Modern Body Horror Is Turning Breastfeeding Into an Act of Terror

There’s a power dynamic at play here. Bogutskaya argued that the scene in “Infinity Pool” is about “female domination, not nurturing.” When James becomes, as Mia puts it, a “sucky baby,” he turns submissive and obedient. In “Barbarian,” similarly, AJ’s status is weakened, Davis said: “He’s been infantilized and his agency has been removed.”

Of course, totally natural breastfeeding can be met with horror, where public nursing is perceived as “largely abnormal in society,” Arnold said. In this sense, just representing breastfeeding in any form can be provocative. “Horror gives us something that other genres can’t: a sometimes dark, sometimes unpleasant take on emotions and experiences that are still too taboo to discuss openly,” Bogutskaya said. Arnold, however, was wary that in these films violent, unnatural representations have dangerous “staying power” and can affect how we see a natural act.

Whether breastfeeding is a source of horror isn’t just dependent on the director. It can be complicated for many mothers, too. “Having spent years breastfeeding my children, I’m sure I view it very differently than a man might,” Hudecki said. “For me it was a primal need to feed my child, it was a beautiful time of connection, and it was also an endless, often painful, prison of responsibility.”

It’s this mass of contradictory effects — the innocent, the infantile, the sexual, the healthy — that makes for such a fertile source of inspiration. In the end, the imagery forces us to confront the scariest thing of all: our own origins.

“These images remind us of that — that we have come from another’s body, that we have at some stage been viscerally connected to another,” Harrington said. “We like to think of ourselves as contained individuals. Our belly buttons say otherwise.”

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