AdviceHey, Bonita!

Chesty in Church

Dear Bonita,

We have this woman in our church that has these absolutely HUGE breasts (a 50G by my trained eye). This woman never shows any cleavage, but some of the shirts she wears are rather tight, and sometimes you can see her nipples poking up underneath her shirt and bra.

I realize no woman should be barred from worshiping the Lord because of her breast size. It’s just that I’ve attended church every Sunday for the past 50 years, and these are by far the largest breasts I’ve ever seen there. 

Once a year, our church has a swim party. Supposing this woman comes to it, even if she is wearing a cleavage-hiding one-piece bathing suit, it’s going to put the men of the church in quite a bind in terms of having to consciously restrain themselves from ogling this woman. Think if she’s jumping up and down on the diving board! 

Have you any idea what to do about this?


Hey friend, 

This seems like a simple issue that calls for a simple recommendation—Just go talk to her!—but this is actually bringing up a few issues for me. Specifically, there’s the issue of body policing. That’s when we decide that some part of a person’s physical body is inappropriate for public display, and we tell them so. There’s plenty of conversation about the way we police women’s bodies in our culture. An easy example would be school dress codes that make the stirring of male sexuality the fault of a young girl who has nothing to do with the boy or man in question. 

Feminine body policing comes from cultural norms that the younger generation seeks to abandon as we ask men to have more control over themselves, instead of making it our responsibility to not draw their eye. It’s easy to call this woman’s tight shirts and nipple headlights generally inappropriate, but why do we consider it inappropriate? I see dude nipples cutting through Oxford button-downs all the time at my day job, which is part of the reason why I don’t have any feelings about my co-worker who clearly does not wear a bra to work. If it’s a problem for her, then it’s also a problem for him, ya know? 

To be clear, I don’t think you are coming from a malicious place, but the fact is, sexism is systemic in American culture, and it infects us all. Please consider this food for thought as you reason with yourself around your discomfort with this woman’s body. If she’s really as well-endowed as you say, then she probably has issues finding brassieres that both fit and are affordable. My body has fluctuated over the years, but I also used to have a body that entered every room tits-first, if you get what I mean. Bras cost me around $50 each back then, and I can’t imagine that being my reality in this economy. She’s probably doing the best she can in that regard. Does the shape of her body mean she shouldn’t be allowed to wear a swimsuit around other people? I’m willing to bet that if she could choose to have a more socially acceptable shape, she probably would. But no matter what her body type or shape is, it’s hers, and there’s nothing inherently shameful about any human body.

Churches have different standards of dress and behavior than the everyday world, and though I respect that fully, I don’t think that this situation needs your involvement. One person approaching her with comments on her breasts might come across as nitpicking or bullying more than sincere concern. Are there others in the congregation who have noticed and disapprove? If so, speak to a person of authority to whom she’d naturally defer without embarrassment—the pastor’s wife? Head usher? The last religious service I went to was a Passover seder in 2006, so I apologize for my lack of knowledge in this matter.

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