The Happy Trail

What is the deal with nipples?

A #freethenipple proponent — Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“Nipples are a vestige of our early, gender-bending days in the womb,” LiveScience says. (If you want to know why I think LiveScience is problematic, keep reading.) So yes, the majority of humans are born with nipples, but, in America, what you look like or pass as determines if you can show your nips in physical and digital public spaces.

It wasn’t always this way in the United States, and at the beginning of the 20th century, mens’ nipples were considered to be just as “taboo” as women’s. It wasn’t until 1935 when a parade of shirtless patriarchy took to the streets of Atlantic City and demanded their right to walk around bare-chested when the nipples of cis men were free.

Fast forward to the beginning of the 21st century and the beginning of #freethenipple. This movement began as a way to humorously respond to gender inequality, while also highlighting serious differences in the ways the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Motion Picture Association of America police female breasts and perpetuate the gender binary onto bodies.

Social media platforms like Instagram, for example, prohibit “photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed.” So, this essentially means Instagram is sexualizing people they believe to be women with breasts, who are not mothers. Instagram thinks that large breasts automatically make someone female. I hate to break it to Instagram, but simply because we are out of the womb does not mean gender is any less “bendy” than it was.

In fact, nipples should be all the proof America needs in order to realize that gender is a social construct! The majority of embryos initially form with nipples, and it is not until the Y chromosome forms that our reproductive organs begin to change and function differently.

Someone who really wants to hang onto the gender binary might say, “But Bennett! The difference in reproductive organs proves the binary is real!” To that I say, all nipples don’t look the same, all nipples don’t perform the same, but regardless all nipples are called nipples.

Nips, nips, nips! There are so many different kinds of nips! According to healthline.com, one person can have a variety of different nipples. They can be flat, protruding, inverted, bumpy, hairy, or there can even be a third nip hiding on the side.

So, some nipples look one way, some look that way, those nipples can get milk to come out of them while these nips over here can’t. Why can’t we use the same kind of language we use for our nipples the way we talk about what’s between our legs?

Porn can be super idealistic, y’all; it does’t all look the same. One vagina doesn’t look like all vaginas and the same goes for penises. According to medlineplus, “the urethral opening (where urine comes out) can be anywhere along, above or below the surface of the clitoris … and the urethral opening may be anywhere along, above or below the penis.”

We all pee and we all poop and we all have nipples. Life is complicated enough without Instagram and the FCC telling us where to cover up and what to subscribe to. It may be the popular belief that nipples are the last vestige of our gender-bendy days, but in reality, our entire body is a vestige for whenever and whatever we want it to be.

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