I don't think we realize how conservative and puritanical our viewpoints as Americans are (since most of us are, though I recognize not everyone who uses this board is an American).
The post that got me was Lippy's link to the question on Slate. I do not begin to pretend to know the people in the story, however I can imagine a scenario where it was not so much the extended breast feeding and the so-called child-led "fondling," that has made this adult feel uncomfortable with actions she did as a child, but the culture she lives in that is repulsed by it. I say this, because, never once did she say she was uncomfortable as a child and she also points out her mother allowed her to do this -- she did not say her mother "encouraged" or any other stronger language.
I just want to say, that the majority of people have found they are on the wrong side of history decades later when we deem something "unnatural" or "revolting." Perhaps as the science continues to push the boundaries, we will see that a five year old at his mother's breast is not arousing him anymore than it is arousing her. Then a 5 year old may be just a tip of the ice berg for how old children are still breast-feeding. There are any number of families from all walks of life who were more or less open with each other -- someone in one of these threads posted about extended co-sleeping causing trauma. Ok, that doesn't mean that extending co-sleeping causes everyone trauma. Yes, we are talking about children who are basically (and at some points) totally defenseless. If I thought for a second that the majority of these women and families were harming these children I would be passionate to stop it. However, just for one minute, consider it may not be what is internally happening or what is happening within the family that causes trauma, but an external reaction to it. Plenty of people are deemed sexual deviants, whether or not their desires and actions have any sexual impulse at all.
It is not our breasts' fault that they have been hyper-sexualized. Nor is it our child's fault. As many women have said, breast feeding is not sexual. I don't think it becomes sexual the longer you breast feed your child. Yes, we are all sexual beings. But that does not mean we are all sexual all of the time. I am sorry that as a culture we are so concerned with not breaking taboos, that when we do it cause such intense guilt and destruction of self.
Here's the rub -- taboos, like culture and society, change. Slowly, but they change. Science begins to push the boundaries, then the arts explore these new realms of possibility, and finally it comes to pop-culture and social outliers, and then after a while it becomes main stream.
Historically, as Hadley said on another thread, extended breast feeding with older children was the norm. And co-sleeping! A few hundred years ago you wouldn't have ever stopped that! So, I once again say, perhaps it is not the action, but the reaction that can cause trauma.
I will not condemn the majority of women who are capable of making safe, wonderful choices for their families, because of a few outliers who may be hurting their children. I honestly believe it is not the action, but the intentions that hurt children in those situations.
So Zen, what age isn't OK? I don't think there is an answer. In some circles, any breast feeding is taboo, in others not breast feeding until at least 1 is taboo, some cultures wouldn't question a 5 year old at his mother's breast . . . and so on and so forth. But that's what I believe it is, a taboo. There is no black and white here.
I am glad this discussion was brought up, because I think the disgust that people felt has caused them to question their own thoughts and look deeper into this issue. When the topic concerns women, women's bodies, and the control of conforming, I can't imagine it becoming anything but personal.
Sorry this is so long.
Lucky Cycle 14: IVF!! Antagonist Cycle with Lupron Trigger