Tuesday, December 02, 2003

All Hot and Bothered About Breastfeeding

I don't want to milk this subject for more than it's worth, but I couldn't help noticing a recent skirmish in St. Blogs over what Micki refers to as "public nursing," conjuring in the process an image of the general public queueing up for a chance at the prize. Says she, "For those women who have a problem with public nursing because they may accidentally see a bit of nip, I say grow up." (Accidentally, Micki?) I find it interesting that it's "women" who have a problem with it, but right now I'm most interested in nipping this problem in the bud, before its dimensions swell out of all proportion. I mean, in this corner we have Micki, Sparki, Alicia, Pansy and Peony and a whole bevy of like-minded supporters - including, ominously, a lawyer, Dale Price, - all standing in defense of the practice, pleading the case for 'natural, nourishing, not sexy, and none of your business even if it is'; and in this corner...Michelle, hanging out pretty much all by herself (that doesn't mean what it sounds like), casting the cool eye of logic on behalf of modesty, privacy, and you're making it my business.

This is beginning to look like a real hardball game of tit for spat and it has got to stop. For those who would like me to take sides, that's not what I'm here for. (Actually, no one even asked my opinion, and that's always when I'm most willing to give it.) I'm here to calm things down, to serve as a sort of collective pacifier (don't take that the wrong way) before the fault lines of this dispute fracture into outright schism. I'm worried, you see, about the so-called nipple,sorry, ripple-effect should this imbroglio spread to all corners of St. Blogs. What if some atheist drops in looking to be converted and all he sees are words like 'breast,' 'nipple,' 'sucking,' and, Peony's favorite, 'whip it out?' (I'd always thought that's what men did. Women...I dont know what they do but it's something else.) Our atheist is going to wonder whatever happened to the filioque controversy, isn't he? He's going to wonder why spiritual people are so concerned with how to behave in the presence of certain body parts, isn't he? He's going to think we're the sexually repressed neurotics we've always been accused of being, for whom sex can never really be any fun unless we're sweating the small stuff into inifinity, isn't he? He's going to think he might as well become an Episcopalian.

Now, I'd thought to have pronounced definitively on this matter in a long-ago post, but the fact that one speaks infallibly does not mean people are going to stop arguing. Look at the Pope; it happens to him all the time. People think he's old and feeble, but I think we've just worn him out. So in the interest of encouraging peace in the valley and making molehills out of mountains, I decided to do some research of an exhaustive nature in order to put this baby to bed, and though nothing is normally more exhausting than getting a woman to tell you what she really thinks, Elizabeth, my daughter, is pretty down-to-earth and super-intelligent to boot, so I called her in from the living room to the kitchen where, by coincidence, I was pouring myself a glass of milk.

"Child," I asked, "what would you think if you went into, say, Burger King or some other restaurant and the lady at the table next to you started to breastfeed her kid? Would you approve?"

"Eww. No."

"Why not?"

"Well, it's her boob."

"Yeah? So?"

"Well, you're not supposed to get naked in public, for Pete's sake."

"She's not naked. It's just her boob."

"Still...you know...it's her boob."

"Well, what if she did a real good job of covering it up? Like with a little towel or something?"

She thought a moment, and got a little fidgety. "There's still the action," she said.

"The what?"

"You know, the slurping sound, the bobbing head, the clutching at the boob..."

"But," I reminded her, "it's all perfectly natural, isn't it? The kid's gotta be fed. It's not like she's doing something dirty, is it?"

"Well, yeah, no..." She became thoughtful and I hoped her intelligence would not desert me at this crucial juncture.

"So?" I pushed, taking a slug of milk. Man, was I thirsty.

"So I know how men are."

"Aha!" I pounced. "So if there were no men in the Burger King, or you had some female guests over to the house and one of them popped it out and started breastfeeding, it wouldn't bother you. But if men are around, well, we know what they're like, don't we?"

"Yeah, exactly. It's just how they are. I mean, I've had boobs for a while now and it's no big deal. But to them it always is."

"So men are the problem."

"Yeah, exactly."

And there you have it. I gave her a hug. Sharp as a tack as always. About that time her mother walked in, for mothers have long ears, and asked, "What are you guys talking about?"

I brought her up to speed and, for the sake of thoroughness, asked her opinion. She was not comfortable with it. She'd nursed two kids up to the age of about one year and never once found occasion to breastfeed in public. Of course, I reminded her, if you're trying to avoid it you're not likely to find occasion. Still, she grumped, she wasn't comfortable with it. So I took her through the same series of questions put to Elizabeth and, yes, she had to admit that the act was natural and necessary but...her mind would not be changed, and as a woman she was under no obligation to say why. But no, she would not be especially bothered if a lady friend breastfed in her presence.

"And what if I were there?" I asked.

Then it would bother her.

Elizabeth and I looked at each other. "Aha!" we pounced together. "Men are the problem!"

"Well," said her mother, "you know how they are."

Being one, yes I do. It's knowledge of a time-shrouded, universal, immemorial nature. Men are sex-driven hominoids with a brain tagging along for the ride to serve the occasionally useful purposes of making money and performing manual labor. None ever came willingly to civilization unless dragged there by a woman – his befuddled brain balancing the bane against the blessing, the agony of her victory against the ecstasy of her teat – or by a religious conversion. Of this latter group some are even serious about it, wearing hairshirts or disappearing into the desert or behind tall walls. But the rest of us take the old man everywhere we go, even to church. When we made the profession of faith, there were two guys standing there, one who wants to be a saint and one who misses the bad old days; one who wants to love one woman and another who is impressed by numbers; one who wants to be a good man and one who would be a man about town; one who is serious about humility, but who can't stop taking himself seriously. In short, our brains may be narrowly focused, but expansive enough to be of two minds on at least one issue. This group, by far the larger group, is the problem.

If there were no men, you ladies wouldn't be squabbling. None of you, I trust, are particularly embarrassed by the sight of each other's breast. What bothers you is the knowledge that somewhere some hypothetical man, who hypothetically might be your husband, would like to be in the room. It would be one thing if he worshipped only yours, but he seems driven to make idols of them all. And it doesn't matter whether you're married or not. You know that guy is out there somewhere and you know what he wants. A chaste propriety demands that he not get it. Others of you, who, like my daughter, think your breasts are no big deal, realize the distressing intransigence of the situation and have determined that you will do what must be done, even if it means defying the prevailing code of manners because its very existence was necessitated by the lustful gaze of Man.

I don't know much for a certainty in this life, but I do know that men need to be breastfed for most of their lives, in infancy and then again during that prolonged adolescence called adulthood. There is the welcome quiescence of childhood, but it's quickly followed by puberty, which messes us up forever. It's as though we latch on for life, never to let go. I also know that we're adept at recognizing a good thing from a very young age, as evidenced by this picture of me taken a few years ago:

Add a few physical modifications - a longer body, a fuller head of hair, more of a leer to the grin - and it might have been taken a few days ago.

So what's the solution, you ask? There isn't one. There. Isn't that liberating? Now you can go back to the easy stuff, like convincing agnostics why the concept of three persons in one God is not insurmountable, or why contraception is so obviously wrong, or why the controversies worth getting heated about are the ones that attack truth, and why they (the unbelievers) have a home in the Church because its greastest virtue is charity.

Normally I like my code of moral manners in black and white, but for once let's raise a toast to a grey area. It's an issue that won't go away and cannot be resolved. It's like trying to decide who's more at fault for the Fall, Adam or Eve. I tend toward Eve but, having been tamed by a woman, I'm willing to play the gentleman and take the blame. And I don't think the answer is to be found in legislation or store policies. I've envisioned walking into a restaurant and seeing a sign that says Breastfeeding Section, but it won't work because it'll be full of men. "Yeah, we wanna sit over there, hyuk, hyuk." Me, I'd probably pretend to wander in by accident. "Oh. Sorry. I promise not to stare..."

Saith Smockmomma: "Deal with your psycho-sexual hangups on your own time and leave me, my breasts, and my baby out of it." I'd like to but I can't help myself. Have you ever wondered why certain societies worship fertility goddesses? I haven't. Still, if I ever happen to see something "accidentally," I promise to hold an admiring peace.


Reader Comments:

Oh my, that was classic Luse. Absolutely classic. Love the photo. :-)

You can put the Culbreaths in the camp of pro-discreet-public-breastfeeding partisans. I've figured out the problem. Families today are small, and kids these days don't grow up watching their mothers and aunts and sisters feed their babies. I certainly didn't. These kids grow up into adults who have never thought about breasts in a non-sexual way and it hurts to make the transition.

Posted by Jeff Culbreath email at December 2, 2003 01:08 PM

Wow. A summa on the breast-feeding issue. This post has the strong scent of truth about it - or maybe it's mother's milk? At the very least you've helped expose the cleavage rending St. Blog's apart.

Posted by tso email at December 2, 2003 04:17 PM
You are the titular essayist to keep us a breast of this issue.

Posted by Jeff Miller email at December 2, 2003 06:44 PM

Boys, boys, boys! You may be proving Mr. Luse right.

Posted by Terry email at December 2, 2003 07:06 PM

just great, bill. that is NOT a discreet pic, though! (but sweet, none the less)
my magnum opus is still on the draft page - I have been marginally hypoxic the last few days, reserving my limited energies for the important stuff. like breathing. and taking care of my family and patients.

Posted by alicia email at December 2, 2003 09:34 PM

It's good to see Mr. Culbreath hasn't abandoned us completely (and he's right about the way boys are raised), but it appears LeXuan wasn't kidding. I miss her.
And I knew I could count on TS and Jeff Miller for some pointed word play.
Alicia, being a man, I'm of two minds on the matter of discretion. Sometimes I'm even in favor of it. Hope you're feeling all right. I don't know what hypoxic means, but I'll look it up. Looking forward to your big opus.
Terry, is any proof really necessary?

Posted by William Luse email at December 3, 2003 01:21 AM

If the issue is really modesty, why do I not hear the complaints with the rampant provocative necklines, belly exposing shirts, low-waisted shorts, etc....Even a pair of pants can be immodest for a woman to wear because pants reveal and not conceal.

One physiology professor (a neurologist) told me in college that women breastfed because they can get some sexual pleasure. (I will not repeat what he said word for word in polite company.) And I believe that most men and some women who never breastfed must be believing in this myth. If it not be the case, why all the cry about it being a private act?

As for nursing babies making slurping noises? Give me a break! It's more credible if the complaints were about the high decibel cry of hunger.

I think any queasiness experienced around a nursing mom can only be cured by repeated exposures--desensitization and a new way of thinking about those things. They are just glands--MAMAry glands. Nothing to be excited about unless you are a hungry baby.

Posted by Mother of four email at December 3, 2003 03:19 AM
Mother of four brings up an interesting point in suggesting desensitization. She is right; breast festishes are a cultural thing. Men in Islamic countries are said to find women's ankles erotic because that it is all they see (given the body length coverings women wear). So, men must become desensitized to the feamle breast. Let my desensitization process begin! I see Bill is doing his part with the pic! :)

Posted by tso email at December 3, 2003 07:17 AM

"Let the desensitization process begin!"


And, hey, Bill--let's see a CURRENT picture of you! Then we WOMEN will be doing the public drooling and slurping! :-O

Posted by KTC email at December 3, 2003 08:56 AM

OK, I KNEW dear Mr Luse was going to have something to say about this, and I see I was right. What a sweet photo! Bill, you owe it all to your mom!

off topic -- KTC, I sent (and am resending) you an email

Posted by PeonyMoss email at December 3, 2003 09:59 AM
Just to clarify ... I have it on good authority that Mother of Four, who by the way is no longer reading Apologia, really means "repeated exposure" to nursing mothers, not necessarily repeated exposure to female breasts per se. Settle down, TSO. ;-)

Posted by Father of four (at Hallowed Ground)email at December 3, 2003 10:42 AM
Mr. Luse, as always, makes me think harder about issues.

I don't think the issue is necessarily "how men are" but that's probably getting more to the point. In our society today, the general notion of one's body is that it is meant to be offered to another for consumption. Sexually, I mean. Look at the "fashions" they try to sell to our teenage daughters -- too-tight t-shirts with "Boy Candy" written across the breasts in sequens. Etc.

When one thinks of a woman offering her body to another in this day and age, sex is what is brought to mind immediately. And the next thing for humble, modest people to think is, "In privacy, of course..."

Now take the mother who breastfeeds her infant -- she is truly offering her body for consumption by another. And thus -- even though this particular transaction is not at all sexual -- there is an urge by our humble, modest folks to say, "In privacy, of course..."

It's not the sight of it that bothers people -- particularly when nothing can be seen when the mother is both modest and practiced. It's the IDEA of it -- one human consuming another human's body -- that causes folks like Michelle to beg to be excluded from witnessing such a thing.

I said over at Sleepy Mommies that the one time I nursed Edyn in public (and I was down in the basement of a restaurant, trying to be away from people), a trio of grandmotherly types wandered over and asked to have a peek at the sleeping baby under the blanket. When I whispered that she was eating at the moment, they were aghast and nervous. And yet they SAW no more of my body after learning that I was nursing than they did before. The picture hadn't changed -- a mother, holding her child in arms, a blanket draped over the mother's shoulder and baby's head and torso. Why was it sweet before they knew I was nursing and wicked and immodest afterwards?

What we need, really, is for people to equate breastfeeding not with the sexual act of one consuming another, but with the Holy Act of the people of the Church consuming the Eucharist.

I think.


Posted by Sparki email at December 3, 2003 10:54 AM

If the issue is really modesty, why do I not hear the complaints with the rampant provocative necklines, belly exposing shirts, low-waisted shorts, etc....Even a pair of pants can be immodest for a woman to wear because pants reveal and not conceal.

Because most people here take it for granted that such things are immodest. Nobody needs convincing of this.

There's a tension here between what we all know ought to be permitted in public (the very natural and very beautiful action of a mother nourishing her child) with what our fallen nature permits.

Anybody who argues that there is something inherently immodest about breastfeeding is a cretin, yet Bill's essential point - that most men cannot handle public breastfeeding - is right. To find the answer here, we have to admit that sexually, most of our culture is broken. Right is wrong and wrong is right. Somehow, men slobber over teenage sex sirens in music videos with their chests hanging out, but are disturbed when they see a woman putting her physiology to its natural, ordained use. Why is this? Because our sense of sexuality, from a younger age than we even realize, is distorted.

As faithful Catholics, we all want to preach the truth, and the truth is that breastfeeding is beautiful, natural and ought not cause anybody shame or embarrassment. But as real world-dwellers, how can we not see that indiscreet public actions could in fact tempt another to lust and therefore to fall? In that case, not only would one be leading another to sin, but one would also be putting one's own body in the situation of being objectified and "used", and that too is wrong. A man that looks upon a woman with lust in his heart is committing adultery with her, and no woman should put herself in a position where that could happen.

Is this fair? Hell no! A woman should be able to nourish her child without the potential of causing others to sin. That she sometimes cannot is unjust, it's a direct consequence of the fall, and it just downright stinks, but it's the way the world is, and telling all men who are given to lustful thoughts in these situations to "get over it" rings of a lack of charity.

I think any queasiness experienced around a nursing mom can only be cured by repeated exposures--desensitization and a new way of thinking about those things.

You may be right, but I hope my wife never takes it upon herself to desensitize men, I would hate to have to blacken some guy's eye when it can be avoided.

Posted by Chris email at December 3, 2003 06:10 PM

I am udderly gratified by all your comments.
- Mother of four (aka the woman who never reads Apologia anymore)says that, contrary to her prof, the idea that women get sexual pleasure from breastfeeding is a myth. Well guess what. I'm not touching that one with a ten foot pole, first, because I've never done it before, and second, because women are such complex creatures it's impossible to know what they're really experiencing. And frankly I don't care as long as they're happy. Mom of 4 also thinks that the fallen male human nature can be steamrolled by repeated exposure to breastfeeding moms. I dealt with this in my first post; it won't work. They are not just mammary glands and she knows it. And I'll bet the wise Father of four has at some point proved it.
- TSO - Islamic women wear those long dresses because the men make them. Why? Because they know the sight of some cleavage would send them over the edge. And you can't be the first guinea pig in the densensitization process. I already volunteered in my first post. Get in line.
- KTC - I don't have a downloadable picture, and even if I did, I'd probably violate the modesty barrier in the opinion of some. However, I do hope to meet all you gals in person someday.
- Peony - I do owe it all to my Mom, but I don't think I'll tell her why.
- Sweet Sparki - The problem is that we do offer our bodies to another for consumption, because we are fallen. We can only hope that when things wash out in the end, love is more powerful than lust. A childbearing woman (not a contraceptively infertile one - she merely mimics the motions, all of which stop at the bedroom door) makes this sacrifical offering at several points in her life, and in a way that a man can never quite equal. She renders herself helpless to the world, so to speak: to the man in begetting the child, to the continuing life of the world in giving birth, and to the child itself in the nurturing of it. When a man ( a decent one) sees a woman nursing her child, he is reminded of two things: the real reason for sex, and the sex itself - because they are inseparable, one having led to the other. The nursing child is an image of her fecundity, and arouses in him two natures, one paternally tender and the other concupiscent. I don't think this is a bad thing; at the least it is unavoidable. What is needed are discipline, good manners, and a sense of proportion, the cultivation of which in the male side of our species is a primary purpose of a woman's life. The sexual economy is something she ought to be in control of, and toward which men should show great deference. Though I see in the woman's sacrifice some sense to your analogy of the nursing child with our reception of the Eucharist, I prefer to keep sex away from this latter sacrifice since it was instituted to bring us to a life in which sex is not needed (though it can certainly sanctify our conduct in this area). Even if we put aside the endless collage of crudity that constitutes modern culture, and which sorely aggravates the difficulty for breastfeeding moms, the purity of the Eucharistic image will never completely displace other images aroused by the desire of the natural man.

You ladies, breasts and all, nursing or not, are simply going to have to live with the condition of being intensely desirable. I don't even mind if you glory in it.

Posted by William Luse email at December 3, 2003 07:55 PM

Chris, you are very smart and right in what you say. Just be gentle with Mother of four. I like her a lot.
By the way, how's marriage treating you?

Posted by William Luse email at December 3, 2003 08:06 PM
I'm doing my level best not to read anyting into the fact that MICKI and BOOB are the only two words typed in boldface, Mr. Luse.

Posted by smockmomma email at December 4, 2003 01:27 AM
Try a little harder, though it's clear from how far apart the boldface words are that you already have. The bold type was intended as a tip of the hat to your post, which originally got me to thinking,and was supposed to be a link which I noticed a while ago I had sloppily overlooked. It's been repaired and the bold taken out to show my good faith. Odd that of the entire post, the substance of which is not against you, that's all you should notice.

Posted by William Luse email at December 4, 2003 03:44 AM

I have never seen a woman exposing herself to nurse a baby or do I think it is so possible unless you are trying real hard to look or the woman is being very careless about it. I take public nursing as nursing your child discreetly without being immodest. Even then, some people are bothered about the "action." My husband was one of those people for he escorted me by the hand to another room when we had our first child even when we were home by ourselves. He just couldn't share.

He is now desensitized to this evidenced by the fact that he would smile or wave to a lady friend who happens to be nursing. Come to mass at Saint Stephen on any Sunday and you will see women nursing their babies in the pew or back in the vestibule. Here at our parish, keeping up with the Joneses means having as many children as so and so. We love our children and don't banish them to a cry room.

I can say with certainty that the boys and men in our parish, single or married do not feel uneasy seeing a woman does what is the most natural thing. They have wives and mothers and sisters who nurse their babies like their mother before them. They don't shun us mothers as if we should be ashamed for causing them embarrassment. With three mothers nursing their babies in a room of nine men and women, we've discussed spiritual meditation and the Council of Trent. Is that not a public and intimate setting?

Perhaps I am very sheltered from the men of the world. And yes, I've nursed a baby in places other than at church. Ban public nursing? Call for a ban in immodest clothes. Or public display of affection and a host of other immodest behaviors.

Where I came from, women feed their babies without covering up and people don't kiss and hold hands in public. Knowing "how men are" I nurse my babies covered up so I don't cause another to sin. If there are some who still have a problem because of the "action", I say they need to be desensitized. Yet it may not work for some but that does not warrant a ban.
I am not being uncharitable but if I am to be banished because some just can't handle seeing me nurse my child and nothing else then it is no longer my responsibility.

You are right, Mr. Luse. You have spoken yet we are still arguing. And you know, you can wander over while I'm nursing and you will NOT get a peek even accidentally.

Posted by Mother of four email at December 4, 2003 12:18 PM


Posted by William Luse email at December 4, 2003 05:17 PM

Apologies if I seemed harsh. The main body of the post wasn't meant to be a response to her. I was responding to points that stuck out to me, not trying to attack Mother o' 4.

Marriage is treating me wonderfully, by the way, so wonderfully that when and where to breastfeed is someting Jenny and I will be worrying about in 3 months. Actually, much of my previous comment (including the blackened eye comment) came out of a conversation we had after I read her your post aloud.

Posted by Chris email at December 4, 2003 08:02 PM

Oops, make that in 6 months, not 3!

Posted by Chris email at December 4, 2003 08:57 PM

So Jeff "just couldn't share," huh? Can't say I blame him.
Chris, that is wonderful news. God bless the child. Have lots of them. And Mother of 4 is a very bright, compassionate, loving, and understanding female human being. I don't think she'll take it personally. I was just trying to suck up to her by offering to come to her defense.

Posted by William Luse email at December 5, 2003 03:17 AM

"Full" disclosure: I have seen a mother exposing herself during breastfeeding. It was after Mass, at the coffee and donuts social, and she simply started nursing her baby with full breast exposed. I guess she felt comfortable among "church types" in doing this; I assume she wouldn't have among complete strangers.

Posted by tso email at December 5, 2003 07:37 AM

I just got referred here by another blog but felt compelled after reading this to tell you all I'm with smockmamma. I know wherof I speak- here are my bona fides: I'm a mother of 5 who nursed every one of them for at least a year, the last one 2. Never did it publicly. Wasn't necessary since I'm a stay at home mom and also I'm notoriously careless and clumsy. I could never seem to get it right. But that's just me.

But just why is it that WOMEN have to make all the sacrifices because some jerk might possibly get a cheap thrill? A poor baby has to eat where there isn't any privacy. Sorry guys, you'll just have to put up with it and be mature for a few minutes.

You know in the mideast anything less than being covered head to foot is an imvitation to rape. And it's 100 degrees out but that's all right--the women are the only ones suffering. A woman dresses comfortably here and no man thinks anything of it. The reason is desensitization which Mr. Luse thinks doesn't work. Why not? We don't go around in burkas in this country. SOMEWHERE somebody started the desensitization. Men should give women a break for once and let her do what's comfortable and convenient for herself. If women always have to think about the impact on men nothing would have ever been done to make o

Posted by ex-nursing mom email at December 5, 2003 02:28 PM

If desensitization worked, Mr. O'Rama wouldn't be so eager to undergo it.

Posted by William Luse email at December 5, 2003 03:38 PM

Hey, hey, I'm with ex-nursing mom on this one. Men need to take one for the team (as I titled my post on the subjedt) and show a little discipline on this. Many workplaces have a sign that says "Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part" and I do think there is a corollary "a lack of self-discipline on men's part does not constitute constant inconvenience on women's part". I think it's mostly an issue of taking custody of our eyes rather than desensitization.

Posted by tso email at December 5, 2003 05:02 PM

Hmm, I could say I see evidence of backpedalling here, but I'll take his word for it. I do know he's decent to the core and will give every appearance of maturity when confronted with the unexpected. What interests me are the ladies who are unable to "take one for the team," as Sparki's example well shows.

Posted by William Luse email at December 5, 2003 06:11 PM

This is all so weird, but relevant. I've been reading your stuff for some time Luce. Always good.

I have to say, there's two things I always thought about when it came to public nursing: 1. Women need be as discreet as possible. If they are known for being careless, then they need to take extra precaution. There's no excuse for exposure per modesty's sake. It's called living above reproach.

2. Men need to take more responsibility. Something tells me that Christ would have words with any man who blamed a woman nursing their child for any impurity in his mind. Nursing is a pure moment...let us not taint it with our immaturity. It's called living above reproach.

Luce was right. There's nothing definitive. It all comes down to living above reproach. Modesty, maturity, and common sense should guide us to the righteousness on this issue. At least, it should.

Posted by ragamuffin minister email at December 5, 2003 07:15 PM

Thanks for contributing,Jeph.

Posted by William Luse email at December 6, 2003 12:53 AM
I'll admit to some backpedaling on the desensitization issue! (But desensitization wouldn't inconvenience women.)

In my own chastity battles I've noticed improvements are possible. I actually fast-forwarded, squinting my eyes, through Halle Berry's sex scene in "Monster's Ball", something I never could've/would've done five years ago.

Posted by tso email at December 6, 2003 08:31 AM

You're a better man than I, TS.

Posted by William Luse email at December 6, 2003 09:50 PM

Ex-nursing Mom is absolutely correct - it's not too much to ask grown-up men to guard their eyes a little bit. There are enough strikes against mothers in this country as it is, especially-doubly-trebly if they're trying to stay home with their children. There is all the difference in the world between a young woman's charitably refraining from smacking men in the eye with occasions of sin in the way of immodest dress, and a beleaguered mother being expected to sit in the bathroom to nurse her baby. And with all sympathy for your fatherly partiality, you ought to know that there's no point in asking a single person about marriage questions, or a young girl about motherhood issues. These are things you don't understand at all until you've done them.

Posted by Elinor email at December 7, 2003 10:29 PM

I would hope nursing mothers would not be sent to the bathroom. As to asking the opinion of single people, everyone has a sense of modesty, so everyone's opinion is welcome. Furthermore, I asked her mother, who has the experience you desire, and her opinion was the same. Your last point is the one pro-choice women try to use to exclude men from the abortion argument: you don't get pregnant, so shut up. Supposing the Pope is a virgin, possibly with no experience of sex, I still cede to him the authority to issue guidelines to me, a married man, on the proper use of that faculty.

Posted by William Luse email at December 8, 2003 01:34 AM

When I witnessed a babe at the nipple,
I felt my scalp starting to ripple.
I averted my gaze,
Reeled away in a daze,
And soothed my poor nerves with a tipple.

Posted by Robert Wenson email at December 9, 2003 08:45 AM
Ah, the incorrigible Mr. Wenson. Always good to hear from you. I'll leave the poem's deconstruction to my readers.

Posted by William Luse email at December 9, 2003 04:39 PM

I gave my self a stomach ache laughing so hard!! Great post!!

Posted by Elena email at December 23, 2003 05:53 PM
I'm glad you liked it, Elena. I'll visit your page soon.

Posted by William Luse email at December 23, 2003 06:29 PM
Just a couple of thoughts:

Regarding being the occasion of another's sin--if I need to feed my hungry child, justice would demand that this take precedence over my call not to be the possible occasion of a stranger's sin in a cafe. After all, only I can look after my child, and I am called by my motherhood to do that; the stranger is also called to guard his eyes.

Regarding breastfeeding reminding others of fecundity and the act that produces a baby in the first place--are you suggesting a return to the times when a mother obviously with child must seclude herself? It would seem that a pregnant mother would be just as much such a reminder, especially when compared to a feeding with no skin showing. These times were not so long ago....

Regarding the covering cultures--there an ankle may lead to lecherous thoughts, but breastfeeding in public is acceptable. How does that affect your thesis?

Regarding "This is my body, given up for you", I actually thought of the Eucharist as I read Sparki's post. One of my aunts suggested the comparison to me already. I think it IS an appropriate type, to talk of a mother giving up her body, being consumed both by the babe in the womb and then by the babe at the breast, without being harmed or diminished, as being a type of Christ in the Eucharist. In Song of Songs, it is not deemed inappropriate to talk of Christ and the Church as lovers, and while breastfeeding is important to reproducing the species, it isn't inexorably linked to sex. Breasts can be convinced to do their glandular thing even when a woman hasn't given birth, as evidenced by many successfully nursing adoptive mothers.

Regarding desensitisation--maybe we need refocusing instead. A friend of mine told a story of her MIL disapproving of her breastfeeding her first boy into toddlerhood. "He'll be a breast man for sure," she said, or something to that effect. And my friend's husband jumped in and told his mom, "No, because he'll know what they're for!" I am blessed with a dh who doesn't mind being around nursing moms--he's happy to see their babies getting the best, in fact--but is certainly bothered by what people wear (or don't wear) and other images. I think if we can all (women and men) refocus on what is happening, instead of having a gut "ew, breast! Do that in private!" reaction, the discomfort will become nonsensical. It will take practice, but the
more boys who are raised in families practicing modest but public long-term breastfeeding, the more the culture will begin to change.

Sorry my thoughts ran so long!


Posted by mandamum email at August 26, 2004 12:53 AM

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