Once you stop giggling or fuming in outrage at the title of this article… let’s talk about nipples.
Recently I indulged in a conversation about nipple censorship on Facebook and realized that I was a lot more invested in the concept than I realized. There were basically two angles that were primarily represented in the conversation.
One side wanted to promote the idea that a woman’s nipple and a man’s nipple are the same thing and that to allow men’s nipples to be bare and on display (publicly, on social media sites and in general media) while denying a woman’s nipple to be displayed the same way is a sexist and discriminating practice.
The other side wanted to promote the idea that there is no reason we should be promoting more nudity of any kind and that women’s nipples are just more sexualized than a man’s nipple.
For clarity, in actuality a woman’s nipple is a loose description for the way people perceive and apply this censorship. Often times it includes the areola as well. That point is further proven by the fact that this scientific term to describe this area of human anatomy isn’t even acknowledged in my spell checking software.
For years we’ve seen a steady movement towards showing more and more of a woman’s skin in general. In print and video media of all kinds ranging from fashion to entertainment we have seen more of the female birthday suit as the years have gone by.
From what I can tell there are two things happening here that we should be talking about. Firstly, is the fact that a moral argument is a ridiculous one. There is no moral issue revolving around nudity itself. It’s the USE of nudity that bears the moral cross here, not the naked human form. Why? Because every human being is naturally a naked creature and so really there’s no natural reason not to accept nudity as being a human thing. The real moral issue is how that nudity is framed and used.
From what I can tell, the female form has become the primary sales tool of the western world. The moral implications of this are absolutely astounding and pervade almost every form of our media and entertainment. So, when we see that extra skin showing on the screen, because we are so readily deprived of the naked image, it’s stimulating. The use of that stimulation has been bottled up and sold back to us by the very same structures that have created the unnatural obsession with it in the first place. To be honest, the moral argument that it is taboo to see a woman naked in general has created the obsession. There’s the “moral quandry” we’redealing with.
Growing up as a young man it’s taken me YEARS to overcome the hyper-sexualization of the female form and… if I’m being honest… the work continues to this day. My very biology is designed to procreate. When I am denied the opportunity to cope with that fact by hiding and tucking it away, or even worse by making it a moral crime, it’s no wonder I have a strong reaction to it when that biological queue is finally given an avenue to express itself.
So why keep a woman’s nipple hidden? Simple. It’s the last bit of censorship that keeps those who view women in a sexual way (both hetero and homo erotic) craving more than what they have because they are denied the full monty. Then, that stimulation is used to sell me things. That’s a greater moral crime if you ask me.
The second issue is the idea that the female form, in it’s complete and whole version, has been twisted into a sexual object. By denying access to see it and see it as normal while simultaneously relegating it to a purely sexual “thing” or “image” means that it has been objectified solely for such purpose. One of the Facebook posters I was talking to actually said, “Naked boobs are porn. If you want to see them go watch porn.” to which I replied, “That’s exactly the problem… you have been convinced that seeing a woman’s breast is automatically pornographic.”
If we plan to do away with bad behavior that relates to sexuality then we have one heck of a lot of soul searching to do as a culture. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. If we want to wield the inseparable biological powers of sex in order to hold moral, religious and financial authority and influence over one another then we will continue to experience all the illnesses it creates.
Rape Culture, slut shaming, female objectification and self esteem issues are all suckling from the teet of this irresponsible kind of practice (see what I did there?). The idea that a woman should ever have to feel like her body, naked or clothed, gives men or other women a right to touch or violate her is a sickness and nothing more.
In the end… the only thing that makes a woman’s entire body so overtly sexual is our obsession with agreeing to believe it is. The moment we relinquish that belief is the same moment we will begin to heal the divide between men and women.
Let me also be clear that this is NOT about me advocating that we should suddenly be ignoring socially appropriate context for nudity. I’m not saying let’s bombard the media and other outlets with naked women or flagrant nipple exebitionism. What I am saying is maybe the beach wouldn’t fall into the pits of hell if it observed the same clothing options/requirements for all genders.
Yeah, the transition may be uncomfortable. It may be shocking to some to see a woman bare chested on a beach, a basketball court, an exercise center or any other multitude of places we already endure the presence of the bare male chest. These are growing pains. This is simply part of the process of becoming better partners in our own species. True equality sometimes requires some serious effort and inconveniences though doesn’t it?