Monday, March 9, 2015

After a Lactating Porn Actress's Infant Starved to Death

This is a news story that ruined my Friday morning: an infant starved to death while his mother used breast milk for online porn.



The sad incident happened in Glendale, Oregon. The parents of this 7-week-old boy have been arrested on charges of murder by abuse after a medical examiner determined the child died from starvation. Investigators said the mother used her breast milk for online pornography instead of feeding the child. The baby died on January 22. That night, an ambulance and sheriff’s deputy responded to a report of an infant in distress. Medics found the infant unresponsive to treatment. He died on the scene. Detectives arrested the baby’s 22-year-old mother and 27-year-old father last week.

The story really upsets me. It’s not “the mother is horrible” angry. It’s much more than that. In this case, I think the mother is as much a victim as her baby boy. Pornography is an industry that essentially exploits women. The mother is now 22 years old and has been doing online porn “for years,” according to the sheriff. Which means she has been a porn actress since she was a teenager, when she was only a child herself. A teenager who acts in pornography is no doubt a victim.

The story upsets me mainly because, what kind of images is modern media presenting to breastfeeding mothers? Why would people associate breastfeeding and breast milk with pornography? Why there's a market for lactating porn? Who actually killed the baby?

I’m saying this with no exaggeration. Japan is the country with world’s largest pornography industry. If you search for “breast milk” or “breastfeeding” in Twitter Japan, half of the results you’ll get are pornography sites. A while ago, one of the largest Chinese-language newspaper here in North America described breastfeeding photos as “R-rated image” in its reporting. In America, many Hollywood movies—from David Dobkin’s “The Change-Up” to Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups”—make nasty jokes about breastfeeding.

Breasts are designed for feeding a child. But too many people seem to consider that breasts are designed for pornography or the satisfaction of admiring them. They just can’t get over the idea that breastfeeding equals to exposing breasts equals acting sexually.

It’s time for us to normalize breastfeeding and disconnect breastfeeding from sexuality.

This is why I’ve always been against describing breastfeeding as “sexy.” Las year, a press release on behalf of the Alaska State House majority called breastfeeding “smart and sexy,” and I thought it was very inappropriate.

And this is why I’ve been calling mothers to breastfeed in the public. People, especially our children, need to see breastfeeding in public. When youngsters grow up surrounded by sexualized images of breasts but never, or only rarely, see the normal, natural act of breast-feeding a baby, it’s not possible of them to have healthy ideas about breasts.

This is also why I’ve been encouraging mothers to share their breastfeeding photos. I think we need to see more breastfeeding pictures. From cliched poses to Facebook bans, our society apparently has a problem with realistic images of breastfeeding and postpartum bodies. Breastfeeding is simply not represented properly in popular culture. It has yet to be normalized. When breasts appear online, on television, or in print media, it is often associate with the idea of sex. How ironic that women are shamed if they do not breastfeed, but also shamed if they breastfeed in public?

Breastfeeding will not be seen to be normal until we see more breastfeeding photos and more women breastfeed in public. Mothers, please join me and breastfeed in public. When you do so, you’re helping normalize breastfeeding.

Below: The first nursing photo I shard on twitter when my LO was 7 weeks old. I even blurred it. After posting the photo I received a harassing message, telling me to "post a photo of your milking tits." Shocked and offended, I reported the incident to Twitter. The harassing account was then disappeared. After that I never blurred my nursing photo when sharing it--why should I? Have you ever seen anyone blur the food photo they share on Facebook?

This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's blog by To-wen Tseng.

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