Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle The Breast Things in Life

By Paul Klemperer and Spike Gillespie

FEBRUARY 15, 1999:  With February comesthe inevitable midmonth celebration of romantic love and the concomitant cloud of hearts, lace, and chubby cherubs hovering over us like mosquitoes on a scum-covered pond. For the single, the cynical, the socially maladjusted, what better time could there be to talk about a subject close to our hearts? Breast implants. Fake titties, that is. Few products of modern society so quickly belie the argument that we are evolving as a species toward a more enlightened existence. Love isn't just skin-deep; now it's subcutaneous.

Armed with some half-baked theories and a couple of passes to the Yellow Rose (YR) lunch buffet, the crack investigative team of Spike Gillespie (Spike) and Paul Klemperer (PK) hit the streets to get a feel for the implant issue. A strip club seemed like the logical place to begin our research, and the YR is generally accepted as having more silicone per mammary than any establishment in the topless community.

After several hours of noshing and staring, we learned two things: 1) Dancers with big breasts seemed to make more money, both in tips and in lap dances, and 2) if you're going to scarf down a mountain of peel-and-eat shrimp, you don't want a table right next to the stage. It just gets messy, both physically and mentally. PK notes one other thing: It seems that a lot of the silicone bobbing around comes from out of town. Young women migrating from Houston in particular are statistically stacked compared to the number of implanted women in Austin.

In the interest of science it behooved us to repeat the experiment in another strip club. Fortunately, PK had a side gig as saxophonist with the Elegant Esquires, a blues band which plays at the Crazy Lady (CL) on Monday nights. In between solos he kept copious mental notes. The CL tends toward a more "natural" work force, although implants have been known to pop up. Mostly this is guest silicone. Spike sums up: "What did I see? I saw a lot of breasts. I did not see a lot of surgically enhanced breasts. I saw big breasts and small breasts. Overall, for me anyway, it was a very good mix." However, the truism that "big boobs equal big bucks" seemed to hold here as well. As one lesser-endowed dancer put it, after a long night with little to show for it: "Guys just want dances from beautiful girls with big tits. Why are guys such jerks?"

Why, indeed.

illustration by Jason Stout
There are some familiar (and debatable) theories, both biological and cultural, to explain the male predilection for large breasts and, hence, some women's desire to provide those, financial and physical fallout be damned. In the biological determinism camp there is the symmetry argument, which seems in favor these days. Linked with this is the notion of ideal proportions (in which larger breasts come closer to the ideal). These proportions supposedly push a genetic courtship button in the male psyche.

Then again, for each rule there are plenty of exceptions. Spike's breasts, for example, have seen the insides of cup sizes ranging from AA (seventh grade) to B (freshman year college) to C (sophomore year, boosted by her decision to take birth control pills) to off the chart FFF or HHH or something (lactating mama) and now back to a comfy (more saggy courtesy of gravity and aforementioned lactation) C. Through all of that, her personal observation has been that she never had any more or any less luck drawing guys due specifically to breast size. Not that she doubts this happens regularly to other women.

Men's tendency to stare at women's breasts might be explained by another popular argument: Breasts have an almost mystical pull on our unconscious as icons of nurturing, since they are our source of sustenance in infancy. Ergo, the bigger the breasts the greater the sustenance. Perhaps breast obsession reflects some infantile desire to go back to the original food source.

If our primary reaction to breasts is a subconscious connection to food, wouldn't this eroticize all food consumption or, in contrast, continually make us think of food when we see breasts? And too, as Spike noted while watching a lap dance being committed, there just has to be more behind paying to see naked breasts than a desire to get to a state of feeling like a big baby. Because babies do get to touch breasts, one thing absolutely forbidden in a topless bar. So there's a guy, a basically nekkid chick astride him, but he knows if his hands get near her nipples, he's gonna be thrown out on his ass. Watching this bizarreness up close, Spike is reminded of two things. One: For some reason this looks more like a root canal than anything really sexy. Two: She thinks of anorexics who order gourmet food magazines and sit around looking at the things they have no access to given their mental state. Now there's an analogy worth pondering. Truly food for thought.

In the case of those who "were robbed" and fed formula, maybe the fantasy is to go back, try again, and get it right, to wrap one's mouth around a succulent mound of flesh, a responsively erect nipple. Hmmm. Dare we say -- still more food for thought. This idea is complicated by the fact that often breasts which have actually been used for nursing purposes, proven 'feeders' if you will, show signs of wear and tear, a stretch mark or two, maybe nipples that are now the size of pancakes. That is to say a different sort of breast than the firm and perkies that seem to be most attractive to men. Perhaps one of the appeals of implanted breasts, besides their size, is that they are fantasy breasts which exist outside of time and reality. Long after their owner is dust in the ground, they will remain firm and perky.

In the cultural determinism camp there is a strong counter-argument based on the fact that standards of female beauty vary around the world and throughout history. Breast programming may be learned rather than hard-wired into our chromosomes. The cultural preference for large breasts is a whim of fashion, not genetics. As for the infantile association of breasts with nurturing, it is an uncritical acceptance of the breast as sublime. As adults, large breasts may suggest lactation, thus reinforcing the iconic connection of breasts to sustenance, but whether this is a sexual turn-on is debatable. It may point more toward a tendency to focus exaggerated attention on body parts instead of the body as a whole. Cultures where women go topless are decidedly less breast-obsessed.

Whatever the biological and cultural reasons for breast obsession, the situation is further complicated by the presence of fake titties. For many men, implanted breasts are a turn-off. To their credit, some of them are concerned about the health risks for women, and some of them just don't like the way they look. However, many guys who normally exhibit the sensitivity of pachyderms on the subject of sex become transformed into self-righteous talk show guests, feeling somehow bamboozled by women with technologically enlarged mammaries. They see a striking female, begin to grunt and stamp in ritual group arousal, only to become frustrated and angry with the realization that she has got fake titties. Why does this realization cause such a strong reaction?

PK dragged himself away from the YR and the CL long enough to theorize as follows:

  1. Fake titties turn a woman into a true sex object, not just in the minds of men, but in her actual body. They flaunt the reality that breasts are sexual capital, reinforcing the underlying economics of sex. Some men don't like to have their faces rubbed in these realities.

  2. Fake titties are really a doctor's handiwork, not mother nature's. Perhaps men feel they would be intimate with the doctor's product rather than the woman herself, hence they are in some way responding to the doctor's sexual signals, like Pavlovian dogs. And, the reality (or is it just a prevailing belief?) that augmentation docs are mostly male -- well, perhaps this triggers a subtle homophobic response.

PK also polled a sampling of women on the fake titty issue and got two general responses: 1) Fake titties are a blatant appeal to male power. Mutilating the body and risking life-threatening complications in order to gain higher status in a male-dominated world is degrading, and it reinforces the lower status of flat-chested women. 2) On the other hand some women accept the sexual economy and say, "Right on sister. Do whatever it takes!"

Spike's theories are a little less endowed. She thinks it's a bummer that women never seem to be satisfied with what they're born with. But she knows this is a damn given. She knows women who had the surgery and are glad of it. But she also knows women who've had it and later had it reversed. Mostly, she just worries about her own breasts, prefers keeping them strapped down most of the time in a jog bra, and is delighted to report that there are men out there who don't have a problem with breasts proudly bearing the signs of a job well done, breasts which have survived feeding a baby; the stares she might not have noticed, but probably existed; the application of Newton's theories on her mammary glands; and oh yes, those pancake nipples.

Paul Klemperer plays a mean saxophone with The Seth Walker Band and is a master of ethnomusicology (UT) who loves breasts of all persuasions. Spike Gillespie writes fairly often for The Austin Chronicle and feels pretty okay about her breasts.

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