Why all the hubbub over breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is really an interesting topic. No, seriously.

So why breastfeeding? Of all things to draw shounen power from, why does it have to be breast milk? Well, I found an interesting book by Londa L. Schiebinger. According to her, people used to think breast milk could provide more than just nutrition:

In subcurrents of religious traditions, mother’s milk was thought to impart knowledge. Philosophia-Sapientia, the traditional personification of wisdom, suckled philosophers at her breasts moist with the milk of knowledge and moral virtue. — page 60

Even so, I, among other people, asked last week why the milk of virgins were considered superior to the milk of non-virgins. I don’t quite buy reader nXc’s explanation. After all, milk’s milk, right? Not according to some people:

In the Christian world, milk had been seen as providing sustenance–for both body and spirit. Throughout the Middle Ages, the faithful cherished vials of the Virgin’s milk as a healing balm, a symbol of mercy, an eternal mystery. — page 59

Sounds silly to me, but more importantly — I get it… breastfeeding is beneficial, but why eroticize it?

We can’t speak for Seikon no Qwaser or its mangaka Yoshino Hiroyuki, but we can tell when the practice started:

Barbara Gelphi has traced the stunning way in which the maternal breast was eroticized in late eighteenth-century medical literature. Male physicians, including Eramus Darwin, described the rapturous prose the sensuous pleasures experienced by nursing infants. — page 63

What’s even more interesting to me, however, is the way breast milk has been politicized throughout history. Due to virgin idolatry and fetishism, we’re obviously gonna center the anime around schoolgirls. This is convenient too because it seems to be an unspoken law that every anime takes place at a school. Furthermore:

Late nineteenth-century anthropologists classified breasts by beauty in the same way that they measured skulls for intelligence. The ideal breast — for all races- – was once again young and virginal. Europeans preferred the compact “hemispherical” type, found, it was said, only among whites and Asians. — page 64

You don’t say. But why a fancy private school anyhow?

[Linnaeus] also warned that, because most nurses came from the poorest classes, they ate fatty foods, drank too much alcohol, were riddled with pox and venereal diseases–all of which produced unhealthy, if not lethal, milk. — page 67

You don’t want some peasant’s milk. You want Asian (or white) milk. You want virgin milk. You want upper-class milk. You want Tomo’s milk.

One last thing. Breastfeeding has often been used to justify women’s “natural” place in the home:

Since when is it permitted to abandon one’s sex? Since when is it decent for women to forsake the pious cares of their households and the cribs of their children, coming instead to public places, to hear speeches in the galleries and senate? Is it to men that nature confided domestic cares? Has she given us breasts to feed our children? — Pierre-Gaspard Chaumette

Will either Mafuya or Tomo take an active role in the anime or will they just stand on the sideline after giving their “soma” to Sasha? Will there be any female qwaser that isn’t also evil and heavily sexualized?

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19 Replies to “Why all the hubbub over breastfeeding?”

  1. I want Tomo’s milk or sheep’s milk. After reading your article, I notice that you don’t seem to be against this type of theme. Seikon no qwaser could have been an acceptable series if it weren’t for the breast action and all that ecchiness. So not fair:-(

  2. Well after much consideration, the breast feeding element as weird as it is I wouldn’t really mind that much since hey it’s what mothers do. It isn’t my fetish but I suppose like the mangaka upon seeing a mother breastfeed there seems to be a certain cuteness about the scene. I don’t know how to describe it but it feels very protective and innocent.

    I suppose I would watch it had they not added in more eroticism. And it’s an interesting concept focusing on actual chemical elements for battle and not just the traditional classical four.

    As for it taking place at a school, again I think it’s due to the fact that Japanese as of late have a obsession with Christianity (Marimite, To Aru Manjutsu no Index, Maria Holic, the list goes on) and hence in this case a ‘elite’ Russian Orthodox School. By obsession, it would be similar to Western society constantly hanging up Yin and Yang.

    1. I don’t know how to describe it but it feels very protective and innocent.

      Not in this anime. Two breastfeeding scenes so far and one of them wasn’t exactly consensual.

  3. It was just an impression cause you don’t come strongly against it, like rebuking it from the start. This is the 1st article that I read at your blog, I might be wrong.

    1. I (subtly) accused the anime of being subtextually classist, sexist, racist, modernist and, last but not least, silly. I can’t rebuke it anymore than that, but you’re right; I didn’t rebuke it from the start.

  4. I don’t know what it is, but for some reason, I imagine whoever it is in that first picture to be making motorcycle noises while pulling that face….

  5. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around how a virgin even produces milk. Is there some way I was unaware of up until this point?

    My view point of breastfeeding has always been one of bonding. It’s said that breastfed children are held close and thus bond with their mother. That is why many parenting manuals suggest both parents holding the baby close even when feeding formula.

    As for that last quote, I always find those funny, especially if you study history far back enough and come to find that the subjugation of women happened because of convenience. It was convenient for women to stay at home back at the dawn of civilization. For some reason that was perverted into something different over time.

    I’ll have to read that book you found. It sounds interesting.

    1. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around how a virgin even produces milk. Is there some way I was unaware of up until this point?

      Yes. Sort of. Let’s ask Wikipedia!

      Women who have never been pregnant are sometimes able to induce enough lactation to breastfeed. This is called “induced lactation”.

      Lactation can be induced by physical stimulation and by drugs. In principle—with considerable patience and perseverance—it is possible to induce lactation by sucking on the nipples alone. The nipples may need to be consistently stimulated by a breast pump or actual suckling (several times a day), and the breasts massaged and squeezed (“milked”) to encourage flow of any milk.

      Maybe that’s why they’re at some elite Catholic school. Maybe there’s some offscreen class where all the girls are forced to stimulate their own nipples to produce milk. Or maybe everyone’s just master sucklers and can induce milk production at the drop of the hat. I dunno, take your pick.

      What’s even more interesting though is this:

      In almost all mammals, lactation, or more correctly the suckling stimulus, induces a period of infertility, usually by the suppression of ovulation, which serves to provide the optimal birth spacing for survival of the offspring.

      So in essence, these virgin girls are even more immature than previously thought. Each time Sasha feeds on these girls, he’s inhibiting them from being mature, childbearing women. Wrap your head around that.

      My view point of breastfeeding has always been one of bonding.

      But it hasn’t. For a long time, the act of breastfeeding was handed off to wet nurses. To the culturally elite, breastfeeding was only for commoner’s. Thanks to the Enlightenment era, we suddenly had rich, white guys tell us that breastfeeding is natural because nature owns or something. It literally became an obligation. Some places enacted laws requiring mothers to breastfeed their children. The idea that breastfeeding encourages bonding is frankly a recent development.

  6. I don’t have a lot to add to the discussion. I just wanted to point out that this blog is awesome and you should feel awesome.
    Keep it up! It will surely help me keep my sanity in the anime fandom.

  7. ‘Seikon no Qwaser’ is (one of) the worst series of the last season. Leaving aside the euphemisms (fanservice, ecchi, etc), this series can only be described as PORN. That is the kinda crap that makes me ashamed to like Anime.

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