The original title of today’s post was Sexualizing the Breast. I later realized that title wasn’t quite right and I changed it to be more precise: Sexualizing the Nipple.
As the post took shape, I felt that title wasn’t correct, either. After reviewing my argument, I came to believe Stigmatizing the Nipple was a more accurate title because it is, after all, the stigma of a woman’s nipple being viewed in public that prodded this post to your eye.
After a few more revisions of this post, I finally understood the core of the issue is not “Stigmatization” but, rather, “Perversion.” Perverting the Nipple is the final title and here’s why: A woman’s breast provides life for the child she births. The nipple is the point for insertion into the new life.
A woman’s nipple is accepted in American society only as long as it is kept private. The moment the nipple hits the public — even one in the midst of nursing — outrage ensues. In many countries women are bare-breasted.
They can breastfeed in public. No one cares.
In America, however, admiration follows the outline of the breast beneath a sweater and joy ensues as a bikini top is stretched to contain the flesh beneath its fabric, but if a slice of raw areola is seen with the naked eye or if a bite of nipple is visible to a view that refuses to avert — even if puckering in the mouth of a nursing infant — a line has been crossed and condemnation for indiscretion follows.
The female nipple in America appears to have immense power to dissolve morality and social mores. Nipples and areolas must be covered at all times. If we can see the outline of a nipple or an areola beneath a wet t-shirt or slightly pixilated in its naked form on television, that’s fine: Only the exposed nipple has the power to pervert.
Has the breast in America always been an object of perversion instead of an implement of nourishment? Was it the invention of the bra that started to suggest the nipple was something to be hidden and protected? How did the areola in America get so much power?