On our path to body acceptance, breasts sometimes get skipped over in favour of discussions of sexualisation and censorship. So, how do we really feel about this body part?
How do you feel about your boobs?
It’s unlikely a question you often get asked, but it’s one that bears thinking about. In the pursuit of body acceptance, getting to grips with our emotions related to all parts of our bodies is a major step. And when it comes to boobs – a body part imbued with the weight of societal expectations, gender norms and pressure to look a certain way – these feelings can be complex.
In order to break down our thoughts about our own boobs and gain a greater understanding about how others see theirs, we asked women all about their breasts in a major UK-wide survey and found some fascinating results.
For one thing, few of us feel overwhelmingly positive about our boobs. Of the participants in our survey, just 17.6% said they “really liked” their boobs. Sadly, more women (18.1%) fell into the “I somewhat dislike them” camp, and 7% said they “really dislike” their own breasts.
While 50% said they’re happy with the size of their boobs (hooray!), 26.2% said they would like them to be smaller, and 17.6% long for a bigger cup size. The shape of our breasts bothers many of us too: 32% of those surveyed said they’d like to wave a magic wand and change the shape of their breasts.
To dig into this a little deeper, we asked some women a simple question: how do you feel about your boobs? Here’s what they said.
“I view my breasts as a utilitarian pair of appendages that served a purpose and are now a little redundant. I dislike boob-wobble and like to harness them into immobility with supportive but highly structured bras. I view them as potential timebombs with regards to breast cancer and so am fastidious about checking for lumps and having my regular mammograms. They’re not my finest asset (I’m not really sure what is any more actually!) but they’re all right, I suppose. I’ve never been one for plunging cleavage or décolletage revealing outfits as I never really want to draw attention to them.”
“I love my boobs. I gained weight in the pandemic and they, in turn, got livelier and bouncier, but I think they’re super cute. They’re functional, they serve their purpose and I definitely have to choose different tops and bras now that they’re a touch bigger, but overall, they’re the business.”
“I think I’m predominantly ambivalent about my boobs. Don’t love ’em, don’t hate ’em, but I am grateful for the times that they’ve felt heavier than usual as my monthly reminder that my period is due soon. If you ask me how I feel about showing my boobs, I’m sure my answer would be even more vague and uncertain. I’m not sure which of the pop culture gods have quietly told me that cleavage is ‘uncool’ now, but I don’t think I’m as sartorially confident about wearing a low-cut top as I was a few years back. And I have no idea why. As for full frontal nipple nudity, I’m all for it but don’t have the personal desire to whip mine out in public spaces where I already don’t feel particularly comfortable anyway.”
“I love my boobs. They’ve changed shape and size with time. They’ve fed my two sons and they bounce happily through life with me.”
“I don’t think about my boobs much. Sometimes I’ll wish they were a touch smaller so I could wear certain things or more lifted to make an outfit look better. I feel like when I was younger there was a lot more emphasis on boobs and how men felt about them. I remember a lot of discussion over whether a girl at our school would get more male attention purely because she had big boobs and the time a friend of the guy I was seeing disparagingly saying, ‘Her boobs aren’t even that big.’ These days, I really don’t care about my boobs in a sexual or attraction-based sense; it’s more about comfort and style.”
“I actually quite like my boobs. They’re just the right shape and size for me. I used to want smaller because I grew up in the age of size 0 and thought that having any kind of curve = fat. But over the years, I’ve come to embrace them. They’re small enough that I’ve been able to wear strapless outfits without a bra at all, and they don’t get in the way of running or working out. And because they’re not super prominent, I feel like they’re a part of my body that’s more for me than for public consumption.”
“It took me a while to fall in love with my own pair, which are a natural 34-36F. Puberty hit me quite early, so I spent a few years being hyper-conscious of their existence. They’re also widely spaced, so growing up in the era of the cleavage-boosting Wonderbra when mine were better supported by the fuller-cupped ‘beige section’ of bra shops did nothing for my self-esteem.
“However, after more than a decade of photographing so many wonderfully diverse bodies and seeing breasts in different shapes and sizes, plus more and more brands leaning into creating boudoir-worthy bras in a range of styles for DD+ cup sizes, I’m all for flaunting my assets now. I’ve done several boudoir shoots over the years, and briefly performed in the UK and France as a burlesque performer in my 20s.”
“My boobs were always just there when I was in my 20s. I didn’t hate them, I didn’t love them; they just existed as part of me… until I had a baby in 2021. From about week 25 of my pregnancy, they started to change, and from then on my relationship with them changed too. I couldn’t stand to wear anything that ‘showed them off’. I felt like they were purely fit for purpose (despite being bigger, fuller and more in-your-face than ever).
“And after giving birth to my daughter I struggled with my boobs belonging to someone else. They didn’t feel like a part of my body that I had ownership over any more; I’d lost control. I battled through breastfeeding, with good times and bad in equal measure, until my daughter was nine months old and she naturally weaned. It has taken me 12 months to resume a relationship with my boobs in my head; they finally feel like mine again – albeit a slightly less full, slightly less perky version of their pre-baby selves.”
“I’ve never been particularly enamoured by my boobs – but I don’t dislike them, either. When I was a teenager I definitely felt insecure about how small they were, but they’ve grown over the years and now I kind of wish they were smaller again so I could wear more cute bralettes without fear of them flapping around. I think about them most when I’m working out: whether my sports bra is secure enough, wishing I didn’t have to wear a sports bra in the first place – that kind of thing. I don’t often have cleavage showing, but when I do, I feel uncomfortable. It feels weird to feel like a part of my body is just automatically sexualised.”
“As a teenager, I hated my boobs. I felt like they were too big and they got in the way, especially when I had a bra on. As I got more and more into sport, I noticed the girls around me all had smaller boobs and I really wanted mine to be smaller so they looked better in sports bras. Since moving out of puberty and losing some of the weight you tend to get as a teenager, I now have a much better relationship with my boobs. I like that they are small and I don’t notice them day to day. I can wear bralettes or less supportive sports bras which is freeing and way more comfortable.”
“I’ve gone from having lovely perky and firm boobs that were a perfect size to huge great big melons when pregnant/breastfeeding a newborn to what now feels like a half-empty water balloon. I would love to have surgery in the future to fix them, despite never considering going under the knife for something like that before.
“I feel mournful about my boobs. I am sad that they are no longer what they used to be. I am grateful they served me and my son so well with breastfeeding but I still grieve what I now consider to have been perfect perkiness.”
“I used to hate my boobs. At a GG cup from the age of 18, they were always a source of pain, physically and emotionally, with frequent verbal and physical harassment. Having a breast reduction has changed my life for the better and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Even with the scars it’s the best thing I’ve done.”
“I reluctantly like them. They cause me nothing but problems: finding clothes that fit, back pain and weekly worries about breast cancer (because what if your boob tissue just feels quite lumpy in and of itself?) but I also can’t imagine life without them.”
“I had a double mastectomy in November. It still feels strange having implants but the fact I’m a lot safer makes me appreciate having them.”
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“Generally, I feel OK about them now, but I think that’s come with age. For most of my teens, I had bigger boobs than most of my friends and I was definitely one of the first people in my year to need a bra. It was a weird place to be when you’re straddling that line of wanting to grow up faster and be an adult but also not wanting to be the odd one out. I’ve always noticed the looks from guys and that made me very self-conscious for a long time, so I hid under oversized clothes in the hope they’d stop staring. But I think in the last year or two, I’ve embraced them as part of my womanhood, and however they look, they’re just another part of my body that I should love and be happy with.”
“I don’t like my boobs, and I’m not sure that’s entirely based on my own opinion; rather, how I believe society and the media judges them. With a significant weight loss some years ago, and then gaining a bit since, they look different to me, and I feel like I need to come to terms with generally how my body looks now.”
“I feel very positively towards my boobs and absolutely love them. They’ve always been an important part of who I am and I’ve never felt the need to keep them hidden or felt ashamed of them, even if they did get me some unwanted attention at times from men – something all women have experienced for one part of their body or another at times.
“I’ve always loved wearing beautiful supportive bras and taking care of my boobs as best I can.It was a very sad and challenging time in 2018 when I had an early-stage breast cancer diagnosis and had to have a mastectomy to take all of the unhealthy cells out. There was a lot of grief with releasing all of the tissue inside that breast as well as the nipple. This was partly to do with the actual loss and partly to do with letting go of the idea of ever being able to breastfeed again. Both of my kids were partly breastfed from newborns for several months, and it was something that made me love my boobs even more, being able to nurture and nourish them in that way. When I had the cancer diagnosis that was one of my first thoughts: that I was losing the boob that had always made the most milk, and how would I ever nourish a newborn again – never mind that I didn’t seriously want any more kids.
“To start with after the surgery, which included having tummy fat used to replace the tissue that was taken out, it felt distressing to see a breast without a nipple, to see the scars, and the texture was a bit different too and I’d lost all skin sensation. It took me a while to reach a place of acceptance and love for my new boob. The thing that made the biggest difference was having a beautiful tattoo done to cover all the scars; it was a huge moment of reclamation.Here I am now in my later 40s, more appreciative of my boobs than ever.I wish that boobs in general weren’t objectified the way they are in the media, so that women could appreciate their bodies without being sexualised. Boobs are amazing and an amazing part of being a woman.”
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