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Is It For My Breasts That You Love me?
Or is it my legs? Or my arse? And if it’s any of these, well, as a woman, should I have a problem with that?
Anne Sexton, 12 Apr 2012
They were slim and rangy with firm, pert muscles. His skin looked lovely too – even in the half-light it had a warm golden glow. He asked me a question and I realised that I had been
only half-listening. Instead, I’d been inspecting his arms. “Could you repeat that?” I asked with
a smile. “It’s a bit loud in here.” Oh oh, Anne Sexton, you hypocrite! It gets worse. In the middle of writing this column I took a short break to head up to the shops. On my way home a jogger passed me and as soon as he did, what did I do? Checked out his arse, of course.Didn’t
even think twice about it, despite the fact that I had been thinking about
objectification at the very moment he passed. In case you’re curious, it looked like a peach. Nice! If Mulvey is right and the male gaze symbolically fragments women, well – the more I thought about it the better I realised that my female gaze is no better. I fall in love with bits of people all the time. I have found myself mooning over men’s necks as I sit on the bus; I’ve been fascinated with wrists, knees, lopsided smiles, eyes, noses and all manner of odd body
parts. I am pretty convinced that the first time I fell in love, lust or whatever it was, it was initially predicated on the way my ex would purse his lips whenever he played guitar. A few years back psychologists from the University of Wellington found that around half of all men will look at a woman’s breasts before checking out her face and they’ll spend more time gazing at boobs than any other body part, regardless of their size. The boffins concluded that men do this because boobs, whether they are big or small, are aesthetically pleasing. It’s hard to argue with that. Breasts are indeed lovely, and some, like the pair belonging to my friend Ciz, could be seen as a national treasure. Her breasts are indeed a thing of beauty and a joy forever, a fact that I, and all her friends, tell her on a regular basis. Am I symbolically fragmenting Ciz when I admire her breasts? It’s possible. Can I help it? No. But I don’t think I objectify her. After all, we’re friends, and I appreciate her brains and charm. I love all of her, not just her boobs. Some psychologists suggest that the fascination with breasts is evolutionary. If this is so, bearing in mind it can’t be proven, then maybe Richard couldn’t help staring at my chest. Which perhaps gives me an equally good excuse for staring at Fionn’s arms and the jogger’s backside. Given this, did I have any right in the first instance to get annoyed? After all, I am not only a hypocrite who engages in exactly the same behaviour, but a collaborator. While I scorn the use of chicken fillets and padded bras, I’m not averse to wearing a low cut top on occasions where I wish to make the most of my assets. Like any woman I know full well that this attracts attention – which is precisely why I do it. The funny thing is that if Richard had spent the conversation getting lost in my eyes, I wouldn’t have found him creepy. Nope, I’d probably have thought him sweet, perhaps overly so. Although I would still have found it rather irritating that he wasn’t listening to me. A few days after meeting Richard I had a Skype chat with the ex- boyfriend of the pursed lips. Being a man of considerable taste and charm, he has always displayed a healthy admiration for my breasts. During the conversation I remarked on the fact that he was topless – it being the middle of summer in South Africa – and he noted that I was fully clothed and tried to persuade me to remedy the situation. Far from annoying me, I found this amusing. I don’t actually mind having my breasts admired. But the difference is I know that he appreciates all of me, boobs or no boobs. While very few of us would object to being found attractive or having a part of our bodies admired, most of us, men and women, prefer to be appreciated as a package deal.