The phrase "breast fetishism" has also been used to refer to cultural attention to female breasts and the sexuality they represent. There is a widespread interest with women's breasts, and especially their size. For example, film producers such as Russ Meyer produced films which focused on the female lead's breast size. Lorna (1964) was the first of his films where the main female part was selected on the basis of her breast size. Author and director William Rotsler said of this film, "with Lorna Meyer established the formula that made him rich and famous, the formula of people filmed at top hate, top lust, top heavy."
Debate exists on whether the modern widespread sexual attraction to breasts among heterosexual males of western society constitutes a sexual fetish. In clinical literature of the 19th century, the focus on breasts was considered a form of paraphillia, but in modern times this interest is considered normal. Some have attributed the use of tight clothing and the display of cleavage to the increase in so-called breast fetishism. The phrase is also used within ethnographic and feminist contexts to describe a society with a culture devoted to breasts, usually as sexual objects.
Some scientists have hypothesized that sexual attraction towards breasts is the result of their function as a secondary sex characteristic. For instance, British zoologist and ethologist Desmond Morris theorizes that cleavage is a sexual signal that imitates the image of the cleft between the buttocks, which according to Morris in The Naked Ape is also unique to humans, other primates as a rule having much flatter buttocks.
Evolutionary psychologists theorize that humans' permanently enlarged breasts, in contrast to other primates' breasts, which only enlarge during ovulation, allows females to "solicit male attention and investment even when they are not really fertile".
The reverence and theorizing shown to breasts also appears in the science of modern civilization. Breast fetishism is claimed to be an example of a contagious thought (or meme) spreading throughout society, and that breasts are features that have evolved to influence human sexuality rather than serve an exclusive maternal function.
Some feminists have argued that examples of breast fetishism have been found going back to the neolithic era, with the goddess shrines of Catal Huyuk (in modern Turkey). The archaeological excavations of the town in c. 1960 revealed that the walls of the shrine(s) were adorned with disembodied pairs of breasts that appeared to have "an existence of their own". Elizabeth Gould Davis argues that the breasts (along with phalluses) were revered by the women of Catal Huyuk as instruments of motherhood, but it was after what she describes as a patriarchal revolution – when men had appropriated both phallus worship and "the breast fetish" for themselves – that these organs "acquired the erotic significance with which they are now endowed".
Some authors from the United States have made the statement that attraction to the female breast is a sexual fetish, that it is the American fetish-object of choice, and that breast fetishism is predominantly found in the United States. Feminist film critic Molly Haskell has even gone to such an extreme as to claim that, "The mammary fixation is the most infantile, and the most American, of the sex fetishes".
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