In February 2015, I stopped wearing bras. It wasn’t an obvious choice and, for many, larger-breasted women, it may not be believed as a feasible one, but it is an option that I think we should all consider. Bras are usually expensive, most women don’t actually wear the correct size and if, as is the case for many women, the feeling of taking a bra off at the end of the day is one of relief, then maybe there’s a reason for this. 

Free the nipple: a growing number of women are choosing to go bra freeinstagram: dodoladies

Women are taught from a young age that bras are an important part of their growth towards sexual maturity. Very few eleven year olds will need a bra, and yet that is when the average girl is quasi-awarded with her first training bra, congratulated on now being a woman and increasingly sexualised. I was bought my first bra aged twelve not long after being mocked by girls my age for not wearing one. It clipped on at the front and I preferred to wear it only for the changing room, while most girls had padded bras. This may seem normal, but the fundamental reason for a padded bra is that it makes the bust look more shapely. Bras are intrinsically linked to sexualisation of the female body, and the decision I took a year later to wear bras came with the realisation that my nipples were indecent, embarrassing to myself and others. 

Rouillon found that “medically, physiologically, anatomically, the breast does not benefit from being deprived of gravity.”

The worrying thing is that even as women rail against the patriarchal tyranny of a workplace that insists they wear high heels or skirts, those same women will insist that they wear a bra because it is professional to do so and they will look askew at those who would wish not to, even suggesting that they do so for the benefit of the “male gaze”. Similar opinions were made when Jean-Denis Rouillon, a professor at the Université of Franche-Comté, conducted a 15 year study into the effects of bras on breasts. It was suggested by some that, as a man, his work was insulting to the average woman. An article in The Guardian stated that Rouillon’s research missed the point of the “psychological, aesthetic and practical” benefits of the bra, forgetting that much of the reasoning for the former two arises from a dominant patriarchy in the first place, while also dismissing the concerns of the women they should be supporting. 

Bras: a necessity or a symbol of sexualisation?instagram: victoriassecret

Rouillon found that "medically, physiologically, anatomically, the breast does not benefit from being deprived of gravity." Quite the opposite: for many women, bras solve a “problem” that they themselves create - that of sagging. Issues relating to a sexist rejection of the ageing and breastfeeding female body as well as the pernicious racism against women in cultures where bras are a typical aside, bras may cause the ligaments in the breasts to atrophy, and thus sag. Cynically, it could also be noted that if there were any health benefits to wearing bras, manufacturing companies would have probably jumped on pointing them out in order to better sell their products, yet this is something they have not done.

Since I’ve stopped wearing a bra, I’ve had less back pain, and felt freer in movement and respiration. I’ve also been more comfortable and confident with my body as something that is not, in itself, sexual. It wasn’t so long ago that physicians would tell women that girdles were needed to "hold their organs in place" and this is not so very different to the contemporary notion that all women need bras to support their breasts. Women ought to have the right to choose what feels right for their body, but they should also be equipped with the knowledge that there is an alternative