The Buddha on Why Men Love Female Breasts
I know, I know. As a nun I’m not supposed to unwisely ponder such topics. And I don’t.
The question arose in the news recently when an expert proposed a biological imperative supposedly causing male fixation on this female attribute. People are taking his idea seriously. Yet the Buddha already answered this question well using solid reasoning about human nature.
So why do men love women’s breasts? The expert explains in terms of evolution. His theory is that male attraction to breasts leads to a behavior that triggers female pleasure and affection, hence increasing the male’s success in reproduction. No need for me to spell out the details; here’s the info if you want to read about it yourself. Article: Why Men Love Breasts (1)
Here’s what the Buddha said about such attractions, explaining them in terms of desire and ego:
A man attends inwardly to his masculine faculties [physical traits], masculine gestures, masculine manners, masculine poise, masculine desires, masculine voice, masculine charms. He is excited by that, delighted by that. Being excited & delighted by that, he attends outwardly to feminine faculties, feminine gestures, feminine manners, feminine poise, feminine desires, feminine voices, feminine charms. He is excited by that, delighted by that. Being excited & delighted by that, he wants to be bonded to what is outside him, wants whatever pleasure & happiness that arise based on that bond. Delighting, caught up in his masculinity, a man goes into bondage with reference to women. This is how a man does not transcend his masculinity.(2)
In other words, according to the Buddha, first a man delights in his own masculine traits. Then based on his self-desire & conceit, he feels attracted to the other gender’s traits which contrast with his own traits and thereby highlight his own traits. Thus he gets fixated on the breasts and other female attributes.
A woman does the same thing, enjoying the maleness that contrasts with — and therefore highlights — her own femaleness in which she delights. Thus she gets fixated on male attributes.
The Buddha’s explanation suggests taking responsibility, since people actively set themselves up to be assailed by lust in all its various forms, and his explanation implies a way out. (One can escape lust by choosing to direct one’s inward attention wisely, not triggering the initial underlying excitement.) It is more useful than a theory of a biological imperative that leaves people without responsibility for their lust and hence without much recourse.
By the way, neither the Buddha’s explanation nor the modern theory seem to account for gay preferences. Since attraction begins with delight in one’s own traits, we can theorize that perhaps a natural variation causes some people to fixate outwardly on attributes that are similar to their own, rather than attributes that contrast. (Just reverse the gender in the 3rd sentence of the above quote. See?) So there may be some flexibility in the Buddha’s explanation to encompass gay sexuality, but not in the evolutionary theory.
(1) “Why Men Love Breasts” by Natalie Wolchover, Life’s Little Mysteries Staff Writer, 26 September 2012, http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/2946-why-men-love-breasts.html; “Breasts: The Real Reason Men Love Them” by Larry Young, PhD, and Brian Alexander, 25 September 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-young-phd/breasts_b_1910401.html.
(2) “Saññoga Sutta: Bondage” (AN 7.48), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 4 July 2010. Retrieved on 29 December 2012. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an07/an07.048.than.html