UB's Society of Feminists discusses sexuality, sensuality of breasts
What began as a conversation about "top freedom" and the stigma of not wearing bras morphed into discussions of breastfeeding, nude dancing and prostitution, as students attending a discussion hosted by UB's Society of Feminists grappled with their opinions on society's treatment of breasts.
Claire Modica, the president of UB's Society of Feminists and a neuroscience graduate student, moderated the dialogue, which took place Wednesday in the Student Union.
"When I see a woman standing nude, there's almost no sexual nature at all," Modica said. "For me, it's that scooping, that picking up [with bras] that looks sexual. I don't understand why people would create laws to tell women they have to cover up when that part of somebody is so unsexual when they are not engaging in any kind of intercourse."
The idea that breasts are innately sexual was a topic of contention throughout the discussion. Not all members agreed with Modica's statement and argued that breasts are an inherently sexual part of a woman's body.
Certain African and Caribbean cultures, and other "warm cultures," do not consider breasts to be sexual. Some members of the discussion used these examples to counter the argument of the innate biological sexuality of breasts while other students used these same cultural examples to claim that breasts are naturally sexual.
"If you look at African art, and especially their sculpture tradition of African art, they have really exaggerated breasts," said Jordan Maxfield, a senior film studies major who argued that breasts were biologically sexual. "It's a strange dualism where, in day-to-day life, seeing breasts isn't considered sexual, but in their art they are even more exaggerated than in Western cultures."
The implications of the exaggeration of breasts in culture remained contentious, and the debate over breasts' sexual nature went back and forth for some time during the discussion until Modica intervened to explain her interpretation of the difference between sexuality and sensuality.
"Something being sexual elicits some sort of thoughts of sex," Modica said. "You could, depending on where you grow up, link anything with sex. If someone trains you to think that toes are sexual objects, you will think that toes are sexual objects. But then there is sensuality. If you are attracted to one sex, you begin to make caricatures of their bodies that make them different."
Modica went on to explain that finding certain parts of a woman's body sensual does not necessarily mean they are sexual.
Thoughts and moods in the room changed as one member brought up the idea of breastfeeding in public. Speakers who before agreed with the idea of "top freedom" and the right of women to bare breasts in public were more skeptical of women breastfeeding their children in public.
Some students argued that in certain places, it is inappropriate to breastfeed in public - in an airplane or in a restaurant, for example. Others brought up the fact that most times breasts are not fully bare when a woman is breastfeeding in public, mentioning that both mother and child are often covered with a cloth during the process.
As the topics grew increasingly contentious, students tended to hold similar opinions. When Modica brought up the idea of topless exotic dancing, there was little dissent on the notion that topless exotic dancing is a viable employment option that should not be looked down upon.
Jerry Tippin*, a sophomore theater major, shared his personal connection to the exotic dancing business when he explained that his mother became a stripper after graduating from college. He argued that at the end of the day, it all comes down to money, saying that if someone can make large sums of money through legal employment, then it should be considered a legitimate job.
The conversation then turned to prostitution, which many students agreed should be legalized on the premise that it could be regulated and taxed to allow safer environments for prostitutes and their customers.
*The Spectrum has changed this student's name to protect his anonymity.
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