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Is there such a thing as an ideal breast shape?

May 10, 2013
Irwin-Scott Flickr CC

Image: Irwin-Scott Flickr CC

A few months ago I posted a slideshow of pictures featuring the boobs that I had come across in my day-to-day life on posters, in magazines, in shop windows and such like (click here to see the original article). A fellow blogger called thelingerielesbian kindly commented on it, and said something that has stuck with me ever since. She said “One thing to notice is the wide variety of boobs that they show– I know that I am much more the shape of Eve on the Paradise Lost book than any of the others, and yet that is apparently a body type that I never, ever see on modern women (who are in magazines).”

And she’s absolutely right. If you look at most boobs on posters or magazines, or wherever they may be, they all seem to either be of the bouncy, round, beach-ball variety, or the non-existent fashion-model variety. The Botticelli-style slightly softer and lower-slung variety are nowhere to be seen.

It has been argued that “beauty” is not an objective value, but rather a reflection of powerful social influences. The most famous anecdotal example is that, when times are tough and there is genuinely a possibility of people going without food, it is plumpness and roundness that is coveted. At times of economic booms, however, skinniness becomes popular.

So perhaps it is inevitable that our tastes in boob shapes change over time, and is subject to phases and fashions. Taking the Eve photo as an example, it is not only the boobs that are currently out of vogue, but her shapely thighs and slightly fleshy belly. If we were to put forward an image of female perfection now – which presumably the Eve image would have represented in its own time – I would bet money it would be a very different story.

But I have a theory – only a theory – that there is one particular social factor that is determining our current boob-y ideal. The rise of plastic surgery.

There is programme on BBC Three called Snog Marry Avoid. You may well have already seen it, but if not the basic format is this: there is a woman (or occasionally a man) whose look is “fake”. It is explained to them how revolting they look, and to make the point clearer they are then subjected to a cruel game of (you guessed it) snog marry avoid, in which everyone invariably chooses to avoid them. They are then transformed – via a “make-under” – into “natural beauties”, and have their new look validated by another round of the snog marry avoid game where everyone now chooses to either snog or marry them.

There are many aspects of this programme which need to be commented on – not least the fact that it cheerily and shamelessly uses the age-old chestnut of whether or not men would fancy these women as a benchmark for style and beauty. But for the purposes of this article (and in the interests of keeping a long story short) I would like to ignore all of this for now, and focus on the simple fact that the “fake” look has enough cultural presence to justify pinning an entire programme around it.

There is, in other words, a significant portion of the population who believe that to look “fake” is beautiful. To have orange skin, and painted on eyebrows, and fake nails, and lip fillers, and hair extensions, and fake tits is the ultimate in bodily perfection. To look like a doll, and barely be able to move your face, is nice. As Eva Wiseman has observed in a brilliant article for The Guardian, there seems to be a developing fashion for young women such as Lindsey Lohan to have so much work done that they reach a bizarre “ageless” look of permanent fakery. The aim is not to enhance yourself in a way that no one notices, but to go so overboard that people will be sure to know that you have had work done.

And for women, one of the main requirements of this look is, of course, fake – or at least fake-looking – boobs.

On a recent episode of Snog Marry Avoid (which I was only watching for research purposes, honest) one of the fakery culprits actually said the words “My ambition is to be like Pamela Anderson, because she’s got big boobs. And one day I’m hoping to have big, fake boobs.”

Notice – the ambition (shudder at the use of “ambition”) is not to have big boobs, but to have big fake boobs. She is not saying that she wants big boobs that will have to be fake because hers aren’t big naturally, but that their very fake-ness is the whole point.

For me – and I imagine for most people – this attitude is bizarre to the point of being slightly obscene. But is this strange aesthetic the reserve of troubled celebrities and a small group of the public, or has it filtered into society more widely?

I spoke to Mr James McDiarmid, a plastic surgeon who performs breast augmentations, to see if this look was something he came across frequently in his surgery, and if there was a mainstream demand for fake looking boobs. Happily, he said that 99 per cent of the women requesting surgery are after a natural look, and only one per cent are after something a bit more dramatic. In technical terms, Mr McDiarmid tells me, this means that very few women are after a particularly “high projection”.

He summed the situation up pretty neatly, saying “most women would rather look like Kelly Brook than Jordan.”

So if there is a demand for the “fake” look, it seems, it is not necessarily one shared by the general population – even those going in for enlargements already.

But I still can’t shake the feeling that, even if we don’t actively conform to or even like this penchant for all things fake, it does seem to be symptomatic of something wider, as the artificial ideals spreads insidiously into our cultural consciousness. We have all seen what can be attained through plastic surgery – what pertness, roundness, and slightly freaky “perfection” – and though we may not want to look quite so shiny, those pert round bosoms are a difficult image to shake. After all, people may not necessarily be after fake looking fake boobs, but they are after fake boobs in general no matter how “natural” they want them to look.

In the same way, there may only be a few who have gone full pelt for the “Barbie” look (like this strange lady), the doll’s long legs, tiny waist and massive boobs have long been cited as negatively influencing young girls body image. Or, though not everyone doggedly pursues the hideous skinniness of catwalk models, their omnipresent thinness inevitably has an impact on a wider perception of bodily perfection.

And maybe I’m wrong, but it does seem to me that the “ideal” shape for boobs presented in magazines and adverts does at the very least draw on artificial perfection for inspiration. After all, in a culture where it is possible to sculpt and mould whatever part of your body you choose, it is inevitable that the “best” boobs are the ones that have been made specifically for perfection, and natural boobs have to compete at that level.

Well, ok. But what about the merits of natural beauty? Of imperfect but characterful bodies and shapes? Or lips that move and eyebrows that frown? Broadly speaking, I would say that Mr McDiarmid is right, and that most people are after a natural look. I, for example, think the overly polished, shiny, bouncy, perfect plastic look is downright hideous. And if Mr McDiarmid’s Kelly Brook analogy is anything to go by, it seems that most women are with me.

But as an ideal is increasingly portrayed  in popular culture where lines are blurred between real and fake, and it is a requirement of models to look absolutely “perfect”, surely there is a danger that the line between “natural” and synthetic will become increasingly blurred and we will be striving for something more and more unattainable.

And why shouldn’t a pointy boob less plump breast be just as beautiful as a round and bouncy one? It’s just a fashion, after all, and we shouldn’t be afraid to dismiss it as such. Bring back the soft, squishy, natural boob in my opinion. If it was good enough for Boticelli, it’s good enough for me.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 26, 2013 10:58 am

    It’s truly very complex in this full of activity life to listen news on TV, therefore I just use the web for that reason, and get the newest news.

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