It may sound funny but I never realized how controversial this topic is. I understand that many decades ago breastfeeding was what every mother did. At some point, doctors began advising mothers to bottle feed their children. My mother, and her mother, grew up in that generation. They fed me and all of my siblings by the bottle. Because of that, they have some definite opinions about mothers today, specifically the one’s who want to breastfeed their children. Especially those who feed their children past the ‘appropriate age’.
I never felt this controversy as a man growing up. Only when I had my daughter, and my wife decided to breastfeed, have I felt the heat.
As a man, here’s what I grew up knowing about breasts. Anytime I saw a naked breast I felt a sexual response. How could I not? I grew up knowing that a woman’s body, and any naked part of it, was for sexual purposes. From the pornography that was available to me as a teenager to every magazine and every show I watched on TV and the movies.
women + naked bodypart = sex
It didn’t take long for the equation to change profoundly.
women = sex
But I never bought into that equation entirely. In the back of my mind I always knew I was being manipulated, as a man. There was no clear culprit to blame because it’s hard to point a finger at society.
So here we are. We’ve all had a good swig of the Kool-Aid. The physicality of woman is sex and should never be presented otherwise.
When my wife began breastfeeding I faced my hard reality. The boob was not for my sexual pleasure. It was to feed our hungry daughter. Over and over my wife would ‘whip it out’ for the purposes of motherhood. At times I caught myself resenting this scourging of the sexuality of this thing. This milk-producing breast. This non-sexual breast. The sexual breast was all I ever knew.
My evolution as a man was healthy. I learned respect for mothers. For all the other roles of women. My own internal dissonance helped me understand the difficulty women have being accepted as anything else than a funnel for sex.
Men don’t want to see breastfeeding in public because they don’t want to have to grow up and learn to see women as something else, outside of a tool for their devices. Even women don’t want to see it because they fear their own bodies. They worry how their husbands and teenage sons may react to a naked breast. They may actually have to have a constructive conversation with their children about this public presentation.
The unhealthy part of this debate is that the breast should be presented as anything other than sexual. That would be telling a lie. Maybe men would start to look at breasts as serving other functions. Maybe we would all respect our mothers a little more. If it’s a question of you and that hungry baby, suck it up. Be an adult and understand a feeding child wins out over your insecurities. Every time. That is healthy. That is part of the maturing process which leads to common sense.
Ladies, give your husbands and teenage sons a little credit. The male reaction to a breastfeeding mother in public goes from sexual response to healthy respect in about half a second. Seeing breastfeeding helps us evolve. You don’t need to protect us from our own unhealthy delusions.
For all those who have conflict with public breastfeeding, you really do need to understand this conflict is within you. Introspect a while. Figure it out. Don’t be manipulative and feed us this falsity that the ‘problem’ somehow lies with women feeding their children where you can see it.
It all boils down to simple respect for mothering. Breastfeeding IS mothering. So shouldn’t we stop defending our own oversexualized social conditioning and start defending motherhood in all it’s beautiful aspects?
You may be wondering how this relates to abuse. It couldn’t be more related.