It is 2023. Why are Women still Shamed for having Saggy Breasts?

A black and white photo of a woman in lingerie holding a glass of wine
Photo Credit: Andy Mkosi

Written by Melony Akpoghene

On February 5th, Kayla Nicole Jones was among the megastars who attended the 65th annual Grammy awards in Los Angeles. Dressed for the occasion in a stunning Sheabella deep V-neck dress that showed off her cleavage, the celebrity stood on the red carpet, smiling, poised and ready for the cameras. However, as her pictures circulated on the internet, so did a lot of violent and derogatory comments deriding her breasts for being “saggy”. Kayla Nicole is just one woman out of millions of women whose bodies continue to be constantly disparaged by society. It is 2023. Why are women still shamed for having saggy breasts?

Because we live “in a cleavage-obsessed world that offers “firming” creams, push-up bras, and in which the term “breast lift” is mainstream, it’s understandable that you’ve been sent the message that boobs are only desirable the firmer and higher” they are. Breast shaming is one of the most common abuses that have existed against women in society. Be it small breasts, huge breasts, perky breasts, droopy breasts, women are looked down upon, catcalled, and insulted by relatives, friends, strangers, neighbors, medical practitioners, quite literally, everyone. Breasts that are not solidly mounted on your chest with the nipples tipped upwards are clear embodiments of shame that must not be seen in their true form.  

The struggle of managing breasts and the norms attached to it starts from the phase where your breasts begin to develop. Society expects you to grow and maintain what it deems as “perfect breasts”- rounded, but not droopy. Maybe big, but not too big. Just enough to fit in a man’s hand. Smooth, shapely, perky. Every growing girl who begins to witness her breast developing is saddled with the fearful possibility that she just may be among those who regularly have to defend their bodies from both themselves and society. It doesn’t help that there are several myths about breast sagging and that the media severely underrepresents the varied forms and shapes that breasts come in. Mainstream representations of breasts are streamlined to portray only images of breasts that are considered acceptable and “nice-looking”- mainly, two “perfect-sized, non-saggy breasts”.

Being an older sister with saggy breasts sort of meant watching my younger sister, through every stage of her breast development, silently but desperately desire to be different because she understood the kind of treatment society bestows on those without “perfect breasts”. It involved finally seeing in her eyes the misery and helpless resignation that came with realizing that she may really have breasts like mine because just as I am my mother’s daughter, she is, too. 

Existing as a person with “saggy boobs” means that it is completely normal to be lashed with the condemnatory eyes and tongues of all as you survive in the world braless, tits swinging and all. When the outlines of your nipples are seen poking through your shirt, people, mainly men, are seized in a misogynistic chokehold that allows them to hypersexualise your body while ironically making ignorant comments, ridiculing your “fallen soldiers”. By the sole virtue of your “saggy breasts”, you are accused of making random people uncomfortable; peers and family members recoil when your saggy boobs are “unsupported” and throw looks at you that state: “If you are not ashamed, I am ashamed for you”. 

Health critics warn that without bras, the Cooper’s ligaments (the connective tissue in the breast that helps maintain firm structural positions) would tire, leading to saggy boobs. Hence, women are forced to continue to fight hints of sagging by bounding their breasts in bras, amongst the other “remedies” for saggy breasts. Remedies, because that’s exactly how society views breasts that do not form in round shapes — defects that need fixing. It is no surprise that the Mastopexy (breast lift) market was valued at $3.2 billion in 2021, and is estimated to reach $5.9 billion by 2031, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.3% from 2022 to 2031.

Living braless with breasts that sag means you’re just sloppy and no one wants to be labeled “sloppy”. So, in Nigerian terms, you need to package them well. The subject of the Cooper’s ligaments tiring out has been put into question by a 15-year-long French study led by Professor Jean-Denis Rouillon, from the University of Besançon in Eastern France, that finds that bras might actually cause boobs to sag, suggesting that they make the Cooper’s ligaments lazy.

Because most women have been made to feel that they look wrong, the struggle of how their breasts are supposed to look as dictated by stereotypes and mainstream media versus how they actually look, barges into their sex lives and causes havoc. Eniola, 25, shares her experience and she says, “Right from when I started developing breasts from age 11, everyone, but specifically, my sisters and cousin, said I had banana breasts and mocked me for it. When I had my first boyfriend at 17 years old, I lied that I had a health condition that required me to always wear bras so he wouldn’t see my long breasts and hate me. It went on for so long till he got tired and cajoled me until I gave in. When he saw them, he got angry because he believed I lied to him about not being sexually active. Apparently, saggy breasts meant I had done an abortion and was indeed sexually active. We broke up and I swore never to be sexually involved with anyone so I could spare them the horror of dealing with my ugly breasts. However, as I connected with women on social media who had breasts like mine and loved every bit of their breasts, I began to see mine as normal and it greatly influenced my sex life”.

Battling the world’s beauty standards with a body that spirals away from conformity is not as glamorous as popularly explained. The journey to loving your body is also not a linear one. For Mide, 21, who says that she “suddenly regressed”, it certainly isn’t. She explains that being with an ex-partner who can be described as a “boobs guy” meant that she was able to do away with feelings of insecurities as she was assured of his devotion to her boobs. However, dealing with a new sexual partner who is more inclined to bums than boobs nixes how comfortable and sexually expressive she is with him.

It’s difficult to not care about society’s validation. But it’s also more difficult and stressful to care. Many times, your breasts being saggy may be unavoidable and may cause you to always be at war with your body. Life is going to be a lot easier and nicer if you’re not actively hating your body. Your breasts are awesome just because they’re breasts. Period. If your partner does not appreciate their awesomeness, maybe you need to rethink your relationship with them as their weird energy can filter through and contaminate the progress you’ve made with loving your body. Embrace your boobs, renounce the stress of worrying about what people think of them and baby, just let your tits hang!

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