Does hitting puberty early, and growing a bust early, contribute to sexual shame?
All too often it can. A few weeks ago I asked on Facebook and Twitter for women’s experiences if they grew breasts early. The stories and comments were so sad! I just want to share some with you, and then leave you with some of my thoughts.
So today, for Top 10 Tuesday, here are 10 themes that I found about women’s experiences when they grew large chests early:
1. Assuming big breasts = Sex obsessed
- I am 15 years old and I often get comments from grown men saying I need to ‘cover up’ because they might not be able to control themselves. My stepfather commented on my breasts when I was younger and even made comments about how I would grow up to be a stripper.
- I was well aware that I got a lot of attention from guys because of my chest. … I regularly had to tell guys I was only 13, which had them running for the hills. I was called “jailbait” all the time. I was approached sexually by guys on a weekly basis. For me, I felt like my chest was a bad thing because I got so much creepy attention for it.
2. Accusing them of being a temptation
Embarrassed! I was homeschooled, and my guyfriend’s moms would tell me I shouldn’t front-hug their sons because I was being a temptation.
3. Difficulty of finding “modest” clothing when you have natural cleavage
Swim suits were a nightmare as my mother tried to keep me modest. Cleavage was forbidden which meant wearing clothes always up to my collar bones. So many safety pins trying to correct my outfits. My dad stopped hugging me.
4. Unwanted sexual touching (assault) in school
- I was forced to wear roller disco shorts that fit at the beginning of the year, but then I grew. I was felt up by teacher and a student. I still am unable to enjoy sports.
- I was in a C-cup in 3rd grade. By high-school boys assumed they could grab my boobs. I had to use “the kick” often. Of course the christian guilt that came with boys grabbing me was no fun either.
5. Being teased horribly by other girls
- First I felt great I was becoming a woman, however that soon changed. The cruelty of the girls who called me chestarella to shame & embarrass me in front of others.
- I hated it. I was always super modest, but I have a very large chest that came in early. I was accused of being a bra stuffer. I went to a church lock in and when I was in another room doing an activity, some of the girls got into my bag and got out my big, giant, middle school pads, covered them in red Play-Doh, and stuck them to the walls. Middle school was utter misery and a big part of it was that I was an early bloomer with a large chest. And it didn’t help that I have very heavy periods, and would bleed through a lot. My mom never really had any kind of “talks” with me so I didn’t even understand how tampons worked (I tried to leave them in the plastic part and just shoved it in there). Puberty sucked for real.
- Awkward and miserable. I got my period before the 4th grade and developed quickly (size B boobs by 6th grade) and was bullied by boys and girls because of it. Verbally bullied because of my boobs, curves, period and some genetics. It got so bad that I had to make special arrangments to use the nurse’s bathroom every time I was on my period. One “friend” even sneakily unhooked my bra during recess (she claimed she was going to massage my shoulders).
6. Being singled out by teachers
It was really hard. My breasts were large by the time I was 10, although I didn’t get my period until 13. My 4th grade teacher made it a point to announce to the class that I was the first to start wearing a bra. Everyone commented: teachers, kids, adults, church people, you name it. It was like throughout my life I was only known as “the one with the big boobs”. I learned to hate my body. I was always uncomfortable. Had a reduction when I was 21, brutal surgery, as one commenter stated. It helped a little, but I still felt like they were too big. 46 years old now, and I am finally coming to terms with loving and accepting my body, but it has been daily struggle.
7. Being an object of curiosity (again, unwanted sexual touching)
I honestly had no Idea I was different until after Christmas my 5th grade year and I came back to school with a crushed velvet shirt(my favorite Christmas gift) and everyone was rubbing it, because it was so soft and my teacher made me go to the nurse and my mom had to bring me a new shirt. I wasn’t allowed to wear it again. That crushed me. My mom told me that the boys were rubbing my boobs( I was already a B) and that isn’t ok. I had no idea it was bad or wrong. After that I was embarrassed to wear tight shirts and started wearing oversized shirts so no one would notice. I got over it as I got older, but it was hard when I was young.
8. Thinking the problem was that you were “fat”
Embarrassed. Awkward. I was made fun of and nothing ever fit right. I thought I was really fat and started dieting in 5th grade.
9. Becoming shy, even though that’s not your personality
I hated it too. I was super self conscious and still fight that today. It made me feel very shy and aware vs feeling confident and proud.
10. Finally, one healthy response (after dozens of scarred ones):
Embraced them. Dressed to enhance them…not inappropriately til in my very late teens early 20s. More saggy these days but still one of my better features. Still the most endowed of my friends
This all breaks my heart. And I do want to say a few things.
Could adolescent shame be playing a part in your sex life?
If you grew up feeling like your body was evil, and that your breasts caused you a ton of embarrassment, then maybe it’s no wonder if you’re finding it difficult to enjoy your breasts or to feel sexy! These things that affect us at key times in our lives often travel with us.
So as you read those comments, did any of them trigger anything with you? Do you remember feeling that way? If so, I just urge you to face those things head on, and then pray through the shame and reject it. God really did make your body beautiful. I’m sorry if you were ever made to feel otherwise.
Your body is not dangerous!
What made me particularly angry was how many girls were made to feel like their body was dangerous to men. The way we tell our young girls to cover up because men might lust after them? Do we have any idea what that makes girls feel like?
My daughter Katie developed early, and she’s shared before in a video that when she was in fourth grade, her Sunday School teacher took her aside one day and told her that now that she was developing, she’d have to watch what she wore because men would be looking at her chest. She was horrified. Adult men were looking at her chest?!? What?!?
And then telling girls that they were now objects of temptation? Not fair. Not fair at all.
Yes, I want girls to dress to respect themselves (and I explain how we can teach them that properly). But we must stop this narrative that girls are responsible if men lust, and that girls’ bodies can become stumbling blocks. That “stumbling block” reason for modesty is actually taking the Bible out of context. If you read the context, you’ll find that there’s a much stronger case for treating girls with respect and not shaming them than there is for telling girls they must cover up so as not to be a temptation to men.
We often shame women just because they’re shaped differently
One girl said that her stepfather told her she’d be a stripper because she had a big chest. Really? (And women, if your new husband speaks this way to your biological children, this is not okay. This is abuse and you must protect your daughter).
I have known so many other women who have said, “I was accused of not being modest even though I wore the exact same T-shirt as other girls in the youth group simply because I filled mine out more.” Just because someone is voluptuous does not mean that they aren’t modest or are deliberately trying to attract attention. When we make it sound like they are, then that’s when women start wearing nothing but baggy T-shirts and start hating their bodies. Don’t shame another woman just because she happens to look great in a sweater. And please don’t shame a teen girl for the same reason!
Make sure your daughters could NEVER say any of this!
As moms, it’s our job to guide our daughters through puberty and to help them develop a healthy respect for their bodies. That means we have to keep the conversations at puberty open and honest and uplifting, rather than focusing on shame.
If you’re not sure how to do that, my daughters and I have created The Whole Story, a unique video-based course for girls aged 10-12 or 13-15 to guide them through puberty, body chances, peer pressure, and understanding sex. My daughters tell your girls “the whole story”, and then lesson plans and discussion questions help you keep those conversations going. It’s fun and it’s relatively painless! Check it out here. (And we have a boys’ version now, too!)
In the meantime, let me know: Did you see yourself in any of these comments? Did you grow up feeling shame about your body? Let’s talk about how we can get over that shame, and stop our daughters from feeling it!