Why do men like big breasts?

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It's a fact: people in America, and not just men, idolize big breasts. Every year, American women spend millions of dollars on breast implants, cosmetic procedures to improve their breasts, breast enlargement pills, pumps and creams.

Considering the role that big breasts play in our culture and society, the amount time, energy, money and emotion that goes into breast enlargement seems justified.

But why do men like big breasts? You may be surprised to learn that not all men like big breasts (and we're not talking about gay men) - that the male fascination with massive mammaries is relatively recent, and is a localized phenomenon.

Not all men like big breasts

"Beauty" and standards of what is attractive and what isn't is defined by culture. American culture and society currently idolize big breasts on tall, slender figures (a combination almost never found in nature).

Did you know that in Brazil, breasts take a backseat to a woman's butt? In this South American culture, pert and round buttocks are far more attractive to men than breasts.

But during the 16th century, big breasts were considered low-class. The kinds of knockers men drool over today would only be found on a wet-nurse back then. The standard belle in the 1700s would be considered overweight today - but back then, carrying a few extra pounds was a sign of wealth (that you got enough to eat). And these neoclassical beauties had relatively small breasts - a modest B cup at most.

Have you ever seen ancient Greek or Roman sculptures at the museum? You may recall that even the goddess of love, Aphrodite/Venus, wasn't burdened with cleavage. These ancient beauties were instead well-proportioned with breasts that fit their frames.

And it's not just breast size standards that change over time. Remember Michaelangelo's famous sculpture David? The reason the statue doesn't have a larger penis is because, in Renaissance Italy, having a big penis was a cause for embarrassment. In that time and place, being over-generously hung was about as attractive as wearing a red clown nose.

Big breast fascination: an evolutionary perspective

Evolutionary biologists have discovered that a lot of the physical traits we consider attractive have a sound basis in genetics. Choosing the right mate obviously is a very important decision - so our genes have, over time, learned to help us out. We tend to find indications of health to be attractive. Signs of disease, malnutrition, or general unfitness are perceived as unattractive.

How does this explain the male fascination with big breasts? Well, it sounds like a reach, but here it is: humans are the only primates that have sex face-to-face. All other primates choose the front-to-back position. Human females are along among the primates in having large breasts even when not nursing. Evolutionary biologists theorize that large breasts look like a butt! Crazy as it sounds, all the evidence fits: all primates are turned on by butts - except people. Only humans have large breasts and mate face-to-face. Therefore, maybe big breasts evolved in imitation of buttocks.

Here's another explanation that's easier to believe: larger breasts indicate adequate stores of subcutaneous fat, which is a sign of health. Flat breasts may indicate a post-menopausal woman who is no longer able to have children and therefore not an ideal mate from the evolutionary perspective.

Is it all just marketing?

Some sociologists scoff at the evolutionary explanations offered above. They theorize that the American male fascination with big breasts is driven by the advertising and media machine.

Their explanation goes like this: children are exposed to seductive, sensual sexy advertising featuring busty female models. Children are taught to associate these images with arousal.

Fast forward: children are now adults. Marketers use the same types of images to attract their attention - and it works. So TV commercials, billboards and magazine ads perpetuate this big-breasted, sexy iconography. And children see it, too. Thus the cycle perpetuates itself.

Whether or not one agrees with any of these explanations of why men like big breasts, it's important to realize that the male fascination is real. People perceived as beautiful, on average, are promoted faster at work, where they make more money. They get better service. And they marry more attractive partners.

It's a tough time and place for women without big breasts.