Female breasts have been symbols of femininity, sacred symbols of motherhood and mysterious objects of desire to mankind since time immemorial. And yet, they are not always a source of pride and satisfaction to women. Artists, designers and movies have brought hitherto private body parts to public eye and created higher expectations in the minds of both men and women, as to what ideal breasts are like. A survey conducted in united states revealed that 76 percent of women were dissatisfied with their breast size, and 40 percent of male responders expressed dissatisfaction with the breast size of their partners. Does the same apply to Indians as well? Is there an Indian idea of the ideal breast? Here I have explored western and Indian art, Hollywood and Indian cinema and plastic surgery texts and combined it with my own experience as a woman and a plastic surgeon to get the answers.
Do Indian men like big breasts on women?
On google search, the common perception seems to be that men like big breasts. This is a common theme of popular jokes as well. Pornography directed at men validates and reinforces this view. Study of ancient and Indian sculptures reveals women and goddesses being depicted as having large hemispherical, round breasts jutting straight out defying gravity. Men’s attraction to bigger breasts though can be explained by developmental theory. Breast develop during puberty in females, under influence of fertility hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen makes the girl transition to womanhood by stimulating breast glands and depositing fat in hips, thighs and breasts, giving her the characteristic curves.
According to natural selection theory sexual partners were chosen according to their potential for fertility. Big breasted and curvy women thus got preference. Mothers breasts are the source of nourishment to an infant. Breasts are big, firm and full when the woman is breastfeeding. While the memory of mother’s breasts and the attachment to them may not be remembered in adult life, but subconscious mind carries the attraction. In Victorian era, England breasts were bound in tight corsets to make them look smaller, as large breasts were considered low class, tribal and vulgar. High society favoured smaller breasts on women as being the ideal breast type. In the 21st century, average breast size in general population has increased from B cup to C cup, because of increasing weight. And now you see in movies, slim women who have large breasts – thanks to plastic surgery. But there are several surveys, though not from India, that have demonstrated that majority of men are actually satisfied by any breast size on the woman they love.
What kind of breasts do Indian women like?
Isn’t it strange that so far we have been talking only about men, even though breasts belong to women. A girl who goes through the awkwardness of growing breasts in adolescence must witness the changes, pleasure and pains of her breasts through pregnancies, breastfeeding, weight fluctuations and ultimately age. So what kind of breasts do Indian women like?
- Breast size proportionate to her height and body type. Ideal breasts should be neither too small, nor too big, so as to draw unwanted attention and comments from friends, family or strangers.
- Indian women want breasts with size and shape that fits into commonly found bras. That way they don’t have to wear ill-fitting, uncomfortable bras.
- Breasts should look good in commonly available standard dress sizes. The size that fits at the waist should also fit at the bust and vice versa. Very large breasts and very small breasts make it tough to fit into ready-made clothes.
- Breasts should allow women to feel good in swimsuit and tight T-shirt, without having to wear pads that look unnatural.
- Indian girls and women often wear clothes that cover the breasts – like saree and dupatta. Ideal breasts should be big enough to show their shape and form through such clothes.
- Both breasts should be of the same size.
- Nipples should not be too prominent that they show through normal non padded bras.
- Breasts should not be so big as to cause pain in back and neck. Extra large breasts also don’t fit into bras well and make the woman feel suffocated and embarrassed.
- Breasts should be attractive to their husband or partner. This is a very important criteria for most women and when their man is dissatisfied, often Indian women are willing to change the size through plastic surgery.
What is the ideal breast size for Indian women?
In my practice, size 36 is often mentioned by Indian women who want to enhance their breasts by plastic surgery as the ideal breast size. This perhaps comes from’”36, 24, 36 “ ideal of woman’s figure which is been existing since the 1960’s. Thirty six-twenty four-thirty six defines ideal hourglass figure of maximum breast and hip measurements of 36-inch with a narrow 24-inch waist in between. How common is hourglass figure in reality? A survey of 6000 women conducted in USA in 2006 revealed that only 8 percent of those had hourglass figure. Indian women are most commonly pear shaped, with relatively wider hips and buttocks than the breasts. One can not define an attractive or ideal breast by a single number, like 36 inch. Ideal breasts are better defined in terms of bra cup size. Cup sizes C and D are most popular among Indian women.
What is my bra size?
Bra size is a common guess men make about women, but most women themselves do not know their correct bra size. Majority of the women wear wrong size bra in India. Reasons for wearing wrong size bra are:
- Lack of knowledge about bra size measurement.
- Limited bra sizes and brands are available in most of small and medium sized Indian cities.
- Majority of Indian bra stores do not have professionals who will measure and advise the correct size.
- Women’s bra size changes with age, weight and pregnancies, but often they keep wearing the same size.
Bra sizes come in a wide range, but most commonly available bra sizes in India range from 30B to 36D. Here 36 is bra size and D is cup size. Measuring the bras size involves taking 2 measurements: Strap size( measurement 1), is the tape measurement in inches just below the breast, where the bra strap rests. Measurement 2 is taken at the most prominent point of breast projection. If the difference between these 2 measurements is 1 inch then the cup size is A, if 2 inches B, 3 inches C and 4 inches D cup. So a woman with bra size 36 can have cup size of A and she may be flat chested. Whereas 34 C may look very attractive and 30 DD may be too big. So cup size is very important in describing breast size.
Ideal breasts according to plastic surgeons:
Plastic surgeons are experts in beauty and body form. Plastic surgery textbooks pick up clues from art, sculptures and study what people like, to describe ideal breasts. When we operate on the breasts to improve the shape and size, these ideals guide us. Ideal breasts as visualized by plastic surgeons have following characteristics:
- Ideal breasts should be proportionate to the height, shoulder and waist diameter of the woman.
- Ideal cup size is B, C or D. Note that most surgery on breasts is aimed at changing cup size and not the strap size. Choice of cup size from B to D is usually decided keeping the wishes of woman and her partner in mind.
- Beautiful breasts are symmetrical overall. Perfectly symmetrical breasts do not exist though.
- Nipples point towards front and are in an equilateral triangle from the top of breastbone (at the lower neck hollow).
- Areolae(dark skin around nipple) are 4-5 cm wide and symmetrical. Nipple is 3-6 mm long. Nipple are are at the centre of the breast, at same level.
- Breasts are at the same level on the chest and neither placed too high, nor too low.
- Breast edges are round and breast tissue is 40 percent above the nipple and 60 percent below. Upper pole should not be empty or flat.
- Negative pencil test – if a pencil is placed at the crease below the breast with woman standing upright, the pencil will fall normally. But when breast is sagging, it holds the pencil against the chest wall- that is not ideal.
- There is no extra fat around the breast either in armpit or on the sidewalls of chest.
- Youthful breasts are firm and self supported.
The problem with very large breasts:
Average breast size of women is increasing all over the world proportionate to increase in obesity. But, breast size of a woman is not necessarily directly proportionate to their weight. That is why, weight gain does not solve problem of flat chested women and similarly extra large breasts are hard to reduce in size by diet and exercise.
Cup size above D can cause a variety of problems for women:
- Heavy breasts cause back and neck pain.
- Sports, exercise and swimming – all get difficult, and there is difficulty in maintaining healthy weight too as a result.
- Women with large breasts get awkward stares from people.
- Large breasts make women look big, even if they are slim.
- Low neck and may other styles of popular clothing for young women are out of question for big breasted women. Wearing T shirts, thin materials and going without dupatta becomes difficult. Clothing choices get restricted.
- Large breasts, above C cup invariably sag due to gravity. They need special and more expensive underwire bras to keep them looking uplifted and supported. As the breast size goes up, well-fitting bra gets harder to find. Women stuff the breasts in ill fitting bra. If they wear too small a bra trying to make breast less visible, the bra digs into the skin and leaves dent and dark marks. Breathing gets harder and breast keeps spilling out of cup and looks misshapen.
- The skin between the breasts gets irritated and pink due to sweat accumulation.
- Very large breasts can make socializing embarrassing and can lead to withdrawal and depression.
Problem with breasts that are too small:
In contrast to breasts too big, small breasts do not cause any health concern – only psychological and sartorial ones.
- Small breasted women usually resort to wearing padded bra. Padded bras tend to look unnatural and often there is empty space between bra cup and upper chest, which looks bad.
- In India, small breasts invite unwanted comments from well wishers advising the girl to gain weight.
- Women may feel less feminine because of small breast size. They lack confidence in finding partners, and in the common scenario of arranged marriage in India -mothers are concerned too.
- Indian clothes like sarees require breasts to be bigger to give correct form.
Plastic surgery of breast in India
According to 2016 survey of ISAPS ( International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons ), 92000 Indian women opted for aesthetic change in size and shape of their breasts in 2016. Most common breast procedure in India in descending order were:
- Breast augmentation with silicon implants – to increase the size of small breasts.
- Breast reduction surgery – to reduce the size of big breasts.
- Breast lift surgery– to lift up the sagging breasts-post pregnancy or weight loss.
- Fat transfer into breasts – to increase breast size.
Overall in the world, 3,08,9952 women underwent aesthetic breast surgery, marking 10 percent increase from 2015.
Ideal breasts remain significant to Indian women and their partners through different stages of lives. Women from 18-55 years old have approached me, alone, with parents or with partners with their breast issues. Sometimes, it is the partner who insists in the surgery and the woman does it to please him, but most times it’s the woman herself who takes the lead and does the task of convincing the family about the need.
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