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.

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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. 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/

  2. Karl says:

    Who would have thought this could happen?

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3701059

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