Jul 062015 21 Responses

There is No Need to #FreeTheNipple

Do I really have to explain this? Sadly, in today’s culture the answer is yes. There is a difference between the nipples of a woman and the nipples of a man. It’s not sexist. Women are not being held back because of it. There is no great battle to fight in order to free the nipple.

In our society, men can walk around without a shirt while women should wear one. This is not disrespectful to women. Changing our societal norm to allow topless women to roam the streets will not liberate women.

The latest buzz on social media is a campaign labeled #FreeTheNipple. While Facebook and Instagram have appropriately censored photos showing bare-breasted women, a group is fighting back. Believing the censorship of female nipples is sexist and unnecessary, a group is encouraging users to photoshop male nipples on pictures of topless women. Their hope is to point out what they believe to be a hypocritical understanding that female nipples should be covered in public while male nipples can be freely seen. (See: What Your Husband Wants from You in Bed)

Their belief is that since we all have nipples, every nipple is the same. Why should one gender cover their nipples while the other is free to let theirs get a tan? They believe it is unfair and they want the social custom changed.

While it is true that everyone has nipples, it is not true that ever nipple is equal. As we all know, there is a difference between the female breast and the male breast. One is deeply connected with sexuality and attraction, the other is not.

Comedians know this. More than one comic has caricatured the average man as simply wanting “to have a beer and see a boob.” I’ve never heard a funny joke about a woman simply wanting to “have a pint and see a pec.”

Advertisers know this. While a ripped male body might sell products, the average male nipple cannot. However, even the most average woman can use her breasts to draw attention.

Children know this. If my 7-year-old accidentally sees his sister without her shirt on, he knows he has seen something he shouldn’t have. I haven’t told him it is wrong, he simply knows it. Hers aren’t like his and to see hers is a violation of her privacy. (See: Silas on the Sybil War, Col. Sanders, and Peeing Crooked)

Female breasts/nipples are not evil. They shouldn’t be the source of shame. They are a natural part of human life. Yet their normality doesn’t mean our culture’s tradition of covering them in public is wrong. It is right. It is a modest act which empowers a woman, enriches intimate relationships, and draws a clear boundary between our public and private lives.

Is it fair a man can go topless in public and a woman cannot? Maybe not. But it is life. I’ve never met a happily married couple who wishes the husband was not attracted to his wife’s breasts. Both husband and wife enjoy the attraction when expressed in a healthy way. If wearing a top in public is the downside to this aspect of healthy sexuality, it is worth it. (See: Top 5 Sex Posts of 2014)

I wonder if the #FreeTheNipple campaign might not reveal two problems within our society.

1. Some wrongly believe that admitting differences between the sexes communicates inequality. It does not. Men and women are equal, but we are different. We were created with different strengths. We were created in different ways. Our bodies are not the same. When we deny these differences, we do so at our own detriment. Moving toward a genderless society is not the answer to the decades of sexism many women have seen. Denying their intelligence, strength, wisdom, and beauty is not the way to make them equal with men.

2. While male and female nipples might be similar, male and female breasts are not. Maybe the #FreeTheNipple campaign is a result of our society exposing more breasts in public. Nipples might look the same, but breasts do not. However, it has become the norm to wear very revealing clothing in public. Instead of a #FreeTheNipple campaign, maybe we need to do a better job of concealing the breast in public.

As someone who regularly works with couples whose marriages are struggling, I can confidently say this: marriages would be strengthened if we put more clothes on in public and took more clothes off in private.

21 Responses to There is No Need to #FreeTheNipple
  1. Barbara Mamal Reply

    Brilliant. I recall having a breakfast with a couple friend who just had a baby. When the baby started crying, she quite simply popped out her boob and started feeding her baby. In front of my husband. I almost died. She looked at me and asked if she HAD go to the toilet and feed her baby there? And I said she didn’t have to do that, but she could use blanket or shawl to cover up.

    My poor husband was so embarrassed he got up and left. And we’ve never had breakfast with them again.

    We are different. And I hate this idea that women need to be like men – have you ever noticed in the movies how the women all fight like men. A tiny petite woman can take on a big, fighting man and take him down using kicking and punching moves that most men wouldn’t be able to pull off? Since when???

    It actually annoys me this idea of morphing women into men – we’re not. We’re still equal, and we’re still wonderful, but God made us different. He made us women, He made us feminine, He made us to be modest and respectful. And I would like to see that kind of equality celebrated!

    Thank you for an insightful piece.

  2. Ada Reply

    I think when it comes to breastfeeding, perhaps the situation is a bit different. That is the biological function of the breast that God intended. Now, I chose to use a blanket or strategically positioned clothing, but that was my choice. I worry that a woman might choose to forego breastfeeding due to social pressure to be proper – or would feel she must hide to feed her child.
    Perhaps I am mistaken, but I did not get the impression this was the intent of Kevin’s post. I personally feel breastfeeding is extremely feminine and it isn’t necessary to hide it.

    Ada

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I agree Ada. I think breastfeeding in public is fine, but I understand this wasn’t the norm in the past so some might not feel as comfortable around it.

  3. Kristopher Reply

    Although I agree wholeheartedly with your point of view in our time and cultural context, do you believe this applies across all cultures from all time? Signed a loyal National Geographic subscriber.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I would say this applies to our day and our culture. I wouldn’t be willing to confidently speak into other cultures.

  4. Kenodo Reply

    What about gay men, sir? Should they be covering their nipples because men find it sexually appealing? Your arguments are way off and don’t apply to freedom culture.

  5. kathy Reply

    These are first world problems. Women have been shamed for breastfeeding in public and they are simply retaliating. It feels like some form of oppression to force a woman to feed her child in bathroom stalls (SMH). In my country, women are allowed to breastfeed wherever and whenever and nobody can say a thing about it. it is normal to see a woman walking, and when the child cries, she removes her boobs, feeds the child and goes on her way. You will never hear protests here about women insisting on walking topless :D. We do not need to because we have nothing to prove.

  6. kathy Reply

    To Barbara Manel

    The problem was with you and your husband, not your ‘friend’. It is a good thing you took yourselves out of her life. If I were you, I would be mad at my husband for leaving. I am married with three children. My husband is sexually attracted to me. However, he has admitted that he is not usually sexually aroused when he sees me breastfeeding because he knows what the purpose at the time is. Why would he be embarrassed when a woman he does not know is breastfeeding her child? Good for her for not bowing to societal pressure. And good for her because the trash obviously took itself out.

    • Barbara Mamal Reply

      Dear Kathy,
      I do not want to see another women’s breasts! Full stop. I too have breastfed my daughter, and often in public using a small towel or blanket to cover up. I have no idea why there is this need to bare all in front of others simply to be able to bare it all. While I am very glad for you that your husband is not sexually attracted to you while you were breastfeeding, and while I am sure that most men are not, a boob is still a boob. And I do not want to see it. This couple – that you seem to know so well – is also into swinging, partner swapping, and a whole host of other things that is quite simply not the kind of lifestyle that we want to be involved in. The boob display and nipple baring was simply the cherry on top. Thank you, though, for your judgement of me (I so love it when someone over the internet calls someone else trash, simply because they have a difference of opinion.) Your situation is your situation, and I will stick to not wanting to see any breasts at all. We are women of God, and God has called us to be modest. And that is what I feel comfortable with – with or without your approval. Thank you.

  7. Jesse Reply

    Just because you cite many people who ‘know its wrong’ to see a woman’s breast doesn’t mean it SHOULD be wrong. People view seeing a woman’s breast as ‘wrong’ because they never see it. Your 7 year old thinks seeing his sister’s boob is wrong because you taught him it is!

    You’re right, moving toward a genderless society isn’t the answer. The sexes should embrace their differences. Completely true! But, why do the differences in breasts have to be a distinction between the sexes? A heavier man shirtless has just as much breast as a woman who is shirtless, but society doesn’t consider it to be wrong for him to be topless, breasts hanging loose, whereas a woman would be considered trashy.

    We certainly can embrace the caring nature of females and the physical ability of males, but not everyone has to follow that norm.

    You’re wrong by saying that covering a boob empowers a woman. By claiming that covering a female breast makes them powerful implies that showing the breast makes them weak. This means that a natural part of a woman’s body is a weakness. A breast, having the same parts on a man as on a woman, is only a weakness on a woman’s body. So when naked, a man’s breast is healthy and normal, and a woman’s breast is debillitating. No woman should ever feel that her body weakens her, okay? Because if her female body weakens her, then that means she is weak for being female.

    Your point about marriages might be true to YOU, but don’t generalize all marriages. For some, covering up might increase the intimacy. True, but what about those who are in love with a woman’s body confidence? What about the couples who don’t want to cover up on a hot day? And, if your wife feels like its intimate to cover up and reveal in the bedroom, she completely has the choice to do that! How about you let women have a CHOICE about what their breasts mean to them, instead of generalizing them all in a way that makes YOUR marriage better for YOU?

    In other words, I’m deeply sorry if our comfort and equality is getting in the way of your nipple fetish.

    And your wrong about a boob not holding people back: Feeling like its wrong to show your body makes you feel shame, and it makes you feel like YOU are wrong. Plus, sports bras can be surprisingly warm when jogging, make sweat build up, and are expensive. A woman with small breasts might wanna jog topless to save cash and beat the heat.

    A boob isn’t offensive. It is not a genital, it is hardly different on a man than on a woman. Remember that just because something has been accepted for a long time, doesn’t mean its right. Think about history; if we all continued to allow things to happen without trying to change them, our society would never progress.

    In all honesty, this isn’t a huge leap nor is it a big deal. NYC legalized topless women. Why not just uncensor it? Nobody should be so opposed to a woman’s freedom of choice to show or not show her body. And if that makes you uncomfortable, well, I’m sorry but that’s your problem.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thank you for the thoughtful reply. Are you saying a woman should have a right to show her whole body in public? It seems to me the logic used to free the nipple could easily be applied to free the vagina or penis. Can we agree that is a bad idea?

    • Lauren Reply

      I completely agree with you, Jesse. A women should not be told what she can and can’t do with her body. If she wants to go topless, just like a man, she should be allowed to do this wothout being sexualized for her body. This being said, a male and female nipple are made up of the same anatomy, the reason that a female nipple is sexualized is because it’s what we as a society have been taught to believe, not because it’s true. If women were to walk around without a top it would become normal and no longer be sexualized. This happened exactly with men in the 1920’s-1930’s, during this time it was also not socially exceptable for men to go out in public without a shirt on. Just because it is what we are used to, does not mean it’s right. This has been shown many times in history, at one point slavery was okay and the segregation of races existed. These things have been shown to be wrong. Not all traditions are right, If we do not make a change we will not progress. It is time to give women the freedom to their own bodies. #freethenipple

  8. Mrs. T Reply

    I agree with Barbara. God does call us to be modest. Breastfeeding should be done privately, with a towel or blanket. I guess this is similar to wishing people would not smoke in public. I don’t want myself or my family to be forced to take in second-hand smoke just to enter a grocery store. Likewise, I don’t want myself or my family to take in the sight of another woman’s breast. I view both as unhealthy. One is linked to SIDS and lung cancer, the other to pornography addiction and failing marriages. Even if your family is not “at risk” for those things, why would you be so uncaring as to expose someone else in our world who is “at risk”?

    • Kay Reply

      Comparing witnessing the feeding of a baby (necessary to life) to second-hand smoke (harmful to life) is highly offensive and completely unacceptable. Please do not use this analogy again.

      I am not at all a proponent of the free the nipple movement, but breastfeeding is entirely different. To lump it in with this movement as these commenters have done (not Kevin) is appalling. The primary biological function of the breast is its mammary function, to feed, as it is necessary for the continuation of our species. The sexual function is secondary and is superfluous (though very enjoyable). In the same way, the mouth’s primary biological function is to eat, but it has a secondary sexual function. We do not cover our mouths to eat, and neither should it be necessary to cover our breasts to feed. There is nothing sexual about feeding a baby, just as there is nothing sexual about eating your dinner with the same mouth you use to perform oral sex. Breastfeeding can be done discreetly without being covered. I am disappointed that I can breastfeed freely in public places and non-Christians don’t bat an eye, but when I tried to breastfeed in the church *nursery* I was told to go to the bathroom because the children don’t need to see that. Um, what? What has changed in our culture that the Sistene Chapel and countless cathedrals throughout history have celebrated the human body but is now considered pornography.

      Only first world countries where porn and formula are freely available view the breast in this way. We are an anomaly in comparison with the rest of the world, and unfortunately this pornified view of breastfeeding is an area where we have strayed far from God’s good design. As the woman in the crowd declared to Jesus, “Blessed [are] the breasts at which you nursed.”

  9. […] Someone commented on one of my posts that I was “creating a rape culture” simply because... kevinathompson.com/political-correctness-what-donald-trump-doesnt-understand
  10. Ace Reply

    It has been stated in response to Jesse’s reply that their logic can be used for exposing the genitalia. However that is not the case, here. I don’t believe I should have to remind anyone that the genitalia of both sexes are to be legally covered for the sake of personal and public sexual safety and hygiene. Once again, this should be apparent.

    Female breasts, on the other hand, are anatomically structured no different than a male’s. Each is comprised of the same components. The only difference comes with hormones related to bodily maturity, specifically (in females) estrone, estradiol, and estriol (which are collectively called estrogen) as well as progesterone, prolactin, growth hormones, and several others. Both males and females have nipples that can be stimulated by touch, mammary glands, and breast tissue. However, it is only the addition of primarily female hormones during puberty and pregnancy that contributes to the growth and differentiation of female breasts from males’. Receptors located in the cells of breast tissues are stimulated by the presence of increased estrogen and as a result, the breast tissues expand and grow. The maturation (enlargement, growth) of female breasts is merely a natural phenomenon brought on by hormones and could be replicated in males with correct hormonal interference. This makes female breasts, by definition, a secondary sex characteristic just like a male’s facial hair or adam’s apple. The female breasts are no more related to sex (or anything one might deem taboo for that matter) than a male’s are.

    Breasts and nipples of either sex are not threatening to the public or private hygiene or safety of any individual. They are not sexual in any way and should not be seen as sexual objects. Nipples can definitely be stimulated in a pleasurable manner, but that fact holds true for both male and females. Even then, the pleasure is not inherently sexual as it is merely physical. Other body parts that can receive the same method of stimulation include the hands, wrists, lower back, neck, shoulders, behind the ears, inner thighs, and the waist.

    Kevin, your idea that keeping a female’s breasts (including nipples) covered can strengthen the level of attraction between partners is an interesting conclusion and can hold true in many situations. By keeping away what someone wants or is made to want, the human body succumbs to a rather primal instinct of wanting that which is unattainable even more intensely than it would have originally. However, this mode of conjuring attraction is not a guaranteed failsafe for increasing sexual attraction for everybody. For some it will work, for some it will not. However, by keeping it illegal for female breasts (an evolutionaly secondary sex characteristic who’s purpose is not sexual and rather designed for the natural, harmless process of feeding offspring) to be exposed publicly, females are being led into the idea that their breasts are something taboo or to be ashamed of if not covered up and that they cannot publicly live free from any discomfort, physically or otherwise, related to the perceiving of their chests.

    In conclusion, there really is no valid reason still standing as to why female breasts/nipples should be covered/censored where males’ are not. And, having laws in place that inhibit people from letting this natural part of their body show and become normalized allowed the part to sexualized and made to seem taboo, causing a lot less benefits in today’s society and a lot more harm. As our society is progressing we are able to take a deeper and more analytical approach into issues like this to really see if old traditions are worth keeping up.

    Thank you for taking the time and reading this comment about the #FreetheNipple campaign.

  11. Latrece Reply

    I agree that a woman should not be able to bare her breast in public. It is very inconsiderate to others. There is a huge difference between the male breast and the female breast woman are easily stimulated by having their breast touched. Your breast are only intended for your husband to see I wouldn’t want to be walking around with my husband and woman are walking around with their breast exposed. Woman need to understand we are not men, we are not designed to do everything that a man does, That is the problem that we are having with men today, woman are constantly complaining about equality having the same rights as men, that’s why we can’t get men to hold doors for us, pull out chairs for us, carry our boxes for us, or change our flat tires anymore, think about having the same rights as men the next time you need some furniture moved and you can’t find a man to do it. Move it yourself.

    • Kate Reply

      Well I am sorry that these two jelly lumps offend you. A woman’s body is just for her husband? Really I thought it was her’s?

      A woman can do everything that a man does saying otherwise is discrimination. If a woman needs something done then why should she rely on a man to do it? I think that women are perfectly capable of opening doors, sitting on chairs, carrying boxes and looking after their own cars. So the next time I want some furniture moved I will do it myself and if I can’t then I will get one of my friends to help, the closest one, whether they have a penis or a vagina.

  12. James Jeffries Reply

    This is ridiculous. Your conclusions are all based on custom. Custom is not a justification for anything, merely an explanation. Otherwise we could all start raping and murdering each other again and you’d say “well, it’s the custom, so why should we stop?”.

    Men and women are inherently equal because there are men with less testosterone and more progesterone than some women. The outliers of the trend in biological configuration mean that no rules can be defined. There is no difference between male and female nipples, and your contention “obviously we can see a difference”, is anti-intellectual and absurd.

    Some men have bigger breasts than women as well, and many people find male nipples erotically enticing as well. The trend to specialize female nipples more is also a custom, nothing more. Men are even able to lactate under certain circumstances as well, so your argument is completely ridiculous.

    Go ahead and say what you want, but society is changing for the better and full gender equality and parity will be achieved soon enough.

    Ignorant fools like you will always exist, but your voices are getting less and less respected and heard.

  13. Kay Reply

    In the Song of Solomon, it is very apparent that the woman’s breast is not just for breast feeding, or is no different than a mans. When scripture points out that a “wife’s” breast should satisfy the husband always and no other female breast should have that satisfaction. To me, it is very clear that breasts on a female are different than breasts on a man.

  14. None of your business Reply

    Did you know that men are allowed to go shirtless in public after 1930? If we have a right to go shirtless, then shouldn’t women have the right as well. If you think breasts are sexual, then you’re part of the problem.

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