Bare Reality: Breasts make you feel like a proper woman

An excerpt from Bare Reality, a project to further understanding of how women really feel about their breasts, and how they really look.

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© Laura Dodsworth

Age: 26
Children: two

I think my breasts are alright looks-wise. They were a couple of corkers when I was a teenager, a nice pair. Then I had my first baby and fed her, then my next one, and they’ve gone a bit saggier and stretch-marked. But they’re alright in a bra! (laughs) I’m very proud of them for being able to feed my children. I was very impressed with that.

I only go braless in the house. I would never go out without a bra on. They’d just look saggy, not attractive. And you know when you’re cold and your nipples go hard and everyone looks?

I was pretty flat-chested till I was 15. All my friends had boobs. I was the last one. I was wearing a strappy top, and I put cotton wool bits in, and one day the cotton wool started protruding out of the bra, and all my friends were like, “Oh, look at you with cotton wool in your bra!” It was so embarrassing.

I started my periods late as well. All my friends looked like women, and I looked like a little girl. I felt rubbish. When I grew, my friends didn’t really say anything about it, but there was an impact on the boys, a little bit of attention: “You’ve got big tits!” That kind of thing. It’s pathetic really, but I was quite pleased everyone was noticing! (laughs) I’ve never been particularly shy, so I didn’t mind that people were commenting on them. “There they are!”

I breastfed my first baby for six and a half months, and my second one for seven and half months. It was easy and natural. I just whacked my boob out, on they went, and that was that. No problems at all, I was really lucky. “Look at me, look at me feeding my child!”

I think breasts are amazing, they are so impressive. Magic. Yeah, my boobs are a bit saggier and stretch-marked now, but I don’t care. I pretend I care. I’m like, “Oh, my boobs, my boobs!” But I don’t care, I’m proud of what they did. My kids survived off my breasts. They make me feel womanly and strong. Before I had kids, I would have just thought of them as boobs.

My partner absolutely loves them, just as much now as he did 10 years ago. On a date once, he made me get out the car and he said, “Can you do something to my car? Can you just bounce on the bonnet?” I later found out that bouncing was making my boobs go up and down, and that was why he was doing it. Pathetic. He’ll kill me for saying that!

He still has a good old perv on them. He’s happy with them, likes looking at them. They are a very big part of our sex life. He likes to spend a bit of time paying attention to them. I like attention in that area as well, it’s important. I’ve got quite a lot of sensitivity in my nipples, so I do enjoy some fiddling. Breasts make you feel like a proper woman, and when you’re having sex you want to feel like a proper woman. They are empowering.

I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends have been offended if they’ve had comments about their boobs or whatever. It never used to bother me. They are a symbol of being a woman. I’ve always been confident with my sexuality. This is me, I’m a woman, these are what I have.

When I was a barmaid, I had things like “Get your tits out love!” or, “Nice pair of melons!”. You would think that would piss me off, but it didn’t, I just used to laugh and make a joke of it, “Don’t be so rude!”

I think there’s a time and a place for cosmetic surgery. Women have real insecurities about their breasts and if they want to do something about it for themselves, then there’s nothing wrong with it. But I hate massive great big juggernauts on people’s chests. They look horrible, they’re grotesque, it’s an awful fashion, ‘Look at me being six stone with my enormous tits!’. I think it comes from porn and glamour modelling. More and more girls aspire to it. When I was younger I remember thinking, ‘Am I supposed to be that thin and tanned all the time with big boobs?’. You do kind of feel like there is pressure to look like that. It’s horrible, vile.

If I got to 40 or 50 and I wasn’t happy with how they looked I might consider surgery, if I thought, “These are crap, I could do with jazzing them up a bit!” For myself. For my partner as well, but for me really. I’d do other things as well. Would you like a list? (laughs) At the moment no, but I would certainly be open to stuff, in the future, if the financial situation improves.

I work in a factory, I do the admin upstairs. Downstairs is chock-full of calendars of girls with their tits out. There was a time a few years ago when it used to really bother me, make me feel self-conscious. They’re absolutely everywhere! It used to make me feel inadequate. Now I can be, like, “There’s your titty magazine”, and it doesn’t bother me.

When I started working there I was 21 and my youngest baby was still feeding. All my friends still had nice flat tummies, and I was going through a phase of thinking I had a wobbly tum and stretch marks. I’d see all these calendar girls with big boobs, and it made me feel a bit crap.

I don’t have an awful lot of respect for these men. When I go down there, I’ll be striding along because I need to talk to someone, and they’ll be, like, “Phwoar, look at her boobs bouncing!” Honestly, genuinely! They’re only mucking about. I’ll just stick my finger up or whatever, “Stop staring! Get on with your work!” It makes me feel like there’s no respect, they’re just pervy men.

Just after I’d had my first baby, there was a situation with my partner. Again, I was feeling low about my body, worried about stretch marks. I found some, shall we say, “material” on the internet. I was absolutely disgusted, outraged. It got to the point where we nearly split up, I was so upset. And there were another few situations over the next few years, and I would stress each time that I hate it, that it’s degrading. Now I turn a bit of a blind eye. I haven’t found any evidence of it, but I don’t want to search for it. I don’t want to know about it.

Support “Bare Reality” on Kickstarter, and pre-order your copy of the book. £1.00 from every book sold will be donated to Breast Cancer UK

The New Statesman is publishing several stories from Bare Reality this month. Bookmark this page for the next installment and to read the project so far.