Photo via Wikipedia Creative Commons
The sight of a woman's breasts has long been one of the most taboo images in Western culture. Breasts are the predominant female sexual organ in the popular imagination, even more so than the precious vagina.
I'm not completely sure why that is. It could be due to the fact that they're round. We love round things, don't we? Doughnuts, automobile tires, cookies, Hula-Hoops, yo-yos, Shaquille O'Neal, bongos and cake are all very round and very lovable. It could be because they protrude out at eye level. Breasts are a bit like the logo on a superhero's costume. You can't help looking.
As society advances forward into an ever more liberal, progressive state, verboten female body parts eventually lose their stigma, despite the best efforts of the more conservative among us. That whole "showing your ankles" thing eventually became completely acceptable, and by the 1960s, men were generous enough to let women wear jeans and cut their hair short. Thank God for that, otherwise the world might have been deprived of Jean Seberg and half the cast of the movie Alien. Contain your horror, if possible.
Breasts lingered in the "naughty" column for a lot longer than ankles. Remember how edgy Janet Jackson seemed when Justin Timberlake popped her titty out at the Super Bowl? Her nipple was totally covered, but the uproar was still deafening. You still can't walk around with your shirt off as a woman (despite my best efforts to get that law overturned), but from what I can tell, mammary glands have finally escaped the body-part ghetto and now can claim full acceptance in popular culture alongside such timeless classics as arms, legs, eyeballs and teeth.
We've basically hit "Peak Breast" here in the West, a condition in which breasts are as ubiquitous as they possibly can be. Boobies are everywhere – on billboards, in TV commercials, all over the pages of comic books, in magazines and in my every waking thought. It seems as though there are no further instances in which we can display breasts logically in this country. This is as much boobage as we can ever hope for. We've hit capacity. The ceiling has been reached, and now we're just bumping our head over and over again. But is that even a good thing?
Olivia Wilde photo via Flickr user 2 Top
The point at which we finally hit Peak Breast was just last week, specifically while I was staring at Olivia Wilde's breast-feeding photo in Glamour magazine. There was actually a moment in time when people became very, very upset that Demi Moore posed nude and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair. She had her arms over her nipples, and her vagina was completely absent from the proceedings, but it was still enough hot, bare flesh to raise the ire of America's prudes.
I should reemphasise here that she was pregnant. If you are turned on or repulsed by the sight of a woman about to give birth to a sweet, innocent baby, you might want to take a moment to reflect on the nature of existence. I mean, if pregnant ladies make you horny, Vanity Fair isn't the publication for you. Instead, might I suggest Field & Stream or Salon.com?
The Olivia Wilde Glamour photo wasn't nearly as polarising as the Demi Moore picture—likely because it wasn't on the cover—though I guess there was some kind of generic backlash against her posing in full makeup and hair while her child nibbled on her nipple. Most women don't look quite that good when they breast-feed, and her glorious visage surely inspired a decent amount of jealousy and unreasonable expectation. There's usually a lot more sweat, a lot less makeup and twice the number of sweat pants involved when breast-feeding.
But for the most part, culture pundits lined up in favor of the picture and thought that it was empowering women to feel comfortable with the natural function of their bodies. Women can and should breast-feed in public, and finally, we're starting to accept it as a culture. It's natural, it's wonderful, and it makes for a great conversation starter at the airport. I see you're breast-feeding. That's great. Where are you flying to? Provo? Lovely town.
There are still brief flashes of the old modesty, but even those are halfhearted and lazy. A character poster for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For featuring Eva Green was banned in America for being overly suggestive. On the poster, Green wears a silk robe and what at first glance appears to be nothing else. Your eyeballs are treated to a heaping helping of side-boob, but absolutely zero nipple. When I can see side-boob anytime a clip of a Beyoncé concert is on the Today Show, I think a little bit on a movie poster isn't so bad.
Still, there were complaints, and the MPAA required the poster to be modified. By "modified," I mean they made the robe slightly less see-through, though still clearly see-through enough to suggest nudity. I've tried to figure out how to tell the difference between the two versions, but it's basically impossible. Despite a concerted effort to censor the poster, it still prominently displays breasts, and still gets its point across: Eva Green might get naked in this movie, so you should see it ASAP if you are into that kind of thing, which you probably are, right? Again, the lascivious among us reap the benefits of Peak Breast.
Photo via Flickr user lifrita lifi
The only reason why Eva Green's breasts are so prominent in the ad campaign for Sin City is because horny people will go see the movie to check out her "goods". It's fun to think of breasts as purely sexual objects, but they aren't, and maybe that's why they've been seen as so shocking for so long. Sure, you (yes, you) see them as round, fleshy objects to massage, rest your head on or draw on the bathroom stall of your high school gym, but they are actually built for babies to use for nourishment, as we saw with Olivia Wilde's Glamour photo. These are not toys. They aren't the Super Soaker you got for Christmas in 1995. They aren't the industrial-size bucket of Nickelodeon's Gak your parents promised you if you got at least Bs in all your classes. They aren't even a gift certificate to Cheesecake Factory. They're breasts, giver of life!
Peak Breast is sure to continue. As hooters become more and more available in the media, and less stigmatised, maybe we'll finally stop lusting after them. But the loss of the magic of boobs might be too much for society to handle. Where will pervy dudes direct their gaze? Are we finally out of things to be gross about? Will foot fetish sites explode in popularity? Is vajazzling going to make a comeback? Will Kate Upton be forced to get a real job? Only time will tell. All I can do is enjoy Peak Breast until the proverbial bubble bursts.
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