"Why are you making me look at this?"
Let me explain why it's important for you to look.
Sex is all over media. I could hardly find someone that disagrees with that statement. When we see breasts, it is in a lingerie ad, a clothing commercial that uses sexuality to entice customers, or in some kind of advertising that leans on people's attraction of sexuality to gain publicity. And it works. Of course it does, otherwise it wouldn't be worth it for advertisers to use it as a method to gain attention to a brand.
Many people want to change culture, to protect purity and innocence, and many of these same people have an approach that is not actually a catalyst in changing culture but is only a response to culture. To protect innocent minds, many people suggest that we should cover up breasts, and make nudity less public. The idea behind this is that the less someone sees breasts, the less opportunities he or she has of sexualizing them. And while this is semi-true, it is not the whole truth:
- To state the obvious, everyone has an imagination and doesn't need to literally see a breast to sexualize one.
- There are more opportunities of sexualization than just seeing a lingerie ad; i.e. when someone is attracted to a person who is at the time of being sexualized dressed modestly, when someone is sexually stimulated biologically but did not mentally have the subject on mind, or when someone doesn't normally have much physical contact and is given a friendly touch on the arm or back, and because of the abnormality is perhaps sexually stimulated in response.
- This approach is only short-term. It is unrealistic to believe that all the breasts can be covered all the time. No matter how much effort is put toward hiding them, merely half the population have breasts, and some breast somewhere at some time is going to be seen, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Covering up parts of the body will lessen the chance of sexualization in that moment, but no doubt the opportunity will rise again, until a solution for longevity arises.
So after further processing this approach, I realized that there needed to be a better game plan to changing cultural sexualization. I firstly had to ask myself, "Where does sexualization come from? Why does it exist?"
Upon lengthy analyzation, endless processing, and timeless amounts of deep thinking, I realized something very essential: we see breasts so often in a sexual context, but when do we see breasts in a context irrelevant to sex?
We don't. Or at least, very, very, seldom.
And then it finally made sense. We barely see breasts outside of sexuality. Maybe we stumble upon a National Geographic with tribal women in their normal dress--a tribal skirt and no top. Maybe we briefly saw a breast diagram in a school textbook. Even in parenthood healthcare texts, photos may still remain very modest, showing the back of the baby's head so the mother's breast isn't in plain view. But really, the only time we see breasts is when is comes to sex.
So how do we stop sexualizing breasts? I'll make a suggestion, but you might not like it.
If hiding breasts is counterproductive as it continues to allow breasts to be sexualized when viewed (because it's implicit solution is merely to allow breasts to be viewed less), then there's only one alternative: to view breasts more often in a context that has nothing to do with sex.
Yep. I'll say it again: we have to see more breasts; it just has to be in a context that isn't sexual.
Even other women who don't sexualize breasts still feel uncomfortable when they accidentally catch a glimpse of their own friends breastfeeding or changing their shirts. Why? Because we aren't used to seeing it. Why are we fascinated with new experiences? Because we aren't used to new things, because they're new. When you tour Europe as an American, all the sights are so encapsulating to you because they're so unfamiliar that you have to stare at everything wide-eyed as you walk around. Guaranteed, a local has seen that sculpture or that attraction a hundred times and barely lifts his head when passing it anymore. Why do breasts make us feel uncomfortable? Because we aren't used to breasts. The only way breasts will make us feel less uncomfortable is getting used to having them around, and that means seeing more of them.
My mother, who happens to have large breasts, always talks about this idea in relevance to Christian culture. She says how when her breasts are mostly covered but merely a little of her breasts are uncovered at the top, which is proportionately modest according to the size of her breasts, people at church don't know how to deal with it and people often stare because they aren't used to it. On the contrary, she can go to the bars and people will initially look and maybe even compliment her breasts, but then they can have an actual conversation with her and look at her face while talking and listening. People at the bars are so used to seeing breasts that they aren't compelled to stare at them.
You don't change culture by telling people they are wrong and shaming their behavior. You can try, and their behavior may very well be wrong, but how many people have changed after seeing a girl holding a sign that says "Stop sexualizing me" and "You are a monster"? I don't mean to be condescending, the intent is good, but have you ever stopped to think about how affective that actually is? Culture is changed only by individuals being changed; individuals are changed when their mindsets are changed.
I stopped wearing bras a while back and it was honestly hard to go out in public wearing a white T-shirt, knowing that everyone could see the very real shape of my breasts and a little bit of my nipple, without feeling shameful about it. I knew, though, that if I wanted to change culture, I had to start with myself. I firstly had to choose to live in freedom from culture, and I also had to give people the opportunity to change. So even though at first I felt embarrassed, it's gotten easier as I've worn bras less and less.