When my breasts started developing I spent hours every week in the bath trying to flatten them (it didn’t work). I saw them as a very unwelcome sign that I had become available for male attention - the looks, the whistles, the comments…….and the fingers.
Soon after they started growing, aged about 12, my developing body caught the attention of an older man who sexually assaulted me with his fat fingers. It was proof to me that my breasts were troublesome. Instead of directing my anger outwards at the man who violated me, I turned it inwards, on my own developing body.
I do not know how common my story is, but I do know that almost all women experience some kind of harassment, assault or abuse as we transition from girl-hood into woman-hood. I also know that women are very quick to blame themselves, turning the anger that should be projected outwards, inwards instead. We enter woman-hood hating the body we’re in, raised by a society that does nothing to honour, respect and cherish us.
Our relationship with our breasts is problematic because as soon as we start growing them, they mark us out as fair game - another piece of meat to be chased, hunted, leered at, grabbed and mauled. Far too many of us have experienced our sensitive breast tissue being grabbed by over-eager, impatient and poorly skilled men.
We are raised in a culture with deeply disempowering and mixed messaging about female breasts. On the one hand they are used to sell almost everything, yet on the other hand women are heavily sanctioned in the real world and on social media if we dare to reveal a nipple. The male objectification of the female breast is as old as the patriarchy.
I notice that our rage against this objectification is often turned against our own bodies - our breasts are amongst our most highly self-criticised body parts, not helped by a massive cosmetic surgery industry that needs to fuel our self loathing in order to exist.
And there is a strange paradox, whilst hating the unwanted attention that they bring us, we are also socialised into attaching our self worth to their appearance. So we judge them and hate them for being either too big or too small, too floppy or too uneven - we fixate on the size and positioning of our nipples - our hyper-critical, judgy minds constantly find fault with an incredibly beautiful, sensual and sacred part of our bodies
And it doesn’t stop there. The war on our breasts deepens. Many, many of us only ever touch our breasts to check for lumps. I am not going to argue against self-screening for breast cancer, I am just going to point out that if the only time we touch our breasts, we do so with fear and dread, we are not creating a loving relationship with our bodies.
Developing a loving relationship with our breasts is one of the most powerful ways of growing self love and self acceptance. As you can probably imagine, given my early relationship with my breasts, when I first encountered breast massage I was deeply resistant, but I think it is one of the most powerful practices I used to reconnect with, and reclaim, my sexuality and develop love for myself.
Touching our bodies anywhere with loving acceptance is going to be powerful, but our breasts, located as they are, either side of our energetic heart, are a particularly powerful place to grow self love. They belong to no-one other than us and for the world to learn how to treat them right, I think we have to learn how to treat them right.
Our breasts, as well as being awesome feeding machines are also highly erogenous zones. For many women, the right kind of touch on our breasts brings us to orgasm with or without vaginal or clitoral stimulation. Sensual breast play is an often overlooked, but nonetheless important, path to exquisite sexual pleasure for women. And oxytocin, the bonding hormone that is released through breastfeeding so that we bond with our babies, is also released through breast massage and nipple stimulation. When we give ourselves a breast massage we are bonding with ourselves.
One of the most powerful things we reclaim when we start massaging our own breasts, is the pleasure of sensual touch. Whether your breasts have been manhandled or you don’t like what they look like, or you’re angry about male objectification and sexualisation of female bodies or whether your view of breasts is purely utilitarian (they feed babies), many, many of us have become disconnected from and shut down to the potential pleasure in our own breasts.
Through a conscious massage practice we are able to rewire our bodies to experience pleasure instead of numbness and learn about how we want our breasts to be touched. This can then be communicated to our lovers, who I know do not want to mistreat us in any way; they just don’t know how to touch us properly until we show them.
It seems to me that to live our whole lives disconnected from the deep sensual pleasure that we can experience in our breasts because we have lost our connection to our own bodies is unbelievably sad. And it’s a powerful, radical act to reclaim this pleasure for ourselves.
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