable play toys, but is that how women feel about their jugs?
In Western culture, breasts are almost entirely perceived as a sex symbol. But contrary to popular belief, not all women love their breasts.
Gail Golden, a member of Western psychology faculty, said, sexually, women don't necessarily feel the same way about their breasts as men do.
"Women tend to criticize their bodies. Some women feel good about their bodies, but unfortunately, they are the exception," she explained.
Perhaps women are not as fond of their breasts because of the way they are fondled.
In Golden's Human Sexuality class at Western, she rarely receives questions pertaining to breasts and technique. "There are always questions about what to do with the genitals, but never breasts."
People just assume that they are "doing it" properly, Golden added.
Regardless of technique, or lack thereof, breasts are not seen solely as a source of sexual pleasure to women.
There are many additional factors affecting how women feel about their breasts.
Fashion, for example, has always played an important role in the definition of the female body.
Ceri Marsh, the fashion news director for Fashion magazine, said clothing has changed dramatically over the decades. "We are more comfortable with nudity and bareness now, so there is more freedom. In the sixties, images of Britney Spears would be shocking, but now we just go with it," she said.
Marsh explained different parts of the body get highlighted every season, but there are certain designers who continually return to breasts.
French designer Jean-Paul Gauthier, for example, who invented the cone-shaped Madonna bra of the early 90s and Dolce & Gabanna always have a central focus on the breasts, she said.
The sight of flesh is not always what is captivating about the breast.
Prada and Gucci always cover the chest, but their clothes are still sexy in an intellectual way, Marsh explained. "What is sexy is so personal for people [that] it is hard to define what sexy is," she said.
The influence of runway fashion on women is minimal. Plastic surgery is not a result of watching models on the runway and in fashion magazines, she said. "Women are savvy and know what looks good on them. They want functional clothes to work in and raise their children in, not what is on the runway," Marsh concluded.
Charline Ramgotra, a registered nurse at the Toronto-based Cosmetic Surgery Institute, agreed the media had little influence on their breast augmentation patients.
"Probably 95 per cent of our clients are women and 65 per cent of our clients come in for breast enhancement. It is a very popular procedure," she said, noting the average age of clients coming in for surgery is between 20 and 40.
"A lot of women who come in are extremely small and want to be larger," she said. "Others come in after they have had their families and want to be filled out again."
Ramgotra explained younger women who come in are often small, maybe an A or AA and usually increase to a size C. "The largest they could go would be dependent on their physical size and could perhaps go even larger during a second surgery once the skin has stretched."
Most women are very excited about the surgery, enhancement or reduction and are quite candid with their friends about the procedure and results, Ramgotra said.
This just shows people are becoming more comfortable with themselves and their own bodies, she noted.
It is a significant development that women are becoming more in tune with their own breasts in a personal way. With breast disease on the rise, comfort is important to allow for open communication regarding potential concerns.
Sue Richards, project co-ordinator for Art Jam in Guelph, developed Breast of Canada, a highly informative calendar dedicated to breast cancer, for this very reason.
Richards explained the idea for the calendar came to her when she discovered she was not practicing proper breast health. "I was shocked I was not doing it right. I wasn't using the appropriate pressure or even focusing on the right places," she said.
Breast health is a rising concern among older women. "People are becoming more aware and are taking their health more seriously," she said.
Richards said she found few photographs of breasts during her research. "I knew we needed to see breasts for the photos. I am hoping that the images in this calendar will help women feel more comfortable with their own breasts," Richards explained.
Women are becoming more confident about their bodies and viewing breasts as more than a sexual object. Nursing children in public, for example, is becoming more common, but not without objection.
Marg LaSalle, a public health nurse at the Middlesex London Health Unit, said, during focus groups, women faced negative reactions while breast feeding in public and were often requested to relocate to non-hygienic areas.
A 1999 study conducted by the Middlesex London Health Unit, found 88 per cent of women initiated breast feeding, but only 54 per cent continued it six months later, probably due to public response.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission enacted legislation that states women have the right to breast feed in public. "Women want well advertised areas in public locations that are convenient and clean," LaSalle said. She said awareness is important and will also increase how long women breast feed their children.
Nonetheless, the breast's status as a sexual object remains steadfast. "We are still dealing with the sexual aspects of the breast. Many men will continue to associate a sexual connotation to the breast," LaSalle said.
Photo courtesy of Sue Richards