Guest blogger Volcanista: Of boobages

Volcanista is a Friend of SP, geologist, and LOST evangelizer.

So, over the holidays I took a badly needed holiday vacation, and because I like warmth and the tropics, I decided to go to Chicago and hang out with Sweet Machine, Mr Machine, and their most excellent cats. I read books, watched Lost, took naps, cuddled with the kitties, and took a hot steam bath next to their radiator every time I went to the bathroom. It was quite excellent, and my suitcase will never again be entirely free of cat hair. But we did venture out into the cold a couple times, expressly to hemorrhage money. We both needed some self-pampering and both had noticed our bras weren’t fitting quite right, so one day we made appointments at Intimacy and went downtown to have our breasts handled by professionals (after making a necessary stop at Lush for the post-holiday sale and far too many new bath bombs).

When the saleswoman asked me if I thought I was the same size as before, and I said “No, I think I might be a C cup now,” she said, “I’d say a C or a D.” !!!  Shapelings, moving to a B cup was a big change for me last year. In response to a college house questionnaire, I once named my breasts “Small” and “Equally Small.” As I later said to SM and Kate, every time I go into Intimacy, I come out a cup size larger (SM: “You should be in their ads!”). Anyway, SM and I spent too much money and spent the next 24 hours staring at our own and each other’s amazing tits, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point is that I am almost at the high end of my normal size range right now, and it’s making me reflect on how much my breast size has fluctuated during the past decade. I have been this big a couple times now, though with much less well-fitting bras — the first time I went on the pill in my early 20s, that time I tried the birth control patch (I haven’t gotten quite that big again since, but it actually turns out that three steady months of morning sickness are not worth it for boobies), and once or twice over the course of my normal weight fluctuations since then. So if properly sized, I would say I range from an… A? (never properly fitted at the low end, but they are little) to apparently at least a C, normally within the span of a year or two. I should note that I am on the short side and very petite, and when I gain or lose weight it seems to go and come entirely from my rack. The convenient part of this is being able to shop straight sizes and not having to buy a whole new wardrobe when my body decides it’s time to be 10 pounds heavier for 6 months; the inconvenient part is that those changes routinely — and dramatically — affect the size of the most expensive part of my body to clothe. Now that I have a salary I allow myself a once-annual indulgence in one or two lovely, perfectly-fitted, exorbitantly priced bras (which means we are up to three nice ones to date, one of which fit 3 months ago and two which fit today) and fill in the rest of my week with cheap purchasesfrom the internet to get me through with minimal pokage. So my breasts could still be happier, but they feel wonderful (and look HUGE!) a couple times a week. Like today! The girls say hello. To everyone. Loudly.

The upshot is that my body kind of acts like a one-woman case study on boob size. Because the rest of my body doesn’t really change outwardly, I have more or less isolated the breastage effect on social interactions. I spent a couple years after college living in the Land of Entrapment. I went on the pill there for the first time when the weather was warm, which bumped me up probably (in retrospect) from an A cup to a C cup over about a month of warm weather. Furthermore, the local social culture there is such that men are a lot less subtle in checking women out than back east, so there’s no mistaking it. It was very easy to notice changes in how I was treated between month A and month C.

I was certainly blatantly checked out and hit on a lot more. That isn’t too surprising, because, hey, I’m here to be eye candy, right? But I wasn’t used to that kind of treatment so it was weird. And frankly, while sometimes it felt weirdly flattering (hey, I was 22), being sloooowly checked out on the street is pretty damn objectifying. It’s bad enough when men think (somehow) they’re being subtle! I bet the men in this video thought so:

But what caught me even more by surprise was how much friendlier people were — men and women, friends and colleagues and strangers. Most of those people probably were not even particularly interested in sleeping with me or deliberately hitting on me (hard to believe, I know!). They were just… nicer. I didn’t have to wear anything especially revealing for that to be true, either. Bigger breasts just meant better treatment in general, and while some men were creepy and deliberate about it (see above), for most people it seemed to be unconscious. We are heavily socially conditioned to react favorably to breasts.

Honestly, I like my breasts in general and think they look nice on my body at all of the sizes they’ve been, but I’ll admit that I like them a bit better when they’re larger. Clothes look sexier to me and I feel damn hot. I don’t dislike the girls on the small end, but I will certainly sometimes wear some padding or pushing-up items to keep the clothes looking the way I like them to. Frankly, I don’t feel bad about this. It’s one of the many conscious concessions I make to the beauty ideal (see also: shaving legs; bleaching upper lip; and wearing v-neck sweaters, high-heeled shoes, dresses, and variable quantities of make-up). I don’t dislike my body or the things about it I alter for cosmetic reasons; it’s just a hell of a lot easier to do those things, and I consciously choose to do my femininity that way. Besides, I can’t undo all of the training that has taught me what to find attractive, so I pick my battles. For me, in part because I’ve been taught big breasts are better, and in part because of my own [highly scientific!] personal experiments and observations, the portrayal of the rack is part of how I present myself. It’s not even that I consciously display the ladies for personal gain — in terms of skin and cleavage I actually show pretty little, and I am not very interested in deliberately manipulating the people around me* — but I like to look nice and girly and so I go with it.

But I think there is nothing wrong with not going with it, with refusing to play up my breasts or hunt for clothes that create the appearance of that hourglass figure. There would be nothing wrong with refusing to do that as a personal fight against the beauty ideal; or with just not giving a shit; or with deciding it’s too much of a stretch and too much work to be worth it. I mean, the beauty ideal is impossible to reach, but as people go I definitely have it on the easier side, because I am thin and a little hourglassy to start with. When my tits are bigger I have to do even less work (though it’s still a conscious effort). If you don’t want to work for that, I mean, who the hell cares?

Well, okay, a lot of people care, but what they care about is policing you, not attraction. Otherwise they would just happen to not find you attractive, and that wouldn’t be offensive to them, and they wouldn’t care about how you looked. Except that it is your obligation and role as a woman to be attractive to all men, of course. Besides, I can attest that many people are attracted to women with small breasts. While I have been treated very differently on the street based on my breast size, my statistical ability to actually attract real dates/lays are unchanged across my full range of boobages.

Summary of long-winded post: People treat you differently when your breasts appear different sizes, mostly because our society is fucked up. But we should present our breasts how we want to present them, fuck anyone who gives a damn**, and not let the girls hold us back from enjoying our lives, dating, dancing, or taking luxurious Lush-bombed baths. Oh, and we should make a conscious effort to be equally friendly to the small-busted ladies, to counteract that unconscious conditioning that makes us act just a bit friendlier to the chestier among us.

*This is a lie. For instance, I deliberately distracted SM with my breasts so that she would request a guest post, because I deeply covet her internet-fame.

**Not literally.

Cross-posted at Volcanista.

245 thoughts on “Guest blogger Volcanista: Of boobages

  1. I am (extremely happily) small-breasted (in fact, I would barely make an A-cup if that on my bigger days), and I’ve never felt any the worse for it, though I do have the (happy?) situation of being an extreme introvert who has no interest in attracting anyone either romantically or sexually, so any change in treatment from other people has a negligible effect on my happiness or general sense of self.

    Even besides that, I prefer wearing men’s clothing and having large, noticeable breasts would make wearing it much, much harder since manufacturers (reasonably) assume that most men do not have large/female-shaped breasts, and I prefer general androgyny anyway, so my small breast size suits me wonderfully.

    I’ve never really understood the desire of women to have big(ger) breasts, or the obsession of men(/lesbian women?) regarding large breasts, but that could just be me. It has always seemed to me that large breasts would be more a hassle than a gift, particularly in the need to buy and wear bras, the unwelcome attention directed towards your chest, and the general discomfort of having a large amount of flesh just extended out from your chest (a wonderful boon of having small breasts, I’ve found, is how I can do essentially everything unhindered by them, even strenuous exercise).

    *Bullshit, etc. etc., but it can give a pretty good, extremely general idea of someone’s weight/shape, and my mom’s pretty “standard” in both height and general frame size.

  2. What a beautiful post, Volcanista. As someone who has just reached relative booby peace myself, it’s feeling very relevant to me. Birth control pills are nice; they didn’t give me any additional basoomage, but my skin looks about 700000 percent better since I started them. My Bs are nice because they are large enough to be noticable, but small enough I can wear low-cut tops comfortably without causing traffic jams and not have excessive jiggle when I exercise. I won’t lie and say I never wish they were bigger, but I don’t hate them and bemoan my “flat-chestedness” like I did…oh, six months ago. A lot of my current body peace has come about because of FA, and more specifically Shapely Prose, so thanks, guys, ILU.
    And I do watch Lost, Volcanista. Do I get a cookie? Or a baby doughnut?

  3. Jamie – I hear you on the skin front. I got my tubes tied in August 09, and my skin has become dreadful since going off BC. :(

    On topic, I guess it is normal to range between bra sizes so much! I thought there was something wrong with me. Thank goodness!

    This was an AWESOME post. I mean, I always like reading/thinking/looking (at) about boobs, but this was much more than that. Thanks!

  4. Oh I found a friend! I am super excited that Lost will be back really, really soon. I am unnaturally excited, actually.

    Anyway, about the boobs: I have a weird relationship with mine. Not as weird as the relationship I have with my ex, but still weird. I am learning to love them as they are but this is one of my big hurdles in FA.

    When I was a skinny fat girl (read:size 14 with a butt) I had breasts that were in comparison, quite full and voluptuous. Then I got fatter and had kids and got even fatter but my breasts stayed the same size, except for the glorious periods during breastfeeding when I would catch my reflection and make a pass at myself. My breasts stayed pretty much the same size while the rest of me got bigger and then they shapeshifted thanks to breastfeeding/gravity/age and now while not “small” they don’t feel like they belong with my body. With bras I can push them up and pretend like they are this shape naturally but when I take that bra off and see them naked, it’s still really difficult to love them.

    I know it’s probably just leftover bits of social conditioning but it’s there. How to overcome that? Great post, really. I hope my brain gets the message when I see my boobs later.

  5. I found this interesting: >>So my breasts could still be happier, but they feel wonderful (and look HUGE!) a couple times a week.<<

    It sounds like you wear each bra once and then wash it. Is that what other women do as well?

    I own three bras, excluding sports bras. I wear my bras for two or three days before I wash them. Typically they don't get dirty like underpants or socks, it's more like wearing a shirt twice. (Sports bras are an exception – if I've been doing a sweaty workout then they go straight in the wash).

  6. Or, because as you say you feel sexier with bigger boobs, you act differently to other people – more confident, friendlier, maybe a little more flirtatious – and thus get friendlier (or creepier) responses.

    Not to dismiss your interpretation – just that it’s not definitive.

  7. The Other Caitlyn — I wash my bras every day, yes. I didn’t used to, but I went to a similar fancy bra store and now, having paid so much per bra, I handwash after one wear. It’s better for the elastic — to get the oils/lotions from your skin off the bra, and to not stretch the elastic more than you have to (it will still, over time, get looser; that’s why they recommend getting a bra you fasten on the loosest set of hooks, so you can tighten it over time).

  8. Hell no, I am crap about washing my bras. I wear them about once a week to avoid overstretching the elastic. That’s why I fill out the rest of the week with cheap ones — basically to preserve the good ones.

    Yeah, I should wash them more. Now I feel kind of guilty. Sorry, nice bras.

    theshortearedowl, nah, pretty positive that’s not what was happening.

  9. I haven’t been smaller than a DD since, oh, say, age 11, so I really have no point for comparison, but my best friend has fluctuated between an A and C cup (and a size 2 and 8) since high school. I’d have to ask her if she noticed a difference at different points. I do wonder about other factors that influence how people treat us, though. For example, my bff (sorry – please excuse the chatspeak) is very friendly, outgoing, and flirtatious with men. Regardless of boob size, she gets hit on pretty regularly and is generally (per my observation) treated well by strangers.

    I think I’ve said this before, but I actually really wish my boobs were smaller and would consider a reduction, but only if I could do it the least invasive way possible (lipo, as opposed to the anchor incision). I’m very hourglass shaped and the big boobs make me feel as though it’s hard for men to see me as anything other than sexual.

  10. Right, I’d say I’m only moderately outgoing flirty, not because I’m shy or lack confidence but because I prefer to keep a polite distance from strangers. Certainly personality makes a difference, but I am quite sure my personality did not change because the boobs did.

  11. The upshot is that my body kind of acts like a one-woman case study on boob size.

    Only at the very small end of the scale, and only when you’re aware of it! I’ve been a D to an E no matter what my clothing size since I was 13, meaning that when I was in straight sizes clothes were too small across the bust, and when I’m in plus sizes clothes are too big across the bust!

  12. Bras are all too big for me, because the vertical distance between the bottom of my breast and my collarbone is too small. If anyone makes a balconette nursing bra in a 28G, I am so there.

  13. Not too surprising. There are all kinds of glass ceilings and things. Check the average height of your garden variety CEO sometime. You’ll get quite the shock.

  14. @Ailbhe: Me too! And that short distance from breatbone to shoulder also means that even relativly highcut tops end up displaying rather a lot of FF cleavage. I’m still working on trying to convey “I’m dressing like this because it’s hot and I’m short, not because I want to be stared at’.

    There is at least one very effective method of doing this, of course, but I’d give myself RSI…

  15. Ooh, Lush and their fantastic, not-tested-on-animals bath bombs… my faves are Geophyzz, Think Pink, Honey Bee, and Rainbow Worrier. And without Fresh Farmacy, my face would be very problematic.

    I have never understood the boobs thing. I think it’s because I am very out of touch with my physical body — I hardly know whether I have boobs or not, and almost always forget what they look like. That’s not because they’re very small (most of my bras in current rotation are C or D cup), but because I… uh… well, if I knew, that would mean I’d have to think about my boobs, which I don’t. I don’t sexualize my boobs, and don’t feel uncomfortable with my or anyone’s toplessness. This is both a plus and a minus.

    I do usually wash my bras (in the bathroom sink) after each wearing, because I use a non-aluminum deodorant that gets sticky and builds up if I don’t rinse it away.

  16. This is a timely post for me! I fall in and out of love with my small breasts all the time. Since going off birth control, I’m a 32A. I was on the upswing, having recently discovered a line of sexy underwear that makes unpadded bras in my size that actually fit and flatter! (This is harder than one would think, with A cups. Trust.) But then the novelty wore off and I was getting down on my figure again….

    I highly recommend that all women check out the Normal Breasts Galltery (here: http://www.007b.com/breast_gallery.php) if you haven’t already. It will reassure you that normal breasts really do come in all imaginable shapes and sizes. It always makes me feel much more normal and happy with my breasts!

  17. Cool post.

    I’ve been lucky enough never to feel badly about my breasts. It was pretty clear at a young age that I take after my mother, so I decided it would be pointless to stress about their size (and mom said not having much in the way of breasts hadn’t impacted her life much, romantically or otherwise.. I was so fortunate to have a mom who really accepted her body). And honestly I appreciate many things about this part of my body, which is so loaded it seems for most other women, being so ‘subtle’ – they don’t get in my way, they don’t attract attention, and since they aren’t a big part of my self-image or presentation I don’t have to worry about what will happen to them over time. I think boobs are beautiful but I can’t imagine having normal ones myself.

    Since I discovered how bra-fitting works, I’m amused by the fact that I am technically a B or C cup – but on a 28 band, and with breasts that are wide and shallow, so the only word to describe me is still ‘flat-chested’.

  18. You know, I’m not entirely sure what happened there. I read another breast post somewhere else before here and then somehow got yours mixed up with what I read there… ? So my comment is a little crossed.

    To make it relevant to this post, I have noticed too how I am treated differently now, compared to when I was relatively skinny with the same size breasts. I think the major difference between my bust line and my waistline gave me that “ideal” shape and I was treated favorably for it where now that line doesn’t exist.

  19. Thanks for this post: it’s given me lots to think about.

    I am fat, and I have quite big boobs. When I was 12, my classmates called me Dolly Parton.

    I thought I was a DD, but I went to Intimacy recently and got a proper fitting, and discovered that I’m an H cup. I didn’t even know such a thing existed!

    And I’m fat–size 20/22, 5′ 10″. Have been roughly this size–a bit bigger for awhile, a bit smaller for awhile–since I hit puberty.

    I’m grateful for my boobs–very–because I think that they help people not notice the size of my stomach. Which isn’t very FA of me, I guess, but is honest.

    But I think maybe the being fat cancels out the boobs, in terms of interest from guys (the more friendly and appropriate forms of which I want and want and want)?

    I am generally social and well-liked (and, of course, now I realize that the boobs might be part of that, apparently), but I next to never find that anyone flirts with me. Sigh.

    (A million magazine articles tell me in a million ways how I’m the cause of this, of course. The most helpful things I’ve gotten on this front are Kate’s post “On Dumb Luck”, which I’ve read over and over again, and the Museum of Fat Love. I’m just saying–I haven’t found my rack to be particularly useful with the men, yet.)

    So I’m not entirely sure how to incorporate this post into my understanding of all of this.

  20. I never hated my breasts until I got into feminism and started reading about proper bra fit. I did some measuring, and asked people about places that carried my size… and all I got was some disgusted comments and “have you looked into prosthetics?”

    It was… crushing, really. All those years I thought I was normal.

  21. I think boobs are beautiful but I can’t imagine having normal ones myself.

    Bonnie, I love your comment about how you’ve never felt bad about your breasts, but let’s avoid the language of “normality” for body types, okay?

  22. Only at the very small end of the scale, and only when you’re aware of it!

    Not sure what you mean by this. It’s absolutely true that I might span a particular range of body- and breast-sizes that crosses a particular proportion threshold that suddenly garners a lot more attention. It’s probably likely, actually. But although I can’t test for anything else, I don’t think it’s necessarily because I’m on the small end of the breast size scale (though really, many women’s breasts are smaller than As, so I’m not the end member) that treatment changes.

    And I’m always aware of it! I definitely always notice when my clothes fit differently (when we’re talking about bras, it’s very uncomfortable to be wearing the wrong size!), and I also am very conscious of how I am treated by others.

    Hm, Bonnie, I’m really not sure there is a “normal” kind of breast.

  23. I have hated my breasts most of my life and it wasn’t until a discussion here not too long ago that I realized why.

    I was in an advanced class from 4-6th grade. We were together all day long, instead of having different teachers for different subjects. There were only 7 girls out of the 30 or so. I was the only fat kid in the room. I was already a miserable social outcast with no friends and no escape from that same group of people all day every day, and then in 5th I was one of the first girls to get breasts. They just made me even weirder and I hated my body for making things even more difficult and calling even more attention to how much I did not fit in. My hatred was so strong that I wonder sometimes if I managed to stunt my own development. All the women in my family are the same size and shape except me. My breasts are noticeably smaller than my sisters’ but the rest of me isn’t.

    Later on that hatred blended into general hatred for my fat body, which I’m slowly working out, but to this day I don’t like having any attention on my breasts, even from guys I’m attracted to (and given where I work I’m exceptionally uncomfortable with the idea of drawing attention to my breasts on a regular basis; I have enough problems with the men I work with, not to mention the male students). At this point I just want to be comfortable and I don’t really think about my breasts much except for the eternal battle to find a bra that fits.

    (It doesn’t help that finding B or C cup sizes when you get past a 40 band isn’t all that easier, especially the higher up you go. It just piles on to the feeling that there’s something wrong with my body or with me, etc. )

    DRST

  24. Thanks for this, volcanista. . .I can really relate to what you’ve said here. I had a breast reduction surgery (38 f–>36c) about 10 years ago, and there’s absolutely no question in my mind that I was treated differently by people before and after, and when people suggest to me that it’s probably because I acted different, I kind of want to scream. I think what happened was people interpreted the same old me differently because pre-surgery I fit one kind of (narrow, hetero-adolescent boy ideal, and post-surgery I came closer to a conventional, proportional beauty standard. Before, people felt very free to comment on my breasts, stare blatantly, crack jokes about my rack arriving at the party 5 minutes before I did, etc. At the time I joked around about it, too, but after a decade of living without those cracks, I have come to realize that when people treated me as if my breasts were completely separate from me and fair game for comment and derision, it made me FEEL alienated from that part of my body, and I’m retroactively pissed off about it. Especially because it was all attached to this kind of, “Oh, but you should be HAPPY about the attention” b.s.

    My surgery was ostensibly to treat head, shoulder, and neck aches, and there was a lot of relief in that, but there was even more relief in people at least making a concerted *effort* to talk to my face now instead of my tits. And I have definitely noticed that now that they’re a little bigger again, the furtive glances have become far less so. It’s pretty wild.

  25. I feel like I’ve posted about my boobs on this site a hundred times already! And yet, I never tire of it.

    I’m a 10HH – I think that’s 32HH in US sizing? Anyway its big. And I’m 5′, so yeah. HUGE. I’m one of those who wears the same bra a few days in a row – mostly because it costs me around $100+ per bra, there are only a couple that fit me nicely, and there is no such thing as a cheap alternative.

    I have to say though that for me the selection is slowly improving – there’s one shop here that caters specifically to D+ cups and when I went there recently I actually tried on something like 20 bras in my size!! Granted because of different styles/cuts I still only found a couple that are good for me, but just being able to make a choice rather than go with the only thing that fits was wonderful.

    Since I live in Australia and its pretty warm here most of the time, and because I personally think it helps to minimise the massiveness of my boobs (dividing lines and all that), I always wear tops that show some boobage. And I do worry about how this influences people’s opinion of me, especially since I work in IT which is still pretty heavily male dominated. But I’m not clear on whether its an advantage or a disadvantage – I guess it depends on the person, and both alternatives kind of squick me out.

    I do tend to drop food down my shirt when I eat though, which is super annoying – I inherited this from my mother :D

  26. My breasts are different sizes from one another. By a noticeable difference – when I’m super deathfat (now) it’s closer to 2 cup sizes, when I’m only regular deathfat it’s closer to 1.

    I dare you to find a bra that works for this situation without extraneous, puckered fabric over the smaller boob. No seriously. Halp me!

  27. *I do tend to drop food down my shirt when I eat though, which is super annoying – I inherited this from my mother :D*

    I do this, too, sometimes! The worst is in a meeting or at dinner or something, when I can see it, sitting there in my bra, but there’s no easy way to excuse myself to go get it out.

  28. I think I’ve said this before, but I actually really wish my boobs were smaller and would consider a reduction, but only if I could do it the least invasive way possible (lipo, as opposed to the anchor incision). I’m very hourglass shaped and the big boobs make me feel as though it’s hard for men to see me as anything other than sexual.

    Yeah, while I have come to an acceptance of my 36G situation, I often wonder about what it feels like not having to say, “Hey, my face is UP THE FUCK HERE.” about twenty times a day. I’m 5 foot nothing, so I guess sometimes I am impressed by folks willing to risk neck strain to stare at my ( @ ) Y ( @ )s.

  29. I feel not so great about this post. Well all the bra shopping and dealing with changing breast sizes and body hate I can agree with, but um…the stuff about being treated differently right off because you have big boobs makes me not so comfortable with it. I’ve had big boobs since about sophmore year in high school, so it’s recent enough that I can recall any reactions. I experienced no differences whatsoever. I was even looking for them, my boobs sprouted and I thought “Oh yes, boys will finally look at me and think I’m sexy,” and then nothin’. I’m a 42 D and I wouldn’t know if people were staring more, I don’t like looking people in the eye when I talk to them, so I don’t notice if they’re looking at me in the eyes. I also don’t get special treatment, I’m an art student which means my hands are pretty much always full and people won’t even hold open doors for me.

    I think a few people upthread have kind of tried to touch on this as well, without coming out directly and saying it, but you’re universalizing your experience with large breasts that aren’t small but are on the smaller size of large. I think I would love this article if it didn’t include the idea that big boobs get you treated friendlier, because I enjoy reading about bra shopping and commiserating.

    Also, glad to here I’m not the only one who rewears bras without washing them, I’m never sure what’s “normal” or acceptable for that kind of thing.

  30. I’ve always had a pretty large bust – I’m a DD right now and have been up to a G in the past (which I think is a DDD? I can never remember this crap). I would say people are nice to me because of my boobs, all other things being equal. And pervy too. And in my first chemical engineering internship a few of the guys called me “Tits”. Ugh.

    If my boobs are in any way my enemy this comes vis-a-vis sewing; I haven’t learned to fit for myself yet. I’m currently wearing a shift dress I just made and damn, it doesn’t fit right in the chest, and with all that work I’m prolly going to give it away, which is cool as long as I can find someone who’d love it. Hey, does anyone want a cotton (vaguely) rockabilly fully-lined shift dress that is red, red, red?

  31. you’re universalizing your experience with large breasts that aren’t small but are on the smaller size of large. I think I would love this article if it didn’t include the idea that big boobs get you treated friendlier, because I enjoy reading about bra shopping and commiserating.

    Where do you see the universalizing? I’m not being hostile; I just honestly don’t see it myself, and since I solicited this guest post after a conversation with Volcanista, I would like to know. Personally, I am in possession of a large rack, but I have been for more than half my life, so I’ve never had the experience of such a drastic change that Volcanista describes. I *have* had that experience of drastic change with body size overall, in both directions, so I was very curious to hear her take on a different version of that.

    I think what Volcanista is talking about here is specifically nonsexual attention, or maybe a better way to put that is attention that involves bodily aspects of gender performance rather than sexual responses to particular body parts. It also probably doesn’t come across as much in the post because I edited out some of this, but Volcanista is also mostly referring to her experience in the American Southwest, and there are most certainly cultural differences in different regions that will affect the kind of treatment she describes.

    Whew! I am not trying to talk you out of being bothered, but to let you know why I thought this post was both interesting to read and relevant to our philosophy here at SP. I hope that’s useful to the conversation.

  32. Alyce, not particularly useful, but perhaps you could put a dart in the cup for the smaller breast? Or if it’s comfortable enough you could get one of those gizmos for padding a bra and use it to fill out the cup so it doesn’t wrinkle? I can’t even stand wrinkles in my socks, one in my bra would be so uncomfortable and distracting!

  33. ” Oh, and we should make a conscious effort to be equally friendly to the small-busted ladies, to counteract that unconscious conditioning that makes us act just a bit friendlier to the chestier among us.”

    “The upshot is that my body kind of acts like a one-woman case study on boob size.”

    “I have more or less isolated the breastage effect on social interactions.”

    “Bigger breasts just meant better treatment in general, and while some men were creepy and deliberate about it (see above), for most people it seemed to be unconscious. We are heavily socially conditioned to react favorably to breasts.”

    “People treat you differently when your breasts appear different sizes, mostly because our society is fucked up”

    This is where I see the universalizing, I understand if you don’t, or if I’m actually the only person who does, but I do see it. I agree with her statements about social conditioning and beauty standards, I don’t however agree that bigger boobs means better treatment, or even different treatment for women automatically. It might very well mean that for her, but that might be because she has a personality that means people talk to her and the big breasts simply mean they talk more, or she’s hot and I’m, well, not so people see her and think hottie with big titties. I dunno, but I can honestly say none of what she describes counts for me in relation to her statements about social interaction. But certainly yes on the stuff that involves bras and clothing, I did enjoy those parts, it’s a good post, but parts made me cock my eyebrow.

  34. I’m not sure I would say that she is universalizing her experience. But. And I come so totally in peace and in real respect for Volcanista’s writing and the writing here… very willing to assume that my own understanding is the problem…

    But. I guess I just wonder about whether going from A to C cup, which is what she describes, is more precisely the issue than the idea of getting bigger boobs. Could it even be possible that if she had gone from C to DD or from DD to H that she would NOT have found people getting more friendly to her?

    Volcanista is a careful writer and thinker. So she didn’t say this, but it feels a bit like she’s saying that the bigger the boobs, the friendlier people are to you, and I’m just not sure that that is the case.

    And I wish it were. I’ve just never experienced anything other than a body that is much fatter than those of most of the people I know, and I think that’s much more central to how they treat me than is the size of my rack.

    Her experience is fascinating. It does, by the way, sound a bit to me like the way folks who have lost weight and gone from quite fat to quite socially acceptable describe their experiences? People are friendlier to them, guys are much more interested? Maybe this is really part of a bigger theme: when we get closer to some cultural standard of beauty, people are friendlier: for some of us, that means gaining boobage, for others, it means losing it?

  35. I can’t say that I have ever treated a woman differently for having small breasts …. If it registers, it must be on a super unconscious level. Now, racks of doom, I do notice, but otherwise it just doesn’t matter to me. So I’m really wondering why someone would get more positive, non-sexual attention for being a B or C cup vs. an A cup? Like, what is the hidden message there? That she’s more friendly? Is she generating more body heat or something? I wonder if there have been any studies on this ….

  36. I found this post pretty depressing. I’m very small-breasted, and no matter what size my body is they’re always small.

    Actually, I always gain weight in my stomach area, so then my breasts look even smaller. I didn’t even know it was possible to just gain weight in your breasts and go from A-C.

    I read most of it feeling envious, and then felt worse when you said people are actually NICER to you when you have bigger breasts. I’m hoping that this isn’t a ‘universal’ occurrence, since I’ve probably been missing out on a whole lot of friendliness! ;)

    I can understand why the larger-chested women enjoyed the post or could relate to it more – bra shopping, experiences w/ breast attention, etc. – but it made me sad :(

    I guess it just shows me how much I still haven’t fully accepted my own breast size and said FU to the gazillions of messages every frickin’ day that tell me they should be BIGGER.

  37. @Livingthequestions – hmm … you raise a good point. Maybe it’s not so much that you get treated better for being a C cup, but that you get worse for being an A cup?

  38. <—– Another one who doesn't wash bras between each use. I don't think anyone I know does. This was actually a topic on Miss Manners or one of those advice columns; a guy was grossed out that his girlfriend didn't wash her bra every day. But I only own three bras that I'd consider everyday bras, and only really do laundry every 2-3 weeks.

    If there is a difference in how women who wear an A cup vs. those who wear a C cup are treated, which I previously said I have no personal experience with, I expect that it has it's limitations. Kind of in line with Alibelle's point, it seems unlikely that there's some exponential formula for how friendly people are in relation to boob size. I'd guess that the line is drawn when they pass what is considered proportional…that's where friendly becomes creepy and sexual, at least in my experience…

  39. I have medium sized boobs (though I tend to think of them as “rack of doom” sized due to social conditioning) and I have basically always wished they were smaller. I long to be able to wear tops without a bra (backless ones! *want*) and I am a little tired of not being able to buy shirts and dress that fit my breasts and aren’t overly large everywhere else (which probably contributes to me feeling like I have excessively large breasts).

    But, these annoyances aside, since learning about FA and starting to rework my relationship with my body, I have really struggled with my feelings about my breasts. I’ve been pretty successful started to love my giant thighs which allow me to do things and scoff at the silly jeans manufacturers who make pants for some hypothetically proportioned person who clearly isn’t me. But in terms of boobs, I’m not even close to there.

    I think part of the reason for this is that in high school I had a male acquaintance tell me that he and my best friend had been discussing me (and my appearance) and then he said “you should dress more to flatter your assets”. I can distinctly recall the sense of violation I felt at the objectification of my body. That specific boob related incident, along with a general fear of my femaleness (and therefore my boobs) will end up with me not being taken seriously intellectually, really contributed to me not being able to love my body. Stupid fucking people. Sigh.

  40. Alibelle and LivingTheQuestion – yes, that’s what I got out of it as well, even though I can see Volcanista was trying to write just about her own experience.

    When I said “Only at the very small end of the scale, and only when you’re aware of it! ” I mean that your experience is in a very limited range, and excerpts that Alibelle lists:

    ” Oh, and we should make a conscious effort to be equally friendly to the small-busted ladies, to counteract that unconscious conditioning that makes us act just a bit friendlier to the chestier among us.”

    “The upshot is that my body kind of acts like a one-woman case study on boob size.”

    “I have more or less isolated the breastage effect on social interactions.”

    seem to be universalising your own experience, and not taking into account the fact that you *are* considering yourself a case study and thus are aware of your hypothesis as you observe it. Which is fine for casual blog writing, but the universalising is a bit annoying.

  41. Somehow, I’ve got a ton of body hate that I’m trying to get rid of, but it never involved my boobs. I may have picked this up from my mom, who had has a big chest and doesn’t stress about it one way or another. As a high schooler, I was a runner and wanted small boobs, which was fortunate since that’s why I had. I didn’t wear a bra, either. As an adult, they fluctuate between a B and C cup (36-38 band size) with an occasional foray into D-land. It depends on my weight and birth control regime. I’ve never had any compaints from the dudes.
    I’m 40, so I came of age before breast implants were common. A few years ago , it shocked me to hear a lot of very cute late 20′s/early 30′s women of B/C cup size lamenting that they wished they had larger boobs.
    I haven’t noticed any correlation between boob size and how friendly people are. However, there is a HUGE inverse correlation between how friendly people are and my weight, which pisses me off to no end.

  42. You guys do know that being treated differently when my body looked different was the point of this post, right? Leaving that out to just ramble about bra shopping would just make this a piece for rambling about bra shopping, which isn’t why I wrote it or why SM asked me to. I also want to point out my comment above, where I suggested that this might have less to do with being small and more to do with crossing a particular proportion threshold. I also encourage you to notice the part of the post where I said I have the privilege of being small and closer to the beauty ideal than many, and I don’t draw your attention to it because I feel defensive and like I don’t want to be called on my privilege — I just think I already addressed it in this particular post.

    queenhoneybee, the experiences I’ve had in this regard at times have been very depressing for me, too. That’s kind of why I’ve reflected on them over the years. Like I said, my size fluctuates a lot, and when my chest is small I’m now very personally aware of how I am being treated differently — largely by being more ignored. It’s frustrating and sometimes just plain infuriating.

    Note that pretending these experiences were actually scientifically representative, and therefore revealing something that could be extended universally, was very tongue-in-cheek. One person’s experience is an anecdatum and no more. That said, I don’t think it’s too far off to say that women are treated unfairly based on their appearances and adherence to beauty ideals, and breasts play a huge role in that, at least in the cultures and societies where I have lived. And yeah, this is the experience on the small-breasted and thin side of things, but suggesting that we as a society treat small-breasted women as though they are invisible and that we might therefore want to be more conscious about how we react to breasts should not be especially controversial. It doesn’t change the fact that how large-breasted women are treated can also be unfair, and that that’s another reason to try to be conscious of how we react to breasts.

    As for bra care, I don’t think it particularly hurts bras if you wear them without washing them a few times. Everything I’ve read or been advised just says that it’s a better idea not to wear them multiple days in a row (i.e. alternate the dirty ones if you don’t feel like washing them) because they need a few days off for the elastic to fully retract.

  43. @Alibelle: I was also not in love with this post. While I thought it was super-well written and and I can understand how a woman with a smaller bust might be very interested in exploring the effect of breast size on her daily life, as a larger-busted woman myself (36G! Hello Snarky’s Machine, we are boob-size twins) reading it felt a little crummy. Most large-busted women will tell you that their racks-o-doom have an effect on their daily lives, and that as a result they are treated differently than their smaller-boobed peers in some respects. I’ve noticed that my entire life.

    The thing is, when you’re like this all the time, and in a more extreme way than a c-cup, you can’t turn it off. It becomes part of your routine that people will stare at your tits, or think that they’re some kind of public property that’s open to discussion, and short of dressing to hide and not taking pride in your appearance it becomes almost impossible to rid your life of that kind of bullshit. Reading about a woman’s experience going from relatively small breasts to relatively less small breasts and being treated differently as a result feels a bit like the things that some larger-busted women were saying/experiencing weren’t really taken seriously. I don’t mean to diminish Volcanista’s experience, but I felt a bit like this post diminished me, in a certain sense. I love reading Shapely Prose because it makes me feel like to some people, my body’s not weird. This made me feel a bit of the opposite.

  44. (Jokes, that is, that nonetheless introduce an experience that suggests people are treated differently based on breast size, which is likely true for at least a lot of people and is thus likely a real social problem that ought not be ignored.)

  45. Kelly – Gasp! Loves it! Gorgeous shift dress you’ve made there! Gorgeous kitty as well, and gorgeous lady holding kitty. Hmm… if I de-broke myself by Friday…

    I think that this discussion can be part of the overall exploration of the hypothesis: How do people respond to female bodies and their respective appearances? Am I off the mark? As someone who lives almost completely detached from my physicality, I can say that I’ve done dispassionate, slightly scientific studies as well, not unlike Volcanista’s experiment with breast size (I’m calling it an experiment, which implies intent, but I understand that she did not have the intent to change her breast size). For example: I sometimes wear black eyeliner and sometimes do not. I have recorded the number of “in the face” stares I get with the eyeliner and without. I get 66.67% (+/-5%) more “in the face” stares with eyeliner than without. Volcanista gets more pleasantries with larger breasts than smaller breasts. Unfortunately, these experiments do not translate well to the general – they only apply to the subjects in the experiments (Volcanista and me).

    Or at least, that’s the way I see it (?).

  46. Most large-busted women will tell you that their racks-o-doom have an effect on their daily lives, and that as a result they are treated differently than their smaller-boobed peers in some respects. I’ve noticed that my entire life.

    How does that make this post a problem? I can’t turn it off, either. I have no control over their size. It also has nothing to do with me, anyway. It has everything to do with how other people are treating me. Women are not treated equally because our society has a fucked up attitude towards female bodies. One manifestation of that, and with its fascination with sexualized breasts, is that women are treated differently from each other (and in my case, sometimes from myself) based to some extent on breast size. At the small end of things, it might go from being ignored to being objectified. At the larger end, it might go from being objectified to being openly ridiculed, or just always feel like objectification, but I really don’t know, and I wouldn’t attempt to speak to the experience of anyone other than myself. I also don’t think I anywhere attempted to say that having small breasts is actually equivalent to having large breasts — in fact, the post suggests the opposite.

    This is, of course, in part a fat acceptance space, but some of these objections seem to be about the fact that this is a post about having small breasts, as though no fatter women have small breasts, either. But they do. Breasts come in all shapes and sizes on women of all shapes and sizes. And they are all objectified in ways we should fight.

  47. “I think I would love this article if it didn’t include the idea that big boobs get you treated friendlier,”

    Yes. This. I think the issue for me was not so much that I felt Volcanista was universilizing her experience, but that – as another D or bigger since grade school – it was stuff like this:

    “Bigger breasts just meant better treatment in general, and while some men were creepy and deliberate about it (see above), for most people it seemed to be unconscious. We are heavily socially conditioned to react favorably to breasts.”

    That just seemed a little off.

    From your story, and my own experiences, I wouldn’t conclude that people react favorable to breasts, but – as we all already know – people react favorably to what is considered norm/ideal. And C cup sized breasts – not any ol’ variation of big breasts – is norm/ideal. If “the bigger the better” was really the ideal/norm that chauvinist media likes to pretend it is, then Victoria’s Secret would carry bras in my size.

  48. Wait, so are you saying that what bothered you about the post was that the experiences I have had and lived did not seem real? Because I promise, they were real. And cup size varies tremendously with band size; trust me when I say that when most people picture Cs, they picture breasts considerably bigger than mine, because 1) our perception of breast size is heavily distorted and 2) I wear a small band.

    It sounds like I am being told that small-breasted women are privileged, and large-breasted women are disadvantaged (if there were a way to separate that from body size, which may or may not be possible). I’m aware of my thin privilege, try to be conscious of it, and am fully ready to be called on that. But I’m honestly not sure that small breasted women are automatically the privileged group here.

  49. One manifestation of that, and with its fascination with sexualized breasts, is that women are treated differently from each other (and in my case, sometimes from myself) based to some extent on breast size. At the small end of things, it might go from being ignored to being objectified. At the larger end, it might go from being objectified to being openly ridiculed, or just always feel like objectification…

    Everything being said is true, and I agree with the spirit of it 100%. I am not a fan of being treated like an object pretty much ever, and American culture certainly has a way of treating women like we’re a special population that’s open to everyone’s opinions and wishes. Loathe. That part of the piece I have absolutely no objection to, that I totally understand, and that I like.

    The thing that I dislike about this, or that I suppose didn’t really ring true but that just made me sigh a little bit, is the same part of me that sighs and gets mopey when I got to lectures on eating disorders or queer populations for school, and the professors talk about “these people.” “These people often feel…” or “In these people, you’ll see a lot of depression…” or whatever. In lectures like that, the professors talk like a queer someone, or a someone who has/had an eating disorder, isn’t in the room. In effect, they’re talking like I’m not in the room.

    With respect to this article, I 100% respect the author’s experience, and much of what she got out of it. The thing that bugs me is that while the author definitely experienced a change in the way she was being treated, the cause of the change–bigger breasts–was temporary, and due to something she could change–birth control. I am someone who does not have that luxury. I’ve also found that my breasts don’t necessarily get me treated better because they’re big, but because they’re much bigger than some ideal they put me well past “I’ll treat you more nicely” and squarely into “OMG look at that!!!” Going from an A to a C is not the same as going from an A to the part of the alphabet that most people think is either not there or reserved for strippers. That would be a little bit more like going from one non-ideal to it’s diametric opposite, without stopping in the middle at the “perfect” c.

  50. The thing that bugs me is that while the author definitely experienced a change in the way she was being treated, the cause of the change–bigger breasts–was temporary, and due to something she could change–birth control.

    Oh, you misunderstood. While my breast size increased on that particular birth control, and on some others I have tried, it hasn’t been consistent, hasn’t been within my control, and the birth control and other medications I can tolerate over the years have been fewer and fewer in number. I have no control over my breast size, and they fluctuate pretty wildly over the span of a given year or two. I am not treated better when my breasts are bigger because I made them bigger on purpose; it is just something I have observed as my body changed in ways I couldn’t control.

  51. Interesting post. I’m a “nearly-A” cup. Bra shopping is very frustrating for me, for this reason. At my heaviest I was a B, and living in bra heaven–I could shop anywhere–but since losing a bit of weight, I’m at the bottom of the spectrum.

    Since I’ve always had small breasts, I can’t compare… but indeed I have been teased by men and women alike for my smallness. It sucks, because I like my breasts. They suit my life very well.

  52. Argh. I feel like the point is being missed here in a lot of these comments. (The point as I see it, of course.) The point being that there is a different reception for boobages of a cup size C (on a slender woman) than when same woman’s cup size is A. Is it because, as others have said, C is considered “normal?” I do remember reading years ago that the “most desirable” or “perfect” breast size for an American woman was a 36C. (Who the heck came up with that I don’t know, but I read it in popular, family publication.) In fact, for a long time that was my own size and it made me feel a little more “normal” … and then when my body changed, I resisted changing my bras for the longest time because I just wanted some part of me to be desirable and “perfect.”

    So anyway, I think it’s interesting that someone who already has thin privilege can notice such a difference. And I’m still really interested to know what is going on with people on the whole that they would be induced to be nicer to someone (for non sexual reasons) just because of a few more inches. I can’t help but ask, “But what’s IN IT for them?” What negative perceptions do people have of women whose breast cup size is in the As? I’m wracking my brain trying to think of perceptions about small breasts that don’t have to do with sex, but nothing’s coming up just yet.

  53. Wait, which part? Commenting too much, sorry! if you mean a couple comments up there, yeah, part of it was reponding to you, at least in part. You said that Cs are considered ideal, but… maybe that’s true with what VS suggests Cs look like in their magazines, but in reality, I have never been treated that way. My experience has always been that I am quite a bit smaller than ideal, except for possibly at my very biggest (which might have actually exceeded Cs, but it was a long time ago and I hadn’t been properly fitted at the time).

  54. Oh, you misunderstood. While my breast size increased on that particular birth control, and on some others I have tried, it hasn’t been consistent, hasn’t been within my control, and the birth control and other medications I can tolerate over the years have been fewer and fewer in number…

    Actually, I didn’t misunderstand. What I object to is this notion that bigger breasts = better treatment, when in fact that’s been pretty much the opposite of my experience, and that the data points for this are A and C cup. I could get behind saying “C cups get treated better than A cups,” but I really can’t empathize with something along the lines of “Bigger breasts just meant better treatment in general, and while some men were creepy and deliberate about it (see above), for most people it seemed to be unconscious” because as a woman with large breasts (36G, on beyond c-bra! C-bra, zebra, get it? Anyone? No?), getting leered at all the time doesn’t mean I’m getting “better treatment.”

  55. hsofia, I wasn’t treated poorly when I was smaller, actually. I think I’ve just been more ignored at that size. People have just seemed to react more favorably to a me with bigger breasts. Part of the debate here seems to be about whether my interpretation that it had to do with getting bigger is correct, or if in actuality it was more about approaching an ideal. I think that’s actually a really interesting point. But it also sounds like I’m being told the reason my interpretation is wrong is that I have small-breast-privilege, which, okay, might be true. It’s just so far away from my own experiences that I’d really like to hear more thoughtful ideas about it.

    I have previously thought that the most privileged breast size is probably somewhere much more in the middle of actual human variation than idealized body size, which is clearly skewed far to the small end of the curve. Women whose breasts are too small have some advantages, but they’re very loaded, and women whose breasts are too large also have some advantages, which are also very loaded; and both are loaded because they’re advantageous or disadvantageous within the context of the patriarchy. I’m honestly not trying to be all WATM with the equivalency suggestion – I’m sure the small-rack and big-rack experience is really different. But it hadn’t been my experience or observation before that being much smaller than the ideal was a worse experience than being much bigger than the ideal. Maybe that was just blinders, but I’m surprised by the suggestion nonetheless.

    And yeah, a 36C has considerably bigger breasts than I do. And that’s assuming that those magazine writers had any idea what a 36C actually looks like, and since most women wear the wrong size, that’s unlikely. They could have been talking about a 32E for all we know.

  56. Ah, I see. I was also leered at considerably more, even at a small C. But I also got more genuinely positive attention from people who were probably not thinking about what they were doing. I think it’s possible that at an F or a G cup, the ogling would outweigh any other positive treatment I was getting so I wouldn’t even notice it.

  57. Volcanista: I’m thrilled that we’re on the same page! Because I am a nerd, the more scientific, peer-reviewed-article critique that I would give this is “too few data points, potentially too large of an extrapolation.” I totally respect your opinions, I definitely am a fan of your writing style, and I find your experience very telling with respect to the boobed population around sizes AA-D (plus or minus, whatever), it’s just so FAR from my experience that it’s a little weird to see here, and a bit tough to empathize with.

    Also, LOST is the greatest show on earth.

  58. Hm, I would like to correct the comment above where I said “a 36C etc. etc.,” because it’s phrased in a way that implies I was labeling a person by her bra size. I was thinking more that a 36C rack is considerably bigger than mine, not that a 36C person is bigger than me, but I used poor grammar.

  59. I have been hearing that from some of you guys, but honestly, why is it surprising to see it here? This is a feminist space, and the subject is very relevant to women’s experiences; and this is a fat acceptance space, but many fat women have small breasts.

  60. As a point of clarification, though I’m not sure I’m really someone to which you were referring, this post doesn’t bother me. I don’t totally relate, because my size has varied within a relatively small range of clothing (8-12) and bra (32/34F-G) sizes. Even at my thinnest, I was noticeably large busted and have generally been larger than “ideal.” (Being a size 8 didn’t last long – we’re talking a matter of months, if that.)

    It’s hard to say what really changes for me, because I’m fairly lacking in the self-confidence department and can be very oblivious, because I assume that men won’t give me positive attention (as opposed to ogling and catcalls). I do think, however, that what a lot of people are talking about is that line between friendly and creepy that has been brought up already.

  61. I think what Volcanista is talking about here is specifically nonsexual attention, or maybe a better way to put that is attention that involves bodily aspects of gender performance rather than sexual responses to particular body parts

    What I really liked about this post is the conversation about the kind of non-sexual attention larger breasts receive. It definitely shapes my experience with them. My boobs, are definitely read in a mammylicious way – think Dr. Miranda Bailey, who is like me in every way except for the face and hair (though I’m probably read as more “sexually available/conventionally attractive”) – rather than in some hot-damn Halle way. And I rarely see this conversation happening. I didn’t really see this as universalizing big titty living, but rather widening the discourse around boobs, gender performance and such.

  62. I don’t feel that my comments have at all said that small breasted women have privilege, but your post does come across as saying that big breasted women do. I don’t think that’s accurate, it’s makes me uncomfortable and frankly I get annoyed with posts that talk much about small or large getting better treatment, a more general people treat women differently based on their breast size would be better. I feel like you’re being very defensive when I don’t think anyone, including me has said we dislike the post overall, we’re just having a discussion about truth behind it and phrasing mostly.

    The fact of the matter is you don’t get treated better or worse for having big boobs, you don’t get treated better or worse for having small boobs, you get treated better or worse for having fucking boobs in our society, the standards are shitty, unclear and go both ways.

    I might be a little oversensitive to this post because I’ve had a shitty day, but I’m not attacking you, I don’t dislike your writing and I would read another post written by you here, I just think the way this issue was approached was maybe not the best way to do it.

  63. Yeah, and I think most of us get some people being friendly and some being creepy all at the same time, so there’s this weird overlap of interactions. But hopefully not from the same people.

    snarky, that’s kind of what I was going for, actually. I think the conversation about objectification and sexualization of breasts is also important, but we’ve had it before, and I wanted to get a bit more into that non-sexual attention I thought I saw.

  64. I think the problem I’m seeing is that those with large breasts who live with the resulting treatment may feel like “better” isn’t a good or accurate descriptor for what they live with, and then feel resentment that their negative experience isn’t being reflected in this post, or feel that their experience is being left out and unacknowledged. This post also does not reflect the experience of being fat and having large breasts or being fat and having small breasts, etc. Partly the post is not structured in a way for that – it’s a single person’s experience, which is fine, but there is no invitation anywhere in the post for other women to speak up about their experience, no gesture towards inclusiveness, and the disclaimers about the post being only one person’s experiences aren’t, I don’t think, strong enough to compensate for that, especially with the tone of the jokes.

    Also, while the post makes efforts to talk about how the treatment based on body shape and size affects everyone, the other language choices are off-putting at times, such as:

    but I like to look nice and girly and so I go with it

    When my tits are bigger I have to do even less work

    Whatever the intention (and I’m positive the intentions were entirely good) those two phrases immediately made me feel unhappy with myself, ugly, unfeminine and disadvantaged. I don’t like to look nice and girly, and the “I have to do even less work” is really close to gloating. It doesn’t matter much what language was surrounding those phrases. They smack you right in the most vulnerable place, “I’m not good enough I don’t like being girly I can’t be girly so I’m a failure Christ I have to work all the time and it’s not fair…” and so on.

    I think the universalizing creeps in here: Bigger breasts just meant better treatment in general, and while some men were creepy and deliberate about it (see above), for most people it seemed to be unconscious. We are heavily socially conditioned to react favorably to breasts. The first sentence is an individual’s personal experience. The second generalizes that to the entire population based on a sample size of one. I’m not so sure women are conditioned to react favorably to breasts. Personally I don’t think about them much. I’m leery of this being put forward as a statement I’m supposed to accept as true. I got the joking tone of the post, but possibly when discussing something like breast size which for good or ill might be a really personal, vulnerable part of body image, that wasn’t the right tone to take.

    I’d also say the “Oh, and we should make a conscious effort to be equally friendly to the small-busted ladies…” sentence is problematic. It assumes that one person’s experience of the difference between how she was treated at two different sizes is something everyone should use as a guide, when 1) people’s treatment of women of different bra sizes may not be universal and b) women who live with a certain type of attention due to larger bra sizes may feel like their negative experiences are being ignored by such a statement which assumes only women who are smaller suffer in some way. Also it implies that smaller breasted women suffer in a very particular way rather than acknowledging that one woman’s idea of “less friendliness” is only one way in which that group can suffer the social stigma attached to that body, when the reality is more complex.

    Sorry to get so analytical, and volcanista, you know I love you to death and would totally do your taxes at any time. I in no way think there was even a microgranule of bad intention here on your part, or SM’s.

    DRST

  65. Has anyone else had the experience of their boobs getting bigger in their mid-twenties (the person, not the boobs. Although I guess the boobs are also in their mid-twenties)? I was a B-cup until I was about 25, and then over the course of about a year, without any other changes in my body, I went up to probably a DD. It was extremely disconcerting and it has taken me many years to adjust.

    And just thinking of cup sizes that many people don’t know about: I’m a 34G now, which is annoying, because the bras are expensive. But when I was nursing my younger child, I wore nursing bras that were 36K. Before I had to shop for those bras, I had no idea such sizes even existed. And I was lamenting what a pain it was to get 34Gs, but that doesn’t compare to J or K. I have stopped complaining so much :)

  66. Volcanista:

    With regard to your comment to me:

    You still seem to be missing the part where you were suggesting that “bigger = better.” And yet clearly while yours may not have been considered big enough at C, the ideal is not “bigger = better” but “a certain size that is on the big side” (and well, and a lot of other stuff) That still doesn’t suggest that “We are heavily socially conditioned to react favorably to breasts.”

    In response to this:

    “But it hadn’t been my experience or observation before that being much smaller than the ideal was a worse experience than being much bigger than the ideal. Maybe that was just blinders, but I’m surprised by the suggestion nonetheless.”

    And this is what I was trying to get at. You seem to be approaching the idea of breasts size from a place that is a little extra grounded in your own personal experience of ranging from low to not quite ideal. Which is hardly bad, and I appreciate hearing about your experiences. Especially as they are so different from mine.

    It gets problematic though, when you try to draw universal conclusions from that – conclusions like “We are heavily socially conditioned to react favorably to breasts,”* without any qualification as to the size of the breasts. Or, rather with the only contextual qualification being that the breasts be of a minimum size.

    That’s what I think people are reacting negatively to. It’s certainly what had me cringing and feeling once again like a freak. Because if people react favorably to breasts, why does having mine so often make me feel like everyone thinks I’m stupid or slutty or both? Is it just me? Am I too sensitive? Should I just realize how good I really have it? Should I stop taking it too personally when a TV father tells his TV daughter “only slutty girls want big breasts!” ?

    And I guess I found it especially jarring because here is where I come to feel safe about my body. Especially about it’s largeness. It’s not that I expect you all to be perfect, just that, when it’s clear to me that part of the problem with how people react to my breasts is tied up with the fact that DDD cups (and corresponding butt) on my 5 foot frame quote often read as “fat” – even when my Wii isn’t lecturing me about my BMI – it was a little unexpected to hear a conclusion that in any way resembles “everyone is nice to people with big breasts!” on this site.

    *Sorry, I know, I keep harping that one comment. It’s not because it’s the one thing that rubbed me the wrong way, but rather because it’s the one I can most clearly articulate why.

  67. Yeah, I think your tone does sound a little hostile today, and maybe that came across as being about this post. Also, there have been comments with tones that came across maybe snarkier than people realized about my body — referencing ” ‘perfect’ c” cups with scare quotes, talking about going from small to slightly less small, etc. My breasts are pretty small, but I live in this society, too, so it can still hurt my feelings if people start going off about how teeny teeny tiny they are. Even if I shouldn’t take it personally. I mean, I’m still human.

    And honestly, I don’t agree with everything you are saying. I can’t speak for the rack-of-doom experience, but I can speak to some of the smaller-than-ideal breast experiences. You get the shit beaten out of you, [hopefully] metaphorically, for being flat-chested in this culture. Being at least a bit bigger and closer to the ideal, even if that ideal is a moving target, garners serious rewards from our fucked-up and patriarchal culture. You guys made a really good point that that receiving better non-sexual treatment might have more to do with being closer to an ideal than being just bustier (though I think snarky’s point about the intersection of this issue with race is huge). But that doesn’t change the fact that being very small-breasted leads to being punished. And there are some things about being small that are surely a lot nicer — less objectification, for sure, probably less back pain than many women, certain clothes probably are easier to buy off the rack — but you are reminded on a regular basis that you are not. feminine. enough. It’s defining and it’s deeply damaging, and I don’t want it erased.

  68. Dear DRST and jennygadget:

    That’s pretty much exactly it for me. I left reading this post feeling like someone was speaking for me in a way that was entirely unlike my actual experiences. It was a little bit like being 15 again and worrying that my breasts were saggy–and therefore ugly and nonideal–because I didn’t have any idea what unaugmented, naturally large breasts looked like.

  69. How interesting, volcanista. I also noticed a big change in how people treated me when my breast size changed. But, it was kind of the opposite.

    Naturally, my breasts grew in at about a size 38H. When I was 21, I had them reduced to a nice full D. (For anyone considering it, it doesn’t actually hurt that much, so don’t let that scare you out of it.) I found that practically overnight, people took me much more seriously, and, oddly enough, seemed to automatically assume I was smarter than they did when I had enormous boobage.

    The combined anecdotes do make me wonder if there’s some “ideal” breast size, below which people tend to brush you off, and above which they think you’re kind of an airhead. It makes no logical sense, of course, since I have yet to see any correlation between breast size and intelligence or personality, but the human brain comes up with weird shit in response to the society we’re living in.

  70. @snarkysmachine – “What I really liked about this post is the conversation about the kind of non-sexual attention larger breasts receive. It definitely shapes my experience with them. My boobs, are definitely read in a mammylicious way – think Dr. Miranda Bailey, who is like me in every way except for the face and hair (though I’m probably read as more “sexually available/conventionally attractive”) – rather than in some hot-damn Halle way. And I rarely see this conversation happening. I didn’t really see this as universalizing big titty living, but rather widening the discourse around boobs, gender performance and such.”

    Oooooh. THIS. Except for me it’s lonnng been about the BOOTY. Is there a post somewhere about the internalized fear of the mammylicious booty?

  71. I feel like we’re playing the titty oppression olympics right now. I stand by my statement that small breasted women don’t get treated worse they get treated shitty in different ways, I don’t think that’s what was addressed in the post, I’d like to see you take the comment you just wrote and turn that into a post concerning differences between the two sizes rather than how one has it better than the other.

    I’m sorry if my comment came off as hostile, I have had a bad day, reading this and seeing that due to my boobs I should have had a better day set me on edge.

  72. um, I also want to say, as Alibelle did: I don’t dislike your writing and I would read another post written by you here.

  73. Um. That $2 Lovable bra in the creepy ad (with telescope-stalker-guy)? Well, my mom had one. Once heard dad claim that it was dangerous…could poke someone’s eye out.

    Just sayin.

    Seriously, what was the point of that pointy style? To reproduce the illusion of the nipple, which was being disguised?

    Bras are weird.

  74. “It’s defining and it’s deeply damaging, and I don’t want it erased.”

    Neither do I. I don’t think any of us do. I just think there is a way to talk about the points you brought up without erasing my experience as well.

    Because let me tell you, having saggy breasts in jr. high feels pretty fucking nonfeminine as well.

    female, yes. I’ll admit I’ve never been made (past the age of 9) to feel like anyone saw me as anything other than “female” and I think that’s a really good point to bring up.

    but did I feel pretty and feminine? hell no.

  75. I’m a 34HH and yeah, I definitely feel like I get the non-sexualized breasts treatment. I certainly internalized the “It’s not good to have boobs that are like a shelf” message from somewhere. So for that reason, I am a little sensitive about the idea that bigger boobs equals better treatment or people thinking you’re hot, because my experience has been that after a certain point they just treat you like you’re a freak.

  76. I’m sorry if I offended you with the relatively small/less relatively small comment: what I meant is that A and C cup breasts are smaller and relatively less smaller (grammar is weird there) than my G-cup breasts. It was meant to be a point of comparison and certainly not a dig at your body.

    I can’t speak for the rack-of-doom experience, but I can speak to some of the smaller-than-ideal breast experiences. You get the shit beaten out of you, [hopefully] metaphorically, for being flat-chested in this culture.

    One thing I really object to, though, is the idea that there’s a good side and a bad side to be on when it comes to being of non-ideal boobs. Many, many, many women try on clothes and get really sad when it’s just their breasts that make the shirt or the dress not fit, or when it’s just their chests that attract attention, both good and bad. Many, many women hate it that their breasts get in the way of their professional lives. Many, many women feel less than perfect when they look at their unique breasts in the mirror. Breasts can be all kinds of things, and anything outside of a narrow definition of perfect can be a tough row to hoe. Saying that big breasted women have it so easy because everyone thinks they’re hot is just as reductive as saying that small breasted women have it so easy because there are more shirts.

  77. Saying that big breasted women have it so easy because everyone thinks they’re hot is just as reductive as saying that small breasted women have it so easy because there are more shirts.

    Thing is, I don’t think this is what she was saying.

  78. I actually think the variety is a good thing here – FA blogs seem to trend toward vocal pride in and approval of large racks, and while that’s great because we should all appreciate our own (and other people’s) bodies, it’s not universal either. And I think the complaints about lack of perspective are also showing the same lack of perspective – volcanista may refer to a C cup as “large” without showing an understanding of that position near the bottom of the full range of “large” because it’s large FOR HER, while others refer to that same C cup as “on the large side of still-pretty-small” because it’s still-pretty-small FOR THEM. Just like as a 5’1″ woman, I think of a 5’6″ woman and a 5’10″ both as “tall,” while the first probably feels “average” and the second probably feels “huge” sometimes, but the tallest might just see the other two of us as “short.” This is actually literally, physically, an issue of perspective – we each have one that makes us miss others, that’s all.

  79. Herm, I really didn’t get “big-breasted women have it so easy because everyone thinks they’re hot” from anything Volcanista wrote – in the post or in subsequent comments. I’m not feeling terribly articulate at the moment, but I did want to say that.

    @emmy – I am starting to reach a “goddamn just cut.them.off” point with my breasts, and am curious about your experience. I’ve certainly dealt with the big boobs = she’s an idiot stereotype crap, as well as finding myself wondering if I’ve gotten jobs in the past because the creepy male boss wanted to ogle, not feeling I’ve been taken seriously by strangers (friends and acquaintances who do not reside up their own asses realize my innate brilliance right quick ;) ). Can I email you at your blog?

  80. I wish I could remember my Year of the Incredibly Growing Boobage, because there was definitely a period of time during it when I had “ideal” breasts (according to the bullshit rules of whatever the hell “ideal” is supposed to mean) but I was so freaked by the fact that my bras kept on not fitting that I couldn’t assess how I was being treated by others. I do remember seeing my mother after several months, and her first comment being something about my breasts. Not negative, exactly, but there was definitely a sense of “What on earth happened to your boobs?” Which was not attention that I wanted.

    I’ve had the F/G cup size for many years now, and I think what I’ve noticed more than anything is that as I’ve gotten older, the attention that my chest gets has lessened. Being over 40 makes me sexually invisible, apparently, and I absolutely love it. There was a time in my 30s when I found that men would talk to my chest, but that time seems to be gone. Hallelujah. Have others had this experience? Do you think that age makes a difference?

  81. I specifically said both sides of the non-ideal boob spectrum were probably shitty but in different ways, and that all I can say from personal experience is that the small side is shittastic. That disappears no one’s experience. It talks about my own. And I really do not believe that I started the titty oppression olympics here. I reacted defensively because they had already been started.

    And sure, this post could have been about the experiences of women with large breasts, but this time, it wasn’t. It’s just not about that. That’s not because their experiences don’t exist; it’s because it’s just not about them this time.

    When did I EVER say that big-breasted women have it so easy? No, REALLY, when did I say that?? That has never come close to coming out of my mouth. Same for the idea that if you have big breasts you aren’t allowed to have a shitty day. the fuck? Telling me you read a tone I might not have intended is one thing; putting words in my mouth is another.

    And DRST, it was the furthest thing from gloating for me to admit that in some ways I come closer to the beauty ideal than a lot of women. That was reading something that was never, ever there, and I think it’s a little unfair. I’m pretty upset about it.

    While I want to listen if my words are being misheard by a lot of people, because that means I did not communicate clearly, there has to be a point beyond which it is not my problem if people are repeatedly hearing things I did not say and failing to hear the things that I repeatedly did say. I don’t know how many more times I can say that it is an interesting and valid point that maybe my experience had less to do with having bigger breasts and more to do with having breasts that are closer to some ideal. I must have said it four or five times now. I think it is an interesting and valid point, really, and I’d love to discuss it.

  82. Do you think that age makes a difference?

    Yeah, by all accounts. I think beyond a certain age of fuckibility, women are often just treated as invisible. it sucks.

  83. (Oops, I see that you think it’s great. I just mean that it sucks that, once again, our worth is seen as entirely based on our value as sex objects. Having that context removed might actually be pretty nice.)

  84. “it is an interesting and valid point that maybe my experience had less to do with having bigger breasts and more to do with having breasts that are closer to some ideal… I think it is an interesting and valid point, really, and I’d love to discuss it.”

    This is why I wish I could remember the brief period of time when I was in the “correctly proportioned” category. I was also 25 years old, probably the most conventionally “attractive” that I’ve ever been, and I must have gotten attention of some sort, but I honestly didn’t notice it, because I was so wrapped up in my own experience of “Wtf? Bigger? More?” And I sailed over the “correct proportions” line into “Wow, those are big!” within the space of a few months, so that’s part of why I don’t remember if I really did get some sort of kudos for fitting the beauty standard, more or less.

    Also, just clarifying what I mentioned earlier: I went from a 34B, which was probably the right size, to wearing 36DD, because I didn’t know how bras were supposed to fit. If I’d known at the time, I would have actually worn a 34F, but I didn’t know such a thing even existed, and it was the Dark Ages (ie, pre-internet shopping), so my options were limited. At any rate, such a dramatic increase in a rather short period of time was weird, and if anyone else has experienced it, I’d love to hear about it.

  85. I am not interested in breasts.

    But, Alibelle, given that your avatar is a photo of you, well, I don’t know about hot, but you’re very pretty. Sorry you’ve had a rough day.

    And I’d be struck shy(er than usual) if we should meet in person, because age does make a difference and it is harder to approach pretty young women for fear that they will take my friendliness for a sexual approach that I don’t intend.

  86. @volcanista – can I ask that you use @s or put the name of the poster you’re responding to when you post … I’m having a hard time knowing whose comments to match your responses to.

    @Millicent – yes, this is my experience, not so much getting older, but having a kid and then gaining a figure I can only describe as “matronly.” Of course, I live in the Zone of Non-Flirtation (the Pacific NW). Next time I take a trip to the East Coast or the South, I’ll get a better sense of whether I’m still invisible. But having a cute little kiddo with me makes me has raised my profile among other parents and senior citizens.

  87. Gotcha, volcanista, I agree that it sucks that not being seen as a sex object also gets interpreted (or actually means, oftentimes) that we no longer have any value. I just have found it so incredibly refreshing, personally, but I know that my experience isn’t everyone’s experience.

  88. Man, reading the comments here, it seems like whether you get breasts early or not, it sucks. I was a late bloomer-I didn’t get even the vaguest semblance of breasts until mid-7th grade, and I didn’t fully develop until about halfway through ninth. In fifth and sixth grade, I would go home and cry, because my best friend had C-cups already and it seemed like all the other girls had breasts and I didn’t. I wore a bra about a year before I really needed one, TBH, just because I wanted so badly to fit in with all the rest of the girls. I thought the girls with breasts had it all, and that they must be so happy and they were so lucky! Little did I know they were having just as much angst and as many problems as I was, and all because of boobs. I think I wouldn’t have had so many issues if I hadn’t already had acne since the second grade (no, not kidding; I wish to God I was)- I felt like if I had to put up with the crap side of puberty, I should at least get something good (which, to 11-year-old me meant big boobs) as compensation. Life doesn’t work that way, though, I guess.

  89. Eek, maybe I’m being paranoid, but I just want to make sure that my last comment “I know that my experience isn’t everyone’s experience” doesn’t get taken as a jab at anyone. All I mean is that for me, no longer being read as “sexual” by anyone except my husband has been a relief, but I know that it doesn’t feel that way for all women. My mother, in fact, has been very open with me about how difficult it was for her when she realized that she didn’t get attention for being “pretty” anymore.

    I’m not sure why I’ve reacted the way I have, but I am grateful to be invisible in this way. And that’s just me :)

  90. @Volcanista,

    To clarify: I said “Saying that big breasted women have it so easy because everyone thinks they’re hot is just as reductive as saying that small breasted women have it so easy because there are more shirts” to mean that looking at some other woman and thinking that her breasts must make her life so much easier because they’re smaller/bigger/perkier/more/less whatever than mine are, and everyone who’s breasts have some quality that mine don’t is living a good life is not a really useful or helpful way to talk about breasts. I did feel a bit, when i read this article originally, that the whole “women with bigger breasts get treated better” (paraphrase!) business is pretty equivalent to saying that they have it easier. If you feel like I’m putting words in your mouth, I definitely don’t mean to and I am sorry to offend. I don’t have a problem with you, I don’t doubt anything that your experience gave you, and I don’t want to diminish it in any way. I just wanted to talk about the argument that some groups of women may or may not be treated differently, and whether or not that difference actually constitutes being treated “better.”

  91. @TheOtherCatlin: I too only own 3 good bras that I circulate, I don’t like to wash them too often because I can’t afford buying bras often so I want to keep them in good shape.

  92. When my friend Barbie got pregnant she went from – in her words – negative boobage to Playboy bunny in the span of five months. She couldn’t believe how that affected how she was read by the world. She was busy attending to the life inside her and men were busy trying to get at her boobs. She is very petite person and kept asking me if my experiences were similar though on some level she realized they probably wouldn’t be.

    I don’t think this post is universalizing so much as trying to find commonality. I tire of discussions where folks talk about their experiences in their own bodies and are met with a lot of misplaced emotion.

    This is a totally emotional issue, particularly when combined with fatness and I do not seek to diminish or erase anyone’s valid criticisms. That said, there’s lots of criticism to be heaped in regards breast size and size privilege to be sure, but on the author of this post – not so much.

  93. This post excites me to no end, because I love talking about breasts (particularly mine) and no one else ever seems to want to.

    I found it interesting to read a post from a woman with such a dramatically different experience from mine. Pretty much my experience of breast size was 9 year old me praying to have big breasts, 11 year old me at probably a D-cup (who knows? My mom picked a size for me that never fit and that was What I Was) praying for them to go away, and then 16 year old me to me now at 32GG/J hating everyone for automatically assuming I was a slutty-stripper-prostitute-homewrecker/stupid/public property.

    The way society treats women who fall outside of a very narrow and nebulous range of “acceptable” bra sizes is horrifying, and I am sorry that people treated you (Volcanista) differently based on whether you were at the low end or high end of your spectrum, and probably other women as well. Thank-you for your post!

    I will say (as many have before me) that the bigger breasts=better treatment comment also rubbed me the wrong way, although I kind of assumed you already knew that has qualifiers. Personally, I always have to fight the voice in my head that tells me women with smaller breasts than me are always treated better, even though I know that’s not true either.

  94. @ everyone

    I wash my bras when I feel like it–is that gross? I always sort of figure, if someone is close enough to smell my breasts, then they had better be people I know to be okay with boob-sweat. If they’re not, they probably weren’t invited to be there.

    @ randomquorum

    People always get grossed out by this, but I buy my bras on Ebay. Incredibly luckily, I have always been able to wear any of the bras with one exception (Mimi Holliday did not fit at ALL). If you know what brands and styles you like, it could be very helpful. Lord knows that as a recent student/graduate, I never would have been able to afford the US$70-80 sale price of my bras in stores!

  95. @ Alyce ( from way, way up there!)

    Oh yeah, I have the one big boob/one little boob thing going on, too. It’s always funny when I read people’s comments about having a rack of doom/smaller breasts, because I have both – on the same body. I’ve found, after lots of trial and error, that a thicker bra works better than a thinner bra – my current two-layer cup molds better around the smaller breast than a single-layer cup, and contains the larger breast better, too. Adjusting the bra straps unequally can also help, as can always walking with the smaller boob in the lead, thus giving the optical illusion of boob parity. Or, you know, a small, one-shoulder cape.

    There really should be a sisterhood of mismatched boobs – we could get together and trade half-bras, if we were lopsided on opposite sides!

  96. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who doesn’t wash my bra every time I wear it. Interesting point about getting rid of body oils and lotions but the actual process of washing (even hand washing) taxes your clothes, so to me it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. I always buy good quality, well-fitting bras and that doesn’t come cheap but then I keep them for a year or two.

    Going between a C cup and a D cup has made no difference to the way people treat me, except for the fact that it’s usually come with weight gain. C cup is big enough that if I put the girls on display, they will get noticed, and D cup in my experience doesn’t noticeably increase that. In fact, I probably get more attention as a C cup but I think that’s because it generally means the rest of me is thinner too.

  97. I think replacing ‘bigger breasts’ with ‘patriarchy-approved breasts’ might well make the conclusion drawn valid. Anyone with breasts significantly larger or smaller than the media ‘ideal’ is going to face negative reactions of one kind or another. It isn’t about whether small- or large-breasted women have more privilege, it’s about the narrow range of culturally ‘acceptable’ ways for a woman to look, and that includes breast size.

    I don’t sexualize my breasts. They’re for nourishing children, should I ever birth any, and the cultural fetishization of them strikes me as alarming.

  98. I’ll weigh in on the breast discussion with a few opinions of my own. But first, a little back story. Like some have written above, I suddenly sprouted breasts at age 11 and went through only about 3 months of that “fried egg” little titties stage. It was like the second I put on the training bra, my boobs went “this is what we’ve been waiting for!” and turned into C-cup young woman breasts.

    Now, initially, I was quite pleased with the boobs. I still couldn’t quite fathom that they were *mine*, but in general, I was happy with them, largely for two reasons. One, because I’ve always had a tum. It’s always been round and sticky-outy, and I’ve always carried weight there since I was a child. Once I got my young woman boobs, though, my tum was less noticeable. Two, it was an instant attractor for boys. I didn’t have to be funny or smart, I didn’t have to try to say anything. All I needed to do was giggle and squeal when they snapped my bra strap, told me dirty jokes, and flirted in the jerkiest ways with me. At least I was smart enough to recognize that I didn’t like myself when I behaved that way…but that, unfortunately, lead to a few years of dressing in oversized sweatshirts and dumpy t-shirts, trying to hide my shape. Occasionally, though, I’d put on a little slut-wear – something very cleavage-y that really showed off my assets, mostly because I was looking for attention. For a few years in high school and college, my wardrobe was very schizophrenic while I tried to figure out if I wanted to look ‘dumpy’ or ‘slutty,’ not realizing that I needed to find some kind of happy medium for myself, and also accept the size of my boobs as they are.

    It also didn’t help that I have no real ass. I never have. I don’t have much in the way of hips, either. I’m kind of shaped like an inverted triangle, with my shoulders broader than my hips and my torso widening up to the boob area. Point being, back in those high school and early college years, it was hard for me to find anything to wear, aside from an oversized sweatshirt, that *didn’t* call attention to my boobs. My body shape is just naturally very chesty. And as you wrote in your post, Volcanista, I found that people were often nicer to me because of it. Not nice in a way that suggested they wanted something from me, but just nice, dare I say even a little caring.

    And here’s my opinion on why: as most women and some men realize (particularly men who have moms with big boobs), big boobs can be an ordeal. They don’t always make life easy. It’s hard to find bras that fit and flatter, let alone clothes that do the same. Big boobs can cause back problems, and sometimes balance problems, particularly when walking in high heels. I find that I have to walk more carefully when I’m in heels, not because it’s hard to walk, but because it can be hard to balance. For those who recognize these issues, consciously or subconsciously, I believe it’s for this reason that they’re nicer to people with big boobs. They see what we have to go through and they kind of develop this *mothering* tendency to want to care for people with big boobs. It’s like they want to “mother” the ones on whom genetics has bestowed the societally and culturally recognized symbol of motherhood. I feel it, too, whenever I’m around another big boobed woman. I know what she had to go through just to get dressed in the morning.

    That said, though, I certainly noticed when things began to change. As I aged, I got fatter and my tum got bigger. My boobs began to have some competition. And because I don’t have an hourglass/Coke bottle figure, my boobs seemed to lose some of their appeal to those who had otherwise been fascinated by them. My body shape was no longer mostly boob-o-centric. It had become more torso-centric, which is, apparently, a different thing altogether in the eyes of some of the beholders. Point being: what I learned from my experience was that, even with big boobs, one is not always noticed, treated in a more caring manner or given special treatment because of them. It depends on the rest of your body shape. If you’re not proportional, and particularly if your boobs come with a prominent tum, the fascination of big boobs seems to melt away.

    And for the most part, I’m okay with that. Being noticed and treated in certain ways because of a prominent body part got tiring after a while. I’d much rather have people notice the whole person, which, for the most part, they do – if I’m not being ignored completely as ‘just another’ fat, white, middle class, middle aged woman. (And, believe me, there are days when being ignored is preferable.) I’ve learned to dress my body for the shape that it is without looking dumpy or by going overboard in calling attention to my chest. It can be damn hard to dress a non-proportional body with a big tum and boobs (D cup since 1995), but I look at it as a challenge, learning what styles are most flattering on me, what colors work best with my complexion, and how it all fits in with my idea of personal style.

    I guess my point is, my experience has shown me that being treated differently because of one’s boob size seems connected to the rest of one’s body shape, and not just the boobs attached to it.

  99. I have no relevant opinions on breasts. I like all kinds. My own are pretty sweet. I am, however, troubled by the passage I’m about to excerpt. volcanista, I totally understand if you’re feeling a bit burned and would rather not reply, but I’d like to throw it out there.

    “I will certainly sometimes wear some padding or pushing-up items to keep the clothes looking the way I like them to. Frankly, I don’t feel bad about this. It’s one of the many conscious concessions I make to the beauty ideal (see also: shaving legs; bleaching upper lip; and wearing v-neck sweaters, high-heeled shoes, dresses, and variable quantities of make-up). I don’t dislike my body or the things about it I alter for cosmetic reasons; it’s just a hell of a lot easier to do those things, and I consciously choose to do my femininity that way. Besides, I can’t undo all of the training that has taught me what to find attractive, so I pick my battles. ”

    I’m troubled by the idea that anything women do to our bodies beyond washing them is capitulating to a beauty ideal. volcanista, your first sentences seem to reflect that sentiment, but then you talk about concessions and picking your battles, which doesn’t seem to harmonize much with not feeling bad about what you do.

    Take myself as an example: I absolutely shave my legs and underarms because society has told me I should. Yes, I like how it looks and feels, but I wouldn’t give a crap about that if I’d never done it. On the other hand, I wear high heels because I like the shoes aesthetically. They’re pretty and fun (since I’m a person who definitely thinks clothes can be fun, obviously YMMV). Also, I think it’s fun to be nearly six feet tall, and I like the noise they make. (For the record, my mother hasn’t worn a pair of heels more than half a dozen times since I was born, and discouraged me pretty strongly from them for a long time for health reasons.) Do I wear heels with dresses on formal occasions because that’s the social script? Absolutely – but I see that as conforming to a very very different norm, that of “appropriate dress for formal occasions,” which to my thinking is separate from the norm about women’s bodies (though obviously intertwined).

    My point here isn’t to defend heels (although, for the record, you can have them when you pry them from my cold dead hands). It’s to give an example of doing something on volcanista’s list for reasons that don’t have to do with “conforming to the beauty ideal.” To be less specific, I take umbrage at the thought that getting dressed in the morning in a way that I think looks nice, to my own eye – yes, trying to be pretty to my own eye, which I succeed in most days – is conforming to a beauty ideal. Which almost seems to be what you’re saying, volcanista.

    I don’t know. As I’m writing this I’m suspecting that what might be going on here is personal obtuseness through being insulated from social pressure for most of my life. I genuinely think every person ever is beautiful, since beautiful is 100% subjective and everyone is someone else’s best thing ever, so when I talk about wanting to look pretty I mean it in a purely subjective and deeply personal way. When I want to look society’s-definition-of-pretty, I think of it as performing femininity, which has nothing to do with what’s in my head when I’m getting dressed in the morning.

    This has gotten incoherent and navel-gazey. So I’m going to quit while I’m behind.

  100. I’m troubled by the idea that anything women do to our bodies beyond washing them is capitulating to a beauty ideal. volcanista, your first sentences seem to reflect that sentiment, but then you talk about concessions and picking your battles, which doesn’t seem to harmonize much with not feeling bad about what you do.

    I don’t think this is women thing, rather this is how she frames the beauty ideal FOR HERSELF. It seems like you’re cherry picking. Nothing in that passage you quoted suggests “anything women do to our bodies beyond washing them is capitulating to a beauty ideal.” You’d have to do a extremely close reading of the text to generate this interpretation. So close you end up with your head through the computer monitor and the words end up displayed on the back of your head.

  101. I only wear bras once before washing, and throw them in the wash with my other undies a couple of times awake. Then again I won’t even wear jeans more than once without washing, because I am a germphobe.

    @ Volcanista I think the response you’re getting at the upper end of your boob size range is more like a proportion thing than something that’s about big boobs per se. I mean, my boobs are a cup size bigger at the upper end of my weight range, but get most attention at the lower end of my weight range, where they’re actually smaller, but look bigger compared to my overall frame than when I’m just bigger all over. So I think whatever reaction you’re seeing is specifically about petite woman + big boobs, because that really is a socially coveted body type. Big boobs on big women don’t seem to elicit nearly as positive and friendly a response.

    I think it’s the Goldilocks phenomenon with women’s bodies again too – this one/these boobs are too small, and these too big, but these just right! Which is why you get positive responses to a smallish woman with largish boobs but when you hit a certain size, say Christina Hendricks, negative responses begin to appear. As with anything to do with women’s bodies, there’s an “acceptable” range, and it’s pretty narrow.

  102. I think it’s the Goldilocks phenomenon with women’s bodies again too – this one/these boobs are too small, and these too big, but these just right!

    Absolutely. Two kids and two sizes later, my 36DDs became 38Is, and I went from buxom to matronly. When it comes to beauty, we’re fucked coming and going.

  103. (I’ve been lurking here for a while and I love this blog)

    I too am part of the IBTC, and always had. I’ve also grew a bit on birth control- or so my mother and boyfriend says- but obviously not to any useful extent haha (if I had to guess I think I’ve gone from the mid-low of a 32 A-cup to a nearly B-cup). *rueful* I just don’t have fat on the top half of my body, and I never will.

    Growing up I was disappointed because my mom and grandma had boobs so I wrongly thought I’d get them too. I felt, and sometimes still feel, genetically cheated. As far as school and society, I was always ignored by . . . everyone, but I have too many factors to know how much my boobs even had a chance to get involved:

    -Quiet
    -Socially Inept/Awkward
    -Average looks
    -Nerd/Dork type
    -Black in a mainly White environment
    -Visually impaired
    -Had a lazy eye for several years

    I wouldn’t be surprised if bigger boobs would not have changed too much of my social situation, but it’s a curious thing to think about. I had too much angst with other issues (omg “inability to drive angst” was Awesome) to give more than a passing pout at my non-boobs. I never got any grief for it, and I always thought maybe since I was already so far off base from the “ideal” woman my bra size became a non-issue.

  104. Rasha: Good grief. That’s… really, really grim. I spent years in a 26AA and the most anyone ever said to me was “surely you don’t NEED a bra?” I’m so sorry people were so horrible to you.

  105. Yup – grow big boobs and the world smiles with you. No escaping the fact.
    I’m not especially well boobaged, the gods gave me a portion from the dumpling pile for sure, but they didnt go for the double helpings, just “some”.

    However, a male friend of mine and Mr Paintmonkey’s literally can’t speak, think, breathe or blink when he is around big boobs. I marvel at him as he can’t do anything but stare, sort of like Mowgli when the snake captures and hypnotises him. This man is over 50 by the way, so not a 13 year old looking at the bra section of the catalogue for the first time. I’ve tried to ask him about it and he can’t explain it, but strangely nothing else matters but boobs. The women they are on are of no consequence whatsoever, its as though they could actually be on a giraffe as long as they were the size of footballs, preferably bigger. How bizarre. If we are out with him for a meal we actually try and position ourselves so we are blocking his view if he can see big boobs, simply so the woman he’s staring at can eat in peace.
    Big knockers – they really do have a mystical force of their own. God bless them and all who sail in them.

  106. Snarkysmachine – “I didn’t really see this as universalizing big titty living.”

    Brilliant. Coffee coming out of nose hilarious.

  107. One effect having very small, flat breasts on a small frame has is that people assume you’re not an adult and don’t see you at all. Which can be pretty inconvenient. Hopefully by the time my breasts revert to pre-pregnancy levels I’ll look old enough in other ways to be middle-aged-woman invisible, rather than boobless-child invisible. That will be great.

  108. This post was enlightening and entertaining on so many levels.

    I hate to admit it but I do like having big boobs. It’s possibly one of the nicer things about being a bit big. But I’m trying hard not to treat my body as an ornament. Because that’s how it is when I think about my boobs and all that.

  109. So is there like anyone not getting a certain degree of shit for their breasts? When I notice women with smaller breasts I think wow, they can rock a tube top and not look pr0nish and they look at me and think she can make a v-neck stand up and cheer. Neither of us are seeing things the way they really are.

    That said, I do think there is a tendency of weariness towards women who are smaller breasted (and I have been guilty of that myself). I often assume there was a benefit of being able to pick and choose when one wanted to have “breasts” so to speak. And that short of wearing a hat that emits flashing lights, blaring horns and serves snacks, there’s nothing to camouflage my tits. But there are real difficulties I haven’t really spent enough processing to really appreciate the way in which they affect those experiencing them.

    At the same time I sense this weariness from smaller breasted women whenever larger breasted women don’t act “grateful” for having their cups runneth over and mention legitimate hardship that often accompanied a “rack o’ doom”. Though it’s generally helpful to tick off a list of medical maladies as not to come off as smug or heaven forbid unaware of your ta ta privilege.

    This really bothers me that beyond a certain size it’s not okay to say, “I love these damn things!” Without then having to either deal with someone else’s body issues around their breasts or having to apologize to those who might be fellow travelers but don’t share your experiences.

    It’s great we’re having this conversation and lots of voices are being heard.

  110. Eh. I own special Oblivious Goggles, and thus never notice men staring at or talking to teh boobies (I’m a 32G/F). I can say that if they were smaller, it would absolutely save me a lot of time, money, and make athletics so, so, so much easier.

    On the other hand, I get pretty hot under the collar at the suggestion of reduction–which I get fairly frequently–mainly because it seems to be more about literally cutting bits of myself off to fit the beauty ideal/concern trolling than a genuine concern for my well being. (Not that reduction isn’t the way to go for some women, if that’s what they want)

    I agree with those who’ve said the equation isn’t that bigger are better, it’s that the magic size range around a 36C-D is “perfect,” and everything else isn’t. I felt very beauty ideal compliant up to about a 32DD, after that I had to start dealing with the “zomg I’m a freak” internal monologue, etc etc.

  111. And, um, at the risk of outing myself as the polar opposite of a germaphobe–is there *anyone* else who finds hand washing their $50-60 rack-o-doom bras to be just Too Much for more than (oh hell, I’ll just say it), every few weeks or so??? Mind, I only wear each bra two or three times a week, and only when I’m outside the house and awake, but still.

  112. And, um, at the risk of outing myself as the polar opposite of a germaphobe–is there *anyone* else who finds hand washing their $50-60 rack-o-doom bras to be just Too Much for more than (oh hell, I’ll just say it), every few weeks or so??? Mind, I only wear each bra two or three times a week, and only when I’m outside the house and awake, but still.

    Nope, you’re definitely not the only one! I don’t think I emanate bra-smell or anything, but occasionally I get a little paranoid about it.

  113. “I don’t sexualize my breasts. They’re for nourishing children, should I ever birth any, and the cultural fetishization of them strikes me as alarming.”

    @ Serenity–Um, okay. Can breasts perhaps be for our sexual pleasure AND the use of small children? I find the “sexualizing breasts is bad! they are only for feeding children!” crowd kind of mystifying. It’s a secondary sexual characteristic that is also very pleasurable in foreplay for the majority of women. How is it *not* going to be culturally sexualized to some degree?? I get that the more negative cultural discourses about breasts are damaging (and maybe that’s all you were trying to get at?) but I for one will not feel guilty for sexualizing ‘em.

    And lo, I have now made three posts in a row and will shut up.

  114. @snarkysmachine – I don’t feel like I’ve gotten any mistreatment for my boobs. And I actually like them. I was a little worried when I first was breastfeeding – seemed like my breasts preceded me, which was a new experience. I haven’t been able to wear a button-up shirt in two years. But, I’ve never had anyone say anything to me about the girls specifically (closest has been “you have a nice/womanly figure/curves/shape”). But I never wear low cut tops, or any type of shirt that will show cleavage. Even my swimwear has a high neckline. Maybe that makes my experience a little unusual.

    @Serenity – I’m with you on the over sexualization of breasts (especially when it comes to breastfeeding), but couldn’t one say that about every body part not directly related to reproduction? I mean, lips and hips are sexualized in this culture. Hell, even feet. Eyes. Certainly butts! Maybe it would help to know what you mean by “I don’t sexualize my breasts.” In other words, what does that look like?

  115. I have freakishly huge breasts, and they always attract attention, no matter what. At that size, they’re simply impossible to hide. I’ve tried wearing baggy t-shirts, but I still get hit on constantly. Minimizer bras are too uncomfortable and don’t shrink them enough anyway (besides, I shouldn’t have to make them look smaller to prevent being harassed). It just drives me nuts when people insist that women dress a certain way because they want to be ogled, so it’s ok to do it. I have specifically tried to make myself unogleable, and it doesn’t work. I don’t really know where I’m going with this, but I felt like ranting.

  116. *I do tend to drop food down my shirt when I eat though, which is super annoying – I inherited this from my mother :D*

    Me too. It’s like a sign of maturity in my family- you’re fully grown when your boobs are big enough to catch food in your bra.

    I’m 5 feet tall. I’m small-framed, size 4/6 on the bottom, and I’ve been carting around 30G breasts since high school. Since that size isn’t actually available from any USA manufacturer, I wore the wrong bra size up until my enlightenment a couple of years ago (thanks, SP!) and now I have permanent dents in my collarbones from years of yanking the straps as tight as they would go. My mom’s are worse- she was measured as a 34I but still insists on wearing the DDD cups she can find at Macy’s because otherwise it’s too much trouble. *sigh*

    I’m short enough that I don’t get ogled a lot (or if I do I don’t see it)- men usually look right over my head. I’m not beautiful, I wear jeans and T-shirts/sweaters most of the time, and I’m a total nerd- those probably also contribute to invisibility. Fine by me. I don’t generally get attitude from other women; whenever a friend does comment, it’s more matter-of-fact, for example “you weigh 10 pounds more than me, it’s probably all boob!”, which was rather hilarious when it was said and probably true. I do remember that in several undergrad classes I would get treated like an airhead by the guys and many of the girls until I established myself as a good student. I haven’t really had that problem since, maybe because my resume/CV now precedes me.

    I think I’ve settled into a truce with the boobs. It helps that my husband finds them amazing and is horrified at the idea of a reduction (I am too, at least right now. I understand why some women have them and might change my mind someday). Finding bras that fit, even if they cost an arm-and-a-leg, helps too. I wash them on the “hand wash cold” cycle on the washing machine, line dry, and they stay nice for a long time.

  117. I’m sorry Volcanista, my phrasing was wrong in the last post, you never did say that I couldn’t have a shitty day because of my tits, but saying that people treat me nicer than small breasted women really really rubbed me the wrong way. Especially this “Oh, and we should make a conscious effort to be equally friendly to the small-busted ladies, to counteract that unconscious conditioning that makes us act just a bit friendlier to the chestier among us.” There’s no way that can not rub me the wrong way. The reason I’m responded again with this is that you still haven’t really addressed it, I don’t think you’re intentions were anything but good, but it didn’t work quite right. I also don’t like being told that my perceptions of the piece were wrong wrong wrong wrong, when other people also say it was a bit off, we’re not weird the tone and writing doesn’t come off entirely the way you think it does.

    Thanks Grafton, I don’t want to be at the risk of sounding like I need approval of my looks to be happy, but knowing that you’re sincerely friendly and not saying those things in a sexual way, it did make me smile.

    Also thanks to whoever posted the “normal” breasts gallery, that was awesome, I don’t think I’ve ever seen non-sexualized breasts before in my entire life outside of my mirror and life drawing class. It was great to get to see and compare and just feel normal without feeling like a creep along with it.

    I’m done commenting on this post. Volcanista, I like the parts of the piece that I haven’t specifically mentioned. I believe you didn’t intend for the post to come off like it has, but it still has.

  118. I do not have a firm theory about this, but I think that Volcanista’s assertion that we are socially conditioned to react favorably to big(ger) breasts may not tell the entire story. I am as happy as anyone to rant about the sizest biggets that believe in One Nation Under God with Liberty and Size 4 Pants for All; however, we cannot ignore the biological side of the conversation. After all, the Fatosphere is about accepting biology’s different forms. In the case of breast size, bigger breasts, like bigger hips, may trigger a subconscious association with femininity, child-bearing and matronliness. For men, those traits are, from an evolutionary stand point, highly valuable. As for other women, they may spell competition, but they may also awaken the innate need to protect and revere life.

  119. @Kelly: in my first chemical engineering internship a few of the guys called me “Tits”.

    God, gross. How sad that this is still considered acceptable.

    Also, the workmanship on that dress is beautiful. If I thought it would even vaguely fit me I’d be happy to pay you a good price for it, but I suspect it won’t. Can you tell me the measurements? You can email me at spacedcowgirl at gmail if you prefer. FWIW it looks fine in the chest to me, but if it’s uncomfortable to wear, then obviously getting rid of it may be the best choice.

  120. So, I teach high school students, in a fairly liberal, accepting, and crunchy-granola school. It seems totally clear to me that the young women (and men) here who most closely fit our culture’s expectations of how they “should” look get the most friendly treatment, probably (so subconciously!) from everyone, not just students. (I would add that smiling a lot is pretty central to this for the young women: there are a very few very conventionally pretty young women here who don’t smile a lot, and I think they don’t get that most friendly treatment.)

    And I, for one, don’t think that high school is actually all that different than the rest of the world. So I can easily imagine that Volcanista’s experience gets replicated here regularly. Ugh. That makes me cringe again for the students–the ones who look eleven when they are fifteen, the girls who are six feet tall, the boys who look like they are eleven when they are fifteen, the fat girls, the ones who are covered in acne–and who just don’t get that friendliness. The knowledge that these few are getting friendlier treatment for something that’s so not in their control leads me, pretty immediately, to concern for the others who aren’t.

    I think that Volcanista’s post focused my attention on the nice treatment that she gets at that higher size cup, when perhaps what she meant to focus my attention on was the unfairness of how she’s treated when she’s at the smaller size? I think I could learn a whole lot from reading about how women with small breasts are treated, and that somehow I missed that opportunity here. Volcanista, if you ever would be willing to risk writing about this again, I’d love to hear more about that part?

    One last note… In The Fat Studies Reader, one article cited a study that shows that professors who get the highest ratings on student evaluations (which drive the universities’ evaluations of those professors, at the university level) are those who most strictly adhere to the culture’s views on gender roles. Their job advancement is deeply influenced by how much like Mom they seem. I bet breasts are involved in that.

  121. On the subject of race and boobs/butts: I’m mixed race Indian and white and, accept for the odd person who assumes I’m Latina, generally pass for the latter. Many members of my family do not, and so I’ve been in a position to notice some interesting differences.
    Since I’ve got big hips and a large, perky butt, how many people tell me I’ve got a “black girl butt.” Now, apparently it’s true that women of African descent do tend to put on more weight in the booty than Caucasian women, but do they have such a monopoly that it’s anomalous for women of any other race to have the same feature? I get the feeling that I get complimented on it (and harassed, and groped, etc.) because it is considered anomalous for me as a white woman and that, like my black hair and high cheekbones and big honker, it’s seen as “exotic” and not ugly or really extreme because it’s made safer by the context of my light skin.

    I think not-white people tend, in the public imagination, to be grouped into the camps of either “fantastically gorgeous, rampantly sexual fuck-bunny,” or “disgusting, repellent, rampantly sexual rapist-type,” and both depend on making them out to be animalistic, in large part by way of their naughty bits. There’s a really ugly trend towards ascribing extremely large sexual organs and sexual appetites to brown/black/lower-class people. Witness the number of big-breasted women complaining about trying not to look “trashy,” with pretty clear implications that this means not looking like she just walked out of a trailer park.

    That races that have, to some degree or another, been “whitened,” or at least acceptably exoticized, like south and East Asian people, might be considered pretty but aren’t generally attributed extraordinary sexy bits I think is telling, and while some of this is “positive,” like all the stereotypes of the super-curvy, saucy Latina, it’s been my observation that brown women just as frequently get desexualized by it, since women in my family who are much more noticably Indian than me get stuck much more in the stereotype of “fat, stupid, asexual, and blandly bovine.” Maybe that’s the issue of safety again, since people don’t want to genuinely say, “Hey, maybe Causasian women aren’t the most beautiful women in the world,” and having built non-white women up to such heights of sexiness, they feel the need to cut us back down again?

    Sorry for the incoherence, but I’m still working out my thoughts on this.

  122. It’s a secondary sexual characteristic that is also very pleasurable in foreplay for the majority of women. How is it *not* going to be culturally sexualized to some degree?? I get that the more negative cultural discourses about breasts are damaging (and maybe that’s all you were trying to get at?) but I for one will not feel guilty for sexualizing ‘em.

    I would say it’s not the sexualization that’s bad per se, but the overwhelming and objectifying sexualization. That is, there’s nothing inherently bad or wrong about finding breasts sexy (on others or on yourself) or having them be a fun & awesome part of sex. But sexualization in our culture seems to go way past “Wow, that’s a physical trait that I find attractive. Yay!” to “Object for public consumption because a woman’s main purpose is to be attractive.”

    I also think that stuff about sexuality is very personal. I didn’t see Serenity’s comment as problematic because she’s talking about her own experience & preferences. “I don’t sexualize my breasts [and here's why I don't wish to/don't like the cultural trend that does]” is different from “Chava, KellyK, you should totally not sexualize yours.”

  123. My previous comment might sound like it’s dissing or disagreeing with Chava’s, which wasn’t my intent. I’m totally in favor of not feeling guilty about sexualizing your breasts, and if Serenity’s comment was implying that you should feel guilty or shouldn’t sexualize them, then that’s problematic. I guess I’ll await clarification from her on what was meant and how she sees it.

  124. Also, on the subject of breast sexualization: there’s a great big whooping difference between me saying, “At certain times I greatly enjoy having my breasts stimulated for sexual pleasure,” which I’d say is appropriate sexualization, and some douchecanoe saying “Breasts are for sex only! Breastfeeding is icky sexual abuse! No woman should ever go around topless or she’ll be attacked by horny mobs cause they’re just so SEXUAL,” which is the way most cultural sexualization of breats works, and which is way inappropriate. That kind of sexualizaton is something imposed, and frequently obnoxiously. For instance, lots of guys have felt perfectly happy to ignore my small yet extremely sensitive breasts during sex because it wasn’t a turn-on for THEM, but a friend of mine with boulder-sized and totally unsensitive (is that a word?) boobs got them pawed by dudes all the time, cause big boobs are just so SEXUAL, right?

    Argh.

  125. I hadn’t analysed or really noticed the extent to which I had internalised societal messages about “ideal” breast size and the supposed social unacceptability of bodies which did not match this ideal… until at about thirty I grew breasts which more closely approached this societal ideal.

    I caught myself thinking things like “now I have breasts!”
    Stop. I had breasts before. Just smaller ones.

    I caught myself thinking things like “now I have proper breasts.”
    Stop. What is this “proper”? Where does it come from? Who is deciding what bodies are “proper” and “correct”? Would I turn to another woman with small breasts, like the breasts I had previously had, and say “you do not have proper breasts,” or “your body fails”? Of course I damn well wouldn’t!*

    I found myself thinking “if I’d known when I was a teenager that I would at some point get breasts like these…” and then all of a sudden, I strongly remembered back then feeling, believing very firmly indeed, that No Boy Will Ever Fancy Me Because I Have A Flat Chest. I remembered the baggy clothes I would wear to hide my figure. I remembered thinking that it was okay for Kate Moss to have a figure like that because she was fashion, but Real Boys Like Tits And I Got None. I realised that this silly high school idea had not really gone away. It was still affecting the way I defined myself going into my thirties, otherwise why on earth would I be so pleased that a nice bra fitting lady had just called me as a 34C?

    *I think that women are conditioned to be self-deprecating in the way we discuss our selves and our bodies, and we are not taught to take into account the effect that our self-deprecation can have on other people who hear our words. And also, because we’re conditioned to measure ourselves by a beauty ideal, and those messages sink in deeper than we might like (as I found), when another woman’s self-deprecation seems to frame our body as less than or transgressive it hurts and irks more than if we didn’t have all of that unhelpful conditioning going on.

  126. “But what caught me even more by surprise was how much friendlier people were — men and women, friends and colleagues and strangers. Most of those people probably were not even particularly interested in sleeping with me or deliberately hitting on me (hard to believe, I know!). They were just… nicer. I didn’t have to wear anything especially revealing for that to be true, either. Bigger breasts just meant better treatment in general, and while some men were creepy and deliberate about it (see above), for most people it seemed to be unconscious. ”

    Sorry, but I think your thin privilege is showing here.
    If you were not thin, do you think you would be getting friendlier treatment? How about if you didn’t have a face that fits the beauty standard?

    I have had enormous boobs for much of my life, but I have not been treated in a “friendlier” way by anyone because of it, except for the year when I was a size 14. Even then the favorable treatment wasn’t really all that much. When I was fat, I still got fat hate and ugly hate, AND pervy comments about my breasts. But I didn’t get favorable treatment. That’s for the “valued” members of society, don’t you know.

    Fat and ugly are cardinal sins against the beauty ideal, sins for which not even big boobs can compensate. Now, thin girls with big boobs are a whole different story. Thin girl, big boobs = beauty ideal, pretty much.

    I understand the allure of “passing” through this partriarchal culture with less resistance, but big boobs are not worth it to me. The kind of attention they attract I find creepy, not validating.

  127. I didn’t retract that line because I think it’s true. I might now revise it to say the “less close to patriarchally idealized bust-levels” or something like that, but the sentiment would be the same. Flat-chested women are often treated as invisible. They don’t deserve that. A lot of it is probably from asshole men; a lot of it, however, is not, and I think that’s unconscious on the part of many people who would never intentionally treat a woman differently based on the size of her breasts. As with any social conditioning that leads to unequal treatment of people based on things beyond their control, it can be helped by raising consciousness so that people are more deliberate in their behavior. That is a major point of this post. Hence me suggesting that folks might make an effort to be nice to flat-chested women, because without realizing it, they might be unintentionally ignoring them.

  128. When I want to look society’s-definition-of-pretty, I think of it as performing femininity, which has nothing to do with what’s in my head when I’m getting dressed in the morning.

    Volcanista is talking precisely about performing femininity and how it affects how she gets dressed in the morning. I’m happy to hear that you feel free of that social conditioning on the average day; many of us do not. We’re not going to try to pry you out your heels or your shaved legs. We have had this conversation many, many times before, and I don’t think Volcanista is saying anything unusual with regard to it: all of us are up against an impossible to embody beauty ideal that theoretically involves every single part of our bodies if we’re female, down to our fucking eyebrow hair and toenail shape. We all choose which parts of it we are going to accept/conform to, and it’s not all because we’re “capitulating” — it’s also often because we *like* certain parts of it. Just because something has a cultural meaning that is loaded doesn’t mean that you can’t also have individual feelings about it (which is a good thing, since IMO you can’t really do anything that is devoid of cultural meaning). It’s just a mistake to pretend that your individual feeling (i.e., liking the aesthetic of heels) cancels out the cultural meaning (i.e., that heels mean “feminine”).

  129. Just because something has a cultural meaning that is loaded doesn’t mean that you can’t also have individual feelings about it. It’s just a mistake to pretend that your individual feeling cancels out the cultural meaning.

    I want to get this printed on stickers and go sticker-crazy.

  130. @Serenity I absolutely agree that breasts are fetishized to an alarming degree, but my breasts are ABSOLUTELY sexual. I mean, I feed babies with them – and toddlers – and that’s not sexual, but I kiss babies and toddlers, too, or lick their jammy fingers clean if I don’t have a wetwipe, and that doesn’t mean my mouth doesn’t also [NO CARRIER].

  131. The point about people’s reactions to changes in my physique not having to do with actual attraction (which varies little across physiques) but with POLICING me…that was just huge for me. Thank you.

  132. @Pala – what you say is very dead on, to my line of thinking. On the one hand, there is the “black booty” (I have a white friend who loves to tell me how much black men appreciate her “black girl booty” – *silent argh!*), which is kind of admired but only in a very sexual way. And then there is the “flat ass” which NO woman wants , and which must be plumped up/camouflaged. Again, like breast size and shape – there’s a very narrow range of what’s considered acceptable in the mainstream. You want to have a booty that is round, but not TOO round; small, but not TOO small, and of course it needs to be ever so proportionate to your hips, thighs, waist, etc. It’s kind of ridiculous how, with 300+ million individuals in the US alone, that there is a cultural standard at all. We have way outgrown living in tribal communities of several hundred or thousand people.

  133. “I don’t sexualize my breasts. They’re for nourishing children…”

    I don’t sexualize my breasts in public, but I do sexualize them in private, such as when I’m enjoying sex (or sexual playfulness) with my partner. They are a great source of pleasure, and I would really miss them if I had to give them up for any reason (although I would adapt, I suppose, after grieving for awhile).

    Also, I breastfed my children, an activity which was very pleasureable too, in a different sort of way.

    However, I dislike bras & have no use for them. I have no idea what “cup size” my breasts are. At work (as a health care professional) I wear a cotton tank-top under my scrubs and/or a light-weight white lab coat over. I do not wear make up, high heels or jewelry, either, & I don’t shave. These choices reflect my personal preferences for comfort and ease.

    Thanks for a great post Volcanista. This discussion is fascinating!

  134. @LilahMorgan:

    “… I am a little sensitive about the idea that bigger boobs equals better treatment or people thinking you’re hot, because my experience has been that after a certain point they just treat you like you’re a freak.”

    That has been my experience exactly, but you expressed it much better.

    I understand that Volcanista didn’t intend to offend anyone.
    But her perspective is affected by the very thin privilege she once wrote an excellent guest post about. Part of privilege is being blind to the fact that one has privilege, but even people who know they have privilege, and do their best to compensate for it, still have their blind spots. I don’t want to criticize Volcanista personally, but the post did rub me the wrong way too. Aside from the false conclusion, it really bothered me to read about a subject that is painful to many people being treated with such breezy, devil-may-care lightness.

  135. Wait, Melinda, this post is not about being thin, though of course thinness affects my experiences and that’s why I framed the paragraph about presentation of femininity in that context. But the post is about having small breasts, albeit on a thin body. Many people here have small breasts, and many of them are not thin and might have had similar experiences — and it sounds from the discussion like some have, and some have not. That’s interesting and great to talk about.

    If you’ve read my other comments, then you know that actually, the subject has actually been quite painful for me in the past. That doesn’t mean I can’t joke about it, or that joking about it means I don’t understand it is actually still painful for some other people.

  136. @toomanyjessicas – I buy my bras on Ebay, too. It’s been hit or miss for me in terms of fit, but I’ve always been able to resell the non-fitting bras. I actually loveMimi Holliday bras, but have had issues with a few other brands. I’m a grad student, so money is pretty tight, and I really just can’t afford $80-100 for a bra at this point. Ebay works.

    @Snarkysmachine – I tend to have the same thought process towards women who are smaller breasted. It goes along with feeling that having large breasts, but there are a lot of things I’m wary of putting on my body, including low cut tops or anything very tight. It’s not just the big boobs, but also the fact that I’m a curvy size 12, so tight clothing, in my opinion, tends to look “porn-y” on me. I don’t know that I feel the same way about other women with my build dressing in tight clothing, but perhaps it’s just self protective. The one time I wore a crazy push up bra + low cut shirt out to a club, men were so distracted that one guy practically walked into a pole. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that kind of attention.

    @Chava – I’m also uncomfortable reading that some people seem to think breasts shouldn’t be sexualized. I understand that they’re oversexualized in our culture and do have issues with that, but frankly my boobs are a very important part of my sexuality. I’ve been with men who weren’t “into boobs” and it made intimacy far less pleasurable for me.

    I realize my thoughts about boob-sexualization seem kind of contradictory, but I think what I’m trying to get at is the distinction between being over-sexualized or sexualized without my consent versus being sexualized within the context of a consensual sexual relationship.

  137. It goes along with feeling that having large breasts, but there are a lot of things I’m wary of putting on my body, including low cut tops or anything very tight. It’s not just the big boobs, but also the fact that I’m a curvy size 12, so tight clothing, in my opinion, tends to look “porn-y” on me.

    Yikes. Sorry for the fail. Let’s try that again:

    “It goes along with the feeling that large breasts look ‘inappropriate’ or ‘porn-y’ in a lot of clothing…”

  138. I find this so interesting, I’m short pretty much everywhere (short torso, short legs etc.), have medium-size boobs for my frame, and I have sloping shoulders, so I have only found one bra that ever stayed on the way it’s supposed to. I’m kind of cheap, so I haven’t bought any really well-fitting bras, but it’s on my to-do list when I’m not feeling money-crunched.
    I feel that attention is based more on proportion than absolute size. As others have said, if you fall within the narrow range of socially acceptable, you get more generally positive attention. My boobs don’t change in size that much that I’ve noticed, so I only notice the difference between when I wear clothes that fit my short torso and show that I have a defined waist, and when I wear less fitted or regular(instead of petite) size clothing and my torso just looks like it flares out from my shoulders to my proportionally large hips. It does seem to make a difference to how people treat me, not just in a sexual way, but in a business setting. I guess this isn’t really about breasts but socially acceptable dressing for women in general.

  139. @RNigade – “However, I dislike bras & have no use for them.”
    You know, last night as I was thinking about bras and how uncomfortable they are … and how difficult they are to size. One would think – with all the advancements we’ve made in clothing technology – that there would be a BETTER design for supporting breasts. It’s very strange. Unfortunately, I cannot NOT wear some kind of support. This would be super unattractive for me and uncomfortable, given the types of clothing I wear. But I sure wish there was something better than bras.

  140. @Meems – there are definitely things I won’t wear because my overall dress is modest, and what might be “modest” on a smaller woman than myself will look revealing on me. It’s totally about how I want to be treated when I walk out of my house. One of my best friends and I have done a lot of work together at conferences, and even though we’re both chubby (I won’t call her fat because I don’t know if she’d appreciate that) and close in age, we’ve been treated very differently. Of course, some of that can be attributed to other things, but she came to the conclusion that her clothing played a role. 35+ aged people treated her more like a “youth” and me more like an equal. She also had a lot more men blatantly flirt with her and touch her. She is from the South and dresses for warm weather – lots of skin showing. Not me. I remember the ONE day I wore a pair of shorts to run some errands (I usually only wear them in the house or at the pool). I decided that was the LAST time I would wear a pair of shorts in public again. I had complete and total strangers grinning at me in the supermarket, and trying to start a conversation. WTF?! My experience as a woman in public and the level of safety I felt completely changed. I mean, completely.

  141. Interesting post and comments. I’ve felt for a long time that our culture would have us believe that only extremely thin women can be beautiful and only big-breasted/curvy women can be sexy, so thin (and especially small-breasted) women get to feel not sexy enough while curvy women get to feel not beautiful enough! Thanks, culture, for making us all feel inadequate! But the idea that there might be a point on the spectrum where people subconciously treat someone better had never occured to me.

  142. @ KellyK,
    You’re totally right, it may have been all Serenity was getting at (her personal experience/decision). I have heard that general genre of commen from many in the feminist community, though, and have never been able to figure it out/get behind it. That’s more what I was responding to.

    Also in BIG agreement with those who pointed out the breastfeeding issue. Although, from what I’ve heard from other women, breastfeeding isn’t precisely *sexual,* but it is often very sensual (assuming it doesn’t hurt like burning hellfire). Due to the douchecanoes Pala mentioned, women talking about the sensual side of breastfeeding seems to be pretty historically taboo.

  143. In Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly 3, there’s a great section about the way breasts are used in advertising, and the way women’s experience of the breasts is shaped/influenced by a culture of advertising. The whole film is terrific, but the section from 8:20-10:45 is relevant to what we’ve been discussing, and perhaps takes a step toward explaining women’s sense of self-consciousness about our breasts. The ad that begins “If you’re breasts are too. . . ” is the one that really hit home with me. If you buy the commercial, there’s NO WAY that your breasts are ok.

    http://www.mediaed.org/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=206&template=PDGCommTemplates/HTN/Item_Preview.html

  144. @hsofia — If need for “support” is the main issue: when I used to jog or dance sports bras were useful. As far as attractiveness goes, it all depends on who you want to attract.

    @Volcanista — “…I think beyond a certain age of fuckibility, women are often just treated as invisible. it sucks.”

    Hmmm. I know women in their 70s & 80s who are still waiting for their invisibility to happen.

    Also, the character played by Kathy Bates in “Six Feet Under” (“Bettina”) claimed her invisibility (cultural) allowed her to shop lift (steal) from department stores without being observed.

    Personally, although I am fat and old, many men & some women still flirt with me. Most of them are a decade (or more) older than I am. But still… Sometimes the attention is welcome, sometimes not. Depends on their approach and their personality. (And the warmth of the twinkle in his or her eye. Seriously… Think of the “White Wizard”…Gandolf?…in “The Lord of the Rings” movie. Old, yes, but to me attractive as hell.)

    Sorry if I’m getting off track.

  145. So is there like anyone not getting a certain degree of shit for their breasts?

    despite being less than an a-cup, i’ve never actually had anyone comment on the size of my breasts. i actually think i’ve been treated better than i might otherwise be; while guys generally act kindly and respectfully to me they are rougher and more obscene toward my classmates with more “acceptable” sizes. i’m not sure if they see them as more of a “target” because you can see their breasts? i don’t really think it’s because i seem masculine as i have a rather feminine face and very wide hips, although i could be wrong. thoughts?

    (i have had problems finding one single bra that fits if anyone wants to offer suggestions /laugh)

  146. I’ve had A-cup boobs for most of my life – I swear I can’t remember a difference between when I was 10 and now, at 20 – so I’ve always been a bit jealous of those with a larger/more culturally ideal rack. I know it sucks to be ogled and objectified for a part of you, but I also can’t help but wish I’d experience it just once, and feel more feminine/attractive – strangers tend to treat me as a chubby non-sexual preteen (esp since I’m only five feet tall), and many actually assume I am much younger than my actual age. But I think most people think the grass is greener on the other side.

    I’m also East Asian, which I believe ‘invisibilizes’ the size of my chest and also somewhat my height since Americans simply assume that Asians have small racks and therefore I’m not unusual for my race, whereas they do a doubletake upon seeing the large, stocky, totally not-petite frame, the fatness (‘b-but I thought all Asians were thin lol’), and the linebacker shoulders. I’ve noticed that my Asian friends who look more stereotypically Asian rarely complain about their small chest size (in fact several of them love it), while my smaller-chested non-Asian friends complain about their size quite a bit when shopping. I wonder how much the difference in treatment I receive from strangers (both men and women, which leads me to believe it’s not only a sexual thing) when I lose weight and/or use padded bras comes from looking like the generalization of my ethnicity in America or from looking closer to the overall ideal (white) woman (and of course there is quite a great deal of overlap). I haven’t felt any difference in treatment when I wear padded bras or heels or dye my hair, but when I lose weight precipitously (the effect only really seems to start at a size 2 and below) I can sense a MASSIVE difference – suddenly people smile at me more, clerks are more helpful and take more time with me, men start holding the door and try to catch my eye, etc.

    I’m inclined to think that many of us are so socially conditioned to think thin=good/beautiful/attractive/higher class, with thresholds of minimal ‘acceptability’ perhaps differing by the ethnicity we look like, that it tends to overwhelm most other features; they’re like add-on modifiers that enhance or detract a base (=weight) – features that partly ‘make up for’ or ‘are made up by’ or ‘make even better or worse’ one’s size (how many times have you heard, “yeah she’s fat but at least she has a pretty face / a nice rack”?), but in themselves aren’t enough. So if you are already a culturally ideal size, having an ideal rack is kind of like a bonus – a noticeable one that brings you a step closer to ‘perfection’ , but can’t be displaced onto another body and expected to generate the same responses. A thin woman with a small chest (which is not ideal but still considered relatively “normal”) isn’t going to be seen the same way as a fat woman with a small chest (which I’ve heard called “god’s cruelest joke”), and the ‘norms’ differ somewhat by ethnicity, so I hesitate to talk about just our breasts without the larger context. (Ugh, I can’t believe I’m describing real people like video game avatars – but I do think that our culture thinks this way, and likes to chop and change women’s bodies like we’re cars or some other personalizable product. I apologize if I’m generalizing far too much; I’m speaking out of my own musings, and I know my experience is very specific to a race, class, age group, region of the U.S., etc.)

  147. I’m really struck by Volcanista’s take-home message here: that women as well as men respond to beauty standards that are basically sexual. It’s not just that people who want to have sex with you are treating you in a different way because you are more conventionally sexually attractive. The whole world makes it much easier to live, the closer you are to the beauty standard. But I think there’s something even more insidious going on.

    Several years ago, I had a coworker who was a dead ringer for Cameron Diaz. She was not the hourglass shape that the evo-psych types would consider evolutionarily desirable, but she was (as Ms. Diaz is) a remarkably lovely woman. She got no end of crap from coworkers, primarily of the “dumb blonde” sort, and I think it was simply that she was too pretty to be okay. Because I think that both men and women react best to the woman who is perceived as girl-next-door “normal.” Pretty, but not Helen of Troy. Feminine, but not overtly sexualized. Shaped in a certain way, enough for men to look but not to stare. Safe. Not too smart, not too mouthy, not too bitchy, not too powerful, not too TOO. Normal. Not exceptional at all. And yet toeing every single line: dressed right, not too fat, not too thin, not too gorgeous, not too plain.

    Women are supposed to be non-threatening. And women who go outside of the social norms by being too sexualized, or not sexualized enough, or the wrong shape, or the wrong color, or the wrong pay grade . . . well, they get ignored if they can be and condemned if they can’t. That’s one reason I appreciate the constant moderator efforts against calling one body normal and another not-normal: the social construct of the Normal is probably even more a tool to oppress women than the social construct of the Ideal.

  148. Volcanista – I very much enjoyed your post, and while my breasts have steadily grown from the smaller side (for lack of a better word) at a b-cup to a slightly larger size as a double d, I have not noticed the changes in others’ behavior you speak of. In fact, the only real change in my life is annoyance when shopping for bras and button-up shirts. It’s incredibly difficult in finding bras that are properly supportive and don’t hurt my neck and shoulders. I cannot imagine what women with larger breasts have to deal with, because buying bras is a constant struggle at a double d.

    That said, I also felt the discomfort that many of the commenters here allude to.

    Specifically, I was shocked to see you ask, “When did I EVER say that big-breasted women have it so easy? No, REALLY, when did I say that?? That has never come close to coming out of my mouth.”

    In your post, you wrote, “Bigger breasts just meant better treatment in general, and while some men were creepy and deliberate about it (see above), for most people it seemed to be unconscious. We are heavily socially conditioned to react favorably to breasts.”

    It’s obvious from your comments that you did not mean to imply that big breasts mean good treatment for everyone, but that is how the passage read to me. The first sentence is about your personal experience, but when combined with the generalization about social conditioning, it takes on a new meaning.

    Ps. I also sport a cup-size difference in my breasts, which I still struggle to accept. They’re not twins, they’re sisters!

  149. I have been thinking hard about the “What About the Normal Women?” post, although I didn’t post any comments there. This post has helped clarify my thinking. There’s all this cultural ideal of beautiful and normal, and it’s poisonous and bad for women. From a purely feminist point of view, it should be abolished (or whatever you do to ideals. Banned? Uprooted?) But we all are living in it–to borrow a metaphor from Harriet Jacobs, we’re all swimming in the same ocean. We can’t just pretend we’re on dry land, because if we do, we’ll drown. To go about our normal lives, we often adhere to the beauty standard as much as possible, as Volcanista describes, because we would actually like to be promoted at work and to date and to not get crap on the subway and to have people be nice to us instead of scurrying away, muttering about our blue mohawks.

    And maybe the way to chip away at the cultural ideal of beauty is the same as the way we chipped away at the cultural ideal of education for women: gradually expanding the definition of ‘normal’, however problematic the underlying concept. Including larger women, and shorter women, and flatter-chested women, and larger-chested women, and non-Caucasian women, and older women in the public eye in ‘normal’ forms–stars of TV shows, romantic interests, print models, etc. Eventually, the Normal Looks category is so heterogeneous that it becomes outmoded. Will it work? Who knows? But I don’t have any better suggestions.

    Yeah, that had very little directly to do with breasts, except that I think it’s important, as Volcanista has said, to become aware of the ways we’re subconsciously influenced by our perception of others’ acceptability, vis-à-vis breast size as well as weight.

  150. Hmmm I am trying to write a comment but keep fearing it will be read the wrong way. The basic point: I have small boobs. I otherwise meet the cultural beauty ideal. I am never treated as invisible especially by asshole guys. Small breasts do not automatically equal being treated as invisible (or “shitastic”) in the same way that being fat does not automatically equal being treated as invisible.

  151. Starling, this was super smart. I’d add to this:

    To go about our normal lives, we often adhere to the beauty standard as much as possible, as Volcanista describes, because we would actually like to be promoted at work and to date and to not get crap on the subway and to have people be nice to us instead of scurrying away, muttering about our blue mohawks.

    that blue mohawks happen in the same context, too. Blue mohawks might be interesting, but they wouldn’t represent anything and likely wouldn’t be worn the same way without a beauty standard. Some women in our culture don’t shave their legs because they don’t want to and don’t give a shit, and some don’t shave their legs as a deliberate act of rebellion, but both of those happen in some kind of opposition to the expectation that people will reach for the ideal. Like you said, we’re all swimming in it.

    And I think you’re right that adding more options to what is “normal” or “acceptable” could at least help the situation. The problem is that some people will always fall outside of that, so I also want to chip away at the need for an acceptable way of looking, period. That takes even longer, but noticing our social conditioning is possibly an important one of those baby steps.

  152. Chava:

    “I get that the more negative cultural discourses about breasts are damaging (and maybe that’s all you were trying to get at?) but I for one will not feel guilty for sexualizing ‘em. ”

    I’m not trying to make you (or anyone else) feel guilty, and I’m truly sorry if my post came across that way. The way any one individual woman feels about her breasts is up to her (and really not my business to comment on!) I was trying to contrast *my* views with the more general ‘breasts are sexy and for men’s pleasure!’ cultural narrative, which has led to women being unable to breastfeed in public in many places, and contributes to the wider problem of objectification.

    Hsofia:

    ‘’I’m with you on the over sexualization of breasts (especially when it comes to breastfeeding), but couldn’t one say that about every body part not directly related to reproduction? I mean, lips and hips are sexualized in this culture. Hell, even feet. Eyes. Certainly butts! Maybe it would help to know what you mean by “I don’t sexualize my breasts.” In other words, what does that look like? ”

    Ok…I don’t consider my own breasts to be sexual. I understand that there are women that do, and there’s nothing wrong with that (not that they want/need my approval anyway) but I do resent the assumption that breasts = sexy, regardless of the intent of the woman who they belong to. I agree that other body parts are sexualized too. Hell, *women* are sexualized. We’re the sex class. I hate that I’m not able to opt out of that. Being sexy for your partner is one thing. Being objectified in public is quite another.

    KellyK:

    “But sexualization in our culture seems to go way past “Wow, that’s a physical trait that I find attractive. Yay!” to “Object for public consumption because a woman’s main purpose is to be attractive.” ”

    This. Exactly. I didn’t think to differentiate between what society (read: the patriarchy) deems sexualized and what an individual might. The latter is entirely personal, but the former? That’s what I meant to complain about, because that affects *all* of us, whether it fits with the way we see ourselves or not.

  153. @Living the Questions One last note… In The Fat Studies Reader, one article cited a study that shows that professors who get the highest ratings on student evaluations (which drive the universities’ evaluations of those professors, at the university level) are those who most strictly adhere to the culture’s views on gender roles. Their job advancement is deeply influenced by how much like Mom they seem. I bet breasts are involved in that.

    When I read the post, I was wondering how much of the effect volcanista saw was tied in to suddenly having a more normative gender expression (ideal women are expected to have appreciably-sized breasts–but not too large), partly because that’s another spectrum of presentation that can have similar effects (people just being *nicer* to someone who’s normatively gendered). I’ve definitely heard anecdata to that effect and I want to say that there’s hard data as well but am not sure where, although the study you mention is pointing that direction.

  154. Serenity: Ah, that makes sense. I have body parts which are just… not sexual… too. It’s not because they have some other primary purpose, they just happen not to be sexy to me.

  155. And then there is the “flat ass” which NO woman wants , and which must be plumped up/camouflaged

    Ha! I remember the in the 80s when this was considered the ideal.

    When I discussed this with my friend Barbie today she said, “With large boobs come large responsibility and I gotta believe the universe realized I wasn’t the chick for that job.” And while it’s easy to quickly dismiss her as someone swaddled in privilege, having known her for so long and know how she actively resists the cultural training that very much benefits her and we have those hard, painful conversations where we’re crying and screaming, and branishing sporks, I find a lot of comfort in her words.

  156. I’m on the “I was mildly annoyed/insulted by this post” boat, and for most of the same reasons as have been discussed. You make some sweeping generalizations based on an impossibly tiny sample size that is one extreme on a very wide spectrum (and then when people point it out become incredibly defensive).

    I agree that the intent was probably good and maybe you didn’t mean to and so on, but the only thing I could do as I read this was kind of laugh and think, “Oh, right, those giant C-cups… SO indicative of what people with large breasts deal with,” and I’m on the small side of the spectrum compared to some of the other posters at a 36DD.

    I love my breasts– always have, even back when I was a C, which was for a few years before puberty had its last (late) hurrah and the pill added some more padding. As I’ve gone through cup sizes, I’ve never once noticed people treat me differently, and considering *you say yourself how much better you like it when your breasts are larger,* I’m willing to bet a large part of what you noticed was other people reacting to subtle cues you were giving off about how you felt about yourself. Obviously in the case of someone who goes from, say, an A to a DD in a very short amount of time will get reactions to their breasts, natural fluctuation happens gradually and I can’t see people really noticing like you did because of that. I mean, think about it: As your friends in middle and high school grew and shrank and whatnot, did you ever really *notice?* Of course not, you see them every day and it’s not like one day you roll out of bed a cup size bigger. Unless you have lighting fast loss/gain, I guess, in which case, meh.

    Sorry for the mild incoherence.

  157. And DRST, it was the furthest thing from gloating for me to admit that in some ways I come closer to the beauty ideal than a lot of women. That was reading something that was never, ever there, and I think it’s a little unfair. I’m pretty upset about it.

    volcanista – I know the intention wasn’t there. I said as much at the end of my comment. But the language was still problematic. I understand you feel under siege due to the responses and it’s hard to be receptive when you feel like a lot of people are flooding you with criticism, but I stand by what I said. You’re not under any obligation to do anything about it, of course. I just put my pennies in. Make of it what you will.

    DRST

  158. As I’ve gone through cup sizes, I’ve never once noticed people treat me differently, and considering *you say yourself how much better you like it when your breasts are larger,* I’m willing to bet a large part of what you noticed was other people reacting to subtle cues you were giving off about how you felt about yourself.

    Okay, you know what? You don’t get to psychoanalyze me, and you’re going to lose that bet.

    natural fluctuation happens gradually and I can’t see people really noticing like you did because of that. I mean, think about it: As your friends in middle and high school grew and shrank and whatnot, did you ever really *notice?* Of course not, you see them every day and it’s not like one day you roll out of bed a cup size bigger.

    Yeah, sure, I definitely notice when my friends’ bodies change, and two cup sizes in a month is a plenty fast change anyway.

    As for the rest, I encourage you to read (again?) the extensive discussion we’ve already had about this, and consider the possibility that what I experienced is part of a larger pattern that absolutely might be more complex than my initial interpretation, but that is nonetheless a pattern that affects most or all women.

  159. DRST, if I had not acknowledged the effect of my privilege on my experiences, I would be [very fairly] called on that, and yet you’re complaining about the fact that I openly acknowledged and discussed it.

  160. Maybe I can put some of this “beauty standard” stuff, vis a vis breast size, into perspective (you know, add another layer of context here).

    Let’s say you are a well-qualified female RN or MD being interviewed for a job. Small breasts? Average size breasts? Large breasts? In general, no problem, no problem, no problem. (Yes, there are bound to be some exceptions.)

    Fat body? In general, you have a big (discrimination) problem. Oh, by the way, they’re not *discriminating against your appearance*, mind you…they’re *concerned about your HEALTH*, and about *your ability to be a HEALTHY role model.*

    Of course, if you’re willing to do volunteer work in Haiti…somehow they just might overlook the fat.

    Shiiiit.

  161. This is going to be long because I couldn’t find a way to concisely express my response without giving examples or details. I read most of the replies, but I apologize if what I’m saying here is repetitive because I’ve missed something.

    Volcanista, this appears to be a pretty personal post and as such I can totally understand that you’d feel personally attacked by some of the responses. However, after reading most of these comments I don’t think any here are directed at you as a person, they are directed at what you’ve communicated. The message, not the messenger.

    I have to agree with some others that this post just didn’t sit well. It didn’t come across as a lesson in your own body acceptance, nor a productive discussion on how bodies are perceived. It came across as belittling and insulting some groups, dismissing the creepy objectification of other groups, and mostly just a long winded bragging post about how hot you are with your culturally ideal thin body and big rack. So in essence you just preached about how wonderful people are to women if, like yourself, they fit the ideal; but you did so without any sense of irony or balance.

    The entire post also repeatedly hammered that bigger is always better — more sexy, more “girly”, more approachable, more attractive, more likely to give you positive reactions from the world. Making those will smaller racks feel inadequate (as if they don’t already get that enough) and those with larger racks feel dismissed (as if they don’t have to deal with unpleasant objectification daily).

    Now, I’m very, very certain that’s not at all your intention. And I’m not one to tell someone they shouldn’t express body pride. I’m personally glad that you’re feeling positive about how you look, because everyone should feel good about themselves.

    However, this wasn’t a post saying “my body has gone through a lot of changes and I love where it’s at right now. I feel sexy.” This was a post that repeatedly suggested that anyone who isn’t as genetically gifted is NOT sexy — not considered sexy by you and not by anyone else. Furthermore, you repeatedly implied that those people outside the ideal are considered so unattractive or outright pathetic that they are at best ignored by other people and at worst treated badly.

    I’m sure you can see the problem there. And I’m sure you can see why people are remarking about mistakenly universalizing your singular view. There are thousands of women in the world with small racks or chubby bodies who go about their life happy and well-treated. However, your post doesn’t account for that. It repeatedly states that your study of 1 person applies to all of womanhood. As a result, the rest of womanhood is left feeling bruised.

    Your comment about having to be nice to small breasted women came across as patronizing and insulting. See, they’re so pathetic that no one will be nice to them, so let’s go out of our way to make these neutered creatures feel ok. Like charity. Again, entirely sure that’s not your intent, but the tone of your post carried that sentiment throughout.

    Your comments about how great it felt to start getting attention because of your larger breasts came across as insulting and dismissive to the many many women of any size, but particularly the D+ size who do NOT welcome such attention, nor consider it a compliment. It also implied that the larger one’s breasts, the better the attention — an experience I’m sure many women would disagree with.
    It also ignored the many, many women who do not feel sexy at all with large breasts because the size and shape make it difficult to maintain the preternaturally youthful firm and round ideal. I doubt you meant to say any of that, but it’s what was communicated through numerous statements and the general tone.

    I’m not challenging your personal experience, because it is indeed YOUR experience and there’s nothing wrong with it. It is admittedly a difficult subject and I respect your attempt to address it.

    However, I think that your tone and the manner in which you conveyed your lessons learned managed to alienate or insult the huge part of the population that does not fall into the thin-body/C-cup-breasts category. And the reactions here are a result of that. In other words, I think your delivery is the problem here, not that the topic is inherently unapproachable. And your negating responses to many of the comments suggests to me that perhaps at this time you’re feeling too personally close to the subject to objectively recognize some of the complaints.

    Again, I’m quite certain that was not your intention. And I can see you tried to balance things out by peppering in little phrases here and there about . However those came across as less sincere and more obligatory to try to soften your tone. In other words when you say something patronizing then follow it up with “but you don’t have to care about it if you don’t want to” it rings hollow. Even if you did mean it sincerely.

    In short, I think you’ve inadvertedly made people feel worse about themselves by creating a situation of comparison. When in reality you probably just mean to say you’re feeling more comfortable with your body now that you feel it’s closer to the cultural ideal, and that you’ve noticed some differences in how people respond to you as a result.

  162. but the only thing I could do as I read this was kind of laugh and think, “Oh, right, those giant C-cups… SO indicative of what people with large breasts deal with,”

    I know this has been beaten to death, but Volcanista is not making claims about “people with large breasts.” She’s describing how she experienced a significant difference in her social status when her rack was the biggest it’s ever been on her own body.

    I know several people have pointed to this paragraph as being problematic:
    But what caught me even more by surprise was how much friendlier people were — men and women, friends and colleagues and strangers. Most of those people probably were not even particularly interested in sleeping with me or deliberately hitting on me (hard to believe, I know!). They were just… nicer. I didn’t have to wear anything especially revealing for that to be true, either. Bigger breasts just meant better treatment in general, and while some men were creepy and deliberate about it (see above), for most people it seemed to be unconscious. We are heavily socially conditioned to react favorably to breasts.

    Personally, I read that as being clearly about one woman’s experience, and when she says “bigger breasts” she means “bigger than mine used to be,” not “bigger on the general scale of breasts everywhere.” I see how it can be interpreted differently, and I think a good discussion is going on about body shape, size, and relative privilege in this thread as a result. But I really don’t think Volcanista is making claims to be a) large-breasted, b) an expert on large breasts and life with them, or c) what breast size is The Hardest To Have.

    I understand that this post resonated with some people and rankled others; that’s often how it goes around here. I encourage everyone to continue to talk and continue to question or disagree with what people, including me, are saying about gender and social treatment. But please, everyone, stop trying to second-guess what Volcanista says happened in her own life with regard to her own body. I asked her to write something very personal because I thought it would make a good discussion; I wouldn’t have asked her to if I had anticipated people telling her that she’s interpreting her own life incorrectly.

  163. Well, somebody up there asked for experiences regarding small breasts, and as a bonafide member of the flat-chested club, I suppose I can chime in. At 20, my breasts are the biggest they have ever been at about a 38A or AA. I can’t imagine what it is like to have a rack-o-doom and all the cultural SHIT that goes along with it, but I do object to being called “privileged” as someone without a chest. I might agree that there is an ideal that does get privilege, but I feel that the privilege stops when you start getting smaller than that.

    In one way, I suppose my experiences mirror having a doomrack. I can’t find bras that fit me in a brick-and-mortar store and I can’t afford to order from the one website I’ve found online that caters to weird big-band-tiny-breast sizes like mine. The current bras I’m wearing are 36As (after that you’re apparently too fat to not have boobs :P) that I got years ago and have stretched to be my size and a couple of 38Bs that skew small and that I need to put inserts in to not have them pucker.

    But in the sexualization arena, my experience is I suppose a mirror opposite. I’ve never had people stare at my chest when I was talking to them. I’ve never had people make objectifying comments about my breasts. But I’ve definitely have people actively and painfully non-sexualize my breasts. A good friend has actually said that I couldn’t be sexy with breasts as small as mine. Now it was a throwaway, joking comment, but it’s stuck with me throughout the years because it illustrates a lot of the cultural attitude towards women with a small chest (and because it hurt a lot). I am told repeatedly that I am not feminine enough in a variety of small, insidious ways: “Real women have curves.” A cultural implication that the only women that can “get away with” having small breasts must be extremely tiny everywhere else (which I am not, to note). Tiny implications in advertising and conversations and dominant cultural narratives that build up over time into a nasty voice in the back of my head. “If you had breasts, you wouldn’t have to cause so much trouble for the nice bra-fitting lady.” “If you had breasts, you’d have a boyfriend right now because you’d actually be able to attract men.” “If you had breasts, your stomach wouldn’t look so fat because of the balancing quality.” And so on.

    And while all this may not be as actively and blatantly fucked-up as having people be disgusting at you over your chest, it is still damn painful and has given me years of grief and body insecurities.

  164. Actually, E and O, I never said it felt great to get that better treatment. It didn’t! Which is why I didn’t say it. I just happened to GET better treatment, which I observed and found INTERESTING. Interesting academically. It pisses me off to get better treatment for something temporarily different about my body, so it never felt good.

    Which means the small-breasted women I’m suggesting ought to be treated better are ME, like 6 months from now. I’m not being patronizing towards those women. I’m asking for it FOR MYSELF. Which is why you actually are challenging my experience, even if you don’t realize it, and why it’s personal. It’s personal, folks! There is no way for this not to be personal. I’m not taking it too personally, because it is, in fact, just that personal.

    I’m more comfortable with my body now because I’m older and have become more comfortable with my body now. But my comfort with my body has next to nothing to do with the post. My breasts are bigger today; they will mostly likely be tiny again in 6 months. Nothing I can do about that, and it doesn’t actually change the comfort I have developed with my body as I have matured. And while it does sound like a few people misread my tone as being disrespectful when actually it was self-deprecating, I want you to look at this comment thread: most readers did not misread that. Most people took the words I said to be honest, and not hollow. My tone is different from the SP bloggers’, because I am a different person and have a different writing style (with a voice that is very much like my own voice IRL, actually). In fact, every person who read this post and knows me in real life was just as shocked as I was by the negative reactions here, which maybe says a lot more about how universal my sense of humor is than anything else.

    RNigade, sure, the issue of breast size is different from the issue of body size, but I’m not sure that changes anything about my post or the comments I’ve made since. I absolutely agree that it’s true, though. It’s a different issue and brings with it different baggage, though there are clearly areas where those issues overlap.

  165. I have body parts which are just… not sexual… too.

    Totally agreed. There are parts of my body that I’m totally fine with, but don’t do anything for me sexually (tummy, feet, etc.), that I know other people find sexy in general.

  166. Meems: The bit I find strange is when my partner finds bits of me which make him go “woo!” and me go “meh.” That’s always strange to me.

  167. “So is there like anyone not getting a certain degree of shit for their breasts? When I notice women with smaller breasts I think wow, they can rock a tube top and not look pr0nish and they look at me and think she can make a v-neck stand up and cheer. Neither of us are seeing things the way they really are. ”

    I have always noticed how awful the media is about boobs (and everything else), but it’s never been directed at me by real people. Not sure why. I’ve never felt invisible, socially or sexually. In fact I’ve always felt exposed.

    I can’t relate to Volcanista’s post but I’ve been the same size since I was 15 so I can’t make such a comparison.

    “Bonnie, I love your comment about how you’ve never felt bad about your breasts, but let’s avoid the language of “normality” for body types, okay?”

    Oops, sorry.

    I suppose I meant ‘average’ and only in terms of size. Is this okay to say?

    Of course there is a huge variety among breasts, and being small-breasted is not abnormal in any way, but to be as small as I am is very rare. The only people I have known with breasts the same size are my mom and a couple other women I’ve seen only in passing. Keeping in mind that I don’t pad my chest.. I suppose many other women could be out there who were as flat but wore enhancing undergarments so I wouldn’t have been able to tell.

  168. Ailbhe – Sorry if this is too flip for this thread, but does your partner go, “woo!” in the literal sense? Mine does, and it annoys me to no end.

  169. RNigade–
    Yeah, that completely sucks, and I agree that it’s particularly hard to handle in the medical profession, where everyone just knows fat is unhealthy. I’m going to go out on a limb, though, and guess that those who walk into interviews with non-standard appearances, particularly women who look very young or women who look very sexualized (ie, have large breasts on small frames, larger tushes, and so forth), are also in for a world of trouble because they do not look how medical professionals should look. Which, in most people’s subconscious minds, is still older, academic, serious, and often male.

    Which in no way changes the fact that fat discrimination is horrifying. I’m just pointing out that women get screwed in hiring, especially to better-paying jobs, on the basis that they don’t “look” the part, even when their looks are socially approved in other venues. Fat is part of it, and an important part, since much of the fat scare is actually just a “how women ought to be” scare, but boob size isn’t necessarily no big deal, either.

  170. Volcanista, this appears to be a pretty personal post and as such I can totally understand that you’d feel personally attacked by some of the responses. However, after reading most of these comments I don’t think any here are directed at you as a person, they are directed at what you’ve communicated. The message, not the messenger.

    And this is comforting how?

    You’re being a patronizing douche. Both YOU and YOUR message fucking grate. It IS personal because the comments are in response to HER FUCKING POST! Please take this foolishness elsewhere. We’re all stocked up here.

  171. @Starling–point taken. Discrimination in employment and hiring is wrong no matter what bullshit is used to rationalize it.

    @Volcanista–point taken.

    It’s a pathetic commentary on our society when a thin woman could get treated “nicer” if only she wore a padded bra. That’s just so fucked.

  172. RNigade–
    Same bullshit, different spoon, right? Although there is something uniquely annoying about the way that fat discrimination isn’t even something people are ashamed of. Other types of prejudice tend to scurry around like rats in the subconscious instead of being proclaimed loudly, by people who should have the education and experience to know better.

  173. I was going to jump in response to @serenity’s first comment but I see others already responded. Anyway, another vote here for breasts being sexual, for me and many others.

    In response to her second comment, she said: “I agree that other body parts are sexualized too. Hell, *women* are sexualized. We’re the sex class. I hate that I’m not able to opt out of that. Being sexy for your partner is one thing. Being objectified in public is quite another.”

    I am a sexual being and I don’t mind being noticed in a sexual way, when it’s appropriate. My body shape means I’m privileged to be able to opt in or out based on how I dress. I understand other women have a different experience.

    I don’t think it’s just confined to women though. I find plenty of sexy things about guys I encounter, from body parts to the whole package. I don’t think it means I’m looking at them as a sex object or objectifying them, it’s just that I notice the presence or absence of my own sexual attraction, along with all the other responses I have to a person. Is that so bad? I don’t think that’s so bad… and I don’t think it’s a million miles from how many men respond to women.

    Some men do objectify women, and some are outright jerks, I have no argument there. But I hope you’re not saying that humans should switch off sexuality and sexual responses entirely when dealing with other adults. Because a) that’s not possible for any mammal and b) how would we ever meet and fall in love with our partners in the first place?

  174. Volcanista has already clarified that a) she was talking about her personal experience and b) she was comparing C cup to A cup not all bigger breasts to all smaller breasts. So why is everyone still beating her over the head about it?

    It’s fine to be irritated by a post and to post about your response, but it’s wearying to read a thread with the same points and counter-points being made over and over. And it’s probably even more wearying for she who wrote it.

  175. The Other Caitlin–
    I don’t think anyone here is going to go all Andrea Dworkin on you and demand we stop with the sex stuff, period. But men and women are not sexualized in the same way in this culture, and the sexualization of women is active in extremely inappropriate settings, including work and education and health care.

    My boyfriend has long blond hair. Sometimes, on Friday nights when he’s out on the town and has his hair down, men will follow him and catcall (“Hey, pretty lady!”) until he turns around and they realize that he’s this enormous Irish guy, not the blond woman they thought they were chasing. He told me this with complete amazement. He’s never had that experience except when being perceived as a female in a public space.

    THAT’s the kind of public sexualization that has to stop–not adults finding each other sexually attractive and pursuing a connection in a respectful and appropriate way, but the public catcalls, the random men yelling, “Smile!” or “Great tits!”, the judgment of competence based on sexual cues, the reining in of female ambition by sexually derogatory comments (um, slutty flight attendant? MILF? Lesbian? Bitch? Any of these sound familiar?)

    I don’t think any of us can truly opt out. We can send messages with our clothing and presentation, but if my boyfriend can get catcalled at 6’1″ and 275 lbs, wearing jeans and a tee shirt, then none of us has the control we think we have.

    FWIW, I’d love to see a standard of sexual approaches that is more similar to how gay men proceed in a public place–cautiously, waiting for affirmative responses, and never assuming that sexual overtures are always welcome and complimentary. (It’s a criminal shame that this caution is a result of hatred and violence, and that’s obviously not something I advocate.) It would be nice if men didn’t just assume that sexual come-ons are okay because they’re men, and we’re women, and that makes it all cool.

  176. Um, yeah, that topic isn’t a hot button for me or anything . . . .

    Honestly? Most men are fine. It’s the cultural expectation for man-woman interaction, even in non-sexual spaces, that’s the problem.

  177. *timidly ventures*

    I think, maybe, the reason this post is getting so much round-robin responses is because this post touched a sensitive topic and evoked more of an emotional response than some others.

    I loved this post, and found nothing wrong with it (though I also find the responses fascinating) but honestly, after reading it for a bit I was like “really? . . .damn”. As a person who is good at getting overlooked or brusquely treated, it kinda bummed me out to find something else could possibly be causing it that I can’t/don’t want to change.

    If I’m spouting a load of bull I’m really sorry, but maybe?

  178. @ Chava – RE the hand washing issue, hey, I may be a germphobe but that’s just too much work, in my opinion. I know that in theory my bras would last longer if I handwashed them, but…sorry, nope, too lazy. Into the washer they go, and the dryer. The occasional bent underwire is a price I’m willing to pay for extra convenience.

    @ Alibelle – Not to be creepy or anything, but I always assumed your icon was taken from some sort of classic painting a la The Girl with the Pearl Earring or something. The fact that that’s actually you…yeah, anyone giving you any guff about your appearance needs to STFU. You’re gorgeous.

    RE The overall point that seems to be emerging here – yep, pretty much everyone gets given shit about their boobs at some point, regardless of size. Even if they’re considered “perfect” when a woman is young, ageing will change that. I don’t think trying to desexualise them is the answer though – partly because I don’t think it’s possible – more that we need to somehow figure out a way to train people that hey, they can have whatever sexual response they want to whatever they happen to see, but they need to keep it to themselves unless it’s been made clear that commentary would be welcomed by the person they’re ogling. And if it’s going to be negative commentary, then there’s really never a need to share that.

  179. I am betting Kari won’t make it all the way down here, but if she does — please please pretty please share your secret manufacturer for unpadded bras for a 32 A that fit and flatter!

    I have to say as a barely-breasted girl, bra shopping has been demoralizing over the years… places like V.Secret make me feel my breasts are so disgustingly small, as they don’t deign to carry my size — or if they do, only in extremely padded fashions that make me feel like I’m wearing a bulletproof vest.

    And lastly, RNigade? I’m in love with your handle.

  180. Khronos, hell yeah, it depresses me, despite the lighthearted tone I used in the post. Like I said above, I’ll surely be that small again soon enough, and now I’m even more aware of how I’m treated. I wish our society didn’t fucking suck.

    CassandraSays, I totally threw them in the wash and said ‘fuck it’ in the past, but now that I have a few very nice ones… yeah, I can’t afford to have them wear out. I don’t wash them more often (still wear them about once a week and wash the whole bunch every few weeks), but I do handwash now, in big batches in the bathroom sink. The handwash soap is supposedly better for the elastic anyway.

  181. Dear Women With Very Small Breasts,

    I apologize for contributing to your feeling of invisibility. The reason I was ignoring you during my growing-up years was not because I thought you were unattractive or unfeminine. It was because I thought your boobs were so breathtakingly lovely that I was afraid I might stare at them and make you uncomfortable. I was also a little worried about being run out of town on a rail, because where I come from, people were not very nice to girls that admired other girls’ boobs.

    Love,

    Rachel

  182. @ Volcanista – You know, your experience with the varying boob size is actually striking me as remarkably similar to women who’ve been at both the culturally approved weight range and noticeably above it. I’ve been in both positions, and even though I’m back in the approved range again I’ll never forget how much day to day treatment by society in general changes when you’re not, so I think I get what you were trying to get at with this post. It’s a nasty thing to realise just how much of how people treat others is based on appearance, and once you’ve seen it you can’t un-see it.

    Ideally people learn from this, but not always. I have a friend who went from being in the not-approved-of category all her life (overweight, acne) to the approved-of category and instead of learning that hey, it’s not cool that people treat “prettier” people better, she seems to have decided that the fact she’s now being treated better means that she actually IS better and deserves to be treated like a princess. It’s depressing as hell to watch, so I’m actually glad to see someone learn something from having seen both sides of the picture.

  183. The Other Caitlin:

    “I am a sexual being and I don’t mind being noticed in a sexual way, when it’s appropriate. My body shape means I’m privileged to be able to opt in or out based on how I dress. I understand other women have a different experience.”

    The key thing being ‘when it’s appropriate.’ In my experience, I’ve been unable to opt out, because no matter how I look, as a woman I’m definied as ‘sexy’ or ‘unsexy’ – and it’s the same men that will catcall an attractive woman that will shout derogatory comments at a woman they don’t feel attracted to. Men don’t get defined like this. Noticing ‘the presence or absence of your own attraction’ doesn’t equate to making it known to the person in a disrespectful manner.

    There are respectful ways to approach someone you’re attracted to – unfortunately, not everyone
    has that sort of consideration.

    Also, ditto on everything Starling said, much more eloquently than I could have.

  184. I have small 12A (=34A, I think?) boobs. I’ve never felt bad about them, or wished them to be anything other than what they are. My only memories of boob-related teasing stem form my classmates finding my lack of bra ownership odd (I was a late bloomer, so I didn’t actually need support until almost mid-way through high school).

    Forgive me if this is a derail, but what exactly is the purpose of a training bra? I’ve never really understood it myself – putting bras on girls who have not even remotely begun to develop physically. Is it a habit-development thing? Marketing ploy? Extremely early damage-prevention measure? My mother is from the Philippines (that seems somewhat relevant), and/so she never put stock in the idea, and I found it a little confusing myself at the time – it was presented as something that just simply “should” be in place.

    My apologies if my comment is problematically worded – I’m feeling especially ineloquent today!

  185. @perla – I think training bras are mostly the result of marketing. I think they can be useful depending on the situation. For example, underneath a really thin garment, a training bra can provide some coverage.

  186. I always figured training bras were for girls when they got “breast nubbins,” right before they actually started getting breasts, so the nipple and surrounding slight raise in fat would be less noticeable under thin tee-shirts.

    I have also been all over the boob spectrum and wore everything from a 36A to now a 34F/36DDD. Granted the A was from back when I basically didn’t eat so I’m not sure how much that counts. In any event, I always find it funny when bra sizes come up and my roommate and I (both of us are American living in Norway) mention our Rack of Doom ™ sized bewbage, and people get so surprised. Granted, she’s a size 16/18 US and I’m a 12/14 US, so we’re not size 0′s with watermelons on the top, but we still have large breasts. According to those who have seen mine naked, they don’t seem big until they are unleashed from the bras, then, in the words of current bf: WOOHOO!

    In my family, it was almost a right of passage to get the bewbage and for a long time, I was the smallest, but also the most athletic. This last year was the first time that I needed to go up a size only because of bewbage.

    I definitely ended up with it easier than my cousin, who’s a size 4 with 34E breasts and receives no end of attention for it (and she dresses to minimize them) and has back problems.

    Please know that I love you all, and all y’alls boobies.

  187. A training bra would have been great for me, still flat-chested at 14 in a class full of well-developed 15-year-olds who mocked and derided me every gym glass while changing, so at least four times a week. And it would have been nice to have bra-straps showing under my clothes like everyone else had, so the boys on the bus didn’t announce that I didn’t have them, too.

  188. Hey, long-time reader here, haven’t replied in the comments in a LONG time.

    This post really got me thinking about my own situation. This is something of a tangent, but I do think it connects to the “our society is fucked up” point. I have a BRCA1 mutation, so I have a 33-50% chance of breast cancer by age 50, an 87% chance by age 70, and greater chance counting longer than that. People with my particular mutation tend to have particularly aggressive cancers (breast cancer is NOT “a good cancer” for people with this mutation, survival rates tend to be much lower), and bc has not been nice to my family’s young and middle-aged women. ANYWAY, because of this, I will probably be having a prophylactic mastectomy with breast reconstruction in the next few years. Most of the discussion in BRCA mutation communities focuses on breast reconstruction techniques and the way to get the best cosmetic result possible. Reconstruction is being done immediately now because it’s considered psychologically damaging for women to go without breasts for a period of time, and there is almost no discussion of the decision to go breast-free for either breast cancer survivors or those at extremely high risk, even though reconstruction is a more arduous, painful, and involved process physically than mastectomy. Plus, some types of reconstruction (not all, and I do think these are becoming less common, because microsurgeries that only use skin and subcutaneous fat are becoming more common) leave you with permanent muscular weakness, because they take muscles and stuff them into your breasts. Also, almost all women who decide to change the size of their breasts go bigger. I actually heard of one instance in which a plastic surgeon tried to pressure a large-breasted woman who wanted to go smaller into keeping her boobs the same size (fortunately, she ignored the dickhead and found another surgeon).

    So, here we have this group of women who are undergoing major surgery to save their own lives, and the major topic of conversation is how to make your boobs look best. Women talk about “feeling sexy,” “feeling like a woman,” “feeling normal,” or how “my husband likes it.” Of course, when you have reconstruction, you don’t really even *feel* all the much — the boobs are pretty much numb with implants, and you regain about 30% of the feeling with a tissue flap. It’s all about how they look. There seems to be more time and energy spent on appearance rather than anything else. Before reconstruction was possible, women with breast cancer had to get mastectomies without reconstruction, and I hear that because of this, in the 50s and 60s, breast cancer was something of a “dirty secret,” something you didn’t talk about in mixed company largely because of this type of mastectomy. Cancer was not only deadly, it was social deviance.

    And of course, while breast cancer is a cause to be celebrated today, it’s sexualized. When “breast cancer awareness” ads pop-up and there are pictures of breasts, they are usually pictures of young women with large breasts and no evidence of surgical scars. One organization is called “Save the Ta-Tas” (because, you know, it’s not about saving women’s lives, it’s about saving their breasts). A campaign like this alienates women who have removed their breasts, or a breast, to save their lives. Yet sometimes I wonder if this is the very reason why breast cancer has become such a popular cause; the idea of having to remove breasts strikes fear into the hearts of so many women and men (oh noes, lack of breasts is denying men teh boobz).

  189. Interesting post and discussions.

    First a confession

    If they’d been filming me in that video clip the little bell would have been ringing

    I look at boobs too! Because boobs are attractive and because we’re biologically programmed to check out the gene pool and the competition
    (sorry, that’s an ugly way of phrasing it but it’s true)

    If you fit a video camera to everyone at a party you’ll find that people look at faces first, briefly then the female gaze tends to flick to the genital area if we’re looking at a man or the breasts if we’re looking at a woman (this doesn’t seem to vary much with orientation) The male gaze flicks to the genital area if looking at a another man and the breasts, then waist and hips if looking at a woman.
    This gaze pattern repeats several times and the more prominantly “displayed” the breasts or genitals are the more we look.

    You and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals :)

    So I’ll cut the make gaze some slack but that’s not to say I’m going to make excuses for leering or overtly sexualised remarks or for loathsome media campaigns which seek to make women feel they need to enhance or reduce their breasts in order to achieve some patriarchal ideal of “perfection”

    Having said all of that I also confess to a love/hate relationship with my own breasts.

    When I was 15 they suddenly grew to a 38DD and that’s how they’ve stayed ever since. In my younger days I had a very small waist and hips and looked like I was in danger of overbalancing. The rest of me has matured into a UK size 14-16 whilst the breasts have stayed the same size .

    Dresses which fit my bust hang like a sack everywhere else and have to be altered. Anything not fitted makes me look the same size as my bust all the way down. Anything which buttons over the bust is a no no.

    This I can deal with . But I’d love to be able to wear lower cut clothes without feeling like I’m putting myself on display. I have no objection to the “eye flick” towards the breasts because that’s literally beyond our control but I do object to the fixed gaze or to people talking to my chest rather than to me.

    If I put on a lower cut top than usual I quickly become uncomfortably aware of unwanted attention and to a perception that people are treating me as if my IQ has magically lowered with my neck line and then I seek to cover up. I own several hastily purchased garments from days which started out with me feeling attractive and self confident and ended with me dashing for literal and metaphorical cover!

    In my younger days I developed poor posture which I now attribute to hunching over to try and minimse my breasts … and let’s not talk of the torture devices known as minimizer bras or the needlework required to make sure that buttons stayed buttoned before I decided that buttons and boobage were non mixy things.

    I dislike this intensely! I also dislike the ” reassurance” which runs along the lines of ” If you’ve got it! Flaunt it!”

    So yeah

    I’m more comfortable in my own skin at 49 than I was at 19 but I’ve got a way to go before I can say that I accept and love my body just the way it is.

  190. I think what CassandraSays has the take that’s closest to what I’m thinking about this post. I’m another person who found the statement that implied that “bigger boobies = better treatment” was a bit facile (and yes, I appreciated that it was an observation, not an “isn’t that great” statement). I’ve also found some of the responses to people pointing out that big is not necessarily better pretty defensive (although totally understood about defending the point that it wasn’t about celebrating the fact; merely discussing why that experience might be).

    Anyway, from CassandraSays: [Volcanista's experience seems] remarkably similar to women who’ve been at both the culturally approved weight range and noticeably above it. Now, if it had been phrased that way, that the positive treatment seemed to correlate with the boob size getting closer to the “ideal”, I think many of us wouldn’t have been so flummoxed at elements of the original post, because we can most certainly agree with that “cultural approval” statement.

    I’m in the “huge rack” group, and I frankly dislike my breasts. It is also to do with my gender presentation – I’m a butch dyke, and my E or G breasts do not fit my self image at all. I have had plenty of people (of all genders and sexualities) give me the “OMG get that rack away from me” look, and I have even had prospective partners be actively put off by my breasts (some women who prefer butches do so because they very much like the androgynous look).

    Even with straight men, there is a dissonance between my abundant chest and my so-not-sexually-available-to-them presentation – I can always tell when a guy becomes aware of my rack, and it is generally not a positive thing for them either, because of that dissonance. Think about the “ugly old ladies with massive busts” trope – it’s distaste that that one elicits. It’s only in specific circumstances that a huge rack is culturally acceptable (porn and Hollywood actresses being two milieus that springs to mind, and those possessing the massive racks had generally better be young, slim, long-haired and conventionally attractive).

    Personally, I’m seriously considering getting reduction surgery. I wonder, if my breasts were closer to the C-cup “ideal”, that I would have similar experiences to Volcanista? I suspect so.

  191. It’s a nasty thing to realise just how much of how people treat others is based on appearance, and once you’ve seen it you can’t un-see it.

    i guess we do tend to be more aware of how this happens with weight, so it was interesting reading volcanista’s experiences with breast size. i actually feel a little fortunate that since mine have always been on the very small side, i therefore have none of these contrasting experiences to “un-see.” but i have no trouble believing that it happens, and that it happens more whether you go from small or large to the “ideal middle” range (which does not contradict the original post, just adds onto it an observation that the author has herself admitted sounds viable, so let’s give her some credit here!).

    the one contrast i have experienced is having small breasts on a thin body and still pretty small breasts on a larger body. however, i have a really hard time evaluating whether and how other people’s treatment changed reflecting changes in my weight because my own self-image gets in the way too much. i have hated my body and blamed it for feelings of invisibility when i’ve been thin and flat-chested or fat and slightly-better-endowed, i have loved my body and blamed my personality and shyness for feelings of invisibility at both ends of the size range, and at this point i don’t really feel invisible most of the time anyway. this has sooooo much more to do with being comfortable with myself than my appearance that i can’t even evaluate where appearance comes in because i’m always seeing through tinted glasses…yay for growing up, i guess! (i am writing about wanted attention and basic courtesy by the way, i have never attracted catcalls on the street or harassment in the US. i am sure one’s self-image has little to nothing to do with that, and i’m pretty grateful for that invisibility.)

  192. This has been a really fascinating discussion, but one that brings up some painful feelings for me (as for many others here). My woes have been due to smallness, late development (AA until my late 20′s, then gradually increased to a B), and shape (very widespread and flattened out). When I gain weight, it all goes straight to my abdomen, especially my upper abdomen, so my breasts don’t stick out at all.

    I’m an extremely introverted person and don’t like to attract attention, but I also don’t like to be completely ignored, especially by co-workers. I’ve long thought that the fact that I’m ignored a lot (and interrupted a lot) is due to a bunch of things: my quiet personality, my very plain face, my modest-to-downright-frumpy style of dress, my shortness. It hurt to read this post and see that my flat chest might also be contributing. It also hurt to hear Volcanista say how hot she felt with her larger breasts. It confirmed a suspicion I’ve long had: I’ve never felt hot in my life, but I’ve always wanted to; maybe if I did have larger breasts I could get that feeling, too. I feel sad about it. I wish I knew how to feel hot the way I am.

    On the other hand, sometimes I think I get along better with women because I’m below average in hotness. When I was hired in my current job, my department consisted of all married men. I was to be the first woman, and I was on the youngish side and single. When I showed up to the first department party, I could sense the other women’s relief (though it’s just as likely that I projected it onto them). The new hire was a plain jane, dressed like an old maid, and without a flirtatious bone in her body. Whether the relief about that was coming from the other women or was just my own invention, it did help me relax and I felt comfortable with everyone right away. A couple of years later I went through a phase of trying to dress a little nicer, wearing makeup and a padded bra. I made the mistake of dressing that way for dinner with one of my favorite couples, and they never invited me back again even though we had been getting together fairly regularly. The husband also stopped eating lunches with me at work.

    Sometimes it just feels like women are constrained on all sides — no matter what we do, how we look, there are huge penalties. It’s been eye-opening for me to hear the painful stories from women with larger breasts. I’ve always felt so jealous of you all, but now I just feel outraged on behalf of all of us.

  193. I enjoyed this post — but it’s always been important to me to hear people’s experiences. She’s one person, and her experience is going to vary from mine or anyone else’s.

    When I was younger, I got teased a lot about being flat-chested. I always expected I’d end up pretty flat-chested and stick-figured — so ending up at 34C was one hell of a surprise to me. My size has been pretty static since I was 17, which is when they more or less suddenly appeared, which a brief stint at 36C when I gained some weight in my first year of university.

    Now, the main difference I notice in the way I’m treated is dependent on what I’m wearing. I’m genderqueer, so I tend to express myself a lot through my clothes, everything from baggy jeans and chest-binding to dresses and low-cut shirts. I’m definitely treated differently when I wear things that show cleavage — I’d had random men come up to me to tell me I’m pretty — but that may have more to do with my gender presentation than anything else.

    All that said, as you may have gathered from my bra size, I’m pretty small. My experience is a pretty narrow one, that of a small genderqueer person who more or less fits into clothes off the rack. A lot of people have incredibly different experiences with their breasts — god knows I’ve had a whole range, without even changing size. I have the “ideal” size, but for a long time I really hated my breasts because they prevented me from being as androgynous as I wanted to be, and they don’t bind particularly well. I’m often frustrated by the way low-cut shirts and tank-tops don’t fit me because my breasts are set high on my chest or fitted button-downs pop open even when they fit everywhere else.

  194. It also hurt to hear Volcanista say how hot she felt with her larger breasts. It confirmed a suspicion I’ve long had: I’ve never felt hot in my life, but I’ve always wanted to; maybe if I did have larger breasts I could get that feeling, too. I feel sad about it. I wish I knew how to feel hot the way I am.

    I’m sorry it made you feel that way, but really, it wasn’t gloating. It’s a temporary change. The larger breasts won’t last; they never do. And part of the issue is that I felt hotter because the patriarchy tells me so, and I’ve internalized that message even though I know it’s not based on anything true — which was part of what I was addressing. But I also have come to a place as I’ve gotten older where I love my body more just the way it is anyway, no matter what size my bust happens to have decided to be this month. It took a long time to get there, though (and incidentally, it happened for the most part when my breasts were little).

    Yeah, Trix, the post never said anything about how “great” it was to have experienced different treatment when my body changed, so I’m glad you didn’t hear that. I never said it because it’s not at all the case. And I don’t think it was entirely unreasonable for me to get defensive (which I’ve acknowledged a few times in the comments), because the negative reactions to the post were pretty defensive to start with, and many of them tried to reinterpret my own experiences, which, just no.

    You know, and this is a general response, I want to point out that, particularly when we belong to a disadvantaged group (women), the “rewards” and better treatment some people receive for hewing closer to the expected or desired body/behavior/personality/etc. are a very mixed bag. Being white or tall or thin or blonde or upper class or able-bodied or even busty makes a person more desirable or better in the context of the patriarchy, and a lot of rewards come with that, but sometimes the “positive” attention can bring with it so much objectification or restriction that it becomes really clear how those advantages still exist within a frame that punishes women for being women. Thin women have it easier than fat women, no doubt about that; but undoubtedly some thin women will say they have been treated so exclusively as sexual objects that no one listens to anything they say, and that frankly, it sucks (and that hasn’t been most of my experience, so this example isn’t about me personally). We’re all still women. And large-breasted women are fetishized and objectified, which sucks ass. But they are objectified partly because it’s seen as a “desirable” trait in a culture that [more or less] rewards the women that best fill their designated roles — one of which is being the sex object. It’s especially easy to then slip from the madonna to the whore side of the binary, though, and the things the patriarchy thinks are rewards are often, uh, not.

    I feel like some of you might have felt defensive at the suggestion that larger-breasted women are in many cases treated better due to general social unconscious conditioning to react favorably to big breasts, and maybe that defensiveness happened because 1) those “rewards” actually can totally suck, and because 2) not every individual actually benefits. But observing that a person’s body might give them some advantages is not the same as saying they “have it easy.” That’s 101 stuff.

    Being a woman means a life of catch-22s where you can’t be too sexy or too unsexy, too smart or too dumb, too strong or too weak. And the ideal is not so much the sexy woman or the busty woman, but the one who fills the role best, and the role is complicated and contradictory (sexy, yes, but also virtuous and nurturing!). Breasts are so sexualized that having very large ones can put you straight into the too-sexy category, which is sometimes rewarded (when the role desired leans more to the sexy side) and sometimes seriously punished. So it’s clearly more complicated than just bigger = titty privilege. But overall? Small breasts are really, really not where it’s at. That is a patriarchally undesirable body: not maternal enough, not sexy enough, not feminine enough. The politics of small vs. large bodies and the role of bodily proportion make this even more complex, but one (of many) bottom lines is that being flat-chested puts a woman in a disadvantaged group.

  195. mymutantlife, wow, thank you for bringing your fascinating (and sobering) perspective to this discussion. Best of luck to you with the difficult decisions in your future.

  196. @mymutantlife “And of course, while breast cancer is a cause to be celebrated today, it’s sexualized.”

    I hadn’t thought of that before at all, but you are absolutely right. Its a bit of a surprise to see that, but you are completely right. Its pretty disgraceful when you think of it – that even breast cancer has to be dressed up and made pretty so that people will look ,think and acknowledge.

  197. I would really encourage those folks with this misplaced emotion to stop for a moment and seriously think about why you’re so fucking moved to react the way you have.

    I has been my experience in countless discussions on this topic that the most offended, wrongly rubbed and so forth are WHITE WOMEN, who often lack any other affiliations with other marginalized groups. Meaning they are white and fat, but otherwise they enjoy a good bit of privilege.

    And how do I know this?

    Because those of us who aren’t nearly so close to the beauty ideal don’t feel so goddamn entitled to be desirable.

    Yeah, that’s what you’re doing and communicating when you ride Volcanista like Seabiscuit.

    Those of us with lots of marginalized status have known most of our lives we weren’t new hotness and therefore it’s just not so shocking there is a way in which different privileges play out in people’s lives. Moreover, we’re not so quick to beat someone into the ground for working with what they have in order to get through their fucking day.

    Long story short, if this fat, black, queer woman can see that a lot of care and thought went into this post, what the fuck is everyone else’s problem?

  198. Thanks for that contribution, mymutantlife — I didn’t see your comment when I added mine earlier this morning, or I wouldn’t have ignored it. It’s a lot to think about and it adds a really important perspective to the discussion of the role that breasts play in social interactions and in what is considered an acceptable body.

    And snarky, I hadn’t even thought of it that way myself, but it’s such a good point.

  199. Re the LOST angle… I vote for “Make Your Own Kind Of Music” as one of the official songs of Shapely Prose. Thoughts?

  200. I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach after reading this post and have been thinking about why I had such a strong emotional reaction to something that basically starts out with fun bra shopping anecdotes and wackadoodle vintage ads.

    I think it boils down to being another reminder that some bodies are more privileged by our society and those privileges have real ramifications – and not just from the lecherous dudez, we can all fall into the trap.

    This is not something new here, obvy! Most of us deal with non-ideal* bodies, and some of us are non-ideal* in multiple intersecting ways. Volcanista’s better treatment through bigger breasts and the inverse is like a scene many of us play out throughout our lives.

    It just pisses me off to no end that the author is getting treated better for having more ideal* size breasts; the idea that I might subconsciously treat people differently based on breast size (or fill-in-the-blank) is disturbing, and I hate the reminder that some people are going to interact with me based on my super-fat body no matter how self accepting and cool with myself I am.

    I think that’s where some of my excess emotion is coming from.**

    *imagine ideal in scare quotes

    ** I know, I know, pull a chair up to the patriarchy table…

  201. It just pisses me off to no end that the author is getting treated better for having more ideal* size breasts; the idea that I might subconsciously treat people differently based on breast size (or fill-in-the-blank) is disturbing, and I hate the reminder that some people are going to interact with me based on my super-fat body no matter how self accepting and cool with myself I am.

    It’s true; it’s like the story from a few weeks back about the writer who started selling work immediately after adopting a male pen name. I feel like – for me, at least – I suppress a certain amount of knowledge of the various inequities that are being inflicted and personally that can sometimes cross over into “Oh, well, it’s not really that bad” justifications, and such a stark reminder that it IS that bad (and much worse for people with less privilege than myself) is powerful and disturbing.

  202. This was a very interesting post, and a very surprising comment thread. My reaction wasn’t “Hey, I have large-ish breasts and it doesn’t make my life great!” It was “Hmm, have I been ignoring flat-chested women?” And I took the call to be nice to the small-breasted as a reminder to check up on my own behavior, because it frankly pisses me off anytime I realize that I’ve been an oblivious cog in the Oppression Machine. So, Volcanista, thank you for telling me about this.

    As far as wondering about whether anyone has had a peaceful relationship with their breast size — I have. I’m a societally-approved 36D, and I can buy bras off the rack. (Of course, I’ve never been professionally fitted, so I might actually be a 32F, but my 36D bras are pretty comfy.) Put them on a white, middle-class, cis, early 30′s, inbetweenie, currently able body, add a tendency to dress frumpishly, and I’m pretty much invisible most of the time unless I deliberately try not to be. As a lifelong introvert, I like it that way. I don’t have to deal with (much) leering or ogling, and only a minimum of intrusive comments. (I’ve been told that, even when I’m not in front of a classroom, I radiate “teacher.” That may or may not have something to do with not being hassled very often.) I grew breasts at about the same time as most of my classmates and never stuck out (so to speak) on either extreme of the boobage range.

    Thinking about it, they may be one of my favorite of my own body parts. They’ve never caused me pain, unlike my wrists, arms, neck, back, stomach, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. They’re seldom the reason that an item of clothing I’m trying on doesn’t fit. I’ve never been consumed with shame or self-loathing when looking at them in a mirror. Unlike mymutantlife (thank you so much for your thoughtful, moving post), I don’t have to regard them as possibly life-threatening. Basically, I really don’t think about them much. Threads like this one have made me realize that it’s really another kind of privilege.

  203. As a fat woman with large breasts, who used to be a chubby woman with large breasts, this post didn’t upset me at all.

    Yes, there’s thin privilege involved in volcanista’s experience, and I don’t think anyone -least of all her – is disputing that. I personally don’t have that thin privilege. I’ve always been plump enough to attract a certain amount of HEY FAT BITCH my way, so I struggle to identify with parts of her post (but who said I had to identify with all of it in order for her points to be valid?). I’m guessing that volcanista, as a slim woman with C/D cups, gets a better response than I do as a fat woman with G cups. I’ll bet she still gets a better response than I do when her breasts are much smaller than they are now, but I don’t know for sure.

    It would be ridiculous of me, however, to deny that big breasts carry privilege. There is undoubtedly an upper limit to that, where you officially become A Freak instead of The Hotness, and it’s vital to acknowledge this. It’s equally important to point out that the general response to big breasts isn’t one of unqualified awesome – some of it is frankly vile. But I do feel that some people have fallen into the trap of denying that they have any privilege at all, just because they lack it in certain key areas.

    If a white person is working-class and poor and struggling with all the crap that goes with that, their white privilege doesn’t just evaporate. If I am wearing a size 22 and struggling with the crap that goes with that, I do still win back some points for having large breasts. It sure doesn’t erase the general disgust at my weight, but I have no doubt whatsoever that my experience would be worse if I were instead a size 22 with very small breasts.

    Volcanista isn’t actually saying that everyone with big breasts has a totally easy time of it. She’s just saying that it makes a difference, and she’s right. It does.

  204. Oh man, Bridgie, that is a great synopsis of why I wrote the post. The tone was lighthearted but the reminder that we live in a society where some bodies are privileged over others is and was meant to be anything but light. And my personal level of enjoyment or whatever in my body was the furthest thing from the point — the point is that I was forced to see something I’d really rather not, and as was said above, I can’t un-see it.

  205. It has been very educational for me in checking my own privilege to read this post and the responses to it – so thank you for writing it, Volcanista. Even if it that wasn’t really your goal, you have certainly prompted me to re-think a lot of my assumptions. My initial reaction to the post, was, ‘yup!’ and then I was honestly surprised to see all the distress in the comments. This is because I have been unconsciously carrying around a lot of privilege, I think. As a white fat-t0-inbetweenie, I look more socially acceptable because I have a relatively small rack (36B) that I dress up or emphasize when I feel like being seen sexually and minimize when I don’t. I don’t think I have ever caught crap for my breasts, since they are large enough to fall within the realm of patriarchal acceptance but small enough that they aren’t the main attraction unless I put up lights and a marquee. Thanks for starting this discussion, Volcanista, and thanks to the commenters for making me more aware of my own unexamined experience.

    (PS I have already planned my whole evening around the season premiere of LOST and I could not be more excited about it.)

  206. Would love a guest post on the breast cancer issue discussed in one of the comments. I always wondered why the option of *not* having a (more painful, risky) reconstruction was never discussed. Or what’s it like for women who (knowingly) live with the risk, because they want what’s theirs (cultural appreciated or not, because there is a chance of no breast cancer as well)? I felt pretty weird when Christina Applegate was joking that her new breasts would never sag– so saggy breasts are bad, and the surgery is worth it for cosmetic reasons? (I realize she may just have been trying to make herself feel better and I don’t mean to attack her–but I felt weird about the implications of that statement, and the fact that so many would agree with it). There would be many interesting ideas here.

    It was nice to see a post on smaller breasts, and nice to see some commenters mention their breasts are sisters, not twins. All types are great, but lead to different perceptions.

  207. @Volcanista – this post has really helped me think about my small breasted best friend and how i have to tread lightly with my burgeoning acceptance of my own considerable rack. I made a crack the other day about my husband saying I could feed an army of babies and she countered with it’s not the size of the breast that determines feeding capability. It took me aback because I was joking in my mind (and trying to make light of something I’ve always been sensitive about) but that’s gotta be annoying to have to defend the fact that your breasts are able to do their feeding duty if called upon, which in turn ties in with the whole “femininity” aspect we’re talking about here.

    Also a shout out to NM, I’m from Roswell but now live in the midwest. The culture is, wow, way different… people actually show up on time (and early) for parties here!

  208. The Other Caitlyn — I wash my bras every day, yes. I didn’t used to, but I went to a similar fancy bra store and now, having paid so much per bra, I handwash after one wear. It’s better for the elastic — to get the oils/lotions from your skin off the bra, and to not stretch the elastic more than you have to (it will still, over time, get looser; that’s why they recommend getting a bra you fasten on the loosest set of hooks, so you can tighten it over time).

    Oh man. Once my godson tackled me into a super hug and then said, “Auntie Snarkys your hungrys smell like chicken fingers!”

    It was a compliment to be sure, but it certainly put me on the road to rinsing out the bras after I wear them.

  209. RE The breast cancer comment – I’ve never been tested for the gene, but my mother died of breast cancer, and my father’s sister had it too. When my Mom was in treatment one of her doctors suggested to me that I have a double mastectomy “just in case” (didn’t suggest that I get tested for the gene, presumably so the NHS wouldn’t have to pay for it). What bothered me was the way the suggestion was framed though – the way he put it was, once you’re married and you’ve had your kids (note – both these things were assumed, not things I’d said I wanted), then you should go ahead and have a double mastectomy just in case because “you won’t need” your breasts once you’ve found a man and breastfed your kids. When I protested that, you know, maybe we should see if I even have the gene before considering major surgery, he accused me of being shallow and stupid and willing to risk my life just to be pretty. I was 19 at the time, btw. My Mom’s other doctor, on the other hand, pressured her to think about reconstruction before she was even done with chemo, when she was still really really sick, because “you must think of your husband and how he feels”.

    Yeah, I’m bitter. The whole way the medical establishment handles breast cancer is really fucked up, far too much of it centers around what makes other people comfortable, not the woman who’s being treated, and it’s altogether an excellent illustration of women’s position in society. My comment above about not being able to un-see things once you’ve seen them? I really wish I could un-see how little society values women’s feelings about their own bodies, and how much it values their bodies being presented in the way that’s most comfortable for men, but unfortunately I cannot.

  210. *Trigger warning: cancer and mastectomy, misogyny*

    @Moi: you reminded me of an incident that still makes me stabby. I was watching Anchorman at my sister’s place, and her flatmate made a “hilarious” and “edgy” “joke”* asking of what “use” is Christina Applegate now that she had her mastectomy!

    *Triple dick fingers for emphasis of the fail

  211. Thanks everyone who responded to my reply. While I found this to be a really interesting discussion, what prompted me to post was that when I tried to find the word “cancer” on the page, I was kind of surprised that it was nowhere to be found, especially considering how common breast cancer is (not everyone has my level of cancer risk, but it’s still a pretty common cancer); it always seems like “breast cancer awareness” is everywhere, but there aren’t a whole lot of survivors talking about the physical repercussions and the differences in the way people treat them. Now that I’m starting to seriously think about surgery (I’m 28 and my youngest relative with bc was diagnosed at 31 and died at 33, so I’m definitely at risk now), all of the recognition about how breasts are so tied into seeing women as feminine is staring me right in the face.

    I felt pretty weird when Christina Applegate was joking that her new breasts would never sag– so saggy breasts are bad, and the surgery is worth it for cosmetic reasons? (I realize she may just have been trying to make herself feel better and I don’t mean to attack her–but I felt weird about the implications of that statement, and the fact that so many would agree with it). There would be many interesting ideas here.

    I remember her saying that; you make an interesting point. I mean, I know she was trying to look on the bright side of things (being a young breast cancer survivor who had a mastectomy and all), but the fact that having “perky boobs” was the “bright side” is kind of frustrating. I’ve noticed that in the high-risk community, that seems to be a pretty common thing that women say about their reconstructed breasts, talking about how they will never get saggy. Obviously that’s not the reason they had the mastectomy in the first place, but they see it as a good bonus. The fact that this is such a recurrent theme really emphasizes how the boob appearance is so important.

    @CassandraSays: WOW. That is pretty appalling behavior on the part of doctors and is so not standard protocol from what I’ve seen. If there’s no other bc on your mother’s or father’s side, they would need to do gene tests on both women to find out if you would even be at increased risk, since most breast cancer isn’t even familial. And the ASSUMPTION that you would want to get married and have kids, or that your mother would WANT to go through the arduous task of reconstruction — grrraaaaaaaah. I feel really lucky that my gyn oncologist didn’t even flinch when I said I don’t want biological children when talking about risk-reduction methods for ovarian cancer (women with BRCA1 mutations also have a 44% risk of ovarian cancer by age 70), and when talking about permanent surgical options, her concerns were about risk reduction efficacy and side effects of different types of surgery, NOT about “omg, are you SURE you don’t want children?” But you know what? I shouldn’t be “lucky” for having a doctor like that, because ALL doctors should treat women like that.

    her flatmate made a “hilarious” and “edgy” “joke”* asking of what “use” is Christina Applegate now that she had her mastectomy!

    MUST….CONTROL…RAGE….WHAT THE FUCK

  212. @mymutantlife – My impression has been from talking to women who’ve had reconstructions that the “well at least they won’t sag” thing is kind of trying to make lemonade when life gives you lemons? It’s definately influenced by patriarchal conditioning, but I don’t think it’s actually meant to imply anything bad about non-enhanced breasts/sagging etc, more just trying to make the best of a bad situation.

    My Mom’s entire experience with BC treatment was fucking awful, honestly. I mean, her first main doctor went on vacation in the middle of her treatment without telling her, one day she just showed up for an appointment and he’d been replaced by some guy she’d never seen before (the one who thought I should have a mastectomy just in case). It made me feel like maybe we just don’t want men involved in areas of medicine that focus on women’s bodies in general, in a way. And yeah, I can see all the ways that would be problematic, but I still kind of feel that way. I personally won’t see a male gyno for the same reason.

  213. ‘And large-breasted women are fetishized and objectified, which sucks ass.’

    Only some! I have a grandma shape. MILFs have hit the patriarchal big time, but GILFs not so much. *g* It’s the way clothes hang from me, I think – even with more body conscious choices. But being a 38I cup – well, it makes my head look small, I guess.

    I really appreciate the racial context that Shiyo brought up, too, and Trix’s comment about gender presentation.

    Trix – One thing I’ve talked about with a friend who is butch identified is that she dresses to minimize curves, but then the widest part of her body looks like her body’s perimeter, and she just reads as Bigger. Which, for my friend, is actually not a bad thing – she looks more like she is overall big. Of course, this also likely due to where her breasts are in relation to the rest of her – bodies all come in different styles. Anyway, it was an interesting perspective for me to hear and your comment put me in mind of that discussion.

    Mymutantlife, I am very appreciative of your contributions on a personal level, as I have a loved one going through this and suddenly negotiating society’s pink ribbon campaigns on a very different level.

  214. @CassandraSays: I agree with you 100%; I don’t think anyone actually getting reconstruction is putting down natural breasts (whether they be saggy or perky or in between or whatever). If I felt safe keeping my natural breasts the rest of my life, I would take that route (though as I see it, I basically have a choice between mastectomy in the next few years, or very probable mastectomy anyway+radiation+chemo+lower chance of staying alive later), and I am pretty sure that the vast majority of high-risk women who get surgery as well as breast cancer survivors with mastectomies feel the same way, based on conversations with others in the high-risk community. I just find it frustrating that what counts as the silver lining is so based on that patriarchal conditioning (and I’m kind of mad at myself that I do buy into it to an extent, too, even as I recognize what I’m doing).

    That’s appalling that her doctor didn’t even tell her he was going on vacation. A certain level of trust and communication is required for long-term treatment, and part of that is letting a patient know if you are leaving for a period of time. I am so sorry to hear that both of you had to deal with this bs when faced with such a crappy disease. And I totally get what you are saying about men being involved in medicine that deals with women’s bodies (though it’s worth noting that breast cancer is not exclusive to women, but yeah, in practice, it strikes FAR more women than men). I know that I generally feel like I get a certain level of respect from female doctors that I haven’t always gotten from the male doctors I’ve occasionally seen (for a few fairly minor issues that affect both men and women). Most (though not all) of the horrible, patronizing comments I’ve heard (from other people, not myself, thankfully) involving women’s fertility, sexuality, appearance, etc. have come from male doctors. Of course, as you said, it is on some levels problematic to say that male doctors shouldn’t treat problems exclusive to female bodies, especially since male/female is not a true binary, but unless things really began to change, I know it would be hard for me to see a male gynecologist, or even have a male primary care.

    @Arwen: I’m sorry to hear about your loved one. Best of luck to her as well as you on dealing with this.

  215. When my students do presentations on genetic conditions they’ve chosen from a list, they’re always STUNNED to find out that women with the high-risk BRCA alleles often choose prophylactic double mastectomies. I mean, it completely blows their minds. I use the analogy of finding out that there was a high chance that something might go fatally wrong with your foot — they’re usually more willing to accept that right off the bat, which leads to accepting prophylactic mastectomies. The part of this that blows my mind, of course, is the cultural conditioning that makes amputation of a foot more reasonable and acceptable than removal of breasts. (Does anybody remember that episode of Chicago Hope, some time in season 3, in which a young woman with one of the high-risk BRCA alleles comes in seeking prophylactic mastectomy? The [male] surgeon she goes to thinks she’s overreacting, makes some horrible comparison to one of the female doctors about how the patient might as well ask him to cut off her head, and gets one of those well-deserved verbal ass-kickings that I can only come up with fifteen minutes later, rather than in the moment.)

    The one exception to this was the semester that I had a young woman of Ashkenazi heritage presenting on breast cancer. She talked about the fact that everyone in her community knew at least one woman who had died obscenely young, about her own decision to have the genetic testing done while still in high school and her relief when it came back negative, about how few female relatives over the age of 40 she had on her mother’s side of the family and which of them were breast cancer survivors, and about the decision of a relative about her own age to have a prophylactic double mastectomy. None of the other students questioned the wisdom or necessity of that choice. Which gave me some hope — maybe it’s not about perceived worth of breasts vs. feet, but about statistics vs. having actual people behind those numbers.

  216. I came to this website hoping I would learn more about: women, our bodies, and our feelings about our bodies. I am grateful to hear so many honest, if painful, perspectives. I feel sad when rhetoric by women (intentionally or unintentionally) exposes other women to shame bombs (or darts).

    I don’t believe that a woman’s white privilege or class privilege, or a woman’s lack of affiliation with more than one (or two) marginalized groups = a greater sense of entitlement about being admired for one’s body/beauty. (I could be wrong & there may be studies of which I am unaware.)

    Based only on my own (anecdotal) experiences (shall I tally here my complete status of privilege and marginalization? because, if so, I’m not sure where “RN” would fit)… a woman’s love of her own body, or her acceptance of her body–or even her ability to stop hating her body–are processes created mostly through long, intense struggles against internalized oppression. I don’t think these processes are determined solely or even mostly by one’s privilege or marginalization. It’s not like a math problem by which you rationally tally up columns (of privilege and marginalization) to determine the total amount of internalized oppression and then have a clear understanding of the results.

    You can’t tell from overt indicators of privilege or marginalization, for example, whether a woman has been molested or raped, or whether she has been raised in a religion and/or a family that demands the daily/ritual shaming of women’s bodies, as a *celebration* of life. Yet these experiences influence her feelings about her body and about female bodies in general.

    Breasts (“tits”, “racks”, “boobs”, “hooters”…), and “female” bodies are incredibly loaded social/cultural constructions. Why would we imagine it would be unproblematic for women to (learn how to) discuss our bodies rationally and respectfully, even with each other?

  217. “Man, reading the comments here, it seems like whether you get breasts early or not, it sucks. I wore a bra about a year before I really needed one, TBH, just because I wanted so badly to fit in with all the rest of the girls.”

    Whereas my mother had to bully me into wearing first an undershirt (4th grade) and then a bra (5th grade). :)

    Yeah. It sucks all around. And it seems very much tied into the idea that we all are supposed to meet some standard of “normal” or “ideal” and can’t be individuals. (The whole bit about desperately wanting to fit in when one is a teen does not help either.) And of course very few people meet that ideal or norm – no one does really, when it comes to everything about them.

    And the crazy thing is, are we really all that different from each other? 4th to 7th grade – that’s three years difference. Considering how the rest of teens bodies varies from teen to teen, that’s really not that far off. It just *feels* light years apart because they are on either side of the bell curve – and opposite ends of the tween years.

    Saying that big breasted women have it so easy because everyone thinks they’re hot is just as reductive as saying that small breasted women have it so easy because there are more shirts.

    Thing is, I don’t think this is what she was saying.”

    Yeah, I don’t think so either. Which is why I disagreed with the assertion that volcanista was universalizing her experience. To me, it was more that there wasn’t really any acknowledgement in the post that there is a boobage spectrum beyond what she had experienced, thus leading to the implication that her “what can we all learn from this?” conclusions were meant to be more universal than was intended. I think that’s an important distinction. More because I think it’s more common (around here) for people to be super grounded in their own experience (*raises hand*) than it is for people logically think through everything and still say “well, everyone is like me, yes?”

  218. Some of the language we routinely use to describe small breasts is really disturbing. “having a chest” vs. “not having a chest” or “having no chest”; “flat” or “flat-chested”; “having no breasts” or “if I had breasts”. Having small breasts is having breasts. Even women who have had their breasts removed have chests, and very few people (including men) have chests that are really “flat”–the term is used to refer to healthy breasts of every shape that just happen to be smaller and in some cases less round than “ideal”. This language all plays into the idea that only women within a certain narrow range “count” as “real” women, as “complete” women, and that women outside that size and shape range are not “feminine, or “hot” and therefore not really women. Ugh.

    We’re all real and we’re all complete, no matter the size of our breasts, or whether we have breasts at all.

    Also, folks’ mileage obviously varies, but I personally dislike references to breasts as “the girls” or “the ladies”. They are not individuals; they don’t make the woman or stand in for an entire female person–they are body parts.

  219. @RNigade: thank you. I’ve been thinking about this all weekend. I felt a bit silenced by the suggestion that since Snarkysmachine fully understood that lots of care and thought went into the post, everyone should… and actually, I think that a lot of us who expressed concern with the post acknowledged that a lot of thought and care goes into Volcanista’s writing (at least, I tried to), but we still experienced some discomfort with it.

    “Breasts (“tits”, “racks”, “boobs”, “hooters”…), and “female” bodies are incredibly loaded social/cultural constructions. Why would we imagine it would be unproblematic for women to (learn how to) discuss our bodies rationally and respectfully, even with each other?”

    Yes. Thank you. Lots of patience needed with each other, as we work out how to talk about this. At the very least, lots of us have pointed out gratefully that Volcanista has us thinking about something we hadn’t thought of before. What a gift she gave us, then. And, I hope that our comments back about the ways in which her words were received will help all of us work towards ways to keep discussing this.

    @jennygadget: “To me, it was more that there wasn’t really any acknowledgement in the post that there is a boobage spectrum beyond what she had experienced, thus leading to the implication that her “what can we all learn from this?” conclusions were meant to be more universal than was intended. I think that’s an important distinction.”

    Thank you, too.

  220. @Starling I agree with everything you said. That sort of behaviour has to stop and falls into the category of people being “outright jerks” that I mentioned in my comment. I read @serenity’s comment as saying that people weren’t allowed to find her sexy without prior permission, which I find problematic. But perhaps I’m mistaken.

  221. @LivingTheQuestions: Yes, “lots of patience needed with each other.”

    After reading snarkysmachine’s post, “Black Women Need Not Apply”, and the many comments that followed it, I came to a better understanding about what snarkysmachine was getting at with her comments about white female privilege and a corresponding sense of entitlement. Clearly, snarkysmachine had some damn good reasons for arriving at her beliefs.

    (Right about now, I don’t blame anyone for thinking “Well, Duh.”)

    Lacking a more inclusive context (supplied beautifully by SM’s post, “Black Women Need not Apply”), I couldn’t fully wrap my mind around the idea SM expressed about female white privilege in relation to beauty, partly because I have struggled for decades to learn to NOT hate my whole physical appearance and body (face and everything else). To some extent I was generalizing from my own experience.

    I’ve participated in many women’s therapy groups, off and on, for decades—and the groups have consisted mostly of white women (including many lesbians and women with disabilities), almost all of whom have struggled to stop hating their bodies. These weren’t white women who were just complaining about small breasts or big feet or thinning hair or double chins or fat thighs…but women who carried so much body shame that it literally made them physically sick in some cases (severe eating disorders and/or self mutilation, for example). Most of the groups I’ve participated in have been heavily populated by white women who have survived incest, rapes, assaults, and/or other traumas, which deeply wounded their self-perceptions and sometimes made it impossible to learn how to feel even a little bit attractive or desirable. (Very few PoC happen to live in the geographical area where I attended these groups, so I didn’t hear similarly intimate perspectives from women of color.) Often, the women’s self-hatred was particularly directed towards their breasts and/or buttocks because these parts are so intimately connected with the traumas and violence the women have survived.

    So, anyway, this was the context I was firmly focused on when I wrote my comment expressing concern that women (who may have struggled to overcome hatred of their physical appearance) might feel shamed for reacting defensively (emotionally)—and my belief that the women’s defensive reactions may have had nothing to do with white privilege and a lot to do with an ongoing battle against self-hatred of their appearance/bodies.

    That being said…I do see how white privilege affords many white women an unconscious sense of entitlement to be viewed as desirable. Also, I need to carefully examine my need to “jump in” and defend against white women’s feelings of discomfort.

    I especially do not want to enable anyone’s continued denial of white privilege or the harmful consequences that result from privilege. Sometimes I cannot believe I can simultaneously own virtually every book ever written by bell hooks, for example, and yet still remain so dense. Sigh.

    I am thankful to have these opportunities to examine my own privilege and biases. I hope I will transform some of what I’m learning into positive action. Be well in peace.

  222. This whole post and discussion makes me want to stand up and cheer! This is why I read Shapely Prose, and love it so. Because when first I was reading this blog, it was somewhat furtively, feeling like a thin intruder, who was standing outside, wishing she could come to the feminist body acceptance party going on inside, but knowing she didn’t have the discrimination credentials to back herself up, because I do get to frolic in tons of privilege on a daily basis, and I read the rules and took them seriously.

    But this post is about this very issue- that women are fucked coming and going, and almost no one walks the razor edge of self image without getting cut.

    I have never in my life felt abundantly endowed in my boob area. I’ve made peace with the girls, and even can love them to some degree now, but I was flat chested and nerdy and painfully skinny (not an ideal anorexic seventeen mag style of “pretty skinny”, but rather a: nicknamed “spider”; wore overly large clothes in a futile attempt to puff up, like a scared cat does: got hypothermia in july from swimming lessons because I couldn’t stay warm in the water and my swim instructor didn’t believe that I wasn’t faking how cold I was, sort of skinny), all through my adolescent years, and it made me feel horrible. And looking at my family photos didn’t help- every photo of my mom at my age didn’t help- she was such a perfect tiny shape with these two perfect breasts, and long thick flowing hair, and all I ever did was feel like the paler weaker version of her. I didn’t get my period till 14, didn’t really have breasts till 18 or so…and then in college I gained weight and became sort of stomach weight, and body thin to medium sized.

    Never at any point in these changes did I feel like a sexy woman until I was 22 and met a man whose open admiration of my body finally allowed me to feel I had “permission” to find things about me sexy, and led me to realize that just as there is no ideal one manshape that is hot, there is no one perfect womanshape.

    Just like many other women experience over other parts of their body, people have done and have felt that it is perfectly okay to comment on my “lack” of “normal” boobage. Most recently was a coworker at happy hour saying something like, “you really do have small boobs”. She didn’t mean anything negative I’m sure, but it hit me like a slap in the face, the sudden painful awareness that every time anyone scans me up and down they’re still putting “small tits” on the con side of my sexiness tally. It made me want to run to the bathroom and pump them full of silicone, just so I could be a real girl, after years of thinking I was past this.

    And as we women do, I think we look at someone else and think, “my god has that bitch got it easy, if I just had legs like hers, I’m sure everything else would work out fine.” And being on the receiving end of that sucks- as I struggled desperately not to hate my body through college I was drowning under the idea that I’m not allowed to do that in front of anyone who isn’t down a dress size and up a cup size from me. So my friends with wider waists would give me compliments which were really meant to be digs at themselves, things like, “aww you look so pretty in that dress, wish I could wear something like that”. Of course, that dress I was wearing was the thing I picked after 2 hours of standing in front of a mirror, throwing hate on myself, wondering if there was even one thing that made my freakish non woman shape okay, thinking, does that almost make a faint shade of what could be mistaken in a dark room for cleavage….? I have been friends with such a wide range of differently shaped women in my life and but there are only about 1 or 2 of them that I think would be around my size of boobage, or under it, and those women were vastly skinnier than I was in the thigh/booty/stomach area. Just like I imagine many people on this blog are used to the experience and expectation of walking into a room and knowing instantly that they are the largest person there, I walk into any given space expecting to have the smallest breasts there.

    I would love, just once in my life to feel abundant in this regard, to see what it feels like to have objectified cleavage that can hold pencils and have things thrown into it, to heft breasts that overflow my hand, to feel their weight of pulling on me. I know that it wouldn’t be fun all the time or anything, but I just wonder what everyone else further towards the center and other end of the boob size bell curve’s life is like. I’ve got a serious butt, and strong thighs, and a little stomach pudge and I always torment myself with the idea that everything would snap into a perfect goddessy proportion with just one more cup size up top to balance. Sometimes when people are trying to be nice about my body in a normative way they say I look “sporty” or “athletic”, which is to say, “well you aren’t truly womanly, but you don’t look out of shape…hmmm…”

    Don’t take this for any kind of, “my pain was = to or greater than yours” or any kind of denial of the privilege I regularly enjoy, because Shapely Prose really opened my eyes to the additional layers of discrimination and punishment fat women deal with all the time, and I never want to diminish the sharing of that reality in anyway but I do applaud Volcanista for talking about boobs, and what it means to have small ones. For instance, a lot of folks have talked about the way that boobs mitigate weight in some respects by creating a body which is considered “more female”- large boobs are allowed to downplay the stomach, and wider torsos, and an hourglass shape is better than being round in the middle.

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