Saturday, May 11, 2013

More Thoughts on Modesty and Nursing

Huge thanks to Katherine over at Having Left the Altar for finding and pointing out this amazing comment on another post (Is Female Purity Bull****? by the ever-controversial Marc Barnes, censorship my own). I am reprinting it here in full; the author has not given herself a name, but identifies herself only as 'a mom.' I think her excellent thoughts give us a really great vision of what we want to strive for - how men should regard nursing women, and how women might regard themselves as they do so.

"Sexuality" is the quality of being either male or female.

Women have breasts that are able to nourish a child. Men don't. Breastfeeding is, therefore, an inherently "sexual" capability. In other words, it differentiates one sex from another.

The essential difference between the sexes points to our complementarity, and our complementarity points to the fact that we are called to sexual unity. This is the logic built into our sexual -- male and female -- bodies.

So yes, it's perfectly "natural" that that which differentiates us helps to attract one sex to the other. It's perfectly "natural" that there would be an element of awe, an element of attractive beauty attached to what is "other" or outside of our own experience of life. "I'm made for you. You're made for me. We see this in our bodies. We belong together."

But that logic of complementarity, in the mystery of its imago dei, does not simply feed one into the other, as if it were a matter of filling a mutual void. No, the logic of complementarity that we read in our bodies necessarily pours outward in new fruitfulness, increasing wonder upon wonder.

Thus, when men (or women) make the argument that mothers ought to cover up when breastfeeding "because their breasts are sexual," my heart aches for the vision they lack.

By reducing "sexual" to "that-which-arouses-me," they have reduced complementarity to an exchange of self-serving use, and have severed its fruitfulness. In saying the "erotic" value of the breasts trumps the nurturing, self-donative value, they have shown their ignorance of the meaning of "sexual" in the first place, and in doing so have shown their poverty. And those who insist upon this poverty, as if it is "just how God designed men," are missing out -- not just on the full beauty of the sexuality of women, but in the dignity of the sexuality of men.

That child breastfeeding is the crown of our sexual complementarity -- a gift that completes the sexual logic of our bodies and showcases it in all its glory. That child is a reminder to a man that a woman is his equal in dignity, not his object of pleasure or his toy. That child reminds man that together he and she have poured their lives out to one another for neither simply his sake nor hers, but for that of another.

A man who is truly attracted to the full sexuality of a woman should see in the act of breastfeeding the epitome of her sexuality -- and his response should be awe, gratitude, and respect. It should be the same awe and gratitude with which a father watches his wife gently tend to any of their child's other needs with the special grace bestowed upon her.

It should never be a jealous, "I wish I were in the child's place," nor an uneasy battle with an interior desire to "have" or "own" her, nor disapproval or disgust. The latter, sadly, are too often the reality for those who make the argument that women ought hide themselves away while breastfeeding. They are the mark of a man who wants to keep woman for himself.

Yes. Breastfeeding is sexual. It is something only she can do. And we should thank her for it, as it is a reminder that we all exist for the good of the other."


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thanks for re-posting this. She makes some fantastic points!


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