I saw a nipple.

| January 7, 2009 | 33 Replies

While walking to the Missouri State Court of Appeals today, I thought I saw a nipple.

Then I got closer . . . I DID!  I DID see a nipple!There it was, prominently displayed in a building housing a prestigious courthouse, a court run by the government of the “Show Me” state of Missouri!!

Now, that’s odd …  A prominent agency of my federal government (the FCC) is spending huge sums of money trying to punish a TV network for displaying a part of a nipple of Janet Jackson. My state government is simultaneously and shamelessly displaying that same forbidden body part.

These huge figures were once displayed on the top of a beautiful federal post office in downtown St. Louis.  Because they were starting to show significant weathering, they were recently brought inside the rehabbed building and replaced on the outside with cement replicas high up near the roof.

I know what you’re thinking.   These images are not really images of a nipple because “the nipple” is separated from us by a thin layer of chiseled clothing.  Fair enough, but then take a closer look at the other female figure.  Oh, my word!

Consider that these extra-large breasts are exposed in the vicinity of an appellate court, where solemn business needs to occur!  Talk about perverted justice.   Consider, further, that newly-created cement replica of this same group of statues has been placed up on the roof.  Someone in a helicopter might fly by and be exposed to those nipples!  This just can’t possibly be good for our country, right?

Please do me a favor: take a quick look at the following nipples and then let’s talk further:

What’s driving this rant is my frustration with American attitudes toward the totally innocent act of breast feeding and, for that matter, female breasts (see here, including a substantial comment regarding “terror management theory”). We are so incredibly ambivalent about female breasts!  Not the entire breast, mind you.  Just the areolas and nipples. Low-cut outfits that spare the areola/nipple are OK (illustrations here and here and here).

How can we possibly fix our nipple problem?  Can we just decide, one way or the other, whether breasts are good or bad?  If they are “good,” let’s just tell all of those who wring their hands at public breast feeding to go get a life.  Really and truly.  And if a woman shows up at a beach topless, big deal.  Do our women really need to wear mini-burkas on their chests while they have fun at the beach?  Don’t we have some real problems to worry about in this country?

Even the medical profession weighs in.  If female nipples and areolas were such a bad thing, would we have doctors specializing in offering world-class nipples and areolas?  If nipples were a good thing, why would we worry about correcting supernumerary nipples (these “milk lines” are a strong sign that we have descended, with modification).

Let’s please figure this out by taking a poll to end all of this stupidity. Then again, maybe we shouldn’t take that poll.  Actually, I’m afraid that more of us will vote that female nipples and areolas are bad, meaning that we’ll have to blindfold our breast-feeding babies so they don’t see that nipples that sustain them.  And our women-folk will have to shower and dress in the dark so that they don’t accidentally see their own nipples and areolas.  And if we vote that full breast exposure is bad, then our government will be obligated to spend vast sums to protect us all from further deleterious exposures.

Rather than voting on nipples, maybe we should do some careful science.  Maybe we should conduct a longitudinal study to see how those children who were exposed to female nipples and areolas have fared, emotionally, intellectually, socially.  We’ll check out those children as young adults and correlate their SAT scores with the extent to which they were exposed to female nipples.  If it turns out that female nipples and areolas are actually dangerous, we’ll need to establish a Federal Department of Nipple and Areola Security to protect Americans from seeing these body parts.  We’ll have to recruit special police officers to raid the homes of private Americans to make sure that women are not exposing themselves to their husbands and children.

Actually, I’m tired of being sarcastic.   This fuss about nipples and areolas is utterly (no, not udderly) ridiculous—stupid.   I don’t use that word much—STUPID.  But that’s what this is.  If a woman (or a man) displays an areola or nipple outside of a bathtub, let’s all take a deep breath and  maybe, just maybe, we can then see that it’s no big deal.  Sure, it would be a novelty for a while, and then it would be normal (with lots of lapses in conduct and judgment, just as there were following Prohibition).

Here’s an exercise for acclimating ourselves.   I designed this exercise myself.  Part I: Repeat after me:

nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple.

Part II: Google “nipple” and go look at some nipples for five minutes.   There.  Now, just maybe a nipple can be . . . a nipple.  The body part itself is merely a body part.

It occurs to me that we obsess about nipples because of our moral fragility.   Perhaps we think we need stark visual line for governing our conduct (the line bordering the areola) because we don’t have confidence in ourselves to behave in decent ways by applying common sense.

Maybe, just maybe, we can some day learn to do what sculptors and courthouses do:  we might learn to understand that areolas and nipples are beautiful, not shameful, not immoral, not dangerous to you or me or anyone, ever.  Good grief!   I agree with Olympic swimmer Sharron Davis, whose nipples were allegedly distracting: “”People are talking as if we don’t have nipples, for God’s sake,” says the past Olympic silver medalist, who presents the swimming and diving from the Athens aquatic centre. She added: “What’s the big deal?”

All of this makes me want to protest, but I don’t have female nipples with which to protest.  Regardless, how many more months until the next “Naked Bike Ride?”

Oh, and BTW, nipples aren’t just exposed by state government.   They show up in all KINDS of important public buildings, such as the halls of the Department of Justice, where nipples and areolas once haunted John Ashcroft.

Nefarious nipples show up in federal courthouses too.  For instance, you can find them at such places as the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington D.C., where I took this photo of a big statue of Civil War General George Meade.  Click on this (or any of these photos) for a closer look, unless your mom is watching you . . .

I noticed nipples displayed on both sides of this set of statues.  And those pro-Prop-8 homophobes aren’t going to like other parts of this statue either.

I don’t know what the solution to our nipples-are-dirty-and-immoral obsession is.  While we’re trying to sort things out, though, please don’t publicize that male nipples and areolas closely resemble those of females.   I really don’t want someone blowing the whistle on us men, requiring us men to cover our nipples at the pool.

Yes, men have nipples and they look an awful lot like female nipples.   In fact, the photos of nipples (above) are all of men’s nipples.   Perhaps you wondered whether I was being inappropriate by publishing those photos of nipples and areolas.  You might have even had the duck/rabbit reaction.  Regardless, you can settle down now.  They are most assuredly men’s nipples (the middle nipple is owned by Michael Phelps).   And check out this Scientific American article to see why men even have nipples. Hey, Creationists!  Why did God put nipples on men?   There’s no good theological answer, but there’s a solid answer from the book of Darwin, it turns out.

So here’s my plea:  Let’s all stop being stupid about female nipples and areolas.  Let’s just stop and let’s just tell the nipplephobes and areolaphobes to just pipe down.  Let’s leave those nursing moms in peace. Anyone that tells any nursing mom that nursing is inappropriate at any time and any place should be hauled away to a re-education camp where electrodes are hooked onto their own nipples and moderately painful current is applied to bring their full attention to their destructive ignorance.

Epilogue:  The statues in the St. Louis Post-Office were created by Daniel Chester French, who was responsible for creating the huge statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Click on this thumbnail for more on French.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: American Culture, Art, Censorship, Human animals, photography, Sex, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (33)

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  1. Mindy says:

    Regarding Erich's observations, herein lies the answer. This also answers why we (albeit grudgingly, in many cases) allow the statues' nipples to show – they aren't real, silly. We trust that we can control ourselves when faced with a giant stone nipple, just not an actual warm-blooded one. Well, except for John Ashcroft. Apparently his self-control was more questionable, as he couldn't handle the rocks.

    Actually, though, for Ashcroft and his ilk, the problem isn't their OWN self-control, of course; it is all those other people. Those other heathens who, without the control provided by, oh, I don't know, rigid religious standards, say, would become so aroused upon the sight of an areola that they would start humping the nearest living creature. Hence, we must limit their access; impose some standards, for heavens' sake!

    Those folk want to parent us all. You know, like God does.

    Problem is, one can only really impose rules without explanation on very tiny children so that they won't be injured or injure others – no, you can't play with mommy's knitting needles around the baby/cat/hamster. They are, after all, in their immature state of being, unable to keep necessary control of all the impulses of exploration that make them human. But at some point, if you don't start both explaining the reasons AND, to graduating degrees, allow them to make their own mistakes, they will only learn to (a) do as they are told and (b) rebel against authority by NOT doing what they are told. They will never learn to think for themselves or empathize, and thereby develop the common sense and critical thinking skills necessary to live safely and productively in the world without being overwhelmed by every areola and nipple that comes along.

    Let one or two or a dozen or a hundred pass into the visual field of the general public and perhaps the hang-ups and the obsessions with breasts might become . . . . not so much. Of course that involves having the acknowledge that we are hung up and obsessed with breasts, and no right-minded citizen will acknowledge that – only that the other guy is. And he has to be controlled.

    So here we are. And here we'll stay.

    I'm just not feeling optimistic about this one. And sadly, not comfortable enough with my own-middle aged breasts to Ride Naked on my Bike.

  2. Alison says:

    I breast-fed both my daughters, never gave a thought as to where I was, and (if necessary) put a small blanket under the baby's head and over my opposite shoulder – I could make eye contact with my child, and anyone who wanted to see anything would have to be REALLY close. On occasion, though, there might have been opportunities for someone to catch a glimpse of nipple. Too bad. Nobody ever made a negative comment towards me.

    I did meet a few nursing moms with a chip on their shoulders. They'd leave themselves uncovered for a while after feeding, or wear clothes that required partial undressing to feed, and they did it just so they could "educate" anyone who dared to say something to them. IMO, that's just counterproductive.

    From what I see, it's similar to nearly every dress restriction on women all over the world. It transfers the responsibility for a man's response from the man to women in general. Every rule about what women should cover up boils down to "modesty" – which is a code word for "I, personally, do not want to see it." Or, perhaps, "Only your husband should be allowed to see it", because it's potentially arousing. Eh.

    Remember, it was only pretty recent that a rape victim could legally be held liable for her own assault because she was "provocatively dressed." Many religions have dress codes that are directly tied to a woman's marital status, and some have terribly severe penalties for showing a taboo body part (including being held responsible for being assaulted, even to the point of receiving a death penalty.)

    I don't like the whole idea that ANY body part is bad, ugly, naughty, secret, etc., only whether it's appropriate to be visible in particular situations or occasions. Nudity in the supermarket seems kind of skeevy to me, but I've been to nude beaches, and the kids love playing naked in the ocean so much that I doubt they were damaged by seeing other naked bodies. My kids still walk in on me in various states of undress, and they seem OK to me so far. . .but they know that I wouldn't walk out to get the mail like that!

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Alison: Good points. I hadn't really considered having people grocery shopping nude. If it happens, though, I hope we could get to the point where we consider it exhibitionistic rather than immoral, strange rather than evil or dangerous.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Actually, clothed breasts don't always make the cut either. iTunes banned this iBoobs simulation designed for the iPhone. http://www.pwnordie.com/videos/e54a006b4a/iboobs-

    via http://www.pwnordie.com/

  5. Don't you know?? Even statue nipples aren't safe for viewing by the general public as demonstrated by this horrifically obscene photographic evidence. Viewer discretion is advised!


  6. Erich Vieth says:

    That baby is a pervert!

    All babies are perverts. All of us who occasionally admire a shapely breast are perverts! Really, I think we need more conservative religion to teach all of us, especially young babies, to stay away from those naughty breasts.

  7. Mobius 118 says:

    Meh, my girlfriend and I have no shame. Nudity is not an issue with us, in and on our property. Anyone with a problem can shove it, they shouldn't be looking into my bedroom window anyway.

  8. Of course I know you are being sarcastic Erich, but I have always thought it strange that sexual attraction to the human form, even just an appreciation of well turned body parts, is sometimes seen as a PERVERSION of something when in fact it is a completely healthy expression of being alive!

    That's the way God or nature made us! We're hard-wired to notice these things and we are the product of generation after generation of humans who DID notice these things and pursued them to their inevitable conclusion…us!

  9. It seems that Youtube has no problem with breast feeding or nipples! Here's an uncensored, graphic, yet innocent and very funny video that was circulating a while ago.


    Notice all of the related breast feeding vids! Kudos to Youtube for being at the forefront of the "Nipples are Natural" movement!

  10. Erika Price says:

    Ohio is a pretty conservative state, yet we have law on the books that allow women to be topless in any public location where it is legal for men to be topless. Funny that I feel shocked and fortunate just because my state has (at least) one law that strikes me as fair and sensible! I haven't actually practiced my Ohio-given "right", however, nor have I ever seen any other female out in public with bare breasts (save at one of Columbus' weed and music festivals). Even if the law is on the side of reason and justice, no doubt a bare-breasted woman would be met with discomfort.

    Erich mentioned the bathing suit, the "mini burkha" of the breasts. Even a bathing suit draped over a female body seems to cause a negative reaction when it is displayed out of its proper place. I used to walk from my apartment to the nearby gym in just my bathing suit. On occasion, people honked or hollered. A woman who worked at the gym demanded that I "cover up"- even as I was on my way to the pool!

    Does it make any sense that I can wear a bathing suit in a room with a pool and cause no problem, but if I should stray a few rooms away, the same attire becomes indecent? I was by no means showing off my nipples- I had all the "bad", immoral, disgusting parts covered. I find it a little disturbing that the situation has such power over people- a thinly-veiled body at a pool or beach is fine, but the same body is disruptive a few feet away. I didn't know that not being ashamed of my bathing-suited form made me a crazy nudist.

  11. Erich Vieth says:

    Erika: I wondered about the same phenomenon you mentioned and assumed that it was an instance of "framing." http://dangerousintersection.org/2006/07/10/wides

    Good for Ohio on the equality front. To me, this seems crystal clear. Don't discriminate against women by trying to characterize a part of their bodies as "dirty" when a man can walk around displaying the exact same body part. Or is it "dirty" because it can, in a woman, provide sustenance to a baby?

    One more thing: not all women are well-endowed. Some men have larger breasts than some women. Therefore, society cannot even make a rational distinction based on size. It seems to be that we are saying that women's breasts (and nipples and areolas) are "dirty" because they are attached to women.

  12. Michelle McCabe says:

    I think this is mainly just a United States issue, not a European or for that matter the rest of the world. America is so obsessed with clothing and covering up that breast. Breast feeding in public is not promoted, in fact women are shamed. That is the most natural act feeding your infant from your breast.

    I am in for the naked bike ride, well sort of – I will ride with some kind of shorts to protect my bottom. But I definitely am secure in myself and feel my nipples are awesome – so let the world see them. Just let me know the date and time – you can count me in.

    The human body especially the breast are beautiful and we should not be shamed. Then it turns breast feeding, sculpture, paintings that have the naked body or breast into something dirty.

  13. Erich Vieth says:

    Michelle: Last year's Naked Bike Ride in St. Louis (they occur in many cities) was on August 2. I assume that it will occur on about the same date this coming August. I will "see you" there!

  14. Andrea says:


    I very much enjoyed your "nipple" article. As a recovering nipple-phobe, I thank you, your nipple acclimation exercise was very helpful. I now am on the road to recovery and barely take a second look at any nipple . . . a breast-feeding woman's, a statue's, mine, etc.

    Now . . . can you do an article on feet because toes definitely are still a forbidden in my world. Of course, toe "cleavage" is quite ok, just not the toe itself.

  15. mindy says:

    Andrea, do you have a problem with all toes, or just unsightly toes? Which is, of course, subjective. I like some toes – like my daughter's, and about any baby toes on the planet. Beyond that, toes can go south pretty quick. If Erich produces an exercise for toes, I shall participate.

  16. deewillyfree says:

    Comparing the disgust generated by a cheap-assed faux rape scene onstage at a sports venue by a fading wigger and his toy slut, with the acceptance of the work of classical geniuses seems disingenuous at best and mental at the least. Overt sexuality forced on the public is what was at issue. To a lesser degree, public tit display by women falls in the same arena. Tits are as much a sex item as they are a food outlet. There is more than one woman I've made cum with nothing more than nipple attention and your blind if you think opening up the streets to bare tits would simply 'usher in an age of nuturing'. Give me a break, girl. You know damn well what the reality would be like. That's what libs never get, you know. The reality has NEVER been what they lobbied for or what they swore would be at the bottom of the 'slippery slope'.

    Open your eyes around the world. American liberal style of aimless free f***ing may be what libs tout as 'being worldly' but it's hardly what the rest of the world admires about this country. Considering the reality is that American style of lib sex idiocy has given us more welfare mommies, rampant aids, exploding kiddie-porn and various other std's, along with the attending expectation that EVERYONE is responsible for paying the cost of treatment and fallout, you'd think you'd tone the nipple bragging down a tad.

    Europe may be liberal nirvana to resident lib monovisionists, but then again no one really expects more from those who refuse to engage their minds in a meaningful and global fashion.

  17. Dan Klarmann says:


    Sharon Stone's Sheer Oscar Dress.

    Obviously not tested for flash effects.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Orrrrr . . . maybe it was tested for flash effects!

    • Zoevinly says:

      Okay. Now it's time for me to say something about Mardi Gras.

      Women receive beads for showing their nipples. Men receive – wait. Men buy beer, become utterly disoriented in every way EXCEPT that they can orient themselves TOWARD drunk women who will accept beads for in-kind pay. Is Mardi Gras a controlled experiment in legal (ignored illegal) prostitution? Before you throw written sticks and stones, consider this:

      Assault, rape, overzealous drinking(for the purpose of innocuating nipple-conflict pain) and all sorts of norm-blasting behavior occur around the Mardi Gras tradition. I'll assume for now that you'll agree that assult, rape, and drinking (of the blackout-inducing category) is unhealthy and indicative of maladjustment.

      These unhealthy behaviors are correlated with prostitution, but at least when the exchange is honestly consummated, women receive a fungible commodity. What's required here to adjust our society's maladjustment? Or am I missing the point? Is the purpose of the Mardi Gras tradition to self-medicate for nipple-conflict? In other words, maybe, deep down (or not so deep down), many Americans are attached to their nipple-conflict disorder.

    • Zoevinly says:

      Erich says: "we’ll have to blindfold our breast-feeding babies so they don’t see that nipples that sustain them. And our women-folk will have to shower and dress in the dark so that they don’t accidentally see their own nipples and areolas."

      You've hit the nail on the head, Erich! Facebook doesn't allow women to exhibit breastfeeding, women wear expensive spandex burkas at the beach and we even have to urinate in enclosed stalls because our bodies are shameful and bad.

      While babies aren't normally blindfolded to their mother's chests, we would send a more consistent message by blindfolding them or, better yet, performing surgery on all women to "white-out" the nipple. By ensuring that the nippled has no distinguishing color or texture, we could disarm it and neutralize the poison that is "the nipple!"

      With the right amount of funding, plastic surgeons could develop a way for women to "breastfeed" through an index finger. This way, breastfeeding mothers wouldn't need to look at the nipple, and neither would their infants.

      …and the public wonders why eating disorders are an epidemic. Americans have nipple-conflict fever and the only cure is more (calm consideration of the) nipple!

  18. Erich Vieth says:

    More evidence of welcome breasts and forbidden nipples.

  19. Peter J. Rabbit says:

    What are female breasts for? The female breasts are intended for the purpose of nursing our children. However, there are some persons who see it otherwise. Breast exposure should only be censored or prohibited depending on its reason or purpose. If it's for the arts (REAL arts' sake, like these statues) or for feeding purposes of lactating mothers then I don't see anything wrong with that. I come from a country that endorses breast feeding among women and it's such a beautiful sight when you see a mother nursing her child. Maybe we just need to let go of the malice in our minds and see the picture as it really is… a mother feeding her child with the nourishment that he or she needs.

  20. @ Peter J. Rabbit

    I definitely agree with you. We have the same point of view in regards to nipples.

  21. Erich Vieth says:

    In America we don't allow nipples to be seen, but we DO love flamboyantly exposed bosoms. Yes, indeed. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/17/guess-th

  22. Erich Vieth says:

    "Virginia's attorney general Ken Cuccinelli is hard at work on the important issues of the day — like making sure the Roman goddess depicted on his state's official seal isn't exposing herself."


  23. Erich Vieth says:

    Comment at Reddit: "If you were to Photoshop male nipples on top of female nipples, would it be considered explicit?" http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/i0n8e/

  24. Karl says:

    Who would have thought this could happen?


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