Does it make a difference if the woman is also breastfeeding? And is it okay to find this a turn-on if she is?
Liam is turned on by women breastfeeding. Confessing this fact, he is worried that I’ll think he is some kind of pervert or that I’ll suppose it is has to do with a subconscious sexual desire for his mother. But I don’t. Frankly I find it a relief that – should I ever have leaking breasts – somebody, somewhere, might find me attractive.
Lactophilia or ‘erotic lactation’ is arousal by breastfeeding or suckling on the lactating female breast. Psychologists categorise this as a ‘paraphilia’ – that is, sexual arousal by people, situations or objects outside what is seen as typical or normal.
Psychology seems to have a real Puritan streak, as much sexual behaviour is classified as non-normative. Get turned on by your boyfriend’s manly smell? That’s called olfactophilia or osmolagnia. Are your eyes drawn to cleavage? Maybe you suffer from breast fetishism. Do you take pleasure in wearing clothes that are seen as appropriate to your gender? Congratulations! You’re a homovestite!
It seems almost everything is a paraphilia, and lactophilia is not as uncommon as you might think.
Unsurprisingly, it is a defining feature in adult nursing relationships and is popular in infantilism – the clue being in the names. It is relatively common in BDSM relationships too, apparently: breastfeeding may sometimes be used as a reward or punishment. However, it’s not all kink and fetish play – plenty of people whose tastes tend towards the milder end of the sexual spectrum are aroused by breastfeeding as well.
What little research there is on the topic suggests that a relatively high percentage of women have experienced an orgasm while breastfeeding – and that most of them feel guilty about it. There are good physiological reasons for the occurrence – the uterus contracts when you orgasm and it also does when you breastfeed; the hormone oxytocin is released during both; and having the nipple sucked is a pleasurable sensation for most women as well.
There hasn’t been a whole lot of study done on the topic, but doctors have suggested that these unexpected orgasms and the feelings of guilt they produce may contribute towards many women switching to formula.
I asked some mothers to share their experiences with me and I was met by a deafening silence. I spoke to some fathers too. They were a little more forthcoming, but not by much.
All of my male respondents had positive feelings about breastfeeding, although these were not generally erotic. Darren’s response was typical: “Looking at my wife breastfeeding sometimes did stir my sexual thoughts but only stirred and only at times and it was never directly connected to breastfeeding, just the vision of a breast. Breastfeeding is beautiful and natural.”
Only one, Paul, admitted to a lactation fetish. He told me he was surprised – and initially disturbed – by his reaction to watching his partner breastfeeding.
“I definitely got turned on, and I hadn’t expected that. At first I was worried there was something wrong with me, but fuck it! I think maybe it’s because breasts are beautiful – but does the reason matter all that much? I don’t
In Western culture – at least, in Anglophone countries – there is tendency to see women either as sexual beings or as mothers, but seldom both: there is often a real discomfort with the idea that the maternal body is also a sexual one.
The scholar Gerardine Meaney has noted that despite the valorisation of motherhood in our culture, Ireland has a history of anxiety around the pregnant body. In times gone by, film censors routinely excised close ups of pregnant women in films and even comic scenes of expectant fathers anxiously pacing hospital corridors were chopped. God forbid anyone be offended by the end result of sacred matrimony! After all, in Ireland, the ideal woman was the Virgin Mary – a mother allegedly unsullied by sex.
We have come a long way since then, but in 2004, Ireland was one of only two European countries to censor an advert featuring a breastfeeding mother. The image that caused all the fuss was of a baby pondering whether to feed from the right or left breast, and was used to promote voting in the European elections (and presumably to suggest that the EU is caring, nurturing mother). Guess who was the only other country that took issue? Why,
our nearest neighbours
– Great Britain.
Our friends in America swung right ideologically during the noughties – and with this there was a return to so-called “family” values. Both in political discourse and in the popular press, pregnancy and motherhood were frequently seen as (a) the pinnacle of female fulfilment, and (b) almost compulsory for women. While the politicians scaled back access to abortion, the tabloids went on “bump patrol” scrutinising the bodies of female celebrities for telltale signs
You’d think that the popularity of MILF porn meant that Americans were happy to see mothers as sexy and sexual, but you’d be wrong. MILF, as most of you will know, stands for “mother I’d like to fuck” and – my goodness! – they are popular! A recent study found that ‘MILF’ is second most popular porn web search term across the USA, after ‘teen’,
and the most popular term in many States.
However, MILFs are not necessarily actual, real-life mothers – they are just older than most porn stars and are, on average, around 33. They also almost always have flat stomachs and perky, if not cosmetically enhanced, breasts – bodies that actual mothers rarely have, unless they’ve had a “mommy makeover” that is.
For years the mommy makeover has been a growing trend in the US. This is pretty extensive plastic surgery and includes a breast lift, tummy tuck and liposuction. The idea is to erase the physical evidence of motherhood and return the female body to its pre-maternal state.
In America motherhood is culturally, but not sexually, fetishised. The contradictory messages from popular culture tell a woman that she will be admired and fulfilled for being a mother, but nobody will want to fuck her if she actually looks like one.
Breastfeeding in public seems to create far more consternation in Ireland, the UK, and the US than it does across Europe or Africa. Generally speaking, those who are against the idea claim it is offensive and that it should be done in private. Interestingly, breastfeeding is frequently likened to urination, masturbating or having sex, suggesting that it is little dirty and definitely sexual.
The counterargument is that breastfeeding is natural, beautiful, better for babies and unrelated to sex. Of course breastfeeding is completely natural, and feeding babies is a boob’s primary function. Looking sweet in lingerie is a secondary consideration – although, of course, not unrelated to the survival of the species as a whole. Unfortunately, the thrust of this argument desexualises breastfeeding, which in turn makes those who find it enjoyable feel
like they belong to a depraved
My friend Beth objects to public breastfeeding for this reason. Beth identifies as bisexual and would prefer not to see women breastfeeding in public because, like Liam and Paul, she finds it sexually arousing, and what’s more, is troubled by this.
“People think you’re some kind of pervert if you see it as sexual,” she says. “But on the other hand, if I was breastfeeding I wouldn’t want people to see me as just a mother and not a woman. A baby does not desexualize a breast!”
Indeed it does not and for this reason Paul told his partner Elaine how he felt. While she was surprised, she wasn’t averse to the idea either.
“Sometimes after she’d finished feeding our son she would let me lick or suck her nipples as long as I was very gentle. It felt intimate and peaceful, but also really, really sexy. I’m not sure I’m explaining it very well. It’s hard to describe,” he said.
Elaine’s reaction was similar to the women on the Just Mommies message board, most of whom were unconcerned by the idea that breastfeeding could be seen or experienced as sexual. In fact, many of the posters felt that erotic lactation was mild compared to many other fetishes. As one woman wrote, “humans have all sorts of fetishes – it’s not that weird compared to some things out there (Furries come to mind...).”
Poor furries! They came in for lots of derision on the internet. And in case you were wondering, yup, it’s a paraphilia too – plushophilia.
Jane Austen wrote that, “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other” but honestly, you don’t need that many people to share your tastes. If it is millions, thousands, hundreds or just a handful, as long as what you desire is consensual and mutually pleasurable, you should enjoy it with pride – or at very least, without guilt.
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