If you are just joining us, we’re going through eight pointers (pun intended) for living a life with breasts. This is the last of four installments. If you haven’t read parts 1, 2, and 3, you’ll want to head over there and read those first. We’ll see ya when you get back!
A Brief Lesson in Physiology.
(Or, These Things Are WAY More Fun Than You’d Think)
Here are some things that your 6th grade health teacher probably never mentioned. Here are some things your mom or dad likely forgot to include when they were explaining puberty and sex and all that fun stuff. Women’s breasts are suffused with a vast network of nerves and a veritable cluster of nerve endings in the areola and nipple. Why is that good news? Let me tell you. It’s good news because more nerve endings = more sensation. In other words, it feels good when someone (or you yourself) touch your breasts. Better, say, than your belly or your back.
And this is a gift just for us ladies. In male and female fetuses the nipple and areola develop almost identically and remain the same throughout infancy and into childhood. But with the increase of estrogen and progesterone during puberty, the woman’s nipple and areola develops further with the growth of her breast and becomes much more sensitive (read: WAY MORE FUN TO TOUCH). The guy’s nipple and areola, while it contains the same number of nerve endings, remains elementary. Poor guys.
Stimulation of the nipple prompts the production and release of prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin is important when a woman is nursing a baby because it promotes feelings of trust and bonding. Oxytocin is important for sexual arousal and often results in nipple erection. Some women are even able to achieve orgasm by nipple stimulation alone (fun!) and recent research shows that sensations from the nipple travel to the same portion of the female brain as does the genitals. On MRI the female nipple lights up the same area of the brain as the genital sensory cortex, making them prominent players in female pleasure and sexuality. Wouldn’t that have been fun to talk about during Mrs. McFarland’s My Body, My Way class in the school gym?
And A Brief Note, Before We Wrap This Up, for the Religiously-Raised Breast Bearers
I know all of my readers are not religious and if you aren’t, feel free to skip ahead. We’ll catch up in a sec.
Like every conservative church-going child of the eighties I knew Amy Grant‘s ever popular cover of El Shaddai as well I knew my ABCs. My mom practically wore out the tape deck in her Toyota Camry playing Grant’s Age to Age as she drove us around town to school, church, gymnastics practice and piano lessons. I could sing El Shaddai in my sleep. I still can.
But nobody ever told me what El Shaddai means. As a child I knew only that El Shaddai was a Hebrew name for the God of Israel. Beyond that it was anyone’s guess. El , it turns out, is translated as “god” or “lord” but the translation of Shaddai is debatable because the origin and meaning of Shaddai is rather obscure. Most English translations of the Hebrew scriptures will translate El Shaddai to mean “God Almighty” but many in the translation community believe this to be inaccurate.
One of the more likely renderings is something much more scandalous for church-going ears, be you Christian, Muslim or Mormon. The Hebrew word shad or shadiyim means “breast” or “breasts” which could thus render El Shaddai as “God of Breasts.” More palatable, I suppose, might be “God who Nourishes,” but I prefer the former. I mean, c’mon! A Boob God? Now that’ll preach.
. . .
So there ya go, ladies.
Your (in)complete guide to living a life with breasts. Whether you are a cisgendered white woman like me, a transgendered woman considering implants, a gender non-conforming person binding your breasts, a cancer patient staring down a double mastectomy, black or brown, big or small, here’s the thing. Here’s the one thing I want you know: Your breasts? They belong to noone but you. Are they confusing sometimes? You bet. Do you wish that men behaved better? No doubt. But your breasts are soft and smooth and lovely. They are portals of pleasure, imbued with innumerable nerve endings that can bring you sexual satisfaction (yay!). They are conduits of nourishment that you can use, if you choose, to feed your children (amazing). So don’t forget. Don’t ever forget: Double E or Almost A, they are yours. They are yours and you get to decide what to do with them.