Yesterday we discussed how women are the peacocks and men are the peahens in terms of who is wooing who in the species Homo sapiens sapiens. I attempted to demonstrate that one of the "big guys" that women have for attracting the opposite sex are her mammary glands (exemplified by Salma Hayek, to the left). Well, let's talk about that...er, those.
Most mammals have more than two "breasts." In fact, it's difficult to call what most mammals have "breasts." Most mammalian females have multiple nipples connected to mammary glands that swell with milk when babies are around. Mammary glands are a defining character of mammals, of course. They began their evolutionary history as modified sweat glands--a form retained in monotremes. In other mammals, mammary glands expanded to include several distinct nipples. Have you ever seen a big momma pig on her side with a dozen piglets suckling happily? In every non-human primate, mammary glands are specifically for feeding the young. Male pigs don't get all excited when they see a big mammary gland hanging from the belly of a sow. And male non-human primates could care less about female breasts, even when those glands are swollen. Monkeys and apes are more...well, ass-men. The female posterior swells during estrus and the males start hootin' and hollerin'.
But human females are the only mammals with perpetually swollen breasts, leading most to conclude--quite rightly--that breasts serve an important secondary function. As I said before, they're the equivalent of ceratopsian neck frills. It's hard not to swivel your head when a girl like Salma walks by. But here's a question for you. Has the advertising power of breasts overpowered the baby-feeding role? That is, among human females, is nursing now the secondary purpose of breasts? Is showin' them off the primary purpose?
Breast implants show up pretty early in American girls. Sue Williams was the first Playmate to have implants--in 1965. However, breast enhancement wasn't the safe science it is today. Silicone was injected directly into the breast tissue, often multiple times. This led, invariably, to cancer in many women. Later implants were considerably safer: saline implants preceded silicone gel implants. Both have their own set of problems, including the risk of rupture and the sometimes-hideous visual results. Breast implants are invariably tougher and thicker than breast tissue itself, and although they may be visually attractive, people tell me they're not all that fun in...the...sack. And there's another gigantic downside to breast implants:
In some cases (this depends primarily on the implant's size), breast implants impede the ability to nurse. Did you hear that? In addition to the health risks caused by the surgery, the foreign material in the body, and the recovery afterward, you might not be able to nurse your babies!
But why do women get breast implants in the first place? Two primary reasons, I think:
1) Attract the opposite sex, and;
2) Reconstructive surgery after damage to the breast because of cancer or injury (or masectomy).
The first reason is undoubtably the most common. And think about it--that's a helluva gamble. Your risk your own life on the surgery table in hopes of attracting the opposite sex, which reproductive drive tells you to mate with and procreate, but then, hold on--you might not be able to feed the baby! That's...incredible! Breasts have switched from being primarily for feeding babies to attracting mates. No other animal does this! But again, I ask about technology and medicine. Certainly breast implants would not be as popular were it not for advances in medicine that make them safer. What's more, women don't always feed their babies with their own breastmilk. There are wet nurses and bottles for that. Of course, both are potentially inferior, as the mother's milk passes on important immune agents to the baby. It's that crazy? It boggles my mind, honestly. We're so happy with our technology and medicine that the very organ that makes us mammals is losing its defining purpose. That's epic stuff.