After much excitement and anticipation, I got my first bra in the seventh standard. I had awaited this moment ever since the girls in my class first started wearing their bras. It was a big deal! Almost as big as getting your first period–a rite of passage into adulthood.
In hindsight, the bra made me feel very desirable. I wanted to be seen as a woman. It is strange. Even as a child, bras were so sexualised and gender coded that it was only at a later stage (after a particularly painful exercising session) that I realised they were first and foremost meant to support breasts. I also learned that for many people, bras prevented back pain caused due to the heavy weight of boobs, amongst other things.
But bras were also desexualising1. They make the nipples disappear and our ta tas into uniform, societally acceptable bumps that don’t sag or misbehave the way ta tas naturally do.
Bras are sexual. Bras are desexualising. But after developing boobies, not wearing a bra is considered vulgar?
As a school prefect, I remember policing my classmates in school if they forgot to wear a bra, telling them it looks dirty and shaming them for looking inappropriate, ‘slutty’.
I no longer enjoy wearing bras, except for certain occasions. Bras rarely feel sexy these days; they mostly feel annoying, tight and restrictive. I am now on the receiving end of the policing. “Do you enjoy looking like this? Do you like the attention you get?”
One day I was playing basketball, and the strap of my sports bra was showing. A well-meaning teammate told me that my “B was visible”. I wondered if I hid the strap would the idea that I wear a bra just disappear from everyone’s head? Does everyone who sees a person in the appropriately worn bra magically forget tits exist?
So let me get this straight… boobs are sexual, so bras must be worn. But the existence of bras must be denied, so they must always be hidden from the public eye. Perhaps tiddies are so dangerous, and if we were to acknowledge their mundane, non-sexualised existence, all of our heads would simultaneously explode.
But let me tell you a secret, do you know what my tiddies do most of the time? They just hang in there. Sometimes they sweat… a lot! Most times, they sag. At times they itch, especially near the nipples. Sometimes they hurt a lot, especially if I sleep on my stomach.
I say desexualising not because breasts are inherently sexual but because bras, worn under “proper” clothing, neutralise their perception as sexual. ↩︎