DARE TO ASK: Diving into swimmers' breasts issue
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Do female swimmers have small breasts because they swim, or do they swim
because they have small breasts?
Kyle and Cody, 15, Clay County
Top female swimmers swim because they have small breasts. Certain sports are
conducive to different body shapes. Also, if some male swimmers go so far as to
shave their heads to better their times by fractions of a second, then double-D
breasts would definitely slow someone down.
Renea, Orange Park
A young woman once told me her breasts were the first place she lost weight
upon embarking on a physical fitness program. She saw it as cruel injustice,
since that part of her body was the one area she was satisfied with. This
suggests that an avid swimmer might indeed lose fatty but fabulous breast tissue
over the course of many laps.
Thomas, 43, Wheaton, Ill.
Spandex, long known for its low resistance to water friction, is worn very
tight for maximum speed, thus smushing the breasts. Also, breasts are largely
made up of fat, and successful swimmers are lean, so it's both. Then there is
the boring answer of lesser resistance through the water with small breasts -
unlike the spoiler on a '68 'Cuda.
Joe, 45, Illinois
We can't help being impressed with Nancy Hogshead-Makar.
Three-time Olympic gold medal swimmer.
Associate professor at Florida Coastal School of Law.
Doesn't slam the phone down when asked about swimmers' breasts.
"Most top swimmers with bigger breasts tend to compete in the backstroke
because . . ."
Now, right about here, she paused and pondered how best to continue.
"Because it would create more drag in the pool if they swam face-down?"
"Something like that," she said.
Overall, though, swimmers come in all shapes, Hogshead-Makar said. Their
breasts don't get smaller from working out (they're made of breast tissue and
fatty tissue, so getting leaner won't necessarily "spot-reduce" them).
As well, larger shoulders from weight-training can create the illusion of
smaller breasts on a female swimmer, she said.
While it's true that too much training can stunt a young swimmer's growth and
even slow puberty, it hinders performance overall, so trainers try not to
And even though a sleeker body can be better aerodynamically, that doesn't
mean only small-breasted women swim.
"There are a lot of 'normal'-looking top female swimmers, but our culture has
become used to thinking that 'normal' women have big breasts, from TV and
magazines. So when they see a normal woman swimming, they might think she has
small breasts," Hogshead-Makar said.
"It used to be that there was nothing embarrassing about looking average."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information. For Dare to Ask podcasts, go to
Jacksonville.com keyword: milano.