February 27, 2006

Breasts – why are they attractive???

I do sometimes wonder what on earth it is about breasts that men find so attractive. They are, after all, just big bags of fat: fat in any other place is normally seen as far less attractive.

  • Is it just conditioning caused by the general conceptions of society? And if so where did it come from? After all, as Charlotte says in Sex And The City, in some cultures fat women with moustaches are seen to be the most attractive.

  • Do large breasts signify fertility and suggest to men that women will be good mothers, or is it less complicated than that?

  • Is there an equivalent attribute in men that all women revere in the same way?

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  1. I think it's basically something that men don't have (well, not the milk producing kind) . So they want them. Just to play with-on a temporary loan basis of course. If they want to keep them then that's something quite different. And there may be a bit of Oedipus thing going on.

    And it may well be the case that large breasts are an indication of fertility. If not that, then possibly of health, since they are likely to produce more milk. That saidl if it were that big an indication of fertility then women with small breasts wouldn't exist. Then again, I wonder if women are evolvling with smaller breasts as we need them less and they can be v. impractical?

    As to the equivalnt attribute…..well… there's always the er..backside….

    27 Feb 2006, 19:22

  2. Hmmm, yes but I would say that women don't have the same obsession with penises (/peni), being the equivalent attributes that we don't have.

    Backsides are good, I don't deny it… as are nice arms…

    27 Feb 2006, 19:27

  3. I heard once that breasts were developed as a visual stimulus for sex instead of buttocks when sex changed from man behind to face to face… Not sure if there's any truth in this at all. If there is, then that's probably the reason we're biologically programmed to find them attractive. If not, then there is probably some other explanation – fertility etc as mentioned here already. Not all guys go for large breasts either, although in western cultures at least I would think it's a majority. As to your comment about evolution Anna, I could have sworn I heard that women's breast sizes were on the increase.

    27 Feb 2006, 20:30

  4. Perhaps not on the increase naturally

    27 Feb 2006, 20:38

  5. Hehe…

    Chris: interesting point. Regarding the evolution thing, I think I've also heard that breast sizes are increasing. This may, however, only be due to increasing numbers of overweight and obese women (as body fat percentage increases breast size generally does too) and not a result of genetic predisposition.

    27 Feb 2006, 20:46

  6. May be it's a result of men with big breasted mothers only being interested in women with big breasts, thereby producing amply bosomed offspring. However, this might produce a bi-modal distribution of breast size.

    27 Feb 2006, 21:56

  7. mmm breasts

    27 Feb 2006, 22:05

  8. I was once told that women look for a tight bum in a guy as its a sign of better thrust – this is purely unconsciously of cos and may be totally untrue.

    27 Feb 2006, 22:23

  9. of course not cos – D'oh

    27 Feb 2006, 22:26

  10. I recall a study by a couple of sports scientists named Katch concluded that breasts are about 80% glandular material and only about 20% fat, so while fat deposition would have a small effect on breast size there is little statistical correlation. I think genetics/hormone levels are much more significant.

    27 Feb 2006, 23:59

  11. I totally agree with that Siggy. The guy when i joined the gym was determined my boobs would be the first thing to shrink…they havent changed at all – the only difference is ive lost weight from my back so tops dont pull as much.

    28 Feb 2006, 09:00

  12. In which case I envy you, Amy. I've lost weight recently, and unfortunately mine have shrunk…and they weren't that big to begin with!

    I think some of the things we find attractive in the opposite sex must come from social conditioning, because as Sarah says, different things are deemed attractive in different parts of the world. But I do think the attraction to certain things (such as breasts) probably does hark back to some primitive time when you were looking for a mate who was both fertile and able to look after your offspring/provide for you…

    As for the female attraction to male bottoms, I don't understand, but I do appreciate… ;o)

    28 Feb 2006, 10:06

  13. Good point, Chris: mine don't change all that much when I (very rarely) lose weight.

    I do agree with you, Vib. I guess this makes us more similar to other animals in that part of our mating decisions could be said to be made on the basis of the production and survival of our offspring rather than utterly on our feelings for our mate. Although our reactions to such stimuli are probably far more subconscious.

    28 Feb 2006, 10:15

  14. More men on this post – MORE MEN!

    and mmm breasts, also.


    28 Feb 2006, 10:39

  15. Visiting Atheist

    Perhaps, as another commentator has mentioned, the attraction for men is that men don't have them and, therefore, they are the very essence of femininity.

    I do recall seeing a tv program about a woman who was going through a f to m sex change who started having testosterone injections as one of the steps of her procedure and then reported that, suddenly, the world was full of breasts.

    28 Feb 2006, 11:09

  16. Paul Hunter

    I think its probably to a large extent the fact that they are considered (at least in the developed world) as 'private parts'. I wonder if all women went around topless for a few years, and all men went around trouserless for a few years whether the novelty(ies) would wear off?
    I refer you to Memoirs of a Geisha (the book that is)....in which showing off a naked wrist whilst pouring sake was one of the most erotic things possible. I wonder if this would've been quite so fetching if geishas wore croptops????!!!!

    28 Feb 2006, 11:44

  17. Is he fact that women have a much more obvious attribute that can make them stand out from a crowd linked to the reason why it is generally left down to men to initiate more intimate relationships?

    I know that times are changing slightly and now more than ever a man is more likely to be asked out by a woman, but in general it is still the case that men are asking women out.

    If men had an attribute, e.g. horns, that could make them stand out from the crowd, would it all be reversed?

    Oh, and breasts make nice pillows.

    28 Feb 2006, 12:46

  18. i'm not being a kooky french or anything, but what if some of this attractiveness to breasts come from women? they are after all one of the most erogenous spots on the female body and so perhaps knowing that it gives women pleasure to be erm touched there (god i'm trying to write this without sounding part of a trashy erotic novel!) has played a part in their attractiveness?

    28 Feb 2006, 14:11

  19. I would say it's probably natural of human nature for us to compare our physical attributes, and size is one of them. When you look at people, you tend to take in their overall height, build, hair colour etc. In women, we have an extra attribute, one which can be sized (sort of). Have to say, I don't notice women's breasts most of the time unless they're really obviously enormous or I'm having a cleavage poked in my face. Just out of interest, here's a question for the males: when you're walking down the street, what are you more likely to be looking at, breasts or face? And, in a club/pub/social environment, what will you look at? Is it more about context, or just about breasts generally?

    28 Feb 2006, 15:20

  20. Interesting points…

    It's a good point that the unique attributes of females are more obvious. You can tell, over clothes, how well-endowed a woman is, but the same is not true for male private parts.

    That may well be a contributing factor, Claire, and is something I hadn't thought about. Interesting to turn the impetus back to women. I guess we all must be, consciously or subconsciously, drawing attention to things that may result in our own pleasure.

    Anna, if men do indeed notice breasts first, what do women notice first? Is this only because the male private parts are generally not on show, and would the situation change if this wasn't the case?

    28 Feb 2006, 16:02

  21. I don't think men necessarily do notice breasts first though. I think it's just another physical characteristic to take in, just like eye colour or something. When it comes down to it, size of them isn't that important from what I've heard, the mere presence is enough!

    I think if male private parts were on show, there'd be a lot more plastic surgery in this world.

    28 Feb 2006, 16:10

  22. Btw. has anyone else noticed that this isn't on the hot topics list? Presumably because of its rather racy subject matter…

    28 Feb 2006, 16:11

  23. Yes, I know :-(

    I wanted to get breasts on the front page. We're not having a racy conversation though – it's all very intellectual…


    28 Feb 2006, 16:38

  24. Write mammeries everytime breasts appears and I'm sure it will get on the discussions board.
    Or funbags ( I thought it was about time the tone was lowered slightly).

    I don't know why they're so popular – I wouldn't class myself as a breastman. However, being a man I can say that breasts are breasts. And are just good. In general. They are one of the bestest things in the world. And the majority of women can never know. I'm sorry, that's just how it is.

    28 Feb 2006, 16:59

  25. Generally notice face and facial features shortly before breasts, although can't deny that breasts are a big visual attraction! Depends how much the lady has decided to show as to how much of a visual draw they are. So in the street covered up under thick loose jumpers I'm unlikely to even bother looking, whereas in a social environment with closer fitting low cut tops my eyes would be somewhat more prone to being averted. Only to appease the lady who has obviously made it her intention that she wants people to look, you understand.

    28 Feb 2006, 18:14

  26. I once heard that it is a conditioning from when you were a baby: (I assume) you used to suckle your mother's breasts. The attraction to breasts is as a source of food, and somewhere safe and comfortable to put your head (assuming you're a baby; it gets a bit harder when you get older!).

    I'm sure that's given you a nice image for next time you're with your boyfriend/girlfriend… :)

    PS: I'd like to apologise for the poor articulation of my thoughts today, my brain is not working…

    28 Feb 2006, 18:18

  27. Do you know what the sexiest bit of a man's body is?

    All I'll say is that Paul showed me his last night in full view of lots of people and his was quite nice.

    I myself don't have one. For I am pure.

    28 Feb 2006, 22:26

  28. i used to notice men's eyes first. these days though, it tends to be their rear.

    i have drunk slightly, sorry for lowering the tone.

    01 Mar 2006, 00:11

  29. Visiting Atheist

    Anna Davies asked:

    Just out of interest, here's a question for the males: when you're walking down the street, what are you more likely to be looking at, breasts or face? And, in a club/pub/social environment, what will you look at? Is it more about context, or just about breasts generally?

    Okay, Anna, it's not a bums, boobs etc question… to me, the world is entirely populated by women of all shapes and sizes (other guys reading this, I'm sorry but I am not attracted to you, okay? Please don't take it personally.) and I would be extremely lonely if ever I became a monk.

    So breasts are not an object of desire in and of themselves. It's the whole womanly thing that is seen as a package (otherwise I think a person would have some serious personal relationship problems if they were that fixated on one thing). As well as that, a man's attention is also grabbed by body language: though the mainstream media would have us think otherwise these days, a pretty face, big breasts and long legs do not necessarily make someone interesting to spend time with.

    01 Mar 2006, 12:19

  30. Heheh…

    the world is entirely populated by women of all shapes and sizes

    No men then…

    Ah so it is more about personality than breast size. That's where I've been going wrong all these years :(

    01 Mar 2006, 22:20

  31. Mmm breasts.

    01 Mar 2006, 22:51

  32. Shut up Anna, you have both in abundance :-P

    02 Mar 2006, 00:46

  33. Ahh so you had noticed.


    stokes metaphorical beard

    02 Mar 2006, 09:45

  34. What ever made you think I hadn't?!

    02 Mar 2006, 20:30

  35. I feel I have joined this discussion somewhat late, but just to add to the evolution thing. I have also heard that in evolutionary terms breasts are most attractive when they are pushed together to ressemble a bottom, as that was what men used to look at. And given that chimpanzees have practically no breasts there is some confusion as to how large breasts signify fertility.
    Equally the attractive thing is for a man's bottom to be nicely toned, as explained by Amy in comment 8. I read some book about all this once, can't remember what it was called, but it explained most of what people do to make themselves attractive.

    04 Mar 2006, 14:55

  36. recalls Office Christmas special where Brent tries to explain about why cleavage is attractive... shudder

    04 Mar 2006, 17:36

  37. my god!
    well, regardless whether they are attractive or not, it's sure sparked the longest discussion i've ever seen on a blog!

    07 Mar 2006, 16:34

  38. Lucy Griffiths

    Very interesting! I have to say that as a woman I find other women's breasts almost fascinating, they all vary so much. Sarah is a fine example of a woman with fantastic breasts, which I'm sure are the envy of many of us here. I think it's to do with femininity, we have breasts and men don't, coupled with the more maternal history and then added to that our culture of hero worshipping breasts and seeing them as objects of sexual desire – which has been emphasised by the fact that they are only on show in situations considered racy or associated with Sex.

    mmm breasts

    10 Mar 2006, 10:01

  39. HMMMM…..

    the actual supposed reason why breasts are attractive ( according to Jared Diamond, I believe) is that they fulfil a function of attracting males. That sounds slightly facile – however, the manner through which it is achieved is more interesting.

    Human beings are the only mammal to have permanantly enlarged breasts. other mammals only have this during pregnancy. Thus, the humans or the ancestors that managed to have more enlarged breasts outside of preganancy achieved the 'deciet' in getting male to stay around. since, traditionally males had only stayed with a partner during pregnancy. the chance of surivial within a 'couple' was greater for the child and , consequently, the permanantly enlarged breasts thaat are now customary for all but that most commited gymnasts live on today through the wonders of natural selection….


    15 Mar 2006, 22:50

  40. Juicy, thank you for your compliment! Yours are, indeed, fantastic too.

    An interesting point, Paul. Who'd've thought we were so deceitful!

    16 Mar 2006, 10:48

  41. Sean M (Visitor)

    Came across this blog by accident looking for the name of an actress – however, whilst I'm here (as a fellow biologist and amateur breast watcher) I'd like to add a smattering of extra thoughts:

    Firstly, breasts are defined as secondary sexual characteristics and it is clear that they have to be on a woman (or arty object) to be attractive, some men have them and it is NOT attractive (to the norm) – so they do seem to need to be in context. The breast feeding thing above would be equally true for women and I don't get the impression that women are quite as obsessed about breasts (in the same way) as men so there must be context in that direction as well.

    Secondly, different people have different preferences (size / shape) – I would guess that this is very experience based but I would argue that it does not work like a standard supernormal stimulus behaviour (i.e. bigger is not better to everyone – certainly I would argue for medium to modest [if modest is the right word here :0 ] ).

    Thirdly, they produce a knee-jerk gut feeling of attractiveness – intellectualising comes later (if at all). It might be worth pointing out for those that might not feel it natively, that 'the urge to look at breasts' is not dissimilar to a feeling of hunger. Of course, like hunger it comes and goes and can be somewhat sated by overexposure as described above.

    Lastly (although I could go on… ;). There are things that add to the urge to look – primarily these are 1) movement and 2) nipples. Though it is hard to explain, movement of an unrestrained breast amplifies the viewing pleasure enormously. Interestingly, if you consider the body as x (head/toe) y (left/right) and z (front/back) then movement in Y is most effective, in x is also effective but less so, and curiously, movement in z is very slightly negative. Nipples are also a major amplifying stimulus (for both people involved with them :) ). Also, some of us find cleavages a very overrated structure and I sometimes suspect that they are more attractive to women than men (in a social-competitive way I might guess). And of course – as you also might guess, in terms of ramped stimuli – catching an unexpected glimpse is astoundingly effective (the bending over towards you effect) – especially if it is someone you know. The most effective conscious 'goal' on this last one is clearly the possibility of a nipple (even if you don't see one). I guess this is the forbidden aspect.

    So – not a sociobiology analysis, more a personal view from the gut (or approximate anatomy). The breasts as buttocks thing is persuasive as a starter drive so don't judge it too harshly – things associated with sex tend to get a bit obsessive (in evolution as in life). Can you even try to understand how a female peacock feels at the mere glimpse of a tail feather, or a male toad at an appropriately sized rock ;) – in the same way it can be shocking to us as intellectual beings when we discover that we desire in a largely reactive sense without necessarily understanding why. I say – go with the flow :)

    For interesting perspectives as well as the Diamond one above, try Matt Ridley or Elaine Morgan and a host of others that have explored this area.

    Sean M

    18 Mar 2006, 22:42

  42. Sean, you are a funny man!

    20 Mar 2006, 16:41

  43. James

    I came to this late too, and also by accident. I think the focus on breasts is that (i) they are one of the differences between men and women – unlike, say, shoulders; (ii) historically the display and touching of women's breasts in public has been taboo, which usually enhances interest and mytholigising and fantasising; (iii) though covered, we can check them out in a way we cannot do for other parts of the anatomy – ie their size and shape are somewhat evident.

    But male/female attraction can only be explained rationally to a partial degree. Sex is (here's a blinding statement of the obvious) the driving force behind the continuation of the species. So of course we are genetically programmed to find the opposite sex (or, none the worse, for some people the same sex) attractive. What is attractive is in the eye of the beholder. I guess while breasts are something a large majority find attractive, opinions vary so much that breast size varies accordingly …

    Sarah, I don't want you to think I'm badgering you to put up posts or anything (though I enjoy your opinions), but as you've responded positively to Lucy's compliments about your own assets (I would say hear hear, but then you're going to think I'm an internet stalker!), I wonder if you had an opinion on the Warwick girls posing in their bras and knickers, which is a subject on the main board at the moment.

    22 Mar 2006, 19:57

  44. Aaron

    I think it is the look of them, the urge to touch them and feel them because some men dont know what they feel like? What do they feel like afterall?

    23 Mar 2006, 00:38

  45. James:
    A compliment from a good friend is very different from admiration from strangers in response to a photo in a magazine. I would never myself take part in anything like that because I wouldn't feel comfortable. Having said that, I don't have a problem with those girls choosing to take part: I'm sure they have considered the issues that it raises. I have, indeed, added my thoughts to the debate.

    23 Mar 2006, 11:28

  46. James


    You're right from that perspective that they're not the same thing. As we both agree that the girls have the right to take part it's up to them there isn't any meaningful difference between us on the subject. I saw your post on the other blog. It seems to me that the objectors constitute another example of people naturally opposed (in this instance, Catherine McKinnonesque Feminists and Evangelical Christians (not that any blogged in this instance) with C19 values) becoming very uncomfortable bedfellows. Those who think that it degrades women should remember how repressive it was for women in Victorian times and indeed in many countries today that would seek to prescribe how they may dress. Not that I wish to denegrate the harm done by oversexualisation of young girls in Britain today or the appearance-obsession that leads to them spending limitless amounts on cosmetics, shoes, ever-smaller clothes and cosmetic surgery.

    23 Mar 2006, 12:26

  47. Sean M (Visitor)

    Thank you Sarah – I try :)

    By the way, I'm just reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (bought this week – bestseller non-fic) – although it does not specifically address this issue, It has some interesting things to say about conditioning and associations that feel right for this conversation.

    25 Mar 2006, 21:31

  48. Ryan who is called Ryan

    I heard once that breasts were developed as a visual stimulus for sex instead of buttocks when sex changed from man behind to face to face.

    Read Desmond Morris's "The Nake Ape". Loads of theories why certain body parts looks the way they do. For instance I am sure the female contingent here would be interested to know why a 500kg gorilla has a thin 5cm penis and a 75kg man has a 15cm penis — that is also much thicker than his chest-beating evolutionary cousin's: the answer lies in the fact that, in order to impregnate a woman, a man has to ensure that the woman does not immediately get up post coitus and walk around thereby imposing the law of gravity on his ejaculate. Put rather bluntly, to ensure that the deposit doesn't drip out, the female has to be well and trully f…floored; kept on her back. So, to stimulate female orgasm the human male had to develop a penis that is proportionately thicker and longer than his hairier ancestors.

    Of course, that doesn't explain how and why human females developed the ability to orgasm in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I quite like the idea; just think of that scene in Amelie. Oo!

    30 Mar 2006, 14:23

  49. Passing Person

    I think that breasts are attractive to men for a few reasons.

    1. Breasts are generally covered, therefore the urge to have the covered revealed exists. (just like the naked wrist pouring sake) (and if (for whatever reason) people were completely naked, I think breasts may become as non-erotic as wrists are.
    2. Men have lots of testosterone, which means they have a strong libido. Breasts are linked with sex (being one of sensitive areas on a woman, (and Therefore a woman who shows off cleavage is perhaps indirectly telling the man “check me out”, compared with a covered woman. Also, I think breasts require a face to be attractive, e.g. just a picture of breasts (either naked or clothed) isn’t arousing, but combined with a face becomes very arousing.
    3. Men were breastfed when they were babies, so perhaps that early interaction with breasts, sparks some sort of longing to indulge in breasts.
    4. Perhaps it’s just power. (Perhaps unrelated but) Being able to touch a woman’s breasts means a man has power over the woman.

    11 May 2007, 14:14

  50. kriss.ward@btinternet.com

    nice to look at nice to touch and great to hold against me its as if your mine as I have your breasts against my chest

    19 Jun 2007, 01:21

  51. Peter

    Female homo sapiens during bringing up offsprings, depend on their ability to stock fat and their male mate to feed them. Breastsize largely is correlated with the ability to stock fat. Females of other mamals are more independant during the child feeding period and do not depend that much on their ability to put on fat. Their breasts are not seen during non lactating periods.
    Human males prefer therefore as a mate woman with large breasts, because they seem to be a better garantie to bringing up their children. This leeds us to the sexual attractiveness of woman with these attibutes.

    At some point the attractiveness also becomes dependant of the individual situation of the persons involved; i.e. age, ability to assure sufficiency, social ranking etc

    It is interesting that (many) woman also are puzzled or attracted by other woman with prominent breasts …..

    25 Aug 2007, 15:05

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