On Boobs

Since I resolved to write one blog per week (instead of one per month) this is my first attempt to meet that New Year’s Resolution. It is 7:31 pm on Saturday, January 7 so this is technically Week One. The husband is in the kitchen marinating the steaks. The eleven-year-old and the five-year-old are watching Parent Trap (Lohan 2.0) in the living room and arguing about something that I can vaguely hear through my Bose noise reduction headphones, but am choosing to ignore.

There were several topics this week that were worth thinking about for longer than 140 characters (which will be how I come up with ideas for these weekly musings). Sarah Frantz’s breasts, for one. She threw a picture up and asked, “Twitter, does this shirt pull too much for (academic) job interview?” I became enthralled with the picture and then with why I was enthralled. I kept staring at that picture of Prof. Frantz (who has what is commonly known as a rack), then wondered if I was staring for some sexual reason and then stared some more.

Our society has such a mass-fetishization of breasts it is almost impossible (for me at least) to separate my own aesthetic or sociological interests from cultural, pornographic brainwashing. I have always thought the entire human body was aesthetically pleasing: Michelangelo’s David and his slingshot, Ursula Andress and her Bowie knife are both beautiful to me. But I have never thought breasts in and of themselves were sexy. Most heterosexual men of my acquaintance, on the other hand, say they have been turned on by breasts for as long as they can remember, citing National Geographic, circa 1969, featuring breastfeeding tribeswomen of the Masai, as an early example.

Yeah. For me? No.

Thus ruling out a possible sexual attraction to Frantz’s rack, I realized it was simply the existence of something so unavoidable right there on the front of one’s body that was causing me to spend so much time on the topic. I do not have large breasts: what was really keeping me staring was a fascination with The Other. No longer thinking specifically of Frantz, I began to wonder how different my own life would have been if I had had a body like that. I wouldn’t know how to dress. I wouldn’t even know how to move around in the world.

My clothing style has always run along the lines of Annie Hall-meets-Giorgio Armani (depending on whether I am broke and thrift shopping or gainfully employed and buying top-of-the-line retail). If I were Albert Einstein, I would have an entire closet full of crisp white Oxford shirts and a variety of comfortable, flattering blue jeans, with the occasional perfectly tailored black dress thrown in. I like how Diane Keaton and Jodie Foster dress. Surprise. Both are flat-chested. I understand how their bodies wear clothes. Long lines that accentuate assets (tall and thin) rather than deficits (negligible tits and ass).

I grew up in a world that told me I should downplay my femininity as much as possible if I wanted intelligent people to listen to what I had to say. Especially intelligent men. Don’t distract them with anything that could be confused with sexual provocation, was right up there with firm-handshake and look-them-in-the-eye. And since I wanted to be taken seriously in life, that advice stuck.

I tried to make my body attractive but, ultimately, irrelevant. But guess what? I have a body! Living in Florida has made me blissfully body conscious. Everyone at the beach is more or less naked. And when they walk from the beach to the hotel across the street, passing the ice cream parlor where I sit with my five-year-old? Yep. They are all pretty much naked. And they are talking and laughing and interacting. Much like my romance-novel reading sprang from a desire to escape the confines of my self-imposed intellectualism, so moving to Florida and wearing the occasional bikini or too-short skirt must have come from the same psychological impulse. To escape the mannish tailoring of my self-imposed sartorial androgyny.

But, hark! In the thirty years or so since I got all that bad advice about de-feminizing my appearance in order to be taken seriously, lots of sexual freedom fighters have come forward and said, “Check me out! I have huge sexy tits AND a brain!” They’ve said it far more eloquently than that, but this is an off-the-cuff blog for Christ’s sake. Give me a break. The point is, they got to be all that…sexy AND serious, while I was still living in the Dark Ages of thinking I had to choose.

At the end of my little Twitter exchange with Frantz, I promised (you can remove those tenterhooks now) to write a blog “about how mass-cultural fetishizing of breasts informs my view of ‘sexy’ vs ‘serious'” and Frantz replied, “Oh, interesting. Am I incapable of looking serious, then? ;-)” And I replied, “:) no, my residual adolescent tells me women-with-boobs get to be serious *and* sexy, but I don’t get to be sexy”

But I do! In my reading and my appearance, I too can be sexy *and* serious. Because sexiness really has nothing to do with breast size. I think it was Victoria Dahl who once pointed out that, regardless of size, most men think the sexiest boobs are the ones they are touching.

14 thoughts on “On Boobs

  1. Some more data for you: you said “boobs” so I clicked. Was tempted to search Twitter for the Professor’s photo but will resist. My flat has become flatter, then flattest, as I nursed three children for a year each. I am proud that my breasts did their “job.” However, I wonder if I will ever in this life time believe that my flat rack is as sexy as a full one. How many life moments did it take to create this bias?

  2. Definitely agree with Victoria Dahl’s statement. Men may like the boobs but they’re more enthralled by the ones they currently have their hands on. If they’re not then give up and move on. I, for one, am in the boat where I don’t want them. My aren’t huge or super impressive, but some recent weight gain suprisingly produced larger ones. I hate them! They feel awkward, and out of place. Nothing molds or fits right anymore. I always enjoyed de-emphasizing my original B-Cup. I want to be known for the brain and not the looks. Unfortunately now I can’t hide them, nor can I get rid of them.

  3. Well, I’m very glad my boobs can inspire such intellectual consideration. 🙂 I never would have thought it of them.

    I’ve never had the chance NOT to have boobs, of course. I’ve always had to deal with them. It took me a while to find stores that catered to them, too. So, NY&Co and JCPenney’s are my go-to stores, followed by Target. I can go there, comfortable in the knowledge that I can find shirts that will NOT pull (unless I gain weight). And Target’s bras are best so far (Victoria’s Secret, for instance, doesn’t go big enough for my rack).

    So I always know the men who only speak to the books instantly and have told a number of them, “Hey, my eyes are up there!” But I’ve also never really worried about not being taken seriously. And I’m not sure why that is. I know there are other professional women who decry their rack because they don’t get taken seriously. I guess I just assume I will be and make it so if it doesn’t happen. But then, I’m rarely not in a position of some sort of authority in academia. It might be different in the corporate world.

    Thanks for the thoughts! 🙂

  4. LOL, as a fellow small-breasted woman, I share your fascination of women who have great racks. But it isn’t a generational or body figure thing–all women’s clothing is fraught with gender politics. I’ve recently renewed my foray into wearing vintagey frocks, and I’ve struggled with feeling that my body and what my curves are “out there” because I’m not wearing a “safe” (meaning anonymous and under-the-radar) uniform of jeans, sneakers, and tops. But at the same time I like wiggle dresses and huge skirts and slinky blouses! No one has the right to make me feel stupid or worse, that I’m “asking for attention” because I’m not cloaking my body in innocuous items of clothing.

    Thanks for the great post.

  5. Great post! Victoria Dahl and I have spoken about my boobs on several occasions. I’ll let her explain that. *wink* Anyway, I’ve got brains, boobs and no ass and I still have to downplay the boobs when I do into the corporate office for a visit. No one said I had to, aside from complying with corporate dress code, I just do it. I do it because I don’t want them to be the focus or to appear less smart or not to be taken seriously. That’s kind of screwed up now that I think about it.
    You’ve given me stuff to think about, so, Thanks.

  6. Hmm- having been flat-chested for most of my life, I’m always a little surprised when people want to hide their *ahem* assets. I have a professor friend who is slim and sleek and looks AMAZING for having 3 kids (including a set of twins) and who also refuses to wear anything but shapeless shirts. Anything clingy at all, and she’s uncomfortable about her not-overly-large chest. Never even thought it might be because of the professor thing.
    But then again, my academic success is inversely proportionate to my increased post-babies cup size, so what do I know.

  7. I, too, thought I must have homosexual tendencies because of Ms. Frantz’s boobs. As an engineer and very practical B-cup, the very logistics of the things astounded me. Could she lay on her side and read? Was running painful? Must she always wear a bra? As her student, I should have been paying attention but they were just *there* and had an English accent. Thank you, Megan Mulry for addressing a concern that is embodied in Dr. Sarah and though she is my friend, that is how I address her even in my mind, because i am not only amazed by her proportions but also by her scholasticism, her practical activism, and her deep humanity.

    • OMG, Elizabeth, you crack me up! Miss you!

      As to your questions: Yes. Yes, I usually wear TWO sports bras. Yes, but when I got my back tattoo, I didn’t for two weeks, which was a fascinating experiment.

  8. Megan, I am so glad you ran with the boobs. Like dancing with wolves, we should all give our thoughts on these topics a a little pondering from time to time. I’m so glad to live in an age when at least some folks are on board for smart AND sexy. 🙂 And I loved the last statement. Love the one (or two) you’re with!

  9. Great post! It made me remember the uproar several years ago that came about from a well-known (can’t remember who now) golfer said that women golfers can never compete competitively with men because their breasts get in the way. What he meant was during the swing their boobs would mess up the swing. I agree to a certain extent, but what about the male golfer who has male boobs. Does that mean he can’t compete other men? Besides, I believe the difference in upper body strength … well, that’s a whole other topic.

    Any-whoo, though it’s not the real world, I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s book IT HAD TO BE YOU. The heroine was a blond bombshell and everyone didn’t believe she had walking around sense, but she showed them in the end how looks could be misleading. Certainly, a lesson to be learned. So I try to keep an open mind about any size of breasts and same goes with men (the other region). 🙂

    • Yes! SEP’s IT HAD TO BE YOU. And Suzanne Brockmann’s HEART THROB, the herione had the same issue. I adore both of those books because of how closely I can identify with the heroines as well as how much I like the heroes, which is my normal criterion for loving a romance.

  10. At my high school, the hottest teacher was a stunning, silver haired, hour-glass figure, big-breasted chemistry and physics teacher. Ms Rumble had the boys and girls salivating and envying her beauty and brains. Nearly 30 years later, upon reading your post, I realise that we had a fabulous role model as it never occurred to me that a big rack and intelligence were mutually exclusive. I have never felt the need to disguise my double D boobs, and most of my going out clothes tend to plunge a little. Both my babies had thriving problems due to my lack of milk and had to be put on the bottle by 2 months old so I may as well flaunt them. My boobs epitomise form over function.

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