For Women's History Month, Leo Larkin pinches out a few details about one of our favorite things: nipples. Why does the media fear them so much? Where did all this nipple shaming come from? Fetish.com gets topless to reveal a bit of history about this tender subject.

 

 

What's the Deal, no Really?

 

It's been gradually creeping into the headlines over the last few years: nipple-shaming. Whether it's tennis fans on Twitter calling out Serena Williams when her nipples showed through her uniform or the media obsessing every time a star pops out of a scanty costume, the message is clear: society wants you to come as close as possible to showing your nipples, but never actually show them. And if you do, heaven help you. There'll always be someone out there to claim that your nipples are too big, too small, the wrong colour, a funny shape, or anything else you can think of. That's if you're a woman, of course. While people might make the odd “witty” comment about male nipples, most of our attention is fixated on women.

 

 

All of this fixation on nipples might, of course, be because we see them so rarely. Although topless activists and breastfeeding advocates are trying to change this, there still seems to be a more-or-less culture-wide Western understanding that women's nipples, like genitals, are private. This despite surveys that pretty consistently show that most people think women should have the right to go topless if they want to.

 

But despite how common this view is, it would be a mistake to think of it as just natural or normal. We sometimes tend to assume that our society's views on what is and isn't sexual are widespread. “Nipples are private,” we think. “Well, of course, they are!” But there's no “of course” about it. Throughout history – and in many parts of the world today – female toplessness has been pretty commonplace.

 

 

Topless women running through your history class...

 

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Art from the Bronze Age Minoan culture often depicts women wearing elaborate dresses that leave their breasts completely exposed. Nakedness seems to have been common in ancient Egypt, especially for younger or lower-status people. By the time of Classical culture, however, this seems to have changed. Public nudity for men seems to have been relatively common in ancient Greece, for instance, but it was rare for women. Depictions of bare breasts in art were common, of course, but the real thing was becoming taboo. There were periods when the rule was more or less strict, of course. Some medieval fashions seem to have involved bare or nearly bare breasts.

 

That's in the Mediterranean region, of course – northern Europe, in general, seems to have come around to the keep-'em-covered view early on, presumably because it can get quite chilly. Mind you, we know that can't be the only reason. There were Native American nations living in regions that get quite cold in the winter whose traditional summer dress still featured female toplessness. The picture is more or less the same as you go around the world. In many African cultures, in the Pacific, in Australia and elsewhere, bare breasts are common. The idea of shaming someone for a nip-slip kind of goes out the window when everyone walks around topless all day.

 

 

Perfectly normally weird

 

The main point here is that nipple-shaming as a concept is not only, as everyone points out, trivial, censorious policing of women's bodies. It's also a strange cultural outlier if you look at the world and human history as a whole. Like a lot of things that seem perfectly normal, it's actually pretty weird if you think about it. If we can encourage everyone who feels the urge to lose their minds when they see a celebrity nipple poking out to stop and have a think about how strange what they're doing is, we could do a lot of good both for historical education and for popular culture.

 

 

Have your own thoughts about nipples or body shaming? Let us know in the comments below or start a thread in the forum!

 

First time on Fetish.com? Why not dive a little deeper? Membership is free!

 

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Images ketrin 1407 & Erika Lust


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