Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Milking It!

Since being interviewed last week on LBC on the subject of public breastfeeding (you can listen to the interview here: , I have been really trying to understand why a man would be ‘acutely embarrassed’ by being made to ‘endure’ the sight of a woman breastfeeding. Now, it’s hard for me to peer into the Nuts magazine reading branch of the male psyche, but I’ve tried – Lord, how I have tried. Here are my attempts to make sense of this – I’ve come up with two theories.

Theory Number 1: ‘Oh my God, that bird’s getting her tit out. TIT! TIT! I can see a TIT! And I didn’t even have to pay her or google ‘big tits’! But I’m not meant to be looking. But I can’t help but look. But there’s a baby. How can I be getting turned on when there’s a baby involved? Oh my God, I’m a paedo.’

Theory Number 2: ‘Oh my God, that bird’s – yep, she’s getting her tit out! Hurrah! But…hang on. Something’s wrong here. It’s just not sexy. I can see a tit but I’m not feeling sexy...what’s wrong with me? Oh my God, I’ve turned gay.’

There you go – that was my effort to understand. Maybe someone could enlighten me if they’ve got any other theories. I had another idea which was that maybe men feel excluded from breastfeeding, and this makes them feel angry and rejected, but frankly that wasn’t as funny as Theory 1 and Theory 2, so I let that one fall by the wayside.

To be serious for a second (sorry): breastfeeding is a hugely emotive, complicated issue, especially once you start to come across really negative reactions to it. I do think part of it is how we are used to seeing breasts as sexual parts of a woman’s body, and then suddenly here they are performing an altogether different role. If it’s complicated for the confused male onlooker, it’s also complicated for the woman. Overnight your breasts look and feel very different, and they are suddenly seem to be someone else’s property – that of your baby.

I’ve spoken to a lot of women who say they love breastfeeding and that they find it a very sensual experience (personally I wasn’t massively keen, having mastitis a couple of times which was awful – I even started to really pity dairy cows and thought about becoming a vegan for, ooh, 30 seconds). It’s interesting though that when a lactating woman is sexually aroused, it stimulates the ‘let down reflex’ – that’s breastfeeding lingo for milk flow. Not something you’d know unless you’d breastfed, I guess – quite strange!

Anyway, like I said in the radio interview, please don’t be embarrassed, folks. They’re just breasts doing their rather clever job, and we’ll try our best not to spray you – too much – with milk.

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