It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway because apparently society as whole is, well, slow to learn: breasts aren't inherently sexual, and breastfeeding is not a sexual act. Still, I could repeat the aforementioned until words no longer made sense, and society, as of right now, would still have major hang-ups about nudity and bodies in general. As a mother, I've learned that being sex-positive can help you get through breastfeeding in public with, you know, comes in handy more times than I'm willing to admit.
Sex positivity is simply the belief that sexual activity is normal, healthy, and OK, as long as it's practiced safely and with all parties' enthusiastic consent. Like those who embrace the somewhat related concept of body positivity, folks who take a sex positive approach to life don't assume that there's anything about the body, or the sexual things bodies can do, that's inherently wrong or bad, as long as it's acceptable to everyone directly involved.
As with anything, breastfeeding parents should cover or not cover to their comfort level, and parents shouldn’t feel obligated to nurse, in public or at all. (There’s another lesson that carries over from our adventures in sex-positivity: consent and bodily autonomy are everything.) However, if you’ve decided to take the unapologetic public breastfeeding path, there’s good news for you. For starters, negativity around public nursing is getting less and less common as more people remember that breasts have a purpose beyond, you know, selling beer and cars and stuff. Of course, this doesn't mean that women aren't still being shamed (and in truly horrific ways) but f you're a sex positive nursing parent, you'll have a head start on navigating any potential judgment or awkwardness you do encounter, because:
You Won't Be Totally Thrown Off If Your Kid Refuses To Nurse Under A Cover (If You Even Use One At All)
Some little ones simply don't want a blanket over their head while they're eating. Mine certainly doesn't, and I can't say I blame him as, well, I don't eat under a blanket either. Others are just not trying to wait while you get your cute little scarf or whatever set up, and will spend their time screaming and getting red in their adorable little faces until you give them that boob now. Your new little mammal doesn’t care what meaning society has assigned to your breasts and, fortunately, neither do you.
You Have A Cache Of Witty Comebacks When Someone Tries To Shame Or Judge You
Parents have the right to breastfeed in public, period. Still, there's a minority of people out there who feel like it’s their place or duty or right or whatever to try and enforce their restrictive ideas of what constitutes “modesty,” on others. Luckily, you have been there and nope you're not about that, so you already know how to nip (ha!) that in the bud. Plus, you’ve got that look for when you spot that one person you just know is getting ready to try you. Uh uh...
You’ve Already Thought Through The "Think Of The Children!" Pearl-Clutching That May Come Your Way
You are thinking of the children, namely the hungry one latched onto your breast. Besides, the other children in question are already being bombarded by countless exploitative and/or commercial sexualized images of female bodies. You understand that witnessing a loving, real-world example of what our bodies can do is actually a really healthy counterpoint to what they typically see courtesy of our patriarchal culture. So, I mean, you're welcome, "concerned" citizen.
You're Not Fazed By "Slippery-Slope" Arguments
You know the ones I'm talking about, and you're prepared to respond accordingly. So, if busybodies pop up with ridiculous questions like, "Well, if women can just nurse in public, what's next? Public sex?!" you just give them that patented squint-and-shrug. Even if one had anything to do with the other, who cares as long as what's happening is consensual?
You've Spent Time Replacing Body Shame With Body Confidence
Sex positive folks don't believe in the idea of "naughty parts," as though there are parts of the body that are inherently shameful or do "bad" things (versus whole, thinking people making either good or bad decisions with their bodies). We definitely recognize that breasts, which exist first and foremost to nourish young children, are just as normal and benign as any other body part. So, just like we don't feel self-conscious using our noses to breathe or smell things in public, we're pretty calm about using our breasts to nurse in public.
You Know Your Body Can Be Functional And Sexual, Simultaneously...
The thing about bodies is, we don't get separate ones for all the identities we inhabit. We don't have one body for our sex partners, and another for our kids, and a third for dancing or cooking or all the other stuff we do with our lives. It's just the one form, doing all sorts of amazing things for us, from the moment we're born till the moment we die. Nobody freaks out about us using our "sex mouths" to chew food or speak in public places, so why should breasts be any different? Yes, boobs are fun during sex. They're also functional when our little ones need nourishment (and comfort, and protection against disease, and so many other things). NBD.
...And Even If You Suspended Reality And Considered Breastfeeding "Sexual," You Don't Consider Sexuality To Be A Bad Thing
Most of the negativity around nursing in public comes from people erroneously associating breasts with sex. Since the mere idea of sex doesn't bother you, random strangers making sexualized assumptions about your breastfeeding don't really bother you, either. Their confusion is their problem, not yours.
You Value Your Comfort Level...
Having thought through your own comfort level with any interaction that involves your body and another person, you're aware of (and prepared to assert) your personal boundaries when it comes to modesty, exposure, comfort, and all of that. That makes it easier to be prepared to nurse in public, whether you're approached by someone who wants to criticize you, or someone who thinks they're being supportive but is actually distracting you or your child.
...And Don't Believe It To Be Your Job To Educate Others If It Means Putting Yourself, And Your Child, In An Uncomfortable Situation
You know that you're not required to pull your focus from your and your child's needs to deal with someone else's ignorance. Chances are you're also well-practiced at discerning what cues suggest when you are safe or unsafe around other people, so you know that you're not obligated to indulge people who are inappropriately curious or spoiling for conflict. You and your child know that what you're doing is OK, and you don't need to prove yourselves to anyone.