Women's Experience of the Breasts
Dr. Nelson Soucasaux, Brazilian gynecologist
Another subject of great importance for the study of the mind-body relationship
in the female sex is the one regarding the several ways through which women
experience the breasts. Considering that the breasts and the genitals constitute
the two principal poles of femininity at the somatic level, there are considerable
differences in the ways women experience and relate to these organs. These
differences concern not only the obvious anatomical, physiological and topographic
aspects but also the archetypal and symbolic ones.
As to the very intense and rich corporeal consciousness and experience
that characterizes the female sex, the immediately visible and palpable
feature of the breasts contrasts to the inner, intrapelvic and, therefore,
hidden and "mysterious" feature of most of the female genitals.
While of all the female genitals only the vulvar structures are exposed
on the surface of the body and, therefore, to direct perception, the breasts
constitute the only woman's sexual organ that not only are entirely exposed
but also "project" themselves into space.
As glands that originate from the skin, the breasts are part of the
very surface of the female body and, therefore, part of what is more external
in women's body image. The very special aesthetic attributes of the breasts,
allied to the fact that they are one of the fundamental poles of femininity,
greatly increases the intensity of narcissistic libido projected by women
on this part of their bodies.
The profound, deep location of most of the woman's genitals, hidden
in the intimacy of their pelvis, is one more element that, associated with
other physiological peculiarities of these organs, greatly contributes to
an intense "interiorization" of the female sexual functions, and
that such "interiorization" is experienced by women not only at
the anatomical and functional level, but also at the symbolic and archetypal
However, in a way, this intense "inner feature" of female
sexuality is partly counterbalanced just by the evident outer feature of
the breasts which appear as the main sexual "protuberances" of
the woman's body surface. That's one of the reasons why the breasts constitute
the most important external pole of femininity. It is mostly by means of
women's bodies external shape, of the several elements that constitute the
surface of their bodies, that the strong self-erotic and narcissist feature
of female sexuality becomes evident.
The differences between the patterns of relationship of women with their
breasts and genitals are very important in psychosomatic gynecology. Female
neurotic attitudes regarding their sexual organs tend to be less frequent
in relation to the breasts than to the genitals. In the absence of mammary
pathologies and neurosis specifically related to the breasts, in some aspects
women seem to demonstrate a more "relaxed" relationship with these
organs than with their genitals.
This fact can be shown even in patients' reactions to gynecologic examination.
While during the pelvic examination many women become very nervous and anxious,
during the breast examination the degree of nervousness seems to be much
reduced or even absent. (See note below.) Remember that, for women, due
to the anatomical peculiarities of their genitals, these organs are always
surrounded by some "mystery"; they represent the way into the
innermost part of their bodies and this may often generate anxiety. Conversely,
the breasts constitute "notorious" and visible parts of the body's
surface, being, for that reason, a "widely known" place.
Regarding the symbolism of the breasts, various manifestations of the
aphrodisiac and maternal archetypes related to these organs can be found
in continuous interaction in the human mind. The breasts, in a way similar
to what happens to women's other sexual organs and everything that is typically
female in women's bodies, aphrodisiac and maternal archetypes, as representatives
of principles of different nature, interact through an extremely complex,
ambivalent and often conflicting way.
As to the manifestations of the aphrodisiac archetypes related to the
breasts, they are directly associated to the enormous erotic charge inherent
to these organs. This erotic charge becomes evident through the high sexual
sensitivity of the breasts, through their capacity to reinforce female narcissism
and to arouse fascination in men. At the psycho-socio-cultural level, the
worship of the erotic aspect of the breasts in our civilization is one more
typical example of the power exerted by the aphrodisiac mammary archetypes.
For the great majority of modern women, the breasts are much more important
as sexual organs than as glands capable of feeding babies.
The maternal archetypes become manifest in relation to the breasts by
being essentially related to the nourishing potentiality of these organs,
which, biologically, is made real through the production of milk during
* Note: Considering the high incidence of breast cancer, this apparently
reduced (or even absent) degree of nervousness on the part of the patients
during the usual clinical breast examination becomes especially curious.
I say that because, taking into consideration the aforementioned high frequency
of breast malignant disease, rationally women should be expected to become
much more anxious during breast examination than pelvic examination - despite
some physical discomfort caused by the procedures of the pelvic one. But,
as I said, the most curious fact is just that many patients who clearly
demonstrate considerable degrees of anxiety regarding genital examination
seem to demonstrate almost no anxiety regarding breast examination.
The article above is an adapted excerpt from my book "Os Órgãos
Sexuais Femininos: Forma, Função, Símbolo e Arquétipo"
("The Female Sexual Organs: Shape, Function, Symbol and Archetype"),
published by Imago Editora, Rio de Janeiro, 1993. For information on the
book, see page http://www.nelsonginecologia.med.br/orgaos.htm , at my website
Copyright Nelson Soucasaux 1993, 2004
Nelson Soucasaux is a gynecologist dedicated to clinical, preventive
and psychosomatic gynecology. Graduated in 1974 by Faculdade de Medicina
da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he is the author of several
articles published in medical journals and of the books "Novas Perspectivas
em Ginecologia" ("New Perspectives in Gynecology") and "Os
Órgãos Sexuais Femininos: Forma, Função, Símbolo
e Arquétipo" ("The Female Sexual Organs: Shape, Function,
Symbol and Archetype"), published by Imago Editora, Rio de Janeiro,
1990, 1993. He has been working in his private clinic since 1975.
Web site (Portuguese-English): www.nelsonginecologia.med.br