Richard Lucas (Letters, 12 December) disagrees that, in his earlier letter, he implied that the primary function of a woman’s breasts is sexual stimulation.
In fact, he explicitly connects “bodily revelation” and its potential “to arouse sexual desire” with the glimpse of a woman’s breast while she’s feeding her baby. Hence the “degree of discomfort” felt when witnessing this natural act.
I agree with George Byron (Letters, same day) that the acceptance of breast exposure varies between cultures – often, but not always, due to religious notions of correct female attire.
I do accept their power as a sexual signal, but suggest that the potency of that power varies within cultural contexts.
Indigenous cultures have fewer inhibitions about female toplessness.
In some countries, while virgins keep their breasts under cover, it is acceptable for married women to leave them uncovered in public, since they are considered to be “desexed” when used for feeding babies.
There’s nothing titillating about a woman breast-feeding.
I suspect that the allure of naked breasts in chillier climes is enhanced by the rarity of opportunity to encounter them – except on foreign beaches in summer.
That their magnetic power becomes less intense with familiarity is obvious, since men in societies where women are free to expose them can still concentrate on their work.