Seligson’s Booby Trap

Susan Seligson wants you to know that she has big breasts. Really big breasts. “Massive boobs,” if you will: “fleshy torpedoes, exploding from my narrow shoulders, hovering ominously above my tiny waist.”

Ms. Seligson wants you to empathize with her, too. She wants you to feel the pain of ill-fitting bra straps digging into tender shoulders, the irritation of stares and catcalls when you wear tight tank tops on sweaty summer streets, the sense of despair when yet another man finds your “five-foot-two hourglass body” irresistible. Oh, wait—maybe that’s not so bad.

Taking to heart—or, perhaps, to breast—the time-honored admonition to write what you know, in Stacked: A 32DDD Reports from the Front, Ms. Seligson sets out to explore not just her own mammary extravaganzas, but our collective fixation on “tits, jugs, knockers, hooters, and rack.”

She visits http://www.ilovemycleavage.com so you don’t have to; she spends more money on bras than you can shake a saggy boob at; and she throws an occasional glance at the “fried eggs,” “mosquito bites” and “wind socks” of those among us who are not as spectacularly endowed.

The canon of breast literature tends to veer to extremes: earnest feminist histories and nursing handbooks at one end, porn at the other. Ms. Seligson stakes out a middle ground—alas, without pictures. She assures us that “breasts were designed to nourish and nurture,” and she’s dismayed by how many women are unhappy with their breasts, but she’s also as fascinated as the next guy with implants, transvestites and naked women.

She’s at her best when she’s exploring the belly of the b(r)east. On location in L.A., she manages to be both sympathetic and funny in profiles of the creator of Busty Beauties and of plastic surgeon Robert Rey, cable TV’s Dr. 90210. Her pilgrimage to Las Vegas in search of 156MMM dancer Maxi Mounds has an entertaining Waiting for Godot quality, and it’s informative to boot: Who knew that polyprolene string was the implant material of choice for the “macro-boob sorority”?

When Ms. Seligson stays home with Google and her thoughts, she’s less engaging. The chapter on breast terminology is a slog (are we really supposed to believe there’s a woman out there gently tucking her “Volvos” into a little something from Victoria’s Secret?). It’s not her fault that research on the evolutionary origins of big breasts has proven inconclusive, but her observations on that research don’t make it any more compelling.

The contemporary breast is certainly a topic worthy of debate as well as description. Do we show our bra straps today as a revolt against yesterday’s feminism? Is there a cause-and-effect relationship between the widespread availability of porn and the current fashion for big, round (i.e., fake) boobs? Or are such breasts just another luxury consumer good in the era of Gucci, Vuitton and Cristal? Stacked doesn’t tell us.

Susan Seligson has learned to love her breasts, and I say more power to her. But I still wish we’d finally met Maxi Mounds.

Rebecca Steinitz teaches at Lesley University.

Seligson’s Booby Trap