Monday, January 26, 2009

Breastfeeding on FaceBook

I caught a story on CNN this morning (rare enough by itself, but that's another post) about FaceBook having deleted pictures of women breast-feeding because they included an exposed breast, which violates their terms of service. I could get all self-righteous and indignant about FaceBook, but the truth is they are just enforcing community standards.

Stupid community standards.

I used to teach breastfeeding as one of my duties as a Neonatal nurse. I remember one time we had a local news anchor deliver a baby at the unit where I worked. She was a most fetching young woman for whom I had nurtured a distant crush for years. As luck would have it, my name came up on the rotation when it was time to go help her baby teach her to breastfeed.

As I walked down the hall to her room I thought about all the times I had watched her on TV, staring lustfully at her breasts, and wondering what was going to happen to me when I went in there and asked her to slip her gown off one shoulder so I could see what kind of nipples we were dealing with.

I did, I saw she had good nipples for breastfeeding, and I showed her my favorite trick for stimulating the roof of the baby's mouth so it will latch on. She caught on quickly and when her baby latched on for the first time she flashed the brilliant smile at me that I had grown accustomed to seeing on the 10 o'clock news.

THAT, the smile, was erotically pleasing, her breasts were not. Why? The context.

I was not seeing her breasts in an erotic context. Breast-feeding (except for a tiny "proves the rule" group of fetishists) is not an erotic context. In some ways I'm surprised by my reaction, I mean in one sense it should be because all of this erotic energy around breasts is supposed to be about some unexpressed maternal longing, but that theory fails me. I find breastfeeding women and children beautiful sometimes because of the wonder of what is happening, but it is not erotic, not even a little. It is more like the beauty of child sleeping peacefully.

I think because we lock breasts away in the country, cover them up so, that they artificially acquire this de facto forbidden, erotic quality no matter what the context. I used to live in a clothing-optional environment where topless women were routine, and in that social context their breasts acquired the same status as any other physical feature. I really liked to look at some of them, but I really liked to look at other women's legs, or face, or hair, or any other feature of physical female pulchitrude, most of which are not routinely hidden.

So, I just think it is entirely ridiculous that we have this discussion at all. They're just boobs. Facebook should attend to the context in which a breast is exposed before taking down the pictures.

There's a FaceBook group to joining to express an opinion about this, by the way.

What do you think?

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