Breasts are interesting. For starters, people interested in behavioral biology make much of the fact that in many species males have elaborated or exaggerated traits. But they seem to ignore that other than size and a bit of redistribution of muscle mass, males in humans don’t. Maybe facial hair is an elaborated trait, possibly a deeper voice, but both of these could be argued to be non-elaborated in males and, rather, altered in females. Meanwhile, human females have a whole bunch of elaborated traits. Breasts are among these traits.

There is a good explanation for this we may touch on another time. Meanwhile, I just wanted to point you to an new episode of Desiree Schell’s Skeptically Speaking in which Rachel Saunders, guest host, interviews Florence Williams, author of Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History. Also, Scicurious weighs in on recent controversy over the relationship between human female breasts, bras, and gravity.

The episode, #215 Breasts, is here.


  1. #1 Politicalguineapig
    June 3, 2013

    That study is totally invalid. Any study run by a man to study women should be tossed in the junk heap, since the overseer of the study is invariably going to report the results he and society want to see. Also, bras can never and will never fit properly.

  2. #2 TheBrummell
    June 3, 2013

    Politicalguineapig, while I agree that a bit of independent oversight might be appropriate for studies of some topics – pretty much anything described as “cultural anthropology” perhaps – your knee-jerk reaction is very suggestive of the extreme (and ridiculous) position that basic scientific data, simple facts accepted by pretty much everybody such as the speed of light, or the value of pi, would be different if measured or calculated by a woman. Is a man inherently incapable of measuring the size of a woman’s breasts?

  3. #3 Politicalguineapig
    June 3, 2013

    TheBrummell: The difference is that speed of light and the value of pi aren’t inherently disruptive to one sex’s brain. Nor
    do they carry the same baggage that sex organs carry.
    Unless he’s gay, a man attempting to measure women’s breasts will become distracted and his behavior will disrupt the whole experiment.

  4. #4 Northern.Lights
    June 3, 2013

    I disagree. A scientist who studies anything will grow inured to the thing they study.

  5. #5 Calli Arcale
    June 4, 2013

    PGP — I know I’ve seen you on Respectful Insolence plenty of times. Are you arguing that Orac should leave his profession? 😀

  6. #6 Brunhilda
    June 4, 2013

    Seriously? Every fetus starts out as female, as by that logic, MALES are the altered ones, heck, it’s due to the Y chromosome, particularly the SRY region that they even BECOME males, without it, they end up essentially female phenotypically.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    June 4, 2013

    Same with birds. There is a default and a derived sex, yet depending on the species either sex may have derived exaggerated traits. You may need to calibrate your thinking on the relationship between overall development and adaptive features.