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.