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Mask Your Beastly Old Breasts with Surgically Implanted Underwires

You can now have a bra surgically inserted beneath your skin and screwed right into your rib cage with titanium screws to keep your breasts perky. Sarah Ratchford discusses why this new procedure is indicative of our pernicious obsession with...

Screenshot via Orbix Medical

Tiring of the hunt for the perfect underwire with which to mask your saggy, beastly old breasts? Fret no more. You can now have a bra surgically inserted beneath the skin and screwed right into the rib cage with titanium screws. No more offensive, droopy boobs when your bra comes off!

The underwires are being called “silicone slings,” and they’re certified for sale in Europe. The first clinical trials were done in Belgium in 2009, and about 50 procedures have been carried out in Europe since then.


Orbix Medical, the company behind the new form of implant, says it offers an alternative to breast reductions. They can also be a good option for women who have had breast cancer. Any technology that helps women going through that is a welcome development, as far as I’m concerned. The conflict, though, comes into play when one considers the fact that they are also being lauded as a “solution” to the “issue” of sagging breasts.

I find this more than a little disturbing. Why have we nurtured such a collective need to mask or halt all natural processes of the human body? Breasts may become less perky with age, but as time passes, women with breasts also gain more experience, wisdom, and personal power.

That said, I don’t judge people who decide to have plastic surgery. People choose it for any number of reasons: self-esteem, empowerment, professional purposes. But whatever the reason, it's not my business. It’s their bodies, and the “realness” of their breasts doesn't have any impact on their worth as a person.

What I’m critical of is not people who will decide to get underwire implants—it’s the cultural framework in which we live, and which leads women’s self-esteem to be so closely tied to something as arbitrary as the size and shape of their breasts.

We may be empowered by having the freedom to sculpt our own bodies as we see fit. But our idea of empowerment isn’t born in a vacuum. It is cultivated alongside images of women with tiny waists and huge, perfectly round boobs. Or possibly tiny ones, maybe, if you’re a runway model. Our idea of empowerment—like our idea of how our breasts should be—is not unique to us.


A dear friend asked me if this procedure could ever be “legitimately empowering.” The answer is yes, because if a woman makes a choice about her body and feels empowered, she is empowered. She's the only one who can legitimize her feelings—I can only legitimize my own.

And it still feels like women who fit the cultural bill are given a pass, because those in power (still men) want something from them. They are seen as having value due to their appeal to the male gaze. The further you deviate from that norm, the less valuable you are. That goes for those of us who are of color, who have disabilities, who are aged, who have body types that deviate from what you see in the magazines. That’s the group this surgical underwire is likely to be marketed toward. If you’re a woman who wants to remain a relevant human, everyone knows you have to wildly claw to maintain any sign of perceived youth.

My mom, who is nearly 50 and a former nurse, posted on Facebook last week about a more serious female “issue” than droopy mammary glands: “As I lay in bed last night awake half the night AGAIN, I couldn’t help but wonder why the doctors continue to focus on giving a man an erection but can’t seem to help sleepless, cranky women with menopause!”

All her friends liked it and were like, “Yeah, girl!” I mean, really. Maybe we can create something reliable and health-conscious to assist women in this regard, aside from addictive and harmful sleeping pills?

Because the truth is, it can be just as empowering to reject the idea that surgically implanted underwires make us more beautiful, and just come as we are. Breasts are actively marketed to us on a constant basis, and it’s easy to succumb to a reverse reality in which the airbrushed bodies we are inundated with become real, and our own bodies—which have wobbly flesh or cellulite or small boobs or large boobs or bones sticking  out where they “shouldn't”—become fake, and must be brought to life by imitating the so-called art of celebrity bodies. But it’s also easy to stop doing that, once you start.

We need to make an overall cultural shift whereby we no longer value this vision, this expectation of sculpted, petite yet hourglass-shaped bodies for all women. We are almost required to wage war on our own genetics at all times, and rather than supporting that, science should be moving into more productive realms.

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