NSFW: Why society's obsession with unattainable breasts is simply not suitable for women

This post contains some images that may, out of context, be unsuitable for the workplace

NSFW: Why society's obsession with unattainable breasts is simply not suitable for women

One of the women featured in 'Bare Reality' [Laura Dodsworth]

While some people might well find the images contained in Bare Reality a little bit NSFW (not suitable for work-time browsing), the whole point of the project is to challenge everything you know about topless women. 

“There are so many images of breasts in the media. And they’re always sexualised, idealised, and youthful. And these days they’re so far from reality because they’re airbrushed. And as I grew up, I literally felt like I didn’t measure up to these images, and I didn’t really understand and relate to the image of womanhood that I received from the media and popular culture. So I really wanted to reveal the truth and the reality of women’s bodies, and share our stories.”

That’s how Laura Dodsworth, a 41-year-old photographer from Britain, came to the decision to start documenting the naked truth of women and their breasts. In a recent interview with Sean Moncrieff, Dodsworth explained how frustration with society’s pressure for unattainable boobs pushed her to reveal what the average woman’s breasts actually look like. After crowdsourcing funding on Kickstarter, she photographed 100 women, and her book Bare Reality is now on sale.

The book contains portraits and interviews with anonymous women [Laura Dodson]

With portraits and profiles of 100 women aged 19 to 101, Bare Reality is an eye-catching and incredibly frank look at women, and the issues that affect them. Dodsworth described how many of the women she approached for the project were keen to bare their chests, though weren’t sure if they would have much to get off them. But what became clear early on was that all of the women and their lives had been shaped by their breasts.

“When I look back, I’m just quite amazed. It’s were very humbling, they were very honest, very revealing,” Dodsworth said. “Because when we talk about breasts, we can access all these other conversations about our lives as women. So we talked about growing up, sexuality, relationships, motherhood, breastfeeding – obviously – or not breastfeeding, the media and body image, and obviously stories about breast cancer and health and ageing. So it became this really deep and interesting exploration of what it to be a woman.

Speaking to such a varied group of women, Dodsworth feels that it is the younger members of the group that feel more pressurised by societal expectations of what the perfect breast should look like.

Laura says she believes younger women are more body conscious than older women [Laura Dodson]

“Even if they are really media savvy and media literate, there’s so much pressure from all the airbrushed images around them to Internet porn. And I think they feel more pressure about their body image than older women do,” she said.

But that is not to say that the women interviewed aren’t proud of their boobs; some of the interviewees embrace what their breasts bring to their sexuality, the connection created by using them to feed their children, even the shape created when they put on a dress.

Dodsworth found the whole experience so humbling and life-affirming that she decided to feature herself as the 100th – and final – woman in the book.

The cover of Bare Reality [Laura Dodsworth]

“Well, these women were just so incredible,” she told Sean, “Their stories were so moving and beautiful and funny and brave. I just found them incredible, and you can’t find that many women incredible without it rubbing off on you.

“I would say that I probably like and respect myself more as a woman, so it’s given me a greater sense of peace for myself as a woman. And I feel more tender about female experience after knowing all their stories. And the other thing is, I pictured 100 women’s breasts and I know there’s no such thing as perfection. And I like my own boobs more!” 

You can listen back to Sean Moncrieff's frank and honest interview with Laura Dodsworth below: