What is it about breasts?

Dear Alice,

I'm female, and find it puzzling why straight men like women's breasts so much. I like mine about as much as I like my knees or elbows (no more/less than any other body pair). It feels really good when a guy plays/sucks/fondles with them (and I've made sure to tell him), but same said guy just likes seeing me topless, too (???). I've tried asking the guy why he likes breasts, and he gets all smiley-eyed and mentions 'soft, bouncy, round, nipples, smooth, womanly, nice...' (He's basically useless at this point). What does Alice have to say?

Dear Reader,

Trying to understand why something is a turn on for others and not for yourself can be especially confusing. You’re certainly not the first to wonder what the big deal is about breasts and why some people are so attracted to them. Though his explanation may seem useless, some of the terms your boyfriend used to describe why just the mere sight of your breasts is arousing to him could actually be scientifically sound (to some degree). 

There have been a number of studies on which part of the female body men tend to be visually drawn to in contrast to women. With this, many studies don't report sexual orientation for participants, so it's key to keep in mind the potential for bias in generalizing any conclusions. And still, some studies may help give insight into your question. In particular, one study hypothesized that breasts are an inherent indicator of attractiveness, and so it focused on determining which body part both men and women are initially attracted to by measuring human gaze patterns of male and female observers when looking at male and female models. The study found that male participants looked at the breast region of both male and female models significantly earlier than female observers, who tended to look at both the male and female models’ legs first instead. Male observers also held their gaze on the female models’ breast region for much longer than female observers. While this study presents substantial evidence that breasts are in fact an attention-grabbing feature, it doesn't fully conclude why men are initially attracted to breasts.

One possibility could be related to reproduction. The study’s analysis found that the results of the male observers’ gaze patterns corroborate a common evolutionary hypothesis that men assess a potential female partner’s breast size as an indicator of her reproductive capacity when attempting to mate. Since breast size has no utilitarian value (meaning, bigger breasts don't produce more milk), it could be that breasts have developed as a sign of fertility to attract mates. So, your boyfriend may be subconsciously acting on evolutionary instincts.

Another potential explanation could have to do with pheromones. Pheromones are substances secreted by glands located in the anus, urinary outlet, mouth, and breasts. When pheromones are received by another person, they can trigger sexual arousal, which could explain why a man might be aroused by seeing a woman's breasts, but the woman herself isn't aroused by the sight of her own breasts. It could also just be the simple fact that your boyfriend doesn’t have any breasts of his own to ogle at. That’s not to say that people who have breasts can’t be just as sexually aroused by the sight of another person’s breasts than someone without breasts, but given your emphasis on straight (presumably cisgender) men’s obsession with breasts, this is a very real possibility. 

Whatever the reason may be, his attention to your breasts is perfectly natural and normal, so long as it doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable. His love for your breasts may always be a mystery to you, but hopefully this response has given you some ideas that might solve this conundrum!

Last updated Apr 22, 2022
Originally published Jun 03, 2011

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