Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Sexualisation of Women's Nipples Needs to Stop

The Sexualisation of Women's Nipples Needs to Stop
(Image source: Jackie Hadel)

I've always had an awkward relationship with my boobs. They're on the small side and this meant I went for many years feeling I wasn't attractive and not womanly enough. I've written before about what it was like to grow up with small boobs, but there's something I want to talk about in a little more details. Nipples.

Because of how I felt about my boobs, I was always self-conscious about them. I would never go without a bra because I felt I looked boyish without. And let's not even talk about the idea that people would see my nipples.

As the years went by, I slowly came to accept and then love my body - all of it, including my boobs. And yet, I still feared not wearing a bra. Earlier this year, inspired by brilliant post Going Braless by Caitlin Lomas of Chronically Caitlin, I mustered the courage to leave the house without wearing a bra... while wearing nipple covers. Going without a bra was so liberating, and I was completely surprised by not only how good I looked in my dresses, but also how little I actually thought about it. I just went about my day as normal, and didn't feel self-conscious at all. Mostly because of the nipple covers.

I am the kind of person who really feels the cold. There are very few days of the year where I'm not complaining about how cold it is. This means that, being cold most of the time, my hardened nipples make it completely obvious to anyone who sees them just how freezing I am. Or they would if anyone saw them. Which, down to bras and nipple covers, they don't.

Or didn't. Last week, I bit the bullet and went out without a bra or a pair of nipple covers. I went out shopping, in a supermarket, and was in the bloody freezing fridge and freezer aisles and got goose-bumps, and my nipples hardened... and it was actually fine. I can't tell you just how big a deal that is. That day last week was the first time I have left my house without having my boobs covered since puberty. Just let that sink in. In 18 years, I have always had something under my tops of dresses, always. The relief that came over me at being able to, at feeling confident in myself... it was just incredible.

I managed it because I told myself, "They're only nipples! It's not a big deal!" But people act like they are, because boobs and nipples are so sexualised. The sole purpose of breasts is to feed babies. We all know this. And yet because people find boobs sexually attractive, this completely overshadows their real purpose. It leads to ridiculous, inappropriate, sexist comments about women's hardened nipples from pervy men. And it's not ok!

I, nor any other woman, should feel uncomfortable about their bodies or their appearance because of how certain men react. Our bodies shouldn't be constantly sexualised. That's not what we're for, not what our bodies are for. Our bodies are not public property to be oogled and commented on all the god damned time! We should be able to walk down the street without a bra, have a cold breeze hit us, and have not one single person react to the fact that our nipples are suddenly visible. No-one should bat an eyelid. But that's not the society we live in, and this makes this whole thing all the more difficult.

Today is the third day of leaving the house without anything under my top, but it's still pretty warm out. Will I still be able to keep it up when the weather gets colder? I hope so, but I really don't know. It's so engrained in me to be embarrassed by and self-conscious of my nipples because of the way men act, I don't know if it would be as easy when my nipples will be in an almost permanently hardened state. I don't know if I would feel confident enough to walk out the door without being conscious of my boobs the entire time. And really, I just want to be comfortable.

But I'm hoping I can. Because this is my body. And no-one should make me feel embarrassed or ashamed of it.

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  1. What a fascinating subject to write about! I think there's definitely an element of shame attached to nipples too, probably due to the sexualisation you've mentioned. So when they're visible there's the outraged reaction that a) you're being so sexual in public (even though you're not) and also b) the "oh my gosh look at her nipples" element. It's a weird, weird thing. I think it's awesome that you've gone braless!! Keep rocking it girl!! I unfortunately cannot as they are a health and safety hazard haha but I will live vicariously through you!

    Suzy Marie | From The Fringe

    1. Thanks, Suzy! Isn't it just ridiculous? And though I've done it a few times, I still feel a little uncomfortable about it. And now it is colder, I really don't know if I'll be continuing. I'll need to get some pretty thick jumpers before I'll feel ok with it.