Way back when I was working on my Master’s degree in psychology, I had decided to make a run at my understanding of Freud and his concept of penis envy. Basically, as I understood it at the time, Freud was making claims that women were envious of men because of a fundamental anatomical member differential – that of the penis. Even though at the time, I had no idea as to why I found that way of thinking difficult to comprehend, I decided to wrestle with it as academically as I was capable of doing.
I started with the premise of what if Freud had gotten it all wrong? What could it be that one was or could be so envious of? As a male, it seemed obvious that many of us guys have this uncontrollable obsession with breasts and I was damn curious as to why? How could the ‘object’ that we obsessed about also be the very thing that we were most envious of?
My inquiry lead me to the path of a male’s early childhood. As the early child psychologists wrote, we all seem to be part of a symbiotic soup with our primary care-giver – namely Mom. Therefore, it seems logical that our relationship with Mom represents our first intimate connection with a female. During those first few years we are supposedly fused to Mom and see ourselves as part of her. Inevitably a time comes when we [meaning males] must be separated from the ties that bind. Think about it…we are allowed to go pretty much anywhere Mom goes without any fuss. However, there comes a time when we will have to break free from her [or pushed/forced away from as the case may have been] – for good. What I mean is that at some point the ladies room and changing rooms will be forever cut off from our presence. Now this is a non-issue for girls since they continue to go where Mom goes but we [boys] do not.
As males we no longer have access to the female beginning at this very early age. As a result, one could argue that many males have the potential to get upset over this parting of the waves. We could become very envious of what we are denied…so much so that it may just be possible for us to envy them or something they have that we do not…and that something could easily be their breasts. After all, many of us had access to the breast as a way to sustain our existence that eventually was taken away from us without our consent. So it is possible to make sense that we envy the breast so much that we are willing to be obsessed about them. In the psychological tradition of projective identification, many males have unconsciously learned how to project their need for the breast onto the woman who has subsequently identified with her need to attain [in some cases to mythical proportions] them at all costs.
Given this scenario, male breast envy seems to make much more sense and would certainly support the ways in which men’s obsessions continue to lead them. If you still have doubts, check out HBO’s Breast Men and see who envies what? Remember, it wasn’t a woman who woke up one morning and said – “Hey, I think I need bigger ones!” – it was men who created [I would argue projected their need] the breast enhancement revolution. Sorry Sigmund your penis [theory] just doesn’t measure up – the breasts have it!