Butch chests – breasts, binders, sports bras, exercise, feelings

15 Feb

Note: I wrote the piece below as a comment in response to the Dapper Q  (@dapperQ) article “Let’s Talk about Breasts.” 

In previous posts here I’ve alluded to the fact that my chest/body image are tied up pretty tightly with my relationship to exercise and fitness. My chest is a huge part of that – it’s really hard to have a big chest and find clothes/garments that are supportive for athletics. One product that fit my needs pretty well was the Frog Bra, sold by Title Nine — but, sadly, it’s been discontinued. TN says it’s  trying to find another vendor to recreate this bra… but there’s no news yet on whether this will come to fruition. I had stockpiled a bunch of Frog Bras so I’m still using several… but once they get worn out I’m going to have to shop for new options.  I’ll probably peruse the most-supportive bras that TN has to offer (what they refer to as 3-barbels of support – you can take a look at that collection here.) The diction on the Title Nine site is a little cutesy for me… but the products are solid, and I try not to be turned off by the language because I hope other women on the site are made comfortable/empowered by it. I don’t know. Just my two cents.

I don’t ever exercise in a binder, but I do my binder shopping at Underworks. The one exception to this rule is that I do own & use the compression swimsuit. It’s really hard to take off once it’s wet (thank you to my amazing femme partner who helps me get in and out of that, as needed), but I feel really comfortable in it when swimming and walking around the beach/pool. It’s pricey, but I’ve owned this since 2009 and it’s still going pretty strong. You can also save money by just buying the top and pairing it with board shorts. On a separate note, if you have lightly-used binders and you’re in the Boston area you can donate them to BAGLY (the Boston Alliance for LGBTQ Youth). I imagine other cities have similar programs – I’d reach out to organizations in your area to see what options you might have.

Comment I posted on July 7, 2010 (thanks again, Susan, for starting the great conversations you do on your site and for posting all the great fashion resources you do!)

I’m really happy that this conversation is happening. Thanks for posting this, and thanks to all the other folks who have/will post – I feel like it’s pretty brave to talk about this.

I have a C/D-ish cup. Over the course of my life, I’ve had a complicated relationship to my breasts. In my life now I alternate between wearing sports bras & binders, depending on my mood. Before I go on, I’d like to say that I think my complicated relationship to my chest is related to the size of my breasts. Because my breasts are pretty big, I’ve considered getting either a breast reduction or top surgery. The jury is still totally out about whether or not I’ll ever have surgery. I’ve always assumed if I had been born with really small (A cup or smaller), easily controlled breasts I wouldn’t be considering any modification of my body. Who knows, though.

As of late, as I was musing briefly about on Twitter, instead of getting any surgery, I sort of wish that I could strap on/off breasts, like I do my cock. What I mean by that is that I’d like the same flexibility with this body part that I have with my cock – I feel like with a detachable item I can match the different fluctuations of my gender better. Depending on how I feel in regard to my gender on a day or in a moment, with a cock there are all sorts of permutations: usually I don’t pack at all, but when I want to I can use a soft pack, or a hard pack (that I can fuck with). In response to the question about when I’d want to strap my breasts on/off, I think it’s usually (though not always) less about the activity and more about how my gender feels to me at that moment while doing the activity. In general, I’d say I’d have the breasts strapped on as my regular state of being, and could take them off when I wanted. That’s just how I feel now. At different parts of my life, I would have said the exact opposite (meaning I’d only strap them on occasionally and my normal state would be without them).

Here are some examples:
-in general, being out in public: Sometimes I don’t care about having them, and I like the fact that my breasts are part of what identify me as a big butch dyke, and enjoy either the camaraderie that being visibly queer* in this way can bring and/or the shock value of interrupting someone’s schema with my presence (meaning that I can prove to someone by my existence that not everyone breaks down evenly into “female” or “male” as neatly as they might think). Other times, I don’t want to deal with that. In fact, sometimes when my breasts mark me as female-bodied and butch, it’s scary because I am more easily identified as something “bad” and feel more susceptible to being a victim of homophobic harassment or violence. (*I’m not saying butch is the only way to be visibly queer – it’s just the way I am visibly queer)

-sports: for me, it is a total pain in the ass to have a big chest in sports. I have been an athlete my whole life, and it was a hugely sucky experience to develop and have to deal with a big chest in athletics. I had to wear 2 bras to try to control my chest better. Because of the weight of my breasts I also get marks/chafing where the bra straps go across my shoulders. For sports, my breasts would be off. They’d go in my gym bag with my change of clothes.

-sex: sometimes I can fuck/be fucked totally naked and have my breasts be a part of sex with my girlfriend. Other times, I don’t want that – I’d rather not be touched there (or at all), and I’d rather keep on a sports bra/binder/&maybe even a shirt, and not have breasts be a part of the erotic experience. Instead of wearing a binder/sports bra during those moods, I’d rather just be able to tally take them completely off.

-dressing up (ex. shirt & tie): it depends, and this is something that has shifted for me in the last 6 months. At previous points of my butch life I would have said that I would want my breasts off 100% of the time while dressing up. I used to be totally opposed and embarrassed by having my breasts be very visible when in a button-down shirt & tie, but lately I don’t really care as much. In fact, sometimes I even think it’s cool to see the shape of my breasts under my shirt. I’m not 100% sure of why this shift happened when it did. Or if this will only be a phase and I’ll shift to a different place in the future. Who knows? My self-esteem & confidence and my ability to accept myself as I am has grown in general, and that has helped expand possibilities in all areas of my life. I’ll still continue to bind sometimes when dressing up, because it does make me feel sexy in a specific way, but it’s not the only way I feel sexy anymore.

4 Responses to “Butch chests – breasts, binders, sports bras, exercise, feelings”

  1. Susan Herr February 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    Can’t thank you enough for all of your both candidness and thoughtfulness. I understand from the folks at AutoStraddle that they’ve got several questions on the topic. Just last week Robin Cloud said she would produce a video interview for dapperQ with a woman in Brooklyn who hooked her up with a great bra so more soon. Jammed with too much work but plan to bookmark your site for full review cuz I love being a butch jock. (Currently obsessive about P90x!) Thanks again.

  2. Love, Femme February 19, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    I am a femme, but have issues with my own large chest at times. Mainly do to being active in the outdoors and not having the right support. There are also an abusive past that makes me wish I could take them off at times when I am feeling vulnerable. Thank you for your honest post and I am keeping my fingers crossed (for us both) that the Frog Bra reappears.

  3. amanda August 9, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    As a big chested lady I’ve often wished to strap my breasts off during sports. Playing hockey was so fun until I matured and realized my shoulder pads wouldn’t fit properly, no matter how tightly I fastened my breasts down. Eugh. Though I have a more masculine energy I don’t wish to appear masculine outside of sports, I do enjoy having breasts… but do they really have to be this large? I just wish I could switch boobs with my gf … a rounded A cup like that would be enough to assert my womanhood without making every shirt into a horizontal tent, and they’re more easily controllable in motion.

    • butchfitness April 18, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

      Hey – I just wanted to write a quick note to say thanks very much for commenting. I really appreciate it! I also think your point about having smaller breasts seem appealing – I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately for myself. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about how I enjoy in some situations having breasts being a marker to others that I am female. Overall, though – and like you alluded to in your comment – I wish I could send this signal with smaller ones!

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