Public Breastfeeding Does NOT Equal Public Fornication

While I’m not what you’d call a lactivist, I’m very much in favour of protecting the rights of others.  A breastfeeding mom has a right to public breastfeeding that I don’t think anyone should attempt to infringe upon, regardless of someone else’s personal discomfort.  Fortunately, the government of Canada has made it illegal to even suggest to a breastfeeding mom that public breastfeeding is not allowed in a public establishment.  It falls under the category of “sex discrimination.”  Similar laws exist in various states in the U.S.

Last month, a BBC radio host compared public breastfeeding with having sex with his wife in public.

Um, really?


Public Breastfeeding Does NOT Equal Public Fornication (Cloth Diaper Addicts)This was this guy’s counter to how natural breastfeeding is.  His argument was that if breastfeeding is natural and can be done in public, and sex is also natural, then  sex in public should be fine, too.

It took me a while to be able to form a rational argument beyond “this guy is stupid.”

Since some people don’t seem to understand the difference between public breastfeeding and public fornication, I guess it’s time to explain it.

Everyone needs to eat.  Everyone.  Regardless of age, race, creed, or whatever other factor you can come up with.  If you don’t eat, you will eventually die.  The body simply cannot live without nourishment.  Breastfeeding is one method of feeding an infant.  (I’m not even touching the best/inferior debates.  There are thousands of other places for that one, and it invariably leads to someone feeling or being judged or criticized, and I’m just not particularly in the mood for that right now.)  The catch is, a breastfeeding mom may end up with a baby who will not eat any other way.  And really, pumping for breast milk just isn’t all that fun or convenient… especially when it’s being done for the sole purpose of shielding some close minded person from the sight of a breastfeeding mom feeding her baby.  If they don’t like it, there are plenty of other directions to look.  (And I say this as a person who doesn’t always feel comfortable around it and does choose to look somewhere else rather than suggesting that my discomfort trumps someone else’s right to feed her baby.)

But sex?  Well, the simple fact is, while sex may be positive, rewarding, enriching, fun, or whatever other adjective you choose to describe it, it is not necessary for life.  Sure, it might be natural, but you will not die if you don’t get to have sex whenever, wherever.  And if you’re adult enough to have sex, then you should be adult enough to be able to wait until you’re in an appropriate venue.  A baby is not an adult, and therefore has not learned that patience can be necessary.  That right there is one of the biggest differences between public breastfeeding and public fornication.

What do you think of the host’s views?

Originally posted on What to Expect on August 19, 2011.  Image credit: Carin Araujo.

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. Victoria says:

    I completely agree with you, how on earth can you compare breastfeeding and sex? They are nothing the same, and trust me there is nothing sexual about breastfeeding. If my baby is hungry I will feed him, I was told by my SIL that I should use a cover, I said well maybe she should cover her head when she eats as well. Covering my baby isn’t an option, he gets frustrated and hot therefore won’t feed and then screams, surely the 10 minutes it takes to feed him is less of a problem than a baby screaming because showing a bit of boob in public is too sexual.

    • Seriously. Even with my own discomfort around breastfeeding (which I’ve gotten past since originally writing this post), I’d rather “suffer the sight of boob” than listen to a screaming baby. After all, one can always turn one’s head to avoid a view… but that screaming just echoes.

      • Your agrument is strange? You say that if you don’t eat die… Well if you don’t excrete waste you die but you don’t just do it wherever because it’s something that everyone doesn’t want to see and it’s not sanitary. Yes your baby is hungry yes you should feed them, are they going to die if you wait 2-3 minutes to go someplace private? Why can’t you cover up when feeding the baby? Why cant you walk into another room? Why can’t you prepare a bottle before going in public? Everyone has the right to free speech but you can not just go up to someone and say curse words to them because that infringes on their rights. The same applies to ther things such as breast feeding. I believe that’s what the announcer was getting at he just went to extremes with sex.

        • Why should a baby have to eat under a blanket? Do you?

          And I’m going to guess that you’ve never pumped. It can be painful. It can be time consuming. It is far less efficient than baby at the breast.

          Your defecation argument is flawed: defecation is done away from the masses not just because of privacy, etc. Fecal matter contains bacteria that leads to disease. Breastfeeding does not.

  2. Anne Sweden says:

    Obviously, that radio host was not trying to make a rational argument. He has an obvious bias and wanted to ruffle some feathers. By equating feeding a child with public indecency, I think we can clearly understand what his opinion of nursing is.

  3. PS – Now following you via bloglovin and Pinterest. =0)

  4. It’s such a shame when entertainers use topics such as this as a way to get their audience going. The comparison is completely ridiculous and I’m sure he knew it. Unfortunately, many people feel this way and it could definitely deter a woman who is on the fence about breastfeeding in public or at all.

  5. I agree with you. The act of feeding a baby does not equal indecency!

  6. Wow that is INSANE. I agree with you, and I think Anne Sweden has a good’s clear he was just trying to make people angry.

  7. Ridiculous. I nurse in public where ever we are and really could care less what others say, think, look, or mumble under their breathe. People really need to change their view point on what we are currently subjecting to ourselves and children before we bash those who are doing what God intended us to do… provide for our children.

  8. People are ridiculous when it comes to breastfeeding in public. I just don’t get it. I personally covered up because I am a discrete person. I thankfully was never told to leave a place and if I would have been told to leave I would have stood up for my rights. I don’t get why people can’t accept that the breasts were created for breastfeeding not SEX.

  9. People are ridiculous. As you say, eating is required for everyone. Sex is not. What a goofball.

  10. Tiffany DeOs says:

    I agree!! Crazy! I can’t believe that guy said that. Maybe he would prefer to only eat at home or under a blanket or in the bathroom. Just sayin. 🙂

  11. I think they just mean that BF is private, like all other bodily functions, like sex and using the toilet. Being discreet is one thing, baring all to feed a toddler is another. But then, you extremists don’t understand that!

    • But BFing isn’t *like* all bodily functions. It’s EATING. If the rest of society ate in private, then I would be more inclined to agree with you. But we don’t.

      If anything, I’d say it’s extremism to expect everyone to feed their children to YOUR preference rather than doing it their own way.

  12. Karine Capobianco-Traverse says:

    People are insane! NY recently passed a law that women can go topless, wish all states would follow suit. Maybe then nursing in public will be more well received. IMO I actually love to see someone NIP and while I don’t directly stare as I know it may make the mother uncomfortable, I feel like despite not exclusively nursing that we share a bond.

  13. I wonder where his comment came from; his background and upbringing. I don’t understand how anyone can compare the two. I understand wanting to spark debate for his show, but that comment probably wasn’t the best choice. Especially given that someone had to apologize on is behalf.

  14. Cat @ TOTS says:

    Absurd! Thats all. I will feed my baby when it needs to eat, no matter where I am. Period.

  15. Candice Robertson says:

    When we figured out what many other cultures already know, that a breast is life giving rather than an object to oogle… only then will we be a civilized society. untill then… the hate and ridicule will continue.

  16. Would you be less ‘offended’ if we fed babies from our elbows? Breasts are not just for sexual pleasure – they are for food. People need to get over that.

  17. I’m very modest, so I’d try to find a private area to breastfeed (not a bathroom, though!) but that’s my choice. If a baby needs to eat, a baby needs to eat!

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