I recently shared a first kiss with a man during our second date. We had taken a walk through the park, conversation flowing easily about work and lockdown baking disasters, before settling on a bench in front of a lake. After a bit more chatting, he moved closer to me and leaned in for a kiss. But within moments of our lips meeting, I felt his hand on my breast, which I pushed away only to be met with a look of genuine bewilderment from him as he asked: “Why?”
I was surprised it needed explaining, considering the timing and locale, but I told him as amicably as possible that it was too soon. The rest of the date was a blur of slapped wrists and crossed arms, until I finally said I had to leave.
The truth is, all too often, my 40HH breasts are viewed as public property, as if their obvious protuberance makes them a novelty rather than a body part. My sizable chest is somehow seen as a direct appeal for sexual attention, signaling procreative ripeness like a baboon’s backside.
This bench debacle was not the first time someone had taken liberties with my ta-tas, of course. While I wouldn’t dream of touching a stranger’s breasts in the supermarket, asking a fellow commuter their cup size or opening a bus queue conversation with “Your tits are massive,” all these things have happened to me. Invariably, my breasts are viewed in a solely carnal context, when in fact they are strapped to my ribcage whether I am rolling in the bedsheets or making tea.
Of course, uninvited sexual behavior is a ubiquitous problem which affects almost all women. Doubtless those who are long of leg or perky of posterior face comments about these features too, but there remains an association between bustiness and promiscuity ― best exemplified by most porn actresses’ balloonesque implants. It seems no other body part has been monetized like mammaries ― there was a whole section of a national newspaper and still is an entire sports bar franchise dedicated to them. Breast augmentation remains the most popular cosmetic operation in the U.K., with over 7,000 procedures performed in 2019.
I regularly hear tales from busty women of being felt up in clubs, shouted at on trains and receiving tit-wank requests from strangers. Alongside dealing with back strain, exorbitantly priced bras and the painful pogoing of their boobs during aerobic exercise, many women have told me they ultimately got a breast reduction in part due to unwelcome attention ― and not just from men. Women making jokes about “the girls being out” or asking, “Are those real?” in club bathrooms are also common complaints.
Following my ill-fated park date, I did briefly ponder whether my outfit choice had given off the wrong impression. I realized I’d worn the same dress to a similarly unsuccessful first meeting with a fellow 30-something journalist a few weeks earlier. That evening culminated with my date (without first delivering so much as a peck on the lips) grabbing my breasts from behind and exclaiming, “I wasn’t expecting such an opportunity!”
Short of a T-shirt printed with ‘Please feel free to cop a feel’ on it, no clothes can denote that the wearer is ‘asking for it.’
I later berated myself for questioning my clothes ― the anti-feminist idea that certain garments remove a person’s autonomy over their body is ludicrous. Short of a T-shirt printed with “Please feel free to cop a feel” on it, no clothes can denote that the wearer is “asking for it.”
Still, I make my outfit choices carefully. Although I have always been a fan of the billowing cleavage look popularized by ’50s pinups, I forgo bustiers and sweetheart necklines as I know the sneers of “She’s trying too hard” will surely follow. Smaller-chested friends can wear slash-fronted dresses and be considered stunning, but the same outfit with the same overall proportion of bust showing would be deemed “slutty” on me. And though I shouldn’t care what people think, that’s easier said than done and, what’s more, for my own safety and sanity, I continue to choose my clothes strategically.
Formal events are tricky too – the most elegant of evening wear is often rendered indecent when there’s several inches of heaving bosom straining against the cloth. Neither is hot weather a friend to the buxom, as strappy tops look weird atop my industrial width bra straps ― and forget going strapless. One ill-placed move in a bandeau bra and you’re facing a spillage.
Despite all of this, unlike some of the women I speak to, I mostly like having large breasts. As a plus-sized woman, while my overall heft is considered unattractive by many, big breasts are sought after, and even imitated with push-up bras and “chicken fillet” inserts. When jokes are made about my larger chest, I’ve often responded with a mock-dignified jostling of my bra.
Just like my shoulders, knees and podgy stomach, my breasts are a part of my body, a feature of the vehicle which carries me through life and allows me to interact with others in a variety of ways. Sometimes my breasts are sexual, but only within an amorous context, and only with people that I have chosen to express myself physically with ― and only with my consent.
What my large breasts are not is anything to do with anyone else and it is time that men on park benches and society as a whole took note of and respected that.
Gillian Fisher is a London-based writer with a background in culture and lifestyle journalism. She is fascinated by people and the stories they have to tell.
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