Why Men Go Ga-Ga for Women’s Breasts
Posted by Richard Conniff on February 17, 2013
Apparently, it’s not so much gaga as goo-goo. Here’s the explanation according to Larry Young and Brian Alexander, authors of the book The Chemistry Between Us:
So breasts are mighty tempting. But what purpose could this possibly serve?
Some evolutionary biologists have suggested that full breasts store needed fat, which, in turn, signals to a man that a woman is in good health and therefore a top-notch prospect to bear and raise children. But men aren’t known for being particularly choosy about sex partners. After all, sperm is cheap. Since we don’t get pregnant, and bear children, it doesn’t cost us much to spread it around. If the main goal of sex — evolutionarily speaking — is to pass along one’s genes, it would make more sense to have sex with as many women as possible, regardless of whether or not they looked like last month’s Playmate.
Another hypothesis is based on the idea that most primates have sex with the male entering from behind. This may explain why some female monkeys display elaborate rear-end advertising. In humans, goes the argument, breasts became larger to mimic the contours of a woman’s rear.
We think both of these explanations are bunk! Rather, there’s only one neurological explanation, and it has to do with brain mechanisms that promote the powerful bond of a mother to her infant.
When a woman gives birth, her newborn will engage in some pretty elaborate manipulations of its mother’s breasts. This stimulation sends signals along nerves and into the brain. There, the signals trigger the release of a neurochemical called oxytocin from the brain’s hypothalamus. This oxytocin release eventually stimulates smooth muscles in a woman’s breasts to eject milk, making it available to her nursing baby.
But oxytocin release has other effects, too. When released at the baby’s instigation, the attention of the mother focuses on her baby. The infant becomes the most important thing in the world. Oxytocin, acting in concert with dopamine, also helps imprint the newborn’s face, smell and sounds in the mother’s reward circuitry, making nursing and nurturing a feel-good experience, motivating her to keep doing it and forging the mother-infant bond. This bond is not only the most beautiful of all social bonds, it can also be the most enduring, lasting a lifetime.
Another human oddity is that we’re among the very rare animals that have sex face-to-face, looking into each other’s eyes. We believe this quirk of human sexuality has evolved to exploit the ancient mother-infant bonding brain circuitry as a way to help form bonds between lovers.
When a partner touches, massages or nibbles a woman’s breasts, it sparks the same series of brain events as nursing. Oxytocin focuses the brain’s attention to the partner’s face, smell, and voice. The combination of oxytocin release from breast stimulation, and the surge of dopamine from the excitement of foreplay and face-to-face sex, help create an association of the lover’s face and eyes with the pleasurable feelings, building a bond in the women’s brain.
So joke all you want, but our fascination with your breasts, far from being creepy, is an unconscious evolutionary drive prompting us to activate powerful bonding circuits that help create a loving, nurturing bond.
My only question is: Then why aren’t women as fascinated as men with other women’s breasts? Or are they?