Breasts are part of the anatomy of both females and males. On the inside, a woman's breast is made up of about 15-25 milk-producing sacs called milk glands, which are connected to milk ducts that converge inside the nipple.

The remainder of the internal breast is composed of fatty tissue and fibrous connective tissues that bind the breast together and give it shape.

On the outside of the breast there are nipples. Nipples, like all other anatomical structures, vary in appearance from woman to woman. They may stick out prominently, they may have a flattened appearance, they may be set a bit deeper in the breast, or they can be inverted.

Each nipple is supplied with many nerve endings, which make it particularly sensitive to touch. There are thin muscle fibers in nipples that enable them to become erect. The darker pigmented area around each nipple is called the areola (plural: areolae).

The size and color of the areolae vary from woman to woman. This area can be seen as an extension of the skin of the nipple onto the breast. It contains many nerve fibers and muscle fibers that help the nipple to stiffen and become erect.

Bumps in the Aerola Normal

It is quite normal to have small bumps in the areola. These bumps are oil-producing glands that secrete a lubricant to make breast feeding easier. During pregnancy, the areolae darken and remain at least somewhat darker after pregnancy.

Women's breasts have three levels of significance: they can feed a baby; they can give erotic pleasure; and they play a large part in shaping a woman's self-image.

In response to sexual stimulation, a woman's breasts may undergo changes. Her nipples typically become erect during sexual excitement. As excitement proceeds, the areolae begin to swell, continuing to the point where the earlier nipple erection may look less pronounced. The veins in the breast often become more visible as a result of the increased blood flowing into them, and, in women who have not breast-fed, there may also be a small increase in breast size.

Breasts and Intimacy

Breasts are a part of sexual anatomy that is unrelated to reproduction, but, in American society, have a great deal of erotic allure and sexual symbolism. It is not at all unusual to see a large-breasted woman used in advertisements to sell everything from beer to cars to cologne (notably, these are primarily male markets).

As a result of the almost universal association of a woman's breasts with femininity, sexuality, and attractiveness, women and men have developed burdensome misconceptions about the meaning of breast size. We are bombarded on an almost daily basis with the not so subtle suggestion that a woman with large breasts has a definite sexual advantage; thus, conversely, a woman with small breasts must be less sexually interested and skilled.

Breast Size Unrelated to Sexual Desire

The fact is that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that breast size is related to a woman's level of sexual desire, or to her sexual response. Actually, many women experience very little sexual pleasure from having their breasts fondled or caressed, and this is true for women with large and small breasts. Often it is the woman's male partner who derives more pleasure out of fondling her breasts, and she may participate mainly because she knows her lover enjoys it. Furthermore, the women who do become sexually aroused when their breasts are touched do so regardless of their breast size.

Because of the enormous importance that American culture attaches to breasts, their size and shape, many women worry that their breasts are too small, too large, or just the wrong shape. Not only may this negatively affect their self-image and self-acceptance, it leads some women to try ineffective and even dangerous methods of breast augmentation or reduction.

Men's breasts can give erotic pleasure (in some males), but they have little influence on self-image, and they do not produce milk. Men's breasts do not increase in size under stimulation but some men will have noticeable nipple erection.

Copyright 2002 Sinclair Intimacy Institute

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