The fact that breasts have become fossilised in our cultural history as sexual props, with a cumulative effect (as in, there’s no going back with this now), has had a massive impact on the way many people view the ‘decision’ of a mother to breastfeed her infant. Breasts are designed to lactate, to feed human children; they may also be bouncy and perky and arousing, but that’s not their fault.
Some seem to believe that the mild sexualisation of breastfeeding might help its cause, in order to attract more takers, perhaps by normalising it (because sex jokes are more normal than breastfeeding in our culture). There’s a strong chance I may be overthinking some pretty harmless memes. Others, more recently, have used nursing to enhance the appeal of being with a ‘cougar’ (an older woman – older than what? I’ve no idea). I don’t personally know any of these people. However, it’s pretty clear to anyone with eyes and a thinking addiction that the sexualisation of breastfeeding isn’t doing anything to help its bad rap.
Historically, through religion and capitalism, sex – in particular a woman’s sexuality – has become something to be wary of and controlled. Breasts have become so synonymous with heterosexuality that we struggle to even regard them on any other terms. Thus, we’re afraid that breastfeeding equates to indecent exposure, or is somehow against the sexual norm, and we’ve become afraid of letting women’s bodies perform a function that they biologically expect to perform.
We only need to look at societies untouched by our idea of organised religion to see that (and here goes the amateur anthropologist in me) lactation and nursing are innate abilities, desires even, in a mother. No shame, no controversy, everyone just calmly going about their instinctive lactatory business. Or, y’know, read the Continuum Concept (my most recent favourite read from which to cherry-pick theories to live by).
As I’ve said before, what men/the corporate strategists can’t control, they don’t want to know about. Or worse, they want to condemn as wrong, weird, other than the norm. It helps them shift more product, duh! It all makes perfect sense!
So the sexualisation of breastfeeding doesn’t help its reputation; in fact, it doesn’t really deviate from the pop-cultural consensus about breastfeeding as we know it today. It just alienates it further, making it somehow naughty or cringey or a topic to lolz to.
So I’ve put the ‘making breastfeeding sexy’ idea in the same waste-basket as the ‘breastfeeding area’ and really cute gender-neutral coloured breastmilk bottles. I don’t think either help the image of lactation and nursing, nor do they support women who want to breastfeed (though the latter certainly can help the woman who would like a bit of flexibility at feeding time (I do feel that),or need to go back to work). And they are symptomatic of a culture so misdirected in its concept of the female body that we want to simultaneously expose/sell and shame/condemn it depending on context.