Scientific Studies about Bra-Wearing Aside, Here's What Real Girls Think About Going Braless

The results of a 15-year French study are in: Wearing bras may actually make your breasts sag more. This has opened a whole can of internet worms: Jezebel accused the French scientist of being a pervert, men rejoiced, and people all over the world suddenly had a lot to say about nipples. The idea of a million braless women strutting their stuff on the street, especially during a cold front, is enough to garner major attention from everyone: the pervs and the prudes and the feminists and the voyeurs. But why isn't anyone concentrating on the most important question: What's best for your breasts' actual health?

The study focused on perkiness, which is an understandable concern in a world obsessed with aging, but let's be honest: It's pure aesthetics. The backlash has taken the form of new dialogues about the male gaze, but that's all sociology. As someone who would really prefer to live a long, healthy life without being sabotaged by my mammary glands, I have to ask: Where are the people studying the effect of bralessness on breast tissue, lymph nodes, and general breast health? There are plenty of crazy-looking websites claiming things like "lymphatic flow carries toxins out of your breasts," but I'm hard-pressed to find a legitimate study to either verify or disprove these claims.

Here's my non-scientific experiment with bra-burning: The summer heat and humidity has been killing me, and my breasts have been sore since May. Of course, hypochondriac that I am, I was sure I'd developed some sort of terrifying breast disease that was now coursing through my body like Greeks through the Trojan horse. I read about the French study, thought “Huh—it is summer,” and threw my brassieres to the wind. One braless walk to the grocery store and the soreness was completely gone. In addition, I hadn't started any riots (my secrets: flowy tops, layering tanks, lightweight scarves). Lymphatic flow, anyone?

So, like the forward-thinking writer I am, with a background in high school biology and a semester of Intro to Neuroscience, I took to the streets to interview society's finest (aka my friends) about bras and bralessness. I present you with the following non-scientific anecdotes, and encourage you to conduct your own experimentation.

My friends responded in a number of ways. Many mentioned breast size as a major factor in the bra/less decision, whether large...

...or small:

For some, the decision to go braless was a liberating one that had nothing to do with perkiness or societal obligations and everything to do with personal comfort. And it mostly happens at bedtime:

As for sleeping in a bra, I did it for a very long time. I was told that if you sleep in a bra, your boobs won't sag with age. When I first decided to go braless at night, I thought I felt uncomfortable. Now, being braless at night is one of the highlights of my day. But if I have to leave my bedroom, I put on a sweater in fear of my housemates seeing my nipples.

But for many of my friends (and the female population in general, I'd venture to guess), it's impossible to separate the idea of bralessness from the idea of overwhelming public reaction:

And you know what? I think that's a completely valid way to feel. If you feel uncomfortable with the (somewhat shocking) braless look, don't force yourself to rock it under the guise of arbitrary "liberation" or whatever:

And yeah, it's hard to separate bras from their sexual connotations:

But mostly, it's an incredible way to get back in touch with your physicality:

As I read their responses, it became clear that no matter how much I want the question to be about health (what feels best? What's best for the body?), it never will be. It is about physical comfort versus social discomfort. It is about attracting others and nurturing yourself. And no matter how many institutions comment on the bra, they will always be intimately linked to a woman's body — your own. So until someone studies bra-wearing in a more seriously scientific capacity, it's just us and the girls.