The Great Cleavage Experiment: Is Boob Power Real?

R29SexShoot-Shot2-221_LaurenPersteinPhotographed by Lauren Perlstein.
"God was very generous with you," a Parisian friend once told me. Sadly, he wasn’t referring to my IQ or my ability to find a parking space. No, he was talking about my breasts — big and especially disproportionate to my five-foot frame. Since the day I fully bloomed, I’ve struggled to accept them, often resorting to guerrilla minimizing tactics: doubling up sports bras, duct-taping, and strapping on heavy chest armor.
When I started developing breasts, I never embraced them or felt excited by them like many other women do. I didn’t find anything amusing about men blatantly staring at my chest and mumbling crudely, and the feeling of vulnerability crushed me.
But, for science, I was willing to rethink the matter. I decided to find out how much power breasts really have. Am I neglecting an asset I could use to get everything I want in life? Let the tests begin.
Hypothesis: (Cup Size > AA) Breast x 2 + Cleavage = Power
A properly fitted bra
A sports bra/minimizer
A v-neck top or dress
A loose T-shirt
20 males (preferably strangers)
An expensive bar
A flat-chested girlfriend
Preparation: I desperately needed to update my lingerie collection, which consisted of hideously unsexy minimizers and old bras from ninth grade (a sign of wishful thinking that one day I’d wake up to a magically deflated chest). So, I headed up to Townshop, a quaint lingerie store on Manhattan’s Upper West Side specializing in the "art of fitting." The last time I checked my size I was a 36DD, but according to my bra fitter, Chauntelle, I was a 30F. Although Chauntelle swore that I wasn’t "big" ("we carry size K"), I was appalled. If you’ve never been professionally bra-fitted before, let me warn you: it may be an art, but it feels like an intense military operation, involving awkward physical positions and rough handling of intimate body parts.
"Bend over!" Chauntelle ordered.
Hesitating, I obeyed. She slipped on my bra over my hands and made sure my dangling boobs were within the perimeters of the cup before I stood straight again. Once I was straightened and harnessed, she continued her orders, but this time I felt like I was learning the Lindy Hop.
"Now shimmy to the left, and shimmy to the right, then do the finger slide," she instructed, jiggling her chest from side to side and sliding her index finger inside my bra from the cleavage point out. "Now give your sisters a little tap…and that’s how to properly put on a bra."
All the maneuvering was worth it. Hot damn! I thought, admiring my protruding cleavage. For the first time, my breasts weren’t squished into pancake shapes, looking instead like balls of plump, peach-colored cushion. There was something incredibly appealing about the supple curves of my chest, the soft bounce of them when I moved and the subtle crease in the middle.
"Can I show you off?" beamed Chauntelle, beckoning her co-workers in for a private peep show. They crowded in the stall, admiring my bust, and began oohing and aahing; I felt like a proud mother showing off her newborn twins.
Out on the street, however, I felt more like a platter of steaming doughnuts at a Weight Watchers meeting. Seriously, dudes, didn’t your mamas teach you not to stare? Under normal circumstances (when I’m not undercover in my lab coat), I rely on substantial qualities to seduce men, such as my impressive knowledge of nuclear-warfare theories or my ability to mimic Russian and Indian accents. Now attracting men — at least in one regard — seemed effortless.
Method: Now that I was properly outfitted, it was time to put my chest to the test. For my first experiment, I would ask unsuspecting male subjects to sign a fictitious and utterly ridiculous petition. The variable would be the amount of cleavage exposed during the signature collection.
Thanks to my friends and their drunken brainstorming, I found myself in busy Union Square promoting "The Banana Project," a made-up campaign to ban all human consumption of bananas simply because I "strongly believed" they belonged in mouths of monkeys. For round one, I layered myself in a minimizer and sports bra and then put on a loose workout T-shirt. Having thoroughly disguised my bust, I was ready to campaign.
Please note: if you’ve never petitioned for anything before, it takes a lot of balls. People don’t want to listen to you, and if you’re petitioning for something as ridiculous as "The Banana Project," they will laugh in your face. My armpits were shvitzing from nerves and public humiliation, as I became a target for all the sarcasm in Union Square:
"Countries that produce the fruit will suffer!"
"What am I supposed to eat?"
"Why bananas and not apples?"
"I don’t buy that. You’re really weird."
"How am I going to get my potassium?"
1R29SexShoot-Shot2-221_LaurenPersteinPhotographed by Lauren Perlstein.
I was able to get only two signatures from my first 10 subjects. One signed because "I don’t even like bananas, so whatever," and the other because he seemed to have some sympathy for neurotic New Yorkers. I wanted to hide beneath the shattered remains of my dignity and call it a night, figuring that as stupid, nonsensical, and unbelievable as the Banana Project was, even a naked Gisele probably couldn’t convince people to sign.
Wrong! I’m no Gisele, but trying again, with the cleavage in full effect, I received seven signatures in 10 attempts. It’s not like my boobs were spilling out of my shirt during round two, but they were definitely there, and I made sure to use them to their full advantage. The moment I heard a subject decline (gently, I might add), I would "accidentally" drop my pen ("oops!") and bend over just long enough to give him a peep of my delectable breasts. Upon straightening up, I’d inch closer and, with a subtle chest-thrust, continue, "Are you sure you don’t want to sign for this cause?"
My targets, most of them smiling at this point, seemed helpless.
"Well, okay…I mean, if you want me to sign it…"
I could barely believe it was that easy. I also didn’t feel like such an idiot during round two, because at least those who turned me down didn’t argue with me or treat me like I was off my rocker. The few who didn’t agree to sign assured me that they "respected" my mission and promised me they would definitely check out my "website" at, proceeding to text the address into their phones.
A good scientist knows one experiment is never enough, so I took the twins to the Flatiron Lounge, a pricey bar off of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d gone to a bar flaunting my cleavage, and I wanted to know if it would change the way men treated me. "Power" would be measured by how many free drinks I could get without asking, simply letting my chest do the work. For a control, I brought a friend of mine whose boobs, next to mine, looked like corn kernels.
Walking into the crowded bar, I was suddenly struck by my usual stage fright over mingling with strangers, especially of the opposite sex. Panicked, I pulled my friend back outside. "What am I supposed to do here? Just stand on display? I’m mortified," I moaned. She shrugged and lit a cigarette. I wanted to run away. Even the boob power within me didn’t feel strong enough to overcome my shyness.
"Excuse me — can I buy a cigarette off of you?" A voice snapped me out of my nervous thoughts. My cigarette-puffing friend looked at me quizzically, and I told the cute red-headed guy that I — obviously — didn’t have a cigarette. (Did he not see the 10 other smokestacks around him?)
"That’s okay," the guy said, giving me a head-to-toe eye-fuck. At this point my friend tossed her cigarette, rolled her eyes and ducked back into the bar. "If you don’t mind me saying," the guy continued without shifting his gaze, "you are one sexy girl."
"Thanks," I said, finding myself genuinely flattered by his directness. Feeling more confident I continued, "I was going to go back inside actually, I could use a drink."
"Let’s go, my treat," he said.
Yes please, I’ll have that $14 white cranberry Cosmopolitan…
One drink led to another and…my liver is paying the price, but at least I don’t have a dent in my pocket for a change. Calculating the drinks bought for me throughout the entire night, I estimate a total bill of $60. I don’t think I’ve spent that much at a bar since my 21st birthday.
I can’t give all the credit for my successful mooching spree to my rack. The redhead’s compliment reminded me of how sexy I’d felt in the Townshop fitting room. The memory of that moment instantly snapped me out of my shyness and self-doubt.
As to my A-cup friend?
"I got pretty drunk," she said. "But, that was my own fault. Only one guy bought me a drink… and it turns out he was gay."
Observation/results: Whether a man claims to prefer big butts, tight vaginas or manicured feet, one thing is undeniably true — a woman’s breasts will always remain an asset. For me, it was an empowering epiphany, and removed any lingering thoughts I had of getting breast-reduction surgery. I’m still bothered by the way staring men make me feel vulnerable, but now I feel more understanding than angry and disgusted. I mean, these days I can’t help checking out my own cleavage!
Embracing my breasts (not literally) and putting them out there (more literally) was a cathartic experience, ending a long phase of broken self-esteem and opening my eyes to genuine self-appreciation. And, honestly, I believe it was not just my cleavage but this newly burnished self-image, that so well-served my banana cause and desire to get drunk for free.
This post was authored by Bianca Merbaum.

More from Body


R29 Original Series