I have been thinking long and hard about how people can be offended by breastfeeding. It is often said that it is a direct result of sexualization, that it generated out of everything becoming sexual, which leaves no room for a baby to feed on the oh so sexual breast.
I got to thinking about Cameroon. Cameroonian women might just be the most sexual human beings on this planet. Seriously. But that is a topic for another post, because that might get long winded and completely beside the point.
In general, Africans are very much in tune with their sexuality. To us prude Europeans, they might even seem a little obsessed (but that is just us trying to impose our religiously inspired worldview on them). They have a lot of sex, with a multitude of partners, from a young age and they don't stick to close to marital or relational fidelity.
Yet, in these countries, where women at age 13 have sexual relationships - where this is tolerated and they might even get pregnant and have a baby and nobody bats an eye - you cannot drive a mile without seeing at least one women breastfeed her child - up to the age of two - alongside the road. Nobody stops and stares. Nobody feels the need to yell at her, or tell her to go and hide somewhere.
These offended reactions Westerners - Americans - have about breastfeeding, they are not a result of everything being sexual. They are a result of suppressed sexuality. Of parents telling their teens to keep it for a special occasion, of people attaching so much importance to sex that it is placed on a pedestal. Sex is something so secretive, so exclusive, so coveted, that anything that bares any relation to it must be too.
Since the entire human body is involved in the sexual (and then I won't even start about the mind in this equation), this poses a problem however (burqa anyone?). You must bare in mind that we are in fact recovering from a culture where the female body was covered in a way that is not so dissimilar to the burqa. Not 100 years ago, the ankle was quite the sexy body part.
People obsess about what is hidden, what is secret, what is outside of the eye's reach.
That's why sex sells. That's why so many magazine covers are borderline Hustler. But that is all surreel, they are mere images. They are enhanced and airbrushed. They are the fringe and the borderline accepted gateway to the hidden sexuality of the human body in our culture.
But a live, real, breathing woman with an exposed breast and - oh my - a baby attached to it, that's not imaginary any more.
In a culture where some people have never ever seen a naked breast apart from their own, or their wives' (hidden under the covers with the lights dimmed), or plastic/paper enhanced versions, being confronted with a live sample might be shocking indeed.