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Erotic lactation refers to a person achieving sexual arousal by breastfeeding or sucking on a female's breast. Depending on the context, the practice can also be referred to as adult suckling, adult nursing, and adult breastfeeding. Practitioners sometimes refer to themselves as being in an adult nursing relationship (ANR). Two persons in an exclusive relationship can be called a nursing couple, though this term is also sometimes used for a mother and her child.
Breasts, and especially nipples, are highly erogenous zones, both for men and women. Nipple and breast stimulation of women are a near-universal aspect of human sexuality, though nipples in males are not as sexualized. Humans are the only primates that have females with permanently enlarged breasts after the onset of puberty; other primate species only are enlarged during pregnancy. One hypothesis postulates that the breasts grew as a frontal counterpart to the buttocks when primates became upright, thus attracting males, a theory first developed in 1967. Another hypothesis suggests that breasts provide an unfakeable and sexually stimulating indicator of maidenhood, with which women compete (through sexual selection) for mates. Other theories include that by chance breasts act as a cushion for infant heads, are a signal of fertility, or elevate the head in breastfeeding to prevent suffocation. Paradoxically, there is even a school that believes that they are an evolutionary flaw, and can actually suffocate a nursing infant. The same holds true for the lips, also erogenous zones where pleasure may have led to "kiss feeding", in which mothers chew food before passing it on to the child.[a]
Unintended milk flow (galactorrhea) is often caused by nipple stimulation and it is possible to reach normal milk production exclusively by suckling on the breast. Nipple stimulation of any sort is noted in reducing the incidence of breast cancer.
Some women lose the ability to be aroused while breastfeeding, and thus would not find lactation of a sexual partner erotic. This can be a result of physical reasons (soreness) or psychological reasons (conflicted about her breasts being used for an infant).
Because female breasts and nipples are generally regarded as an important part of sexual activity in most cultures, it is not uncommon that couples may proceed from oral stimulation of the nipples to actual breastfeeding. In lesbian partnerships, mutual breastfeeding has been regarded as a familiar expression of affection and tenderness.
In its issue of March 13, 2005, the London weekly The Sunday Times gave a report of a scientific survey (composed of 1690 British men) revealing that in 25 to 33% of all couples, the male partner had suckled his wife's breasts. Regularly the men gave a genuine emotional need as their motive.
The breasts have two roles in human society: nutritive and sexual. Breastfeeding in general is considered by some to be mildly exhibitionary, especially in Western societies (see breastfeeding in public). Breastfeeding mothers have faced legal ramifications for nursing their children into toddlerhood or in public, or for photographing themselves while nursing.
Researcher Nikki Sullivan, in her book A Critical Introduction to Queer Theory calls erotic lactation a manifestation of "Queer." She defines Queer as an ideology; that is, as a "sort of vague and indefinable set of practices and (political) positions that has the potential to challenge normative knowledges and identities." Drawing on a statement of David Halperin, she continues "since queer is a positionality rather than an identity in the humanist sense, it is not restricted to gays and lesbians but can be taken up by anyone who feels marginalised as a result of their sexual practices." The heteronormative profile of breastfeeding assumes certain norms.
The following are various methods people employ to practice erotic lactation. They are listed according to prevalence, in decreasing order:
Erotic Lactation between partners or an Adult Nursing Relationship (ANR) may develop from natural breastfeeding of a baby. During the lactation period the partner starts to suckle on the female breast, and continues after the baby is weaned off. Milk production is continually stimulated and the milk flow continues. According to the book "Body parts: critical explorations in corporeality", adult nursing may occur when an "individual, usually a mother, may choose to continue lactating after weaning a child, so that she avoids the significant physical challenge that inducing lactation can entail."
However, milk production can be "artificially" and intentionally induced in the absence of any pregnancy in the woman. This is called induced lactation, while a woman who has lactated before and re-starts is said to relactate. This can be done by regularly sucking on the nipples (several times a day), massaging and squeezing the female breasts or with additional help from temporary use of milk-inducing drugs, such as the Dopamine antagonist Domperidone. In principle—with considerable patience and perseverance—it is possible to induce lactation by sucking on the nipples alone.
It is not necessary that the woman has ever been pregnant, and she can be well in her post-menopausal period. Once established, lactation adjusts to demand. As long as there is regular breast stimulation, lactation is possible.
Though birth is the beginning of the separation between mother and child, breastfeeding slows this process, making the mother and infant connect physically continually, sometimes for years. As a source of nourishment, the immediacy of this connection is intensified. Breastfeeding has a sexual element as a result of physiological factors. In a study conducted in 1999, approximately 33 to 50 percent of mothers found breast feeding erotic, and among them 25 percent felt guilty because of this. This study corroborated a study in 1949 that found that in a few cases where the arousal was strong enough to induce orgasm, some nursing mothers abandon breast feeding altogether. In a 1988 questionnaire on orgasm and pregnancy published in a Dutch magazine for women, asked "Did you experience, while breastfeeding, a sensation of sexual excitement?"; Thirty-four percent (or 153 total) answered in the affirmative. An additional 71 percent answered in the affirmative when asked "Did you experience, while breastfeeding, pleasurable contractions in the uterine region."
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Since the European Middle Ages, a multitude of subliminally erotic visionary experiences of saints have been passed on in which breastfeeding plays a major role. One prominent example is the Lactatio of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.
There exists a very old story mostly called "Roman Charity" (or Caritas romana). Rubens picture of an old man dying of starvation in prison being suckled by his daughter is a well-known depiction of the story.
The story comes from the Roman writer Valerius Maximus in the year 14 AD–37 AD. In about AD 1362 the story was retold by the famous writer Giovanni Boccaccio. After Boccaccio, hundreds or possibly thousands of paintings were created, which tell the story. A variant of this story can be found at the conclusion of John Steinbeck's 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath.
Primarily, the story tells of a conflict. An existing taboo (implied incest and adult breastfeeding of a woman's milk) or saving a life by breaking the taboo. In this aspect there is no erotic focus to the story.
Most interesting in context of erotic lactation is not the fact of nourishing a man from a woman's breast. More interesting is the following affair: Valerius Maximus tells two stories, not one only. There is first a long elaborated story with a woman breastfeeding her mother, which is followed by a very short story with a woman breastfeeding her father. The second father-daughter story in fact consists of one sentence only. Thirteen hundred years later Boccaccio retells the (first) mother-daughter story only and does not mention the father-daughter story. Nevertheless nearly all "caritas romana" oil paintings and drawings show the father-daughter story only. This fact changes the supposedly original background into an erotic direction and we can very clearly see the (erotic) fascination of the adult suckling situation for the artists, who created all the paintings.
Adult suckling was used to treat ailing adults and treat illnesses including eye disease and pulmonary tuberculosis[clarification needed]. The writer Thomas Moffat recorded one physician's use of a wet nurse in a tome first published in 1655.
In traditional Islamic law, someone who suckles the breast of a woman, who is less than 2 years old (besides many strict rules like that the suckling should be of such quantity that it could be said that the bones of the child were strengthened and the flesh allowed to grow. And if that cannot be ascertained, then if a child suckles for one full day and night, or if it suckles fifteen times to its fill, it will be sufficient), is that woman's child through a foster relationship (the woman is then called "milk mother"). However, according to the Jurist Abu's-Su`ud (c.1490–1574), this only applies to sucklings under the age of two and a half years. Also, according to Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a highly-praised scholar for the Shia Muslims: "The child should not have completed two years of his age". The same latter source states at least 8 conditions that should apply before that child is considered a son/daughter of the feeding woman. A modern Saudi Jurist, in 1983, upheld that if a man suckles from his wife, their marriage is nullified. The query remains a popular one into the 21st century, and has come up in Saudi advice columns. A Sunni cleric Sheik Ezzat Atiya (عزت عطية), President of the Hadith Department of Egypt's al-Azhar University once issued a fatwa encouraging women to breastfeed their male business colleagues so that the man could become symbolically related to the woman, thereby precluding away any sexual relations and the need for both sexes to observe modesty. It was later denounced and declared defamatory to Islam.