Scientific research on the effect on bras on the sagging of boobs backs up the old feminist call for women to ditch the harness
Professor Jean-Denis Rouillon, of Besançon’s university hospital in France, has been studying women’s breasts, in and out of brassieres, for 15 years. He has found that, after a year, the bosoms of bra wearers sag an average of 7mm more than free-range boobs. That’s right – seven whole millimetres! Ditch the lady harness for a year, and you too could see significantly less than a centimetre’s difference in the pendulousness of your breasts. This may not work if you’re middle-aged or older, as Prof Rouillon’s attention, to date, has been focused on the breasts of young women.
Rouillon’s research is the most comprehensive of its kind, but it’s not the first study to show similar findings: an oft-quoted Japanese experiment from 1990 had similar results. So, science has blown the claim that bras keep our peaks perky out of the water; it has quashed the myth that all vagina-bearers need lifelong surgical supports across their upper torsos lest their delicate feminine backs wilt. Is it time to sack the straps? If not to prevent droopiness and backache, why do we underwire and wrap our lady lumps at all?
I have invited two figments of my imagination to productively thrash these questions out. In the blue corner, we have Pro – an irritating lap cat of the patriarchy; in the red corner, we have Con – a battle weary feminist, to whom nobody listens. Have at ’em champs!
Pro: Wearing a bra hides the deeply provocative contours of female nipples from view, allowing women to participate more fully in society.
Con: They’re nipples. Nipples. Why am I ashamed? Why are you staring?
Pro: Wearing a bra allows women to mould their body shapes into the kinds deemed most sexalicious by mainstream culture, thus making us more confident and happy. Thin of tit? Pad those little pixies out – we got foam ’til you can afford you some silicon! Matronly of mammary? Just hoist those mammas up with industrial strength rigging, and it’s plain sailing for you and your twin buoys!
Con: Our boobs are fine the way they are. Confidence based on the degree to which your tits conform to societal tit-ideals isn’t really confidence.
Pro: Bras are so sexy! They package you up in bows and lace like a Christmas present. Like two Christmas presents! What girl doesn’t want to be a year-round festivity for the lucky lover in her life?
Con: Is sexiness something we have to buy now? Can you really purchase chemistry in La Senza for £19.99? Is arousal underwired? We already possess the physical accoutrements beloved of our lovers. They come free with two X chromosomes. The commodification of women’s bodies and sexualities damages us psychologically and detracts from our ability to experience sexual pleasure.
Pro: Nuh-uh. And anyways, going braless might mean slightly less saggy boobs, but wearing a bra allows you to pretend that your boobs don’t sag at all. No brainer!
Con: Let’s interrogate the vilification of boob sag. What, in fact, is wrong with droopy tits?
Pro: Ew. Don’t swing ’em in my direction.
Con: I hate you.
Pro: You hate everyone – you’re an embittered feminist to whom nobody listens.
Con: Oh yeah? Well, at least my breasts are 7mm higher than yours when we’re both topless.
Pro: 7mm, big woop! They’re looking pretty saggy under that shapeless hemp shift dress is all I’m saying.
Ladies, ladies. Enough. Kindly return to the confines of my consciousness while I reflect on the significance of your cat fight. Is Pro right? Should I continue to doctor the contours of my God/evolution-given shape to increase my confidence, please my lovers, and feel all purdy? Or is Con right? Would we all be happier if we celebrated our boob differences rather than calling them faults and correcting them with wire and padding? I mean, I’m leaning towards Con, personally, but that’s because I’m closer to battle-weary feminist than lap cat of the patriarchy.
Thinking about the logic of bra wearing is a bit depressing. It’s more socially inculcated hatred of our bodies really, isn’t it? I mean, I don’t think I ever wore a bra to prevent droop (ain’t got nothing to droop, honey) or backache. I just kind of wore one because everyone else did. And now I’m used to it, and when I do go braless I’m often annoyed by the eye-to-nipple ratio I experience in social situations, so I don’t do it very often. But maybe it’s time to start: a resolution which will make me a braless feminist with a recently shaved head and all my own body hair. Does anyone know where I can buy a shapeless hemp shift dress?