We’ve all heard the blanket statement, “Your 20s are the best years of your life!” While that might be optimism camouflaged in a veil of fallacy, the statement holds the highest degree of validity in one category – your breasts. 

By the time you reach 21, you’ve already undergone some pretty remarkable changes in your body. From growth spurts to puberty, your hormones are raging high, which means your breasts have never looked better. Gravity is generally in sync with your bust size and that makes your breasts look their fullest and perkiest during the flirtiest years of your life. 

But much like your twenties, the euphoria doesn’t last much longer. As you progress towards your thirties, your breasts tend to lose their tensile strength and start drooping. As you hit your forties, the breast tissue is replaced by fat, which is softer and doesn’t feel as firm. As you go up the age scale, you welcome your imperfections, but you also reminisce your youth, the years you had the best boobs of your life, but were forbidden to embrace them by a patriarchal frame of mind. 

Is it fair to ask women to hide their best boob years under a canopy of shame?

In India, as soon as you develop breasts, what follows is a pursuit of mortification, fetishisation and stigmatization. Family members quickly conceal them in a drab, conical piece of fabric that you’re never supposed to be without – even within the comfort of your own home. Why? “It’s to protect the shape!” they say. 

Protection is a common theme that will haunt you till the end of your life. You’re required to protect your breasts in practical support gear designed to shield and provide cover from the big bad. You’re required to protect your breasts from the pervy ogling eyes of lurking men as you walk down the street, or turn your backpack towards your chest to avoid getting groped on a crowded metro. You’re required to protect your breasts from the distorted male gaze that has the innate ability to sexualize any object in their line of sight. 

God forbid, you decide to let your guard down and embrace your body, that’s when you’re no longer protected, you’re ready to be attacked. Society will ambush you with death stares and audible gasps for being the rotten apple with an exposed cleavage or an uncovered bra strap. Men will charge at you with sleazy comments and unwarranted gestures. And you will endanger your assets for the world to boob-jectify. 

From the moment you are born, your breasts are no longer yours, but an object for the world to enforce their perverted code of conduct on. Your breasts have to carry the burden being sensual and modest, nurturing and tumultuous, shamed and ashamed, all at the same time. There is no room for a woman’s breasts to just… be their breasts, a part of their body they’re actually proud of. 

The twenties are the age of exploration, self-discovery, amusement and excitement. It’s only human for women to want agency over their breasts – the independence to flaunt them or cover them if they wish. Instead, a woman’s right to exercise control over her own breasts is overruled by the masculine urge to subdue them as erotic objects. Women are faced with a fundamental decision, one where they have no role – to sacrifice their autonomy and hide their breasts in a curtain of disgrace or reclaim their freedom and be subjected to the wrath of society. But is that choice fair?