What Women Talk About When They Talk About Sex Transcript #3: Backs and Bras

Backs and Bras

In these exchanges the group tackles the time honoured feminist territory of bras. Issues of management, the judgement and surveillance of oneself and by others, presentation and concealment of the body and ideas of private and public display of breasts are shared and there is discussion of how backs are also subject to criticism and policing.

Quote from What Women Talk about When They Talk About Sex discussion group participantI read somewhere that if your breasts were meant to lift and separate you would have them on your shoulder.

Susannah: Backs can be quite sculptural. It has a sculptural quality, almost more than any other part of the body. Unless you know, unless somebody has a you know perfect athletic body but sort of for normal people who are not too athletic I think the back can be more sculptural than other parts of the body.

Kim: I am always conscious of the fat I have there especially when I’m in a changing room because you’ve got those three mirrors and you’re like oh no why do I look like this.

Ellie: I used to convince myself it was the bra bunching it up and then I would take it off and the rolls would still be there. I’d be like oh that’s just from excessive hours of wearing a bra- that’s what it is. My friend, there are these big dents on her shoulders and oh god the ones round her back just look excruciating. On her 25th birthday, she told her parents she really wanted a breast reduction and then they told her that they had actually been putting money away since she was 14 because they knew that day would come. I feel guilty for even moaning about my little dig marks when I see hers.

Kim: I do think there’s nothing better than getting to the end of the day and you can take your bra off. It’s like [sigh]

Margaret: Just don’t wear a bra. I went out yesterday and I just thought you know what I’m not wearing a bra today, I felt great just walking about … let it all hang loose.

Ellie: I’m of a size where I should be wearing a bra but so frequently I just go out without one because I’m just like I can’t be bothered.

Kim: Did you feel liberated?

Ellie: I do but this friend I recently cut out was so judgemental and stuck in her ways and it was just obscene to her. I had a tight enough top that they were held in place but she was just like that’s disgusting, put that away.

Jo: Really those words.

Ellie: Mm hmm.

Kim: Wow.

Jo: I don’t wear a bra sometimes when I’m in for the day and I realise at the end of the day those days that are me days. I guess it’s quite telling I never do that when I know that I’m meeting people. Yeah it is nice to just not to wear one for a day and just not care. But that self conscious thing is there for sure.

Susannah: I have the opposite. I can’t not wear a bra because I feel that my breasts are too heavy and I feel weird. I wear one even if I don’t’ wear anything else, it makes me feel better to wear one. But I don’t wear bras with underwire, I can’t. So I have to find these adolescent type bras, and sometimes I wear two of these!


Jo: It’s not easy to find the right kind you are looking for… they are in fads and if you are not looking for that kind you are sometimes stuck and it’s quite annoying.

Jay: Last time I bought bras they told me not to get bras with underwire. They said for women with larger breasts they really don’t recommend them at all. I had to go to Watt brothers – you just kinda feel it’s the last stop before you going and get your shopping trolley.

I do like going braless as well. Especially when your breasts are bigger and a bit pendulous, you are so used to them being this kind of like Hollywood, kind of like two zepplins coming out of a hanger.


Kim: Nuclear warheads


Jay: Yeah Dr Strangelove or something coming at you. I have seen photographs of myself years ago when I was younger on holiday and I have just destroyed these pictures because it just looked like national geographic or something. I read somewhere that if your breasts were meant to lift and separate you would have them on your shoulder. I was watching a dramatisation of the Shakespeare plays and Julie Walters was in it and very obviously not wearing a bra, because women did not wear bras in Plantagenet times. Just to see a women – and an older woman – just dressed as they would be, you know – I think it was so different, because we are so used to this idea of up and…

Kim: At em?


Kim: Well see I have discovered Bravissimo and Pepperberry which has honestly changed my life. It’s a bra maker, Bravissimo, and then Pepperberry is their clothing range. This is not an advert… I am just genuinely so evangelical about anything that’s changed my life. Mooncups and Bravissimo, I think all women should know about them. So the fitting rooms are very spacious and you get robes to wear, and they will run back and forward until you are happy. Their customer service is incredible. But it has changed the shape of lots of things that I wear. People will be like ‘your boobs look amazing in that dress’ and I’ll be like ‘darling it’s the bra – no dress can do this.’ It has given me a lot of confidence. Anyway they do a vest top for sleeping with an internal soft bra – it’s just amazing and it has made everything so much easier. Even pottering round the house I don’t want to be completely braless in case someone comes to the door

Ellie: But that’s the thing about answering the door, I don’t think guys even realise that we have to put on a coat of armour, we have to be fully prepared for someone coming to the door

Kim: I’m the ground floor flat and when I take the cat out, I can’t go out without a bra on and the cats like meow MEOW MEOW, and I’m like shut up I need to prepare myself for the world. And it’s just in case, because I don’t want to terrify passersby with my breasts!

Ellie: Which are perfectly natural appendages.

Jay: This is it isn’t it. We should be able to answer our front doors to delivery people and whoever, you shouldn’t have to think I need to go put a bra on to do that. Because by the same token a man would just answer the door in his boxer shorts, whereas you are like oh my god people are going to think this is some sort of 70s sort of smut movie or something.

Kim: I did actually answer the door wearing that vest top thing – it’s quite cleavagey, but I didn’t even think about it, it was a summer’s day. So there was a guy doing some work on the close and I was like by the way while you are here – because my door had slammed and plaster had fallen down – I said can you tell me what I need to do for that big hole, do I need a specific type of plaster and he was like I’ll just do it for you and I was like amazing! Then afterwards I thought – was it because I had my boobs out?

Jay: But you had to stand next to him while he was doing it!


Kim: Maybe he was expecting some sort of reward and I was like thank you, close the door – oblivious completely.

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