A couple of weeks ago, the UK's top selling newspaper The Sun featured a story 'I breastfeed my boyfriend' about Jennifer Mulford who "took time off from her job as a bartender to establish breastfeeding because she wants to start an Adult Breastfeeding Relationship (ABR) with [boyfriend] Brad Leeson". But what do we know about this sexual behavior?
Lactophilia (i.e., breast milk fetishism) is a sexual paraphilia where individuals (typically male) derive sexual pleasure from watching women lactate, sucking on women’s milk-filled breasts and/or having sex with lactating women. Sometimes, the sexual arousal is enhanced by the woman also being pregnant, although many men prefer lactating women post-pregnancy. The paraphilic aspect may also be part of other sexual paraphilias such as infantilism (where sexual arousal is derived from being an adult baby). For many infantilists, the practice is often referred to as adult adult nursing, suckling, and adult breastfeeding. In fact, some lactophiles describe themselves as being in an adult nursing relationship. Those who suckle and are suckled within the confines of a monogamous sexual relationship are often referred to as a “nursing couple.”
There are a number of different methods by which erotic lactation can take place. 'Lactation games' typically refers to any kind of sexual activity that includes female breast milk. The activity is thought to be widespread but can be unintentional post-pregnancy as many women who have just had babies release milk as a reflex action when sexually aroused.
Over the last decade there appears to have been an increased demand for lactation pornography with magazines such as ‘Pregnant Pink and Milking’. It is evidently a specialty market although the internet has increased the opportunity to see such pornography—even if the person is not a lactophile. Such niche pornography may also be considered taboo—even by those who have no objections to pornography—particularly because of its association with children and incest.
Adult nursing relationships involve a person (typically male) breastfeeding from a woman’s lactating breast. It is only considered to be an ANR when the practice is regular rather than a one-off or happens almost accidentally during post-pregnancy sex. Anecdotal evidence suggests that successful ANRs are reliant on trusting and stable long-term relationships. If the practice is not regular, the women’s milk production ceases. It is thought that in some cases, the suckling can be a replacement for sex and that the mutual and intimate tenderness involved between consenting couples has a stabilizing influence on such relationships. It has also been noted that some women are capable of achieving orgasm during the suckling process. There may also be a number of inherently non-sexual reasons as to why such behavior is found within loving couples. For instance, couples who may want to adopt a child may use the context of an ANR to stimulate the production of breast milk pre-adoption.
It has also been noted that an apparently small minority of women experience sensual and/or sexual pleasure from pumping breast milk (either manually or from a breast pump. The feelings produced may depend on the context (for instance, some women may only get sexual pleasure if their partner is present during the pumping process. Dr. Fiona Giles (of the University of Sydney, Australia) in her 2003 book Fresh Milk – The Secret Life of Breasts noted that some women feel more “feminine” when breast feeding, and may therefore may want to continue with lactation, even after their child have been weaned for emotional and/or sensual motivations.
In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish form data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). They reported that some of the sites featured references to lactophiles. However, this particular fetish was included in a ‘body fluids’ fetish category along with coprophilia, urophilia, menophilia and mucophilia. Although this category made up a sizeable minority of all online fetishes (9%), it is unknown what proportion of these online fetish sites were lactophilic in comparison to the fetishes of other bodily fluids.
The rise in interest surrounding lactophilic activity has led to lactation prostitution where grown adults—including women—pay for the opportunity to be breastfed. This can either be part of other activities such as infantilism (where other activities such as having a diaper changed may play a more primary role) or may be an activity done is isolation to any other service or activity. A 2004 paper in the journal Australian Feminist Studies (again) by Dr. Fiona Giles made reference to a New Zealand brothel that offered lactation services to its clients. In a paper in Women’s Studies the following year, Giles also wrote that:
“Induced lactation allows for a splitting away of breastfeeding from maternity, opening up possibilities for elaborating on the cultural meanings and uses of breastmilk as a substance, breastfeeding as a practice, and lactation as a process. Finally, by introducing lactation into sexual play, it offers the opportunity for a mutual confluence of bodily flows which may help to disassemble the binaries of sexual difference”.
Breastfeeding can also feature in other types of sexual activity such as sadism and masochism (as part of wider set of dominance and submission sexual practices). For instance, submissive women may be commanded by their (male or female) dominant partner to be milked or to produce milk. Alternatively, breastfeeding can be used as a surrogate pleasure reward (or surrogate pleasure) for (male or female) submissive partners who have done exactly as they have been told by the dominant partner.
Lactophilia may also be associated with other specialist types of paraphilia. One such sexual fetish is maieusiophilia (i.e., pregnancy fetishism). This is where individuals (typically male, but some bisexual or lesbian females also) derive attraction and/or sexual gratification from someone being (or appearing pregnant). There is also a very small minority of people who develop a sexual fascination with the idea of themselves being pregnant (i.e., gravidophilia). This would appear to be psychologically similar to those people who get sexually excited by the thought of being an amputee (i.e., apotemnophilia).
There has been very little empirical research on lactophilia (or associated behaviors). A recent 2011 study was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine led by Dr. Magnus Enquist. They reported the results of a questionnaire study designed to investigate whether two specific sexual preferences (for pregnant women and for lactating women) were associated with exposure to pregnant or lactating women early in an individual’s life. Their data were collected via an online questionnaire advertised in newsgroups (e.g., alt.sex.fetish and alt.sex.fetish.breastmilk) and Yahoo! discussion groups (e.g., Lactaters and Pregnant Ladies). Individuals in these online communities typically describe themselves as fetishists for pregnant and/or lactating women. The research team collected usable data from 2,082 participants. Some of the main findings were that:
* Average age of the respondents was 37 years
* Average age at which respondents became aware of their preference for pregnant and/or lactating women was 19 years
* Most respondents reported both a pregnancy and a lactation preference (71%; 1,474 people);
* A small minority of the respondents reported having a preference for pregnancy fetish only (14%; 296 people)
* An even smaller minority of the respondents reported having a preference for lactation fetish only (11%; 224 people)
* A total 4% (87 people) had neither preference and were excluded from further analysis
* A great majority of the sample had younger brothers or sisters suggesting that they were exposed to pregnant women and/or experienced seeing their siblings being breastfed when in childhood.
Because of this final finding, the authors suggested their results were consistent with the hypothesis that specific sexual preferences may be acquired through exposure to particular stimuli during a specific period early in life (similar to 'sexual imprinting' in birds and mammals). In fact, there have been a number of studies offering empirical support for the idea that human partner choice is (at least in part) determined by parental characteristics. The authors concluded that their study offered new insights to growing issue of the correlation between pregnancy, lactation, and sexuality.
References and further reading
Bereczkei, T., Gyuris, P. & Weisfeld, G.E. (2004). Sexual imprinting in human mate choice. Proceedings of Biological Science, 271, 1129-1134.
Enquist, M., Aronsson, H., Ghirlanda, S., Jansson, L. & Jannini, E.A. (2011). Exposure to mother’s pregnancy and lactation in infancy is associated with sexual attraction to pregnancy and lactation in adulthood. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8, 140–147.
Giles, F. (2003). Fresh Milk – The Secret Life of Breasts. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Giles, F. (2004). Relational, and strange: A preliminary foray into a project to queer breastfeeding. Australian Feminist Studies, 19, 301-314.
Giles, F. (2005). The well-tempered breast: Fostering fluidity in breastly meaning and function. Women's Studies: An Inter-disciplinary Journal. 34, 301-326.
Perrett, D.I., Penton-Voak, I.S., Little, A.C., Tiddeman, B.P., Burt, D.M., Schmidt, N., Oxley, R., Kinloch, N., & Barrett, L. (2002). Facial attractiveness judgements reflect learning of parental age characteristics. Proceedings of Biological Science, 269, 873–80.
Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.
Wilson, G.D. & Barrett, P.T. (1987). Parental characteristics and partner choice: Some evidence for oedipal imprinting. Journal of Biosocial Science, 19, 157-161.
Zei, G., Bereczkei, T., Gyuris, P., Koves, P., Bernath, L. (2002). Homogamy, genetic similarity, and imprinting: Parental influence on mate choice preferences. Personality and Individual Differences, 33, 677-90.