May 14, 2010
They say laughter is the best therapy, and we
wanted to perk things up by exploring the breast with a more lighthearted approach. We know that one size does
not fit all in the bosom world, but there is no denying how the breast has influenced our world throughout time
and how our world has influenced the breast. All body parts considered, it is safe to say that breasts measure
up as two of the most arousing features in the anatomical structure and have long served as a source of preoccupation,
exploitation, intrigue, and sensuality. Whether they are round and peppy, high or low, engorged or
deflated, breasts have a way of attracting attention and causing a stir. Let’s face it, we live in a breast-obsessed
society, to the point where surgical enhancements and the Wonderbra are commonplace in our beauty vernacular.
So why are we so fascinated with breasts?
In many Western cultures, there is an undeniable
paradox as it relates to the female bosom.
We are conditioned to believe that they should
be kept undercover, but when they are
exposed, we tend to look on with mesmerized
eyes. One could suggest this modern viewpoint
is attributed to our culture’s puritanical roots
that harvested a more conservative approach
to nudity and sex, leaving us with a compelling
attraction to the so-called forbidden fruit. This is
by no means an endorsement of demeaning
the female anatomy, yet we cannot deny that
breasts have been synonymous with beauty
and sexuality throughout the ages.
Let’s first embark on a physiology lesson to
really understand the anatomy of the breast.
Female breasts are primarily composed of
mammary glands, but they also contain an
abundance of fat and connective tissue, giving
them shape, softness, size, and fullness. Less
conspicuous components of the female breast
include milk ducts, lobes, lobules, arteries and
lymph nodes. Of course, we cannot forget the
areolas and nipples, which are also known for
coming in different shapes, sizes, and colors.
It is no secret that not all breasts are created equal,
yet it really wasn’t until the twentieth century that
these differences were properly accommodated
in the undergarment department.
Prior to the official advent of the bra, the cleavage-
friendly corset enjoyed a rather long reign
in female fashion and beauty. This complicated
contraption was used to reduce the waist in an
effort to exaggerate the breasts and hips, creating
an appealing hourglass figure. The cumbersome,
comfort-challenged corset would lift,
push and pull the female body into voluptuous
torture and could actually reduce waist size to
as low as 13 inches, sometimes less, depending
on body type. So how did the corset come
about? The invention of the corset is attributed
to Catherine de Médicis, wife of King Henri II of
France. Around 1550, she enforced a ban on
thick waists, preferring that ladies in waiting
cinch their waists for court attendances, thus
starting over 350 years of whalebones, steel
rods and midriff misery.
The corset was finally outdone by the first modern
brassiere, patented in 1913 by New York
socialite Mary Phelps Jacob. One evening,
Jacobs was changing into her newly purchased,
sheer evening gown for one of her social events.
At that time, the only acceptable undergarment
was a corset stiffened with whaleback bones.
Jacob found that the whalebones were just not
working with her outfit because they poked out
and were visible around the plunging neckline
and under the sheer fabric. Like any female
caught in the midst of a wardrobe malfunction,
she summoned her creative genius and feverishly
jerry-rigged a makeshift contraption conducive
to her attire. In lieu of the uncooperative corset,
Jacob craftily used two silk handkerchiefs and some pink ribbon to keep her breasts intact, and
just like that the modern brassiere was born.
Eventually, Jacob sold her brassiere patent to
The Warner Brothers Corset Company, which is
known for introducing cup sizes A, B, C and D to
provide more options and comfort for women.
Since then, the bra has continued to evolve, and
now all of womankind is likely to find the right fit
for their form.
Whether you have too much or not enough, the
quest for perfect breasts is not just about comfortable
undergarments. These days, whether
you prefer a push-up bra or a visit to the plastic
surgeon, the simple swipe of a credit card can
give you a bust booster if you can’t fill your
desired cup size. If you need to get some weight
off your chest when battling an overabundant
bosom, that too can be rectified with a surgical
procedure. In fact, according to the American
Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS),
breast augmentation surpassed liposuction
when it became the top surgical procedure in
2008 with 355,671 women undergoing the procedure.
That’s not to say bigger is always better,
especially when you consider that breast reduction
for women was the fifth most popular
cosmetic surgery in 2008 with approximately
139,926 undergoing the procedure.
Breast concerns are not limited to women
According to ASAPS, the fourth most
popular cosmetic procedure among men in
2008 was a breast reduction to treat enlarged
male breasts (gynecomastia). Since men also
have breast tissue, albeit much less than that of
most women, it can lead to overdeveloped
breasts and sometimes even breast cancer.
Have you ever wondered why men have nipples?
A brief reconnaissance into the subject
reveals a rather interesting explanation for this
parallel between the sexes. Aside from ornamenting
pectorals and being a victim of the
occasional love nibble, the male nipple has a
rather titillating past. It turns out that in the earliest
weeks following conception, the male and
female embryo follow a virtually identical developmental
trajectory. In fact, during conception,
each fetus starts out with an X chromosome
from the mother, after which it receives either an
X or Y chromosome from the father, determining
the sex. When you have XX chromosomes,
the child will be a female, and XY chromosomes
will be a male. If the father provided a “Y” chromosome,
the production of testosterone will
begin around the sixth or seventh week following
conception and that’s when the male deviates
anatomically from the female. The nipples
remain because the chromosomal process left
them in the mix. Very interesting indeed!
Now that we have a better understanding of
the breast from a female and male perspective,
it is important to be aware of the anatomy and
to administer self-examinations each month to
ensure everything is normal. It is known that
breast cancer is best treated with early detection,
so be sure to monitor yours regularly.