There is a fascinating discussion happening right now on Elita's Blacktating blog about whether we should use the word intimate to describe breastfeeding. The discussion stemmed from a comment that someone made about a breastfeeding picture on facebook that said:
“OK…breastfeeding is a very beautiful thing, but why do people expose themselves and publish pictures like that! It is a very private and intimate thing between you and your child. Gosh…this picture just makes me sick!”
Elita's post talks about the sexual connotations that often come with the word "intimate" and questions whether we should be using a word like that to describe breastfeeding if so many people will then relate breastfeeding to sex.
How I see intimacy
My comment on the post was:
I don't think intimate = sexual. I think that intimate means private or shared between two people. I would say that I had some intimate breastfeeding moments and many, many, many functional breastfeeding moments. The intimate moments would be the ones where we had the quiet, the calm, and the privacy to be able to share a special moment and to bask in the beauty of our nursing relationship. The functional ones were the everyday "this baby needs to be fed" or "this baby needs to be comforted" moments. It isn't always possible or always necessary to create an intimate nursing moment, but I do think that those intimate moments are valuable too.
That said, I don't think there is anything wrong with photographing or sharing those intimate moments. Consider wedding or engagement photographs where a couple looks deeply into each others' eyes or shares a kiss. Those are intimate photographs, but ones that they want to share with the world. I have some breastfeeding photos that do capture an intimate moment, but that I also proudly display for others to see.
Although in the strictest definition, intimate can be any act between a few people, at least in America it definitely has a sexual connotation. Obviously I have no issue with nursing photographs, but many people do. They are saying, "This is too intimate and should therefore be private." Maybe we need to change the way we are speaking then. We can use words like "close" and "bond" without saying intimate. The question is, should we cede the word because it's loaded with other meaning for a lot of people?
Further comments look at the various meanings of the word intimate and question whether the meaning is evolving or is different in different geographic locations.
What do you think? Is intimate a normal and appropriate word to use to describe breastfeeding or is it too loaded with sexual connotations?
Photo credit: mirmurr on flickr