Nipple stimulation & sexual arousal?

This article discusses the reasons why breasts are not inherently/anatomically sexual organs, like genitals are.

Are breasts an erogenous zone?

"Erogenous zones" are parts or areas of human body that provide sexual arousal when touched.  It is commonly noted (and various magazines have had polls on this) that apart from the genitals, the erogenous zones vary tremendously between individuals - even within Americans.  Some people like to have their breasts caressed, some like their neck or thighs being touched, or belly or feet etc.

It seems to be a very individual thing - which shows these 'erogenous zones' are NOT in our anatomy as such. Truly, some people even say that their whole body is an erogenous zone for them. Basically it is the skin that feels the touch, and loving touch on the skin releases oxytocin in us (more on oxytocin later) and makes us feel good. Then it is the mind that makes us feel sexually aroused or not - depending on the circumstances. The mere touch on skin does not cause sexual arousement without other factors.

So breasts can be an erogenous zone for some, just as neck, ears, belly, thighs, etc. can be - and for some people they are NOT an erogenous zone. It's an individual thing. Of course it is up to the couple what they do during their intimate moments, which body parts they touch or caress.  We don't want to tell you what part to touch - hopefully if you love the person, you love ALL his/her body parts.

BUT this does not make breasts a sexual organ like genitals are. It is just skin as any other skin, and not even the most sensitive skin area in the body. How about nipples? Read on.

Are breasts a sexual organ because nipple stimulation is arousing to some women?

I have often been suggested that breasts have a sexual function also (besides breastfeeding) because nipple stimulation is arousing to some women - some even seem to think it is so to all women:

Visitor comments:

"Breasts are sexual in the sense that women can be turned on by the rubbing or licking of the breast, more specifically the areola and nipple. And men get turned on by the exposure of breasts."

"There is that little problem with the fact that the nipple is an erogenous zone. Could be that the breast is seen as sexual largely because they serve a sexual function as well as a nourishing one."

"They are not JUST "baby feeders." Some women can be stimulated to sexual climax by nipple arousal alone; does this seem like a function of feeding a baby? Body parts have multiple functions, and breasts ARE sexual objects as well as baby feeders."

Nipples are very sensitive since they have lots of nerve endings. And true, touching them can be arousing in a sensual circumstance.  Some women have even gotten an actual climax from nipple stimulation alone - though for the majority this is not so.  But why does it happen to some?

The answer really is very simple: sexuality is in the mind. Whether nipple stimulation is arousing or not depends on the woman's mindset. If it is a sexual situation, and she believes touching nipples is part of that, then it can be arousing. And, the oxytocin released can further help that feeling.


oxytocin cuddle hormone





Read more about hormones and bonding in this excellent article by Linda Folden Palmer Bonding Matters: The Chemistry of Attachment - Lots of info about oxytocin




breast seen as sexual because of cultural influence

Nipple stimulation releases a hormone called oxytocin, which is responsible for the let-down reflex in breastfeeding.  In other words, oxytocin causes the milk flow within the breast. Also, labor contractions are caused by large quantities of oxytocin.  In fact, physicians routinely induce labor by injecting a certain form of oxytocin into women (this practice may not be totally safe, however, some people argue).

Also, and very importantly, a kind touch anywhere in the body causes oxytocin to be released.  This is true for friendly hugs, massages, hairdresser touching your scalp, shaking hands, stroking someone's skin, and caressing touch within the intimate moments - if it is kind and friendly, your body releases oxytocin.  Oxytocin makes you feel good, feel loving and friendly towards whomever touched you.  Also, it helps the mother will feel love towards her baby when the baby suckles on the breast.  In other words, it helps bonding.  It is called the love or cuddle hormone, and it exists in all kinds of friendly human relationships.

Oxytocin or kind touch is so important that babies who are not touched a lot, won't develop properly.  The touch-deprivation that some lonely people experience can lead to depression.  Elderly people are especially in danger of that.  Everyone needs touch, everyone needs oxytocin, even your pet.

So nipple stimulation releases oxytocin, the cuddle hormone.  But only THE MIND will make a woman feel sexually aroused because of that.  It is not the nipple stimulation per se - if that was so, then she'd feel aroused during labor and giving birth, too, since large quantities of oxytocin are circulated in bloodstream during those painful moments.  The same is true of breastfeeding - baby's suckling of nipple causes oxytocin to be released, but it doesn't normally create sexual feelings.

Most people agree that a human person can be 'turned on' just by the power of mind alone.  Mind or human brain is the biggest and most important 'sexual organ' we have.  So if the woman believes it is sexually stimulating, if her husband is right there and he is emitting the pheromones for her to smell, and the setting is right, she's thinking about it, then yes, it can be stimulating.  The oxytocin released helps her further to feel loved and loving.

Hopefully this explains why the fact that oxytocin is released by nipple stimulation does not make breasts a sexual organ in the sense that genitals are. Breasts are comparable to skin - not to genitals.

So why such a fuss about breasts not being a sexual organ?  It is because the way US society views the female breasts creates lots of problems and suffering.  It makes women feel ashamed and extremely worried about their breast size or shape - to the point that some teenagers consider suicide because of that!  It makes women get breast implants and then often develop serious complications from them.  It hinders breastfeeding in various ways - women fear breastfeeding in public, some women don't even consider it since they want to 'keep' their breasts 'for sexual function only', some think it is 'dirty' or think breastfeeding gets being 'dirty' after the baby grows past certain age.  Believing breasts are 'dirty' and not seeing breastfeeding develops obsessions in young boys and men.  The list is long.

All kinds of body parts have been considered sensual and arousing in different times and different places.  The fixation to breasts in modern Western World is just cultural, not physiological.












(for milk and a toy)

For further study

Women's sexual physiology
"...most women claim that the two most important organs for achieving orgasm are the brain and the clitoris."

The Stages of Sexual Response
"Societal and cultural values influence the range of stimuli that provoke sexual desire, and ideals about the stimuli considered “sexual” or “attractive” can vary greatly between cultures and among subsets of a single culture. In addition, each individual reacts to sets of stimuli that are idiosyncratic—based on his or her own thoughts, feelings, and experiences."

The Sexual Response Cycle
"Sexual response is an extremely individual process. People vary in their physical, mental, and emotional reactions to sexual stimulation."

A Museum of Anthropology Newsletter for Teachers Vol 11.2 - "Are There Any Questions?"
"Unlike America, there are parts of the world where people believe the chest does not need to be covered. In Kenya, there is a group of people called the Turkana who believe a woman should keep her thighs covered."

Culturally Correct Nudity
"In India, a female's upper arms are considered sensual areas of the body and therefore should not be exposed in public."

MPs defend Swazi bare breasts
"Swazi men are attracted by women's naked thighs not their breasts".

West Africa: Background and travel essentials
"In Africa, the baring of flesh is associated with laboring or poverty and may well be treated with contempt. Women should expect to be ridiculed for even minor displays of nudity and must remember that whereas breasts are usually not considered to be offensive, legs and buttocks are."

Women Travellers
"For example in Papua New Guinea you can expose your breasts but your thighs need to be covered at all times, even wearing trousers is seen as provocative."
Basic info about oxytocin.

Oxytocin may mediate the benefits of positive social interaction and emotions.
by Uvnas-Moberg K. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1998 Nov;23(8):819-35.




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Disclaimer: Information here is not medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, nor to replace the advice you could get from a health professional. If you are in doubt, please see a doctor (or several). So if you're in doubt, and especially if you have some other symptoms, please see a doctor.