In my Feminist Theory course this past Spring we touched on the topic of Lactivists, or women advocates of the right to breast-feed in public. Breastfeeding in the USA is societally oppressed, and the reason often given is that it is indecent to expose a sexual body part in public. The act of feeding the baby is seen as uncomfortable, unappetizing, disgusting, even.
I think the fact that the breast is sexualized is not the root of the concern. I think its sexualization is an effect of a deeper trigger: that it's primitive. We like to think we're modernized--independent and in total control of our bodies. It's obvious in the common suggestion, which even liberal Bill Maher gave in the February of 2010 issue of Elle, that a breastfeeding mother go in a bathroom: never mind that a tiny person is eating--would you do that in a restroom?--but for the same reason we don't like poop, we don't like breastfeeding. It's one of those unshakeable bodily functions that reminds us that we are human, which reaminds us we are animals; and we don't like to think we are animals (just ask the "Intelligent Design" advocates). After all, in the same thread, when animals make babies, they reproduce, but when we humans do the act meant for reproduction we call it "making love" or "having sex." Anything to separate these animal acts from their origins and attempt to remove humans from the Animal Kingdom. The sexualization of the breast is a side-effect of our denial of everything animalistic about humans because by making a breast into a sexual object we deny it has function and purpose. Sexualizing it takes it out of necessity and into the realm of things we can control and which separate us from other "species."