This is a story about my boobs.
My boobs are many things. To me they are part of a larger whole. A part of my body, connected to my person. I think they look nice. Sometimes they hurt or get in my way. They make it hard to run. One day I might feed a child with them. Other than that I don’t think about them very much more than any other part of my body. I usually consider myself more in my entirety, or sometimes as a consciousness that is transported around in a body.
Then there’s my boobs as part of the concept of all boobs. Boobs are everywhere. They’re all over the media and used to sell numerous products. They’re idealised as a “beautiful” or “sexy” feature in a woman. They’re meant to have mythical properties that lead to men giving women free things and favours (I’m not holding my breath). They’re something that women are meant to keep hidden in case they “tempt” men, and provoke them into a frenzy of sexual desire that overtakes their usually superior reason and leads to violent sexual assaults. They are two reputedly powerful, soft, fleshy lumps hanging off the front of most women, including your Mum.
I think other people think about my boobs more than I do. My Mum, for example, is always on at me to wear a bra. It’s incredibly important to her. She says that if I don’t, I’ll end up with saggy boobs like her Mum. The intensity with which she worries about this thing tells me that wearing a bra is an important social signal. I don’t really care, but I wear a bra when she’s around to keep her happy.
The other day, some guy thought to tell me “I can see your boobs” when he was passing on his bike. How did he want me to react? Did he want me to apologise? Did he want me to start wearing a burqa? As it happens, in the same that he could see my boobs through my tight shirt, I could see his cock through his pants (I checked but didn’t get a chance to tell him). Did this man like boobs? Did he go around policing all womens’ boobs? How did he feel about advertising or about the strip joints that were across the road from where we were? It was very confusing.
So anyway, my boobs have caused a bit of a stir with my neighbours. As a bit of background, our neighbours are respectable millionaire doctors and we are the scum who roll around in our working class filth next door. Or at least that’s what I feel is communicated in the mother’s looks when she has the misfortune of having to pass us on the street. Our neighbours have a two story mansion and their upstairs balcony has a clear view into our flat. We could put up curtains, but I don’t want to live enclosed in a dark, hot hovel, and unlike our neighbours, we only have one living area.
When they moved in I asked them if, as they particularly like sitting on their upstairs balcony, they could put up some sort of screen. I even offered to help them pay for it. They said they couldn’t afford it, and that I had no right to tell them what to do with their house. They have since put up a wall elsewhere. Critically, my neighbour said that because she is a gynaecologist she doesn’t care what she sees. She refused to understand my desire not to have her family looking into my flat, so I had to leave it at that.
Recently, on a very hot day, I was walking around my flat in only my underpants. I feel like this is my goddamned right as a human being. After quite a while I noticed the nine-year-old boy of the house with his head peeking up above the balcony couch hiding behind a book, staring at my boobs. Now this was probably a very exciting time for him, but I wasn’t so keen so I put on some clothes. But like I said, it was a hot day and I was in my own house.
What to do about this?
I don’t want some small boy staring at my naked body, but I don’t want to have to wear clothes in my house. After about a week I decided that the best course of action was to talk to the boy with his Dad there about consent. About how it is only OK to look at a woman’s boobs if that woman is comfortable with it, and that I am not at all comfortable with it. That boobs are attached to women and that women are people with feelings, a consciousness and the right to make choices about their lives. I was going to suggest that he look at some ethical pornography.
Good plan, right?
So I went up to my neighbours’ front door and asked to speak to the boy and the Dad. The Mum said that the Dad wasn’t home, and asked what it was about, so I explained.
She freaked the fuck out. I think despite being a gynaecologist, and maybe even her best intentions, she was uncomfortable with her boy’s burgeoning sexuality.
So she tried to deny that it could have been him. She wanted a specific day and time, because the though of some other random boy on her balcony looking at my boobs was obviously more comfortable to her than the thought of her own son doing it. She asked me in an accusing tone what I was doing going around with my boobs out. I said I was doing the washing up and that I was in my own house. I tried to ask her to talk to her son about consent. She hissed at me to stay away from her nine-year-old son like I was some sort of paedophile.
So once again, to my bemusement, my boobs have caused much more of a stir than you would expect from a perfectly normal feature of a healthy adult woman. Nothing was learnt, and I and unfortunately others continue an ambivalent relationship with a part of myself.