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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I had a similar epiphany about breasts after my first son was born. But I never considered them "useless." Quite the opposite, actually.

I had spent the better part of 20 years dreaming up nicknames for them, ogling them from afar, seeing them unleashed in R-rated movies, groping my way to second base. It's a strange imperative among heterosexual males, and I can't begin to explain it. We just like them. We want to see all of them, even though we have a good idea of what they'll look like. We want to touch all of them, even though we have a good idea of what they'll feel like. It's blatant objectification, and we feel terrible about it. But we can't help it. They make us crazy, like catnip. (Is it so far-fetched to assume that "catnip" and "nipple" have a shared etymology?)

When I first saw milk steaming out of my wife's breasts, all that changed. I saw my boys grow to be robust and healthy. I saw my wife spray breastmilk on open cuts to stave off infection. And the ogler in me kind of went into remission. Now I see those late-night commercials for Girls Gone Wild, and I think "Wow. Look at those all-powerful, life-giving mammary glands."

I understand that breastfeeding doesn't work for everyone, but as far as I'm concerned it's one of the more remarkable aspects of mammalian reproduction. Sometimes, it makes me a little jealous. My wife gets to nurture and nourish our children, and I get to open ornery storage jars. Which talent would you rather have?

Permalink | Breastfeeding | Comments (1)


The two extremes described in your post hint at why some women find it difficult to successfully breastfeed their babies. The first view of breasts you present, that they're for the delight and titillation of the heterosexual male of the species, is by far the dominant one in our culture. That makes it uncomfortable for women of a certain temperament to breastfeed in public or even in private. It's telling that you only realized that breasts are for nourishment when your very own wife fed your very own baby with them--it doesn't tell on you, though, it shows what our society thinks about breasts.

Posted by: Anne | Dec 8, 2005 12:45:57 AM

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