Mark Radcliffe regrets his recklessness in writing on a delicate subject. For this essay, he redirects the focus to the most attractive of a woman’s attributes: her mind.
A little while back, I got myself in a bit of hot water with a piece I wrote called In Praise of Small-Breasted Women. I had a number of supporters, many of whom identified themselves as members of that unique club and appreciated the tribute. But there was certainly no shortage of critics, many of whom were in that club as well. And the protests were not exactly restrained.
Some called it offensive. Some called it objectification. Three of my exes loved it. Two hated it.
Writers are no strangers to criticism; it comes with the territory. But usually, even when a piece draws fire, if we still believe in what we’ve written, we can walk away with our heads held high.
But I couldn’t entirely do that in this case. Because I ended up actually agreeing with some of the points many of my detractors made. Not all, but too many.
In the end, while I believe my intentions were noble, I realize I was reckless with a delicate topic. And more importantly, I’d gone astray from what I really meant to express. Once I looked at my piece with some distance, it didn’t actually represent what I really thought or felt. And while I’ve spent a lot of time doing my best to lift up and support various women in my life, this time, it appeared I’d simply alienated many of them.
I originally wrote the piece in a much different form, where I tried to reverse-engineer the fact that, unlike most American men, I’ve never been particularly attracted to large-breasted women. In fact, it was even called “In Defense of Small-Breasted Women” at first, since, if you’ve heard what I’ve heard most men say about the lesser-endowed women out there, yes, they needed defending. (If you’re curious, you can read it here—many of my friends wish I’d run with this version instead.) I chalked up my tastes to my youth, where I grew up with athletic women, most of whom were thin, fit, and small-breasted, and had a general passion for life I found inspiring.
But then one night, I was in a bar, and happened to overhear the women in the booth next to me talking about their chests. One of them was lamenting her bra size, talking about how her boyfriend teased her about her small chest, and how she was thinking of going under the knife. Not only did it piss me off, since I hate it when women change themselves to please men, but they were words that I’d heard from many other women over the years, too. It’s these words that have contributed to the ridiculously-overgrown boob job industry here in America—one I would hope my critics would have a problem with, too. So, I took my piece, and thought I’d spice it up: I tried a new angle where I spoke to a small-breasted woman as a “secret admirer” from across the room. I thought that in a culture that seems to obsess over the Pamela Andersons of the world, it would be helpful to say that I loved her breasts just as they were. Preferred them, even. Partially because of the athletic women I’d grown up among—most of whom were small-chested, but larger-than-life in their energy, their pursuits of their passions.
So I put the new piece out there. Some thought it was cute. Some called me a stalker. Many said I was just objectifying, even though I feel I was still mostly talking about her humanity, not only about her body. And many took issue with how I broadly connected smaller breast size with attributes like higher intelligence and an athletic assertiveness. I do agree—there is no concrete causal link, and there are plenty of exceptions to that argument, and this I would now change.
And fairly quickly, I realized that what I genuinely thought would bring reassurance and a sense of support to the women I was trying to reach, instead simply pissed a lot of them off.
So I want to thank all of those who spoke out against it, who jabbed a finger in my chest, or criticized the generalizations, who were critical of my message and did not hold back, the ones whose minds and character—I wholeheartedly agree—are not related to their breast size.
Because while I don’t agree with all the comments, there might be nothing I respect more in the world than a woman who’ll tell a guy off when she thinks he’s out of line. I genuinely believe the world could use a lot more of it. Lord knows most of the bigger epiphanies I’ve had about myself have been delivered by a woman, not a man. And I’m sure this won’t be the last time, either.
You reminded me that the best of intentions don’t mean a thing if you’re a bit careless with your words, if you publish something before you’ve sat with it long enough to give it the overnight test.
What I wish I’d made clear is that, ultimately, a woman’s breasts aren’t the thing that I’m really attracted to. Nor, I agree, the thing any woman should be evaluated on. It’s always her mind—her words, her energy, how she lives her life.
What I meant to say was it’s not about your breasts. It’s about how you move someone. And that takes more than a sexy body—however one defines it. It takes the right mind.
And it’s one’s mind that’s always their ultimate asset, whether in work, their personal life, in romantic or elsewhere. It’s the thing that governs our actions, informs our choices, guides our priorities, chooses our words, navigates life’s labyrinth. And whenever I meet one unusually well-developed mind, well, I can’t help but fall, regardless of what shape she happens to have.
And to the woman I overheard in the bar, who was thinking of getting a boob job (the same one who dropped an F. Scott Fitzgerald reference a minute earlier), I hope you realize that truly, it was your mind that I found most attractive all along. But that yes, I’m human, I’m not immune to having physical attraction, and I found much to long for in your general direction.
And I still hope you skip the boob job.
Because ultimately, whatever body you—or any of us—are born with, I hope you own it. I hope you love it as much as it deserves to be loved, and you find that someone else who loves it, too.
Though I hope he—or she—loves you for your mind more.
In Praise of Small-Breasted Women, By Mark Radcliffe
In Praise of Large-Breasted Women, By Josh Bowman
In Praise of Jewish Men, By Laura Bailey
In Praise and Appreciation of Women, By Collin Slattery
How We Talk About What Turns Us On, By Justin Cascio
—Beautiful, thoughtful woman image courtesy of Shutterstock