The unfettered breast

Like many young women, I started wearing a bra when I was about twelve, and have worn one for most of my waking hours since then. In the last year or so I’ve picked up a lot of things online about more free range breasts – French studies suggesting breast firmness might be improved by being bra-less, and ideas that breasts need to move freely in order to function properly. It all makes a fair amount of sense. We did not, after all, evolve to wear corsetry.

For a few months now I have been experimenting, and I have noticed some things.

My first feelings of going bra-free were of awkwardness and discomfort – emotional, not physical. I felt exposed, even though fully dressed. I realise that I have been socialised to consider the unfettered breast a sign of loose sexual morals and availability. The idea that, anyone realising I had no bra would conclude that I am a slut and open to any and all sexual advances, was not a comfortable one. I have yet to go out in public without a bra, and this is a big part of why. I simply do not want the assumptions that could go with it.

Experience of attitudes to the female body have taught me that what I have on my chest are two objects of gratification for other people. I realised, in my unfettered times, that I feel very little ownership of my breasts and that’s something I’m trying to work on. My being comfortable with them should be more important than anyone else finding them pleasing, especially when we’re talking about people with whom I have no relationship at all and no wish to share my body.

The next realisation was that, in the absence of a bra, I become more aware of my posture. My breasts become less comfortable if I am slumped, or trying to fold in on myself. In a bra, I am often oblivious to my posture, but without one I need to sit or stand in strong, confident positions that support my breasts. Thus unfettering my breasts sometimes, has changed how I think about the rest of my body, and this has been a really useful process for me.

It took time and practice to feel relaxed just being around the house, fully dressed but without a bra. To be able to do that and feel normal, natural and acceptable has been a journey. I have learned that my menfolk do not seem to notice whether I am strapped up or not. Apparently it isn’t so obvious. I have learned not to feel demeaned by a more natural condition and to recognise that if I am not doing something in a sexual way, no one else has any right to sexualise it and impose that on me.

For a lot of reasons, I’ve never felt wholly present in my own skin, nor proper ownership of my body. I’m looking at small acts of reclamation, including how I dress and move, what I do, and do not do. I’d like to get to a point of feeling more present in my own skin, and more possessed of it – that in turn would help me hold better boundaries, and it would be an innately healing process.

I’m aware of an innate irony in writing all of this. Like the ‘naked men’ post of last year, a blog with breasts in it will get a lot of hits. Those will come from people online who were seeking objects of gratification, and who probably didn’t make it past the first paragraph. A breast is so much more than eye candy. A breast is part of a person, and to treat it as a separate object, does no good at all.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

30 responses to “The unfettered breast

  • missmerrickmayfair

    Well said 🙂 As soon as I get home the bra comes off, and I feel more comfortable. However I don’t feel comfortable going without a bra in public, my breasts are large and it would be more noticeable I wasn’t wearing one and I would feel a bit exposed.

  • angharadlois

    Someone shared an article about this topic with me about this time last year – reminded me of those early bra-wearing days, when I would quite literally run off, climb a tree and leave my bra there hanging in its branches. My poor mother… I didn’t take easily to being a woman after all the freedoms of being a child.
    After I read it, I started going bra-less at home. I still don’t have the confidence to try it outside – not that I need much support; in fact, I mostly wear bras as a way to, well, to hide my nipples. But I have noticed that spending as much time as possible out of a bra has reduced the tenderness I get at certain times of the month, and I have not had a cyst or inexplicable lump since then.
    I do wonder if people will look back on these garments in much the same way as we look back on corsets now.

  • Alison Clayton-Smith

    Very interesting. I have often gone out without a bra on but only because the top/dress I am wearing doesn’t need or look good with a bra underneath. However, since i’ve put on a bit of weight, have to admit I’ve been less confident and have used the extra support regardless. I also think as I’ve got older I’ve got more self-conscious. I still do have times at home where I go for freedom, especially if my upper back is in pain or I’m bloated.

    I’ve always understood that bras are necessary to stop things dropping and to prevent pain from ‘chest bounce’. The point about posture is very interesting. I think I am going to start experimenting because one less thing to have to buy/wash/fiddle with, would be a good thing 🙂

  • Nimue Brown

    I’m thinking I may try and find some close fitting cropped tops, no wire, no metal at all, soft fabric for a teensie bit of support, and see what happens… if that’s interesting, I’ll post. I’m large enough that I could not do anything very active comfortably without something, but I’m wondering what that right something is…

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Part of the problem is men’s attitudes to breasts. Some men never seem to get beyond being a teenager. This has to change for women to feel more comfortable as well. Women may have to demand this of their men.

    As men have so much control they are also a major part of the problems of our planet. Solve the problem of men being men and you would end most of the problems on our earth. A man is more likely to risk for temporary advantage without considering the long term cost. This means teaching sons differetly that we have in the past that women are full fledged people so that men should consider women’s views as well as their own.

  • Argenta

    My mum used to do it all the time — I thought it was her hippy side 🙂 But now, when she is over 60 and her breast still look great (after having nursed two kids, too), I’m slowly starting to see the wisdom in it!

  • Mollie

    I think that because I have small breasts (while I was on hormonal birth control I was a 30B, but now that I’m not, they’re more of an A-cup), I’ve never seen the point in wearing a bra on a daily basis? I tend to feel much more comfortable when I’m not wearing one, and nobody notices or makes comments to the effect that I ‘should’ wear one. My Memaw did once, but I pretended I didn’t hear her.

  • flameinthesnow

    I’d be terrified–do let me know how it goes!

  • Jean

    I can’t do that. I can’t go braless. I’m an H cup. They probably weigh between 3 and 3.5 pounds apiece. (close to 2kg) Braless for any of these things: Jogging? Nope. Running? Nope. Dancing? Nope. …Even moving abruptly will cause my bra-less breasts to swing, pull with their momentum, and potentially throw out my back. (And yes, I exercise nearly every day just to keep my back strong and relatively pain free.)

    If you can be a C cup or less, sure, go braless! Nothing wrong with that…and you’ll not have any of these problems, nor many more I could list. Just please remember that this “no-cup solution” is not a “one-size-fits-all solution.” It’s not.

    • Nimue Brown

      It’s a fair point, there’s never a ‘one size fits all’ answer. I went up to a G when pregnant, so I have some idea what that means, and it a whole other thing to have breasts on that scale.

  • celticchick

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels this way about bras. I hate wearing a bra and never wear one around the house. But, like you, I haven’t left my house without a bra because of insecure feelings of what people might think. I hate the way a bra feels and think that a man had to be the one to invent the bra because I can’t imagine a woman thinking this contraption would benefit women.

  • elodieunderglass

    As a larger-breasted lady I would love to go braless – especially since I’d like them to stay in good condition! I’m not really sure how it would go, though – whether I’d be a danger to myself and others…

  • joannavanderhoeven

    So often we’re afraid that our nipples will show – it’s funny, isn’t it? Everyone has ’em, but we’re not allowed to see the outline of a woman’s nipple under her shirt without thinking she’s sexually aroused, or worse, available? Erect nipples in business meetings might be detimental to the individual, male or female. Crazy, innit?

    I haven’t worn an underwired bra since I got chickenpox last Samhain. I wear very light support bras, or tops that have a ‘built in’ support – many tank tops have these. It depends whether you are comfortable with an elastic band beneath your breasts – in hot summer weather it can cause heat rash or make you break out in spots. I am also looking into going completely braless (apart from bra-style belly dance tops, of which I only have one!).

  • Nimue Brown

    I’ve not had any trouble as yet. I suspect the close fitting but not bra-like garment may be the answer to this, something to minimise friction. It may not be viable for more active moments, either, but I’m thinking sports bras for utility there…

  • magickmomma

    I would really love to not have to wear a bra, but I’m breastfeeding and the leakage is considered a health hazard (not to mention uncomfortable). :/ does anyone have any ideas for this problem?

  • janecolbourne

    I don’t wear a bra as I don’t need to, but I found it necessary when I was breastfeeding.

  • alcsmith

    Having experimented today with going around town with a loose top on and no bra, I have concluded that the bra is needed. I’m a D cup so there was rather too much uncomfortable bouncing going on 😦 Made me think that maybe if we didn’t have to walk on pavements and concrete, it might be alright, but the hard surfaces are unforgiving. I will experiment with a close fitting top another day. I have however been happily giving up the bra after my morning dog walk when I’m just pottering round the house.

    • Nimue Brown

      Interesting thought about hard surfaces, I think you’re on to something there. The kinds of shoes we wear affect how we move, too, so that might be in the mix. I’m finding I need to build my support muscles, and that my stamina is increasing, slowly. Many thanks for sharing this experience.

  • druidkarin

    Magickmomma – How can your leaking breastmilk be a “health hazard” when it is nurturing and growing your baby? Breastmilk is full of many incredible ingredients which are tailor-made to suit your baby, at that particular moment in time (e.g. adding antibodies if you are fighting off an infection so that your babe is protected). We still don’t fully understand the wonders of breastmilk and no formula company has ever come close to replicating it. Breast milk stays fresh for at least a day without being refrigerated, so I don’t think a little on your bra could ever be a health hazard. You could try using disposable or washable breast-pads to absorb the leaking milk. The more expensive ones are generally better. Our breasts tend to leak at the beginning of our breastfeeding relationship with our babies, but as the months roll on, the breast becomes more efficient and rarely leaks. Make sure you feed your little one regularly – our breasts leak when you haven’t fed for a long time. In some indigenous cultures where mother wear their babies next to their breasts in a sling all the time, babies feed whenever they like – several times an hour. I imagine that ones
    breasts would never leak if this were the case.

    • Nimue Brown

      I think the ending up smelling of cheese (I did in those first weeks) creates associations, fair or not, and we’re so encouraged to fear the bacteria, even if that’s not a reasonable fear… everything has to be advert-white and shining, and that’s hard conditioning to break.

    • Lenora Rose

      The healthiest milk in the world will spoil if it leaks all over clothes or skin and is left there.

      And I was told 8 hours, tops, or refrigerate.

  • Ziixxxitria

    In the last couple months I discovered that sports bras feel vastly more comfortable, and preferred them over the standard cup-and-wire device. However, I tend to feel very exposed when out in public, particularly when it is colder. Though I personally feel that breasts are natural and nothing to be particularly excited about on a daily basis, I fear getting chilly and having ‘visible’ nipples, as if that will be a signal to everyone that I am completely inappropriate–on the scale of being fully naked. I’m not sure what exactly makes me feel this way.

    I have noticed that after going without a ‘proper’ bra, I find that the perfectly spherical shape of other women wearing bras seems strange and artificial (which it is!). I hadn’t realized before how unnatural bra-shaped boobs are. I think this contributed to a lot of discomfort when I was younger and just growing into feminine forms. Every other woman had perfect, round things while I had strange, asymmetrical parts with a point and a pull of gravity. How nice it would be to have grown up around women who displayed normal shapes, and be able to feel comfortable with mine.

  • Rebecca Kinney

    I do not wear a bra around the house, or while doing yoga. This is great, except when you think you have found a lump, and are in discomfort, go to the doctor and discover that you have in fact injured yourself because all that bouncing up and down the stairs is not great for my D-cups. We are re-visiting the slight lump in a month, but it is looking more like cystic changes due to medication.

    I am bowing to my breast size, which is rather large for my petite frame, and investing in a sports bra for when I am running around and need the support, just not the underwire. I too can’t seem to get past the whole nipple issue in public. ALCSmith’s point about hard surfaces is interesting because I cannot stand to go braless when out around town. My breasts have definitely gotten firmer since going braless at home and definitely perkier..if that is a word. I haven’t noticed any change in posture, if anything they do tend to pull me down a bit, but that may be the way they sit on my chest. I will say that for work I do wear a traditional underwire, which never bothered me until I stopped wearing one around the house. I just can’t seem to go without the support, the only time I do so in my public life is when wearing historical clothing that either requires stays of some sort (heaven in the bounce department…and my back is thankful too) or is designed to fit tight enough to provide support. I have only recently started experimenting with a snug tank top under my tee shirts around the house until I can afford the sports bra, no verdict in on that yet.

    Hope this helps with the general experiment.

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you for sharing this experience! We’re all different, there clearly can’t be one right answer here, but I do like sports bras. Worth knowing about the lumps issue, that could be exceedingly alarming. Glad you’re ok.

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