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Friday, November 19, 2004


The scintillating discussion at Echidne about (shudder) labiaplasty has turned over to breast implant surgery, a pet annoyance of mine. A man of no doubt perfectly fine intelligence when not thinking of things like boobies suggested that breast implants are a perfectly natural response to nature.

Breast enlargement surgery is a fairly straightforward intersection of technical ease and a demand that predates porn by hundreds of thosuands if not million years.

Female breasts evolved into an esthtic far beyond what was needed for their purpose a very long time ago. the reason was sexual selection.

Now I am slow, there's no doubt about it. But this argument has never made sense to me. We have surgery to make women have the big breasts that we know men like because women have big breasts. Smaller breasts got sexually selected out, so women with small breasts should get surgery so they don't get selected out as no doubt their small-breasted female ancestors did who passed that small breast gene did. I'm missing something here.

Well, I do get the argument that if nature coughs it up half-assed, we humans are likely to do it one better through artifice. But I'm still not sure that such artifice really reflects some kind of unshakeable deep-down desire, especially considering that what sorts of artifice are used varies from culture to culture and year to year. Hell, even in the subcultures of the U.S., you can see these cultural variances. For instance, in case you haven't noticed, there are two competing boobie fashions, especially for anyone in the C and under category--some women are sticking by their Wonderbras. Some have cheerfully embraced incredibly thin bras, and I count myself in the latter category. While the latter fashion certainly doesn't do much to improve the perception of size, it's a sexier fashion to my mind. But not to everyone's, of course. See? Culture.

Breast implants, as far as I can tell, are not actually designed simply to increase the size. They are designed to make someone's boobies look like they threw on the push-up bra and their breasts grew around it. The women I know who have them tell me you don't even really have to wear a bra, since they stay put all by themselves, though most women do wear a bra anyway to maintain the illusion. Women with god-given large breasts generally do not treat bras as optional decorative items. I am hard-pressed to see exactly how our ancestors evolved a natural love of the breast by Victoria's Secret, unless of course women have been fooling men for thousands upon thousands of years by putting coconuts over their breasts and refusing to remove them on pain of death.


Blogger Earnest said...

I read the discussion on that other site, and it seemed a little silly to me. It seems like people are talking over their heads, wanting to create overarching theories based simply on anecdotal evidence. Now that I think about it "Natural Selection" would be a great brand name for Breast Implants. "Isn't about time breast evolved?" Could be the slogan.


Blogger Amanda said...

A lot of people don't understand evolution at all. I don't understand it, but I know enough to know that because a trait exists doesn't mean that it exists for a "reason". Humans project their own desires onto evolutionary theory nearly as much as they do onto religion sometimes. I do believe that evolution scientists would describe what we would call a "reason" for something more along the lines of "a workable theory to explain how a trait evolved" or something like that.


Blogger ACM said...

Obsession with breasts is very culture-specific, which argues against the evolutionary claim. In fact, the only feature of female "attractiveness" which holds up to cross-cultural studies is the ratio of hip to waist size (which makes sense as both an indicator of youth and of likely ease of childbearing). No other aspects of attraction appear to be the result of selection.


Blogger zuzu said...

As someone naturally well-endowed in the boobage department, I continually shake my head in wonder at those who would inflate their breasts. I'm tired of lugging the things around and long for the day when I can get them reduced.


Blogger Linnaeus said...

I'll fully admit to the fact that I tend to be attracted to *ahem* curvier women, and that includes breasts. But I also understand where that comes from.

And you've pointed out, rightly so, Amanda, that the "evolutionary" argument makes no sense. If we are to assume that breast size is significantly heritable, then breast implants don't change a woman's genetic predisposition one bit. You can't pass your implants off to your daughters. Silly, really.


Blogger Earnest said...

I don't know whether it's true, but I hate when our President flouts scientific consensus, so I'll refrain from doing it now.


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