Social Question

zenvelo's avatar

Why do women display cleavage?

Asked by zenvelo (36665points) January 1st, 2011

Yesterday’s Dear Abby had a letter from a man wondering if it is rude or not to occasionally look at a woman’s breasts when talking to her. Of course Abby said it is very rude (I agree) and that is why some women say “hey, I’m up here”.

But it made me wonder, why do women complain about men checking out their boobs, yet wear low cut tops that accentuate their breasts?

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58 Answers

El_Cadejo's avatar

Dont forget pants with words written across the ass.

faye's avatar

I ask this question, too. And I don’t know the answer for sure but I know if I had any boob to show off, I’d want you to look. Maybe you could glance but when you are talking, eyes up!

El_Cadejo's avatar

@faye I agree when talking you should look them in the eye but some people flip if they see you looking at all

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Not all of us do. And, if by some chance there is an occasion which I do, I would expect people to look. Not be offended, that is just silly.
However, there are people who will stare regardless of what you are wearing.. and that is what is rude. It’s more than a glance or an observation, it is when someone can’t look away and actually focus on you speaking that it becomes offensive. Yes, that really does happen.

jaytkay's avatar

Why are there sunsets? And mountain vistas and rainbows?

I care not.

I simply enjoy them.

No, I do not stare

iamthemob's avatar

I think the complaint is generally about when people ONLY look at the boobs. If someone is upset that someone looks at their boobs in addition to their eyes, etc., as well as listening to what they say…well…let’s just say that if I got called out for looking in that manner, the complainant would indeed hear something along the lines of “Well, put them the fuck away then!”

MissAnthrope's avatar

First of all, they do it because they feel sexy/attractive and/or because men/women like it.

I imagine if someone was showing cleavage, they would expect to get some attention and looks (which is kind of the purpose). I would guess that the Dear Abby writer is talking about men that stare at your chest, regardless of what you’re wearing. So you could have on a turtleneck and they still rudely stare at the boobs. That is offensive and really freaking annoying.

Oddly, though, I have a nice-sized rack and no one ever stares at my boobs. I have never been able to figure that one out. Also, getting caught staring at boobies is such a rookie move. You have to learn to check a lady out without her knowing. I am sensei of covert ogling. ;)

iamthemob's avatar

@MissAnthrope – I do nothing but stare at your boobs.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@MissAnthrope—I highly doubt that “no one ever stares.”

aprilsimnel's avatar

A glance isn’t the problem. People glance at other people’s body parts, covered or not, all the time. Staring and/or otherwise acting like you’ve (and I mean the general “you”) never seen cleavage before is just stupid. I mean, come on.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I pay attention to these things, or at least how people react to me, because with alexithymia and my general social ineptitudes, it’s the only way I know if I’m behaving/reacting correctly. Seriously, guys are not interested in me or my boobs. In fact, guys often go out of their way to look away from me, quickly, like I’m some hideous ogre that, god forbid, might find them attractive. The boob thing is either due to clothing or because I’m not feminine. Now.. guys I’ve slept with have been extremely happy with the boobs, but that’s only once my shirt is actually off.

iamthemob's avatar

(shaking his head and looking up at your face instead of your boobs) @MissAnthrope – I’m sorry…what were you saying?

MissAnthrope's avatar

lol4rl. Silly.

Sorry to hijack the thread with my personal boob woes. Please carry on.

JLeslie's avatar

I remember a long time ago hearing some study that if men are given a choice between body or face, the vast majority pick body. Meaning, if one part of the woman is going to be knock out fantastic, they vote for the body over the face. Add in that maybe they are ony half listening to you, if they are not very interested in what yoy are saying, or might be interested but the idea of having sex with you, or being just basically turned on is added on, it kind of makes sense they are looking at your breasts.

To tie back to the question at hand, women are kind of ridiculous to wear a top that shows a lot of cleavage and not expect men to look or be distracted. Men are very visual. If it is very revealing I think everyone looks, men and women, because it is hard to miss. I agree that it has more to do with how much they are looking, then if they just take a glance, and whether they are able to participate in a conversation.

I think they wear tops that show cleavage for few reasons. Fashion is one. Because they feel sexy in the outfit is another. Sometimes a dress is fantasic in every way and then the cleavage is a little more revealing than what the woman wuold want, but she buys it anyway. That happens to me sometimes.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. The showing of cleavage is a byproduct of the fraud female breast are viewed here in America (don’t know about other places). Cleavage is not for straight women, the reason they do so is to catch the gaze of a man. Now the charade is that outwardly women can’t say ”See my rack? Isn’t it really pretty and sexy?”. That would lend to the air if narcissism. Even though she may be quite proud of them or how they were created aftermarket at a cosmetic surgery clinic, to boast about them is frowned upon. If man created a chiseled body of muscle then started wearing sleeveless shirts and flexing all the time people would get tired of it.

Another part of the charade is to claim that a boob job is needed to create cleavage because clothes don’t fit, or wear right. I am sure there are millions of women out there with ”hubcap” sized breast. If fat people can get clothes manufacturers to cater to them, they can too. But to be known as ”flat-chested” carries the ting of being “less womanly”, that if your breast topped at the size of a high school freshman that somehow they haven’t matured anymore to womanhood than that. The “I don’t want to be the only one in the group with the chest of a 12yr old boy.” And this goes on generations to generations. If women would have started back telling girls it is ok to be near flat if that was the way God made them boob jobs and now the craze for teen boob jobs would have went the way of the slide rule and the 8-track tape. Women know even if they won’t admit it that if a group of guys across the bar or the club spotted them 5 times out of 7 they will be looking at those with a bigger rack 1st.

It is all about looks that is why so many bras say stuff like lift and separate, adds 1 whole cup size, instant cleavage maker, creates a more pleasing silhouette, etc. I am sure a woman who is straight cares very little if the other woman has good cleavage or an underwire to give her a more youthful look.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I saw that Dear Abby and wondered the same thing. What’s the point of showing them if you don’t expect people to look? Is it a convenient place to store your iPod Nano?

Guys can’t help it. Forgive us if we take a furtive peek. We’re fighting millions of years of evolution.

JustJessica's avatar

I can only speak for myself, If I’m showing them I am giving you permission to look. But then again I could be wearing a turtle neck and people will still stare at my breast. I learned to not get offended by this long ago. After all it’s only natural.

aprilsimnel's avatar

OK, OK, OK. I’m sorry for revealing the secret, girls.

Women show cleavage so that the kittens know where to go for their naps.


Are you happy now, fellas?

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

What an awesome link!

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Like others have said, it’s the staring that’s a problem, not the glancing. When you wear a really funny shirt, I don’t spend the entire conversation staring at your punchline. I look at your face while we’re talking to each other. Same thing.

@MissAnthrope I seem to remember you saying that you wore shirts that cover them up. That might be the issue.

Kraigmo's avatar

A lot of women feel they should show their boobs a bit, because they’d look fat to totally hide them. So the choice is to look sexier than normal or frumpier than normal.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@Kraigmo I dont understand how one looks fat if their boobs arent showing?

YARNLADY's avatar

When I used to dress like that it was because I wanted people to look, and I liked it.

Facade's avatar

To get an ego boost from admirers

Winters's avatar

I do not stare, its called ogling, and I can’t help it. They’re beautiful and take my mind for awhile to a better place. Besides, look what she’s wearing, she’s totally asking for it!

I kid. but I will look. for a prolonged period of time. =D

woodcutter's avatar

because they can

shrubbery's avatar

Because if they don’t they are called a prude, old fashioned, made fun of for not being fashionable etc etc. It’s the same with very short dresses and shorts. Women feel they have to follow the fashion to fit in, and so do, but still feel uncomfortable when a man stares. So really, I think they actually do it for other women (to fit in/show off), not for men, and therefore, as I said, are uncomfortable when they stare.

FutureMemory's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Fact from fiction, truth from diction.

Took the words right out of my mouth.

Blueroses's avatar

Because in a low-cut blouse, it’s impossible to lose an argument.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Blueroses Then what am I doing wrong? Hell, I’ve lost a few buck naked…

Blueroses's avatar

@papayalily In that case, was the argument whether you were appropriately attired to be in Safeway?

ucme's avatar

Cockteasing! I’m only too happy to oblige. Unless the wife notices my wandering eyes of course.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Blueroses It wasn’t a Safeway. It was a King Soopers

Seelix's avatar

If I wear something that shows off my cleavage, it’s because I like how the garment looks on me, and because I like how it makes me look. I don’t care if I get glances, but like @MissAnthrope said, staring is a rookie move. If you can’t learn to ogle covertly and can’t help but stare slackjawed at a woman’s chest, there just may be no hope for you.

bunnygrl's avatar

Maybe it’s because I was given more than my share (and developed early) but I’ve always kept my baps firmly under cover in the bread bin lol, but I feel these days (and for the last few years actually) as if I come from a different age. I really do feel that old :-)

It’s a very personal choice but I’ve always felt that sticking your wares out in the front window for the world and his uncle to oggle at just looks cheap and a bit desperate <ducks> I’m sorry, no offence to anyone is intended, honestly. I just really do feel like I don’t belong in the modern world at times. I was raised by my Grandmother, so I suppose I was raised with her values, and from a very early age she always told me that if you don’t respect yourself, nobody else will either. Maybe I WAS born in the wrong age lol, I’m not quite a whalebone corset and bustle kind of gal but I do definitely think that self respect and decorum have gone right out of the window these past years. I work backshift and the young girls who troop through my checkout of an evening might as well be walking about naked, since practically nothing is left to the imagination. How much of a prude do I sound? I promise you i’m not. I just really do think that young girls (and some who are old enough to know better) walking about with their baps (and other bits best left unmentioned) “in your face” are giving off the wrong message, and can’t then complain when men turn into drooling loons who forget where their face is.
huggles honeys xx
bunnygrl the ancient one

edit: not sure this reply is saying what I want it to say lol. Yes, women have a perfect right to show a little cleavage without fear of being leered at, but a LITTLE cleavage isn’t the same thing as “here’s something I just threw on (and missed)”. Oh dear. I’m still not making any more sense. With great power (and those babies do wield enormous power over the menfolk ladies) comes great responsibility. Use it wisely. <goes away to pull on her whalebone corset and carry on with her needlework>

FutureMemory's avatar

@bunnygrl I think many more people agree with you than you might realize.

bunnygrl's avatar

@FutureMemory <hugs> Thank you honey. I was worried that I’d offend my fellow jellies <hugs fellow jellies for not yelling at me> I can’t help thinking that the media showing very little by way of role models (unless you count the “big brother” Z list “celebs” falling out of night clubs drunk) well, it’s just not helping. Where do youngsters look for inspiration now? It makes me very sad, not just for the next generation, but for the society we all live in.

Aster's avatar

I don’t do it but if I did I’d be doing it in hopes that men would look. So I’d never complain if they did.
Just sayin.

faye's avatar

A friend I had coffee with described a woman at some outing as ‘showing way more cleavage than she wanted to see’!

wilma's avatar

What @bunnygrl said.
baps? that one is new to me and I think I like it!
Sometimes I just want to say “put those things away before you poke an eye out or something.”
No really, a little cleavage is not a bad thing and when not over-done, can do wonders for your self esteem.
But boys, just don’t stare openly while you are supposed to be talking to us, that is all we ask.

bunnygrl's avatar

@wilma exactly, a little is good, but a lot is definitely off putting. A Gentleman might steal a glance at a ladies assets (after all the poor lambs are programmed that way) but would never stare. Well said honey <hugs> xx

flo's avatar

Because they think it has to do with being more of a “free” person? Like a progressive person not backward? The fashion industry, the visuals all over the place, the ads, magazine covers, TV shows etc., is of women exposing a lot of skin so, maybe they feel pressured?

bunnygrl's avatar

@flo very definitely honey and very well said too <hugs>. There are times I’m so relieved to be the age I am now, not that there weren’t other pressures on girls when I was in my teens, but I look back and it seems more innocent somehow? You’re right though that these images are everywhere, magazines, billboards, on almost every tv channel…. It must be so difficult to not be pushed into copying or imitating these images.
huggles xx

flo's avatar

@bunnygrl Thanks! Come to think of it, my answer applies to young girls. It is amazing how easily maipulated some women can be. But the young girls can’t be blamed at all. If that is all they see what else can they be expected to do? You can’t be weatherperson or any woman on TV without acting brainless, and without seeming to say “I’m a bimbo” And you can’t be on a Dance show competition a dancer without being like a stripper. So, it is not just the cleavage.

I could add to my answer: Is it more rude to purposely display them in public and then turn the talble on the person who only looked at the display? And to second part of the question of the OP:
why do women complain about men checking out their boobs, yet wear low cut tops that accentuate their breasts?
Because those women are hypocrites, esp. if they are old and smart enough. Actions speak louder than words. I’m sure to that they would say “I have a right to wear anything I want”, which is called changing the subject.

bunnygrl's avatar

@flo excellent answer!! and I agree with every word. If flesh is in front of them then men will look, they are only human after all, so there is a certain amount of responsibility involved when a woman chooses how to present herself. I’ve said already I am terribly old fashioned I think, but at work I see not just young girls wearing what may as well be a belt instead of a skirt, and have too often seen very large busted ladies wearing very sheer tops without a bra. That is just so unattractive, once nature’s support system has gone and you’re kicking them when you walk, the time for being without proper support for ones assets has passed and you need to put them away and I say this as a very large chested lady myself :-)

Maybe what’s needed is, being a science fiction geek myself, a little chip in our palm, like in Logan’s Run. Instead of telling us that we’re nearly 30 and too old to live it can instead let us ladies know when its time to start covering the girls a little more and relying on our other charms instead :-) There are nice ways to make the best of yourself I think and in my case I just LOVE basques. They pull everything in and keep things controlled, and give a very pretty lady shape too lol.
huggles xx

flo's avatar

@bunnygrl…but at work I see not just young girls wearing what may as well be a belt instead of a skirt, and have too often seen very large busted ladies wearing very sheer tops without a bra.
Major lack of judgement, on both the employer and the employees part. There is supposed to be a dress code.
And ”…a little chip in our palm… :):) Funny.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@bunnygrl Thought you were gone, good to see you back around <hugs>

If flesh is in front of them then men will look, they are only human after all… But that would be mostly Western men and Yankees more than many. I have seen travel videos and site similar to National Geographic that shows many parts of the world, we technical nations want to refer to as 3rd world or primitive, where the females walk about with no care of wearing something to cover their ”girls”. Micronesia, the Cook Islands for one. Also many places in Brazil or the Mediterranean they have topless beaches and the men don’t seem to walk around with their tongues waggling. Men going crazy about boobies is not a inbred universal thing no matter where a man is.

once nature’s support system has gone and you’re kicking them when you walk, the time for being without proper support for ones assets has passed and you need to put them away and I say this as a very large chested lady myself :-)
What of many women who don’t need artificial support because their natural support works quite well. They are still shamed into wearing bras. Don’t you think? ;-)

bunnygrl's avatar

@flo I’m giggling away here :-) I meant our customers wearing very little lol, I work in retail and the idea that anyone could wear anything that reveals any more than maybe our chin, cleavage wise, would be severely jumped on by management hee hee. The sights I see on the other side of my checkout though….. wow just does not cover it.

I once served a very heavily pregnant young girl who was (almost) dressed in a tube top which almost covered her breasts and an elastic waisted pleated mini skirt pulled down at the front (thankfully) even though it meant her bump was bare (isn’t that dangerous? can’t she, or her baby, catch a chill or something) but because of being pulled down at the front, the skirt was waaaaaay too short at the back, and she was (i hope) wearing a thong because… well her bottom was being flashed to the entire store. Add to this she was not model sized, she was a very large lady, even without the bump. It was NOT a good look for anybody, less so for a mum to be.

@Hypocrisy_Central Hi honey <waves and throws mountains of hugs> I’m still here, not been coping very well with my dodgy health lately, so just trying to make it through my shifts at work has been leaving me me so exhausted. I have a couple of days off now till later in the week though thankfully, so I’m going to try to take things easy while I can and try to re-charge my little worn batteries.

Re the oogling thing being mostly confined to western men, I think you’re right honey. I hadn’t considered that in many places the sight of bare breasts would be almost commonplace, and would not command much notice really. Also, western men… I’m trying to be diplomatic here and not offend anyone, because I don’t mean to… well even men in their 40’s I know still seem not very mature? So, I agree honey, it is not a universal thing among men at all.

As to the women who can manage well without a bra, I am horribly jealous lol and of course they shouldn’t be bullied into wearing one if they don’t have to… again I am horribly jealous having not seen my feet properly since I was about 12 :-) I remember reading once about a test you can do to see whether you need a bra or not. It had something to do with being able to hold a pencil under your breast without dropping it? I think I could possibly manage to hold a pencil case under one of mine! I exagerate lol (a little) but in my next life I hope to have enough kharma to be a girl again but have the chest measurements of a small boy. I would so love to be able to wear little tops and summer dresses…. and seeing my feet when I walk would be nice too lol.
hugglys xx

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@bunnygrl I believe the ”pencil test” goes something like this; you have the young woman stand with her shoulders to the wall and see if you can lift the breast and when released if it will hold a pencil. If it does, she may need a bra. If she loses the pencil when she spreads her arms out eagle wing like a bra might be optional or at least a sports bra with min support. If she can raise her hands above her head and the pencil hardly budges or won’t all out of the fold, definitely a bra should be used. I know man who would never get the pencil to stick from the get go, but stuff themselves in it because if they don’t and nipple ”bullets” are seen they will be called hoochie, sluts, whores, etc, to no ”bullets” are allowed. However, they can show cleavage all the way to their belly button, or have most of the top or even most of the outer sides of the breast exposed and not be hoochie simply because no nipple is indicated. As @flo say Because those women are hypocrites, esp.

bunnygrl's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central OMG as if life isn’t tough enough already :-( but to be called names like that just because somebody can see your nipples…and actually whoever it is shouldn’t be damn well looking anyway! how rude!! I’m… I’m gob smacked! seriously? just for .. I mean thats just our body reacting to things like temperature or stuff that we can’t control, and this is other women who are name calling? I haven’t ever had that but as I said earlier I’ve always kept my girls well under wraps. I’ve never been proud of them, the way young girls seem to desperately want huge ones nowadays seems so odd to me, and odder to me is the way they seem to walk around very near topless at times. Having a large chest (I’m a DD) has always been really shameful to me, I didn’t like anyone seeing or noticing, and even minimising bras don’t help all that much. My two friends, who I went all through school with, they were my closest friends, used to tease me about them, just for having them I mean, and not in a nice way either. They are both very flat/small and I’ve always been secretly very jealous of them for that, so they didn’t have any reason to be as mean to me as they were. Anyway, because of that I’ve always been very self concious. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so much, so I could wear pretty tops, or dresses in summer and look really good in them the way less top heavy women do.

Funnily enough though, even though I don’t like attention, you know the way some women are with handbags, or shoes? thats how I am with underwear. I love really nice underwear, I love basques and corsetry. I suppose because I can feel controlled, my girls are up where they should be, but I always wear layers of clothes over the top, too many layers sometimes, just so nothing is showing that shouldn’t be. I still feel nice knowing that I have lovely undies on underneath though, even under my icky work uniform :-)
hugs xx

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@bunnygrl I mean thats just our body reacting to things like temperature or stuff that we can’t control, and this is other women who are name calling? It wasn’t most of the fellas trying to keep the women in line. I think many women believe if one breaks the ranks it would ad pressure on the others or they believe that woman would get more attention. But what I can’t understand is some woman that would make a big production over nipple humps under a sweater or top would go out in booty shorts or jeans with camel toe and think they are causing men to stare and gawk less. You can certainly spot a woman in booty shorts or a micro mini 50yd away, you won’t be able to tell if she has “bullets” until you are 8ft away. Go figure…...

bunnygrl's avatar

I just think that its horrible that women make other women feel bad about something that we have no control over. Changes in temperature etc will make nipples more noticeable, even under tops which don’t show anything so couldn’t possibly be considered even close to tarty. My Grandmother told me once that my friends (now ex-friends, long story, did not cut them out of my life because of the bust nastiness, it was lots of things over lots of years, and eventually it was too much) were mean about my bust size because they were jealous they didn’t have it, I never believed that, but looking back, years later I can see that maybe it was lack of self confidence? Making someone feel bad about themselves made them feel better about what they saw themselves as lacking? I’d have loved to have been their size. Anyway, nobody has any right to make anyone else feel bad about themselves, no matter what the reason is.
hugs honey xx

flo's avatar

@bunnygrl Oh it is the customers:) thank goodness.

There is screaming “look at meeeeeee!!!” kind of clothes, make up, etc., and there are “just focus on who I am inside” kind of clothes make up, etc. whatever the size and shape of the person.

throssog's avatar

Human females are, I believe, the only creatures who have cleavage – so, there must be a reason, no? Perhaps the reason has something to do with front-to-front mating as opposed to front-to-rear mating? This possibility has been expressed by several sources as a possible explanation.

Carinaponcho's avatar

Sometimes wearing cleavage makes women feel better about themselves because they like the way their breasts look. Deep down, they like the fact that they are being checked out even though they say that it’s rude to look. Also, they may just be trying to look stylist and on trend. Maybe cleavage is in. In addition, women with bigger breasts sometimes can’t help it of their breasts stick out of their shirts.

olivier5's avatar

As a man, I always loved cleavage spotting. Nipple gazing too. Nobody ever complained. This said, French women are less complicated than most, more upfront about using their charms, in any case less confused about these things than their American counterparts seem to be.

What i resent, though, is the spread of the yoga pants… 9 times out of 10 it’s downright ugly.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I have always been slender with “perfect” boobs (You know the old 36/24/36 thing.) I have never worn shirts that show my cleavage. Never. In fact, a female friend walked up to me at a party one time and unbuttoned the first button of my shirt saying “You look SO uptight!”
I quickly buttoned it back up. Yet men will just stare at my boobs as if they can see through my shirt. It’s very uncomfortable. And rude.

One time, though, I had to laugh. I was in my 20’s, and I was at the grocery store. Some kid, maybe 17, was just fixated with what he couldn’t see. He walked right into a display stand!

LuckyGuy's avatar

@olivier5 But, oh that remaining 10%...

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