There are certainly lots of good criticisms to be made about attachment parenting and probably lots of interesting things to say about the impacts of long-term breastfeeding on a marriage, but “Eew breastfeeding is gross” is not one of them.
As Amanda Marcotte points out, the problem here is the sexless marriage, not the breastfeeding. And the root of that problem seems to be that James Braly sees sex as something for men. As Amanda puts it:
“He frames sexual desire as something only men have, and sees women’s bodies as machines that serve the needs of men and/or children. The possibility that women could also be frustrated and unhappy when cut off from sex therefore doesn’t occur to him.”
This is probably where I diverge a little bit from some feminist writers, but I do think that in a long-term romantic/sexual relationship, ideally both people make a reasonable effort to meet their partner’s needs – including sexual needs. That doesn’t mean that one partner is obligated to have sex they don’t want, or that a woman’s breasts are shared property; it does mean that even if you have a child, your relationship with your partner needs care. It means making time for sex in a long-term relationship. It means being open to your partner’s sexual desires, and being open with yours. And it means being frustrated in a sexless marriage (or with extended co-sleeping or breastfeeding until the kid is five) doesn’t make you a bad person.
Unfortunately James Braly sounds like a total dick, and I feel bad for his wife, and he does kind of come across as a bad person with really disturbing views of sex and biology (I definitely would not want to be sleeping with someone who thought I was basically doing sex for him). But it would have been nice to see a decent take on the impact that attachment parenting can have on a marriage when it becomes a barrier to intimacy, or an article about how attachment parenting very much feeds into traditional ideals about women existing to serve and sacrifice for their children, or a piece on how sharing a bed with a kid until the kid is in third grade really puts the kabosh on sexytimes. That wasn’t this piece. This piece was James Braly whining about boobies. And his complaints and his presentation were terrible, but there’s a little nugget of truth buried somewhere deep in there.
Are a woman’s breasts hers? Yes, of course. Are they sometimes for feeding babies? Yes, of course. But they’re also sexual and often an integral part of a couple’s sex life. Breastfeeding for five years can be a real issue; denying that isn’t particularly helpful. And the comeback always seems to be, “But breasts aren’t for my husband! My breasts are mine! They’re for feeding a baby!” But well, yes, of course, but also no. Breasts are yours – they’re also for your own sexual pleasure, among many other purposes. And they can be for feeding your baby. But breasts-as-sexual doesn’t have to be a male-centered, male-serving thing.