blessed are the paps

by G

Two dinner-time conversations at family gatherings:

dinner number one; the patriarch of the family loudly bemoans the women in the stake who are dumb enough, deceived enough, lacking-in-the-spirit enough to get those “disgusting breast implants.”

dinner number two; the same patriarch, in discussing Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction loudly scoffs at how stupid Janet must be to think that anyone would want to see her “old ugly shriveled up 40 yr old breasts.”

Talk about your lose lose situation.

The way the ladies in my family resolve this dilemma breaks down by generation. The women 40 and over (my mother and aunts) chose to embrace (or endure with relative good humor) “old and shriveled up”. In fact, one dear aunt for her 50th birthday gave her boobs ‘a gift’ by refusing to wear a bra the entire day. The women in their 20’s and 30’s (my sisters and SILs) are, almost without exception, making arrangements to have augmentation, not giving a darn about some old guy’s assessment of their spiritual/mental capacity.

Me? My dirty little secret (well, not now) is that I do harbor a hidden curiosity about what a scalpel and a tiny bit of silicon (or saline) could do for me; I’m not entirely impervious to comments about “old ugly and shriveled up.” (And I am much closer to 40 than I am to 20). But… have you SEEN breast implant surgery? I saw one on the Health Channel once a while back and I still get the willies thinking about it- the graphic slicing and dicing of such a sensitive body region (Naomi Wolf refers to it “sexual mutilation”). I’m much more inclined to get a nipple ring thank you very much. Less blood, shorter healing time.

Which makes me wonder: I know the injunction against extra piercings is an official from-the-pulpit edict. But what about breast implants? Have church leaders spoken out against elective cosmetic surgery in a similar way? (I’m too lazy to search this out for myself, so if you have a link, please share it.) I know a lot of LDS women do get augmentation and don’t feel conflicted about it at all, whereas a second stud in the ear (don’t even mention the nipple)~ No way!

But mostly I just wonder what it is that goes on inside the head of that dear patriarch, the beloved head of my family, when he makes such comments as the aforementioned ones. The underlying sentiment in both statements is one of disgust, an abhorrence for a woman’s breasts (or at least for breasts that aren’t naturally young and plump).   Maybe he really is grossed out by them.  Or perhaps it is his way of trying to circumvent his own normal (natural man?) response to women’s breasts, to be above any perceived sexual impurity by taking an internalized guilt and projected it outward as a defense? I don’t know.

It is all just a mess of mixed messages.

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  1. Janna says:

    Sounds like the “patriarch” has a Madonna/Whore Complex.

  2. stacer says:

    Personally, if I were a member of that family, I wouldn’t deal with it with surgery. I’d deal with it with a slap upside the head. Well, no, I probably wouldn’t slap my own grandpa. But I’d have some pretty strong words for him.

    And Elder Holland has spoken strongly about plastic surgery, though it doesn’t carry the weight of “no additional piercings.” See

    You have to look about halfway down the article. Here’s a bit:

    I plead with you young women to please be more accepting of yourselves, including your body shape and style, with a little less longing to look like someone else. We are all different. Some are tall, and some are short. Some are round, and some are thin. And almost everyone at some time or other wants to be something they are not! But as one adviser to teenage girls said: “You can’t live your life worrying that the world is staring at you. When you let people’s opinions make you self-conscious you give away your power. … The key to feeling [confident] is to always listen to your inner self—[the real you.]” 8 And in the kingdom of God, the real you is “more precious than rubies.” 9 Every young woman is a child of destiny and every adult woman a powerful force for good. I mention adult women because, sisters, you are our greatest examples and resource for these young women. And if you are obsessing over being a size 2, you won’t be very surprised when your daughter or the Mia Maid in your class does the same and makes herself physically ill trying to accomplish it. We should all be as fit as we can be—that’s good Word of Wisdom doctrine. That means eating right and exercising and helping our bodies function at their optimum strength. We could probably all do better in that regard. But I speak here of optimum health; there is no universal optimum size.


    And if adults are preoccupied with appearance—tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled—those pressures and anxieties will certainly seep through to children. At some point the problem becomes what the Book of Mormon called “vain imaginations.” 11 And in secular society both vanity and imagination run wild. One would truly need a great and spacious makeup kit to compete with beauty as portrayed in media all around us.

    I just wish that he’d also have addressed the fact that these obsessions come not only from women ourselves (we can be pretty hard on ourselves) but from comments like the one made by your family member, blasting women for not meeting his standard.

  3. becky says:

    Do what you think is right. It is your body, your salvation and your life. In the end, it doesn’t matter what anybody else said or did, just you.

    I’m defintley getting a boob job, but not to increase the size, I have horrible, horrible back problems and some I’m getting a little decrease, and I’ve been told breaking commandments and sinning by doing this.

  4. gladtobeamom says:

    I think this is too black and white of an issue for some members. I have known many good reasons for people to have implants or other things done.

    I have wanted a boob job several times in my life. I don’t feel that it would harm me spiritually but when it comes down to it I am afraid of the pain and can’t justify the amount of money it would cost. I am trying to accept myself as I am but that is hard some days when you have two empty sacks on your chest that you have to somehow get into a bra and then look any kind of normal.

    I know my sister would love a tummy tuck after 8 kids (one set was twins) It would not only help her physically, but mentally as well. But she feels to guilty some days about spending that kind of dough on herself.

    It is hard but I don’t think there is hard line drawn because for some it can be a good thing.

    I try not to judge and let each person figure out what is best for them. If we all just had to accept ourselves we would never work to become better in anyway sometimes there are things that need to be fixed and for some it is physical things.

    I am sure that some of our guilt or worry about doing some of these things comes from this open judgment by some who don’t fully understand others issues.

  5. E says:

    If your boobs are not broke, don’t get them fixed.

  6. mb says:

    Your family patriarch made those comments at a family dinner gathering??? If my family matriarch had been his wife she’d have reamed him verbally up and down afterwards. If he did it a second time she’d permanently exclude him from family dinner gatherings until he’d cleaned up his act.

    Disparaging comments about others (which this was) and discussions of genitalia (which this also was) were *both* well outside of her definitions of civilized dinner conversation and she defended those like a lioness.

    Being her granddaughter, I tend to agree with her. And watching her maintain her position firmly and the results of that showed me it was worth it and could be done. When you are in the matriarchal position I assume you are giving the generation down from you a clear understanding of what is helpful conversation and what is simply belittling and arrogant and how to stand up for the former. It will empower them well when they are adults. (And probably help arm them against doubts about the state of their or another person’s body parts too.)

  7. mb says:

    That post of mine may have been a little harsh. There are probably many things you love about your family patriarch. So if my appalled response offended, I apologize.
    I just couldn’t imagine my grandmother ever standing for it.

  8. Azúcar says:

    I makes me incredibly sad whenever I see a woman who has had her breasts augmented.

    It seems that when we augment breasts we’re saying that the only purpose they serve is as sexual objects, useful only if they are a certain width or circumference. The vast majority of augmentations aren’t for reconstructive purposes, they are to fit a cultural idea. This doesn’t strike anyone else as upsetting? A violent, bloody intrusion on your very self, your gender?

    That breasts are augmented to fill a sense of insecurity and self-doubt (or even worse, because a spouse/boyfriend/lover desired it) is nearly as upsetting.

    Mine aren’t perfect, but they are mine. I have grown to love my useful, capable body.

    As to whether or not it’s a sin, I refuse to weigh in on that discussion. I have enough of my own sins to worry about than to worry about if a procedure is a sin.

    All I know is that augmentation upsets and causes me sorrow, but that’s me.

  9. mb says:

    “But mostly I just wonder what it is that goes on inside the head of that dear patriarch, the beloved head of my family, when he makes such comments as the aforementioned ones.”

    My take on that: Most men think about sexual things a fair amount. Some exercise self-mastery and regulate those thoughts when they come to mind. Some men indulge in those thoughts a bit before putting them aside. Some men indulge in those thoughts without putting them aside. And some men indulge and act out on them.

    My guess is that your patriarch is not in the first category. He’s indulging to some extent and it’s coming out in his conversation. The conversation is negative because he knows he shouldn’t be indulging.

    It just points out another good reason for self-mastery in the realm of sexual thoughts. It liberates your family members from having to deal with conversations that hold mixed messages that encourage their concerns about the acceptability of their own bodies.

  10. elizabeth-w says:

    Here’s my take on it. Once I have people’s college paid for, and lots of savings in the bank, and a full year’s food storage, then, and only then will I think about a tummy tuck. And by the time I get all those goals met I am betting I won’t care that much about getting one. 😀

  11. JB says:

    i will spend $5000 to build a well in africa before i sink it in my own breasts. REALLY. for whose benefit? for whose benefit? wastefulness.

  12. Quilly says:

    I am God’s creation. He knit me together in my mother’s womb — if I get plastic surgery then am I not then criticizing God’s work. Am I not saying, “Sorry, Lord, you didn’t do a good enough job to suit me?” How can I reconcile such an statement with the belief that I am devout in my faith?

  13. JohnW says:

    Why is reconstructive surgery not ego-driven?

  14. Akua says:

    how different is this issue from the word of wisdom? drinking coffee vs plastic surgery?? i will like to know what others think.

    For me it’s about what’s inside of you.People will respond to you the way you see yourself.If you think your body is not perfect and therefore not happy about it-then you give people the right to see your body not to be perfect.

    what is a perfect body, breasts,size??? In Africa, to be beautiful is to be plump or what the west calls “fat”,in the west it’s to be a size 0 or 2- which is the perfect definition of beauty?? None!!!

    Perfect body is what you define it to be.It’s all in the head!!! having a tummy tuck, breast augmentation etc not for constructive purposes doesn’t solve a low self esteem in one’s self.

  15. Roger says:

    Just a thought:

    Quilly you wrote:

    “I am God’s creation. He knit me together in my mother’s womb — if I get plastic surgery then am I not then criticizing God’s work. Am I not saying, “Sorry, Lord, you didn’t do a good enough job to suit me?””

    I just wonder how you feel about getting braces on one’s teeth. I’ve never thought that braces were critical of God’s creation.

    As a man, I am sexually turned off by implants. It often surprises me how what is considered to look good and what feels good often differ. Soft (“flabby”) breasts feel so delicate and beautifully feminine. Just an opinion. I love all breast’s stages.

    Nevertheless, it seems to me that women have enough in their minds beating them down; if augmentation helps one feel better, I’d like to think her Father feels better for her.

  16. G says:

    thank you, everyone who commented. I appreciate your thoughts and insights.

    Sorry, I probably won’t get a chance to respond to them (except mb~ no worries, I totally wish that someone had had the ovaries to ream him up and down for his behavior.)

    I do have just had a few additional thoughts on the comments the patriarch made about Janet Jackson. Here’s the thing; she has an amazing body, there is NOTHING old and saggy about her including her breasts which have probably been surgically enhanced (just a guess.) Why did he choose the insults that he did? He had already established a disgust for implanted breasts, why not use THAT as a means of insulting her? Why did he instead use descriptions of normal female aging that really don’t apply to Janet but DO apply to most the women in his life?

    not expecting answers to these questions… just voicing some more of my thoughts.

  17. Matt T says:

    Intersting comments.

    My wife got breast implants about a year ago. The verdict? She loves them. I dig them too. But we’re really superficial people, (as in, “Where’s Africa again?”), so your mileage may vary.

  18. mb says:


    Because the issue he’s dealing with isn’t breasts. He’s dealing with the fallout from indulging in thinking about them and fantasizing about them more than is wise. He knows he shouldn’t be focusing on them, that the Janet Jackson event is over and done, but he’s been keeping it in his mind and returning to it.

    The disgust he is expressing in both occasions is being heard by the women in his life as a commentary on breasts. But it is instead, really, an expression that is negative because he knows, deep down, that he shouldn’t be dwelling on them and he is uncomfortable or disgusted, on some level, with his own thought indulgences.

    His commentary in regards to breasts seems contradictory if you only focus on the objects of his conversation. But if you focus on what he knows about how his thought patterns should be, as opposed to how they are, his comments are consistent.

    He’s communicating disgust because of how he feels about what he’s been doing in his mind.

  19. Kaimi says:

    Very interesting topic, G. 😛

    I can understand the mixed feelings. And I think that can make sense. Or rather, there may be wrong and right reasons to think about surgery.

    Doing it because some guy wants you to, is probably bad. Seriously, it’s a major surgery. On the other hand, doing it because you want to, because it makes you feel more confident or sexy, I think that’s different. But then, the two categories relate — what if it’s attention from a guy that makes you feel more sexy? Is that the good reason, or the bad reason?

    Quilly writes:

    if I get plastic surgery then am I not then criticizing God’s work. Am I not saying, “Sorry, Lord, you didn’t do a good enough job to suit me?” How can I reconcile such an statement with the belief that I am devout in my faith?

    Sure, but couldn’t the same be said for eyeglasses, orthodontics, even haircuts?

    The fact is, we _do_ feel it’s okay to alter our bodies in certain ways (braces for crooked teeth). Why do we feel that some ways are okay, and others are forbidden? Why do we draw the lines we do?

  20. Kelly Ann says:

    I’ll agree that this is a complicated issue. As I commented before in a similar thread (sorry I can’t remember the link), I think there are times that surgery is warranted. Augmentation or reduction can be critical to the emotional psyche in individual cases. I just worry that people don’t think about the consequences. It is major surgery and there are side effects and sometimes follow-up surgery is necessary. Personally I am to afraid of the knife and would never consider it for myself (except for maybe post breast cancer).

    But on the risk of being too blunt, I want to keep my sexual organs the way they are. Their function can be altered by surgeries. I can wear a padded bra to boister my body image or get a little more attention from a man. The biggest detourant for me is that I want my breasts to harden, my nipples to come erect, when they are touched during sex. I want to get the pleasure from them functioning like they are programmed. Surgery can alter that. I don’t want to give sexual pleasure merely to the man for merely appearance. And besides which, I have also heard it said that while many men like the appearance, they prefer the touch and uniqueness of the un-altered breast.

    That is my opinion.

  21. H.K. Bialik says:

    The fact that people want breast implants speaks to a serious misplacement of values, in my opinion. By society and by individuals. It really, deeply saddens me that people want this. It means they aren’t accepting of their own bodies. And what of the skill and capital being put into plastic surgery when it could go towards helping sick people. It means that women want the world’s approval.

    My take: I’m going to get old and wrinkly. Like it or loath it, my boobs will be wrinkly and saggy, too and I’m perfectly willing to tear a strip out of anything who gives me any guff over it, directly or indirectly.

  22. Kiri Close says:

    Secretly, that patriarch longs to cross dress, & have a public wardrobe malfunction of his own…How expansive with endless possibilities closets can be! tee hee

    Nah, seriously. This patriarch offers a very crude, & limited sense of women & current body aesthetic trends that are, well, none of his damned business.

    That he damns both edges of this sword: A) the youthful suppleness & fulness breast implants bring, & B) inevitable ‘sagging’ of older women. This is an obvious display to me of his inability to understand (or want to understand–a choice he has learned & has decided to stick to) the complexities of womanhood, & humanity overall.

    Hence, what business does this aging, crass, unbearable azz hold in commenting on a sex he obviously has no clue about (whether he was serious or flippant in his comments)? He has overtly privileged himself in an arena no woman has permitted him to do so, say so. Therefore, his expressed moronic feelings are really of NO CONSEQUENCE (unless there’s a follow-up backfire by a smart, mouthy, intelligent woman intolerant of his empty, animal comments).

    Someone remind the geyser that his Sherrif badge as Patriarch does not validate his animal thoughtlessness. Period.

  23. andeeroo says:

    Beware the silicone tongued patriarch.

    Examine the wrinkles in the shrinking boob job biz!

    Read – Economy sagging and bustlines are drooping:

  1. December 19, 2008

    […] by Lily on December 19, 2008 Today’s Exponent post got me thinking about my own relationship to my breasts, which is complex.  When I was a teen and […]

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