Has there ever been such a controversial body part as the nipple? Everyone has them, but while women’s nipples are considered by many to be a sexual body part that must be covered up at all times, men are allowed to go topless without facing censure. So what’s the deal with men’s nipples?
Unless you skipped your high school health class, of course, you know that the primary evolutionary function of nipples is breastfeeding. Cisgender men, however, don’t usually breastfeed.
So why do men even have nipples? Are they there just for decoration? Are they some sort of evolutionary mistake? Are male nipples a vestigial part that once served some kind of purpose? Should men just, you know, rip them off?
The truth is actually pretty straightforward. The reason everyone has nipples is that nipples begin forming in the womb before a Y chromosome is assigned. Further along in the development process, a male fetus’s Y chromosome kicks in and determines that the fetus will develop testes instead of breasts. By that point, the typical fetus already has nipples regardless of biological sex.
That’s not to say that male nipples are totally useless, though. The male nipple might not serve a biological function, but it can come in handy during foreplay. Nipples are typically sensitive across the gender spectrum and are considered to be an erogenous zone in all humans.
Yet for some reason it’s only women’s nipples that are subject to public censure. Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram have become notorious for flagging and removing pictures that reveal women’s nipples while allowing pictures of men’s nipples to remain posted.
It’s also illegal in many American states for women to be topless in public, and women are often shamed for breastfeeding in public even though public breastfeeding is legal in all fifty states.
It wasn’t always like this, though, because believe it or not, there was a time when the male nipple was equally scandalous and it wasn’t that long ago.
Yes, as recently as the early 20th century, preachers were warning of the sinful nature of the male nipple, saying they should be covered so as not to corrupt impressionable women and children. Heck, just saying it is kind of scandalous.
American men and boys were expected to keep their nipples covered up at all times, even on the beach. Not only did this mean that there was no way to get rid of a pesky farmer’s tan, it also got hot. Gradually, men began to protest being made to cover their upper halves, and in 1915, fifty men were arrested for topless sunbathing at Coney Island in New York!
It wouldn’t be until the 1930s, though, that things really began to change. In 1934, eight men were fined for going topless at Coney Island, with the judge saying,
“All of you fellows may be Adonises, but there are many people who object to seeing so much of the human body exposed.”
That same year, though, film idle Clark Gable shocked audiences by appearing topless in It Happened One Night, challenging how people viewed the male body. The revolution had begun: in 1935, 42 men were arrested in Atlantic City, New Jersey for going topless, and in 1937, New York saw the writing on the wall and finally lifted the ban on men going topless. The rest of the country quickly followed suit, and the male nipple was free and clear.
Today, of course, it’s commonplace to see topless men baring their nipples, but you’re far less likely to see a topless woman in public — even in places where it’s legal. Women going topless are still sometimes charged with violations ranging from public indecency to disturbing the peace, even if the local laws state that they have the right to walk around sans shirt.
This double standard has spurred movements like the Free the Nipple campaign that aim for male and female nipples to be treated equally. Lina Esco, the leader of the movement, told Yahoo
“There are so many laws against women’s bodies – there are so few laws against men’s bodies. This isn’t about the act of going topless – it’s paving the way for real conversation to happen, for equality.”
Hopefully one day the world will see nipples for what they truly are: a totally inoffensive body part that everyone has.
#MaleNipples #Nipples #Health