The Curious Case of Human Breasts - Why Are They So Big?

December 6th, 2018

Did you know that humans are the only species with permanent breasts?

While other animals develop breasts while ovulating, pregnant, and nursing, humans are blessed (or cursed, depending on your perspective) with a permanent pair.

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Pixabay Source: Pixabay

Our bodies are the result of millions of years of evolution, so each part is supposed to be maximally useful.

While breasts are an integral part of feeding our young, there’s really no reason for them to develop during puberty and last throughout our lifetimes.

So why are they there and how’d they get so big if we don’t always need them?

None other than Charles Darwin weighed in on the issue in the 19th century with one of his sexier theories. He knew that breasts served to attract mates (what can we say, boob guys have always been a thing) and hypothesized that they evolved to be a sex symbol.

In a 1967 book titled The Naked Ape, zoologist Desmond Morris elaborated further, reminding us that our primate ancestors have a similar mate-attracting apparatus – their swelling bottoms.

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Live Science Source: Live Science

Because apes typically walk on all fours, their sex organs are visible to others, but as human became bipedal (and started wearing clothing), their bottom halfs were no longer visible.

Surgeon Leonard Shlain suggested in his 2003 book Sex, Time and Power: How Women’s Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution that perhaps breasts developed as a more visible way of signalling to potential mates that a woman was sexually mature once we started walking upright.

Even if this is true, it still doesn’t explain why some breasts are so big, especially since they can cause back pain and the fatty tissue inside is suceptible to the growth of cancer cells (breast cancer in animals is relatively rare).

While we don’t always associate sex with the desire to get pregnant, it’s pretty safe to say that from an evolutionary standpoint, human breasts are meant to be a signal of fertility.

A 2004 study found that women with large breasts have higher levels of a hormone called estradiol, which is associated with increased fertility.

To be sure, there’s plenty of archaeological evidence pointing to the importance of breasts in fertility rituals over time.

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Wikimedia Commons Source: Wikimedia Commons

But even if we’re not interested in making babies, our brains are hardwired to preserve the species, so there’s typically an evolutionary reason for our desires and behaviors.

But while plenty of people argue that the only purpose of breasts is to feed our young, there’s no denying that they can be an integral part of foreplay, playing a key role in female sexual arousal.

Not all cultures find breasts erotic though. Anthropologists have found plenty of groups that don’t think of human breasts as part of sex.

While there are many theories, we don’t have any good answers that hold up to scientific and cross-cultural scrutiny regarding why women have breasts throughout their lives.

So to each his or her own when it comes to how you view them.

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Source: IFL Science