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Sexed Up: On The Subject of Sucking Nipples

Does it make a difference if the woman is also breastfeeding? And is it okay to find this a turn-on if she is?

Anne Sexton, 02 May 2013

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

think so.”

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.

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