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I want boobs sometimes. There, I said it. I can’t be the first guy to admit this, though I imagine that most men who express such a desire do it in the confidence of a close and perhaps intoxicated friend (in other words, not on the Internet), and because of a possibly unfulfilled sexual need, the likes of which I am neither comfortable enough nor qualified enough to comment on.
For me, it’s not like that. It’s not sexual. I want breasts — by which I mean lady-breasts, not the muscle-y little man-boobs I already have — because I want to be able to make my child stop crying when absolutely nothing else will. At those moments when my daughter is screaming so violently that it sounds as if there is both a feral cat and a running garbage disposal in her tiny throat, I don’t always want to call for my wife or take the time to heat a bottle. In those ear-ringing, heart-wrenching moments, I want to be able to breastfeed my child.
As it turns out, I’m not alone here. Once upon a time, there was at least one other man in the modern world who wanted to be able to breastfeed his baby. And this man went even further into the land of taboo than I’m going. He didn’t just talk about wanting to breastfeed; he tried to do it. Enter the Milkman.
In 2009, a Swedish man named Rangar Bengtsson made headlines when he filmed himself using a breast pump because he wanted to see if he could produce milk for his baby. As Bengtsson said, “If it works, it could prove very important for men’s ability to get much closer to their children at an early stage.” Twenty six years old at the time, Bengtsson was an economics student at Stockholm University. He had started a blog called “The Milkman: One Drop at a Time.” He was committed to fastening a breast pump to his nipples every 3 hours, for 3 months. He was poised to make history. People freaked out.
Newscasters called Bengtsson’s experiment “sickening” and “unnatural.” Bloggers and YouTube junkies said he was a “clown,” a “pussy,” and worse. According to Magnus Talib, a reporter following the story for the Swedish news show Aschberg, “people were almost blinded with disgust.” Some people were in support of what the Milkman claimed he was trying to do for the cause of gender equity, sure, but countless others got their firm, starchy gender roles all bent out of shape.
I think this guy is great. If Rangar didn’t live so far away from Chicago, I’d take him out for a drink. We’d belly up to the bar, he’d make a joke by ordering a glass of milk from the bartender, and he would tell me that while his project was highly publicized, all he had really wanted was to do something kind for his wife. Breastfeeding is hard as hell, he’d say, and we’d agree that women are heroes for doing it, especially considering how breastfeeding is still so stigmatized in public spaces. Good for you for trying, I’d say. I don’t have the balls to do it. Or the breasts, he’d say. Or the hormones!
The Milkman failed. After 2-and-a-half months of pumping around the clock — sometimes even in the middle of his classes at the university — he hadn’t produced a single drop. He got people thinking though. Even the haters. If you ask me, even the bro-est of the Bros — those who puffed out their chests and dismissed his actions with hateful words — were shaken up by the Milkman. Most of these Dudes will never admit this. But at least one of these men, I’m sure, can see himself — in a small, secret corner of his heart: taking off his shirt, lifting his child to his nipple, and hoping for the latch.