I feel like it's the right time to start talking about nipples. Properly. We've had the vagina talk, we've had the boob talk, we're starting to tell each other to #loveyourlines and we’re talking freely about our post baby bodies, we've talked about how much we want to #freethenip, but have we had that sit down talk about why we don’t love our nipples? No. And it’s time to nip that in the bud (HAHAHA GET IT, I'M A LEGEND).
I’ll go first. Hi, I’m Gina and I have always had shy nipples. By shy I mean inverted. Well, actually, I mean partially inverted because it only happens every now and again - in cold weather, for example, they like to hide. The only thing that dismays me is that they don't go hard like everyone always bloody harps on about. I never get a Rachel from *Friends *(see: all of Rachel's outfits in the early series). I’m never smuggling raisins. They're either soft and pointy-perky or they're crying 'No, no, oh god no, please don't LOOK at me!'. My boyfriend loves them and yet I’ve considered having them pierced so they could stand proudly on my chest, but I’m terrified of the pain… and what happens when I breastfeed? Is the milk going to spurt out in 5 different directions? Let’s just say I have questions. And problems with my nipples.
Turns out Im not alone. Put 'Are my nipples' into Google and the first things that pop up are 'Are my nipples inverted?' followed by 'Are my nipples normal?'
This crosses every girl's mind at some stage- my high school friend and I used to get ready to go out together, and mid fake-tan, the old classic nip topic often came up involving various 'Mine are bigger than yours… yours are really small! Are mine weird?' conversations. No, Past Gina. No, Past Anon Friend. All four of our nipples are just fine.
But why are we so mean to them? Becky, 22 from London thinks it starts with men. 'I guess it all comes from guys. You don’t want to strip off in front of a guy on a one night stand and notice he’s put off by how big your nipples are,' she says. We all feel ya Becky, but it's coming from our fear of what men think - rather than the men themselves. Unless they’re morons, men don’t care. An Anonymous London Lad I spoke to for the purposes of research admitted '… let’s be honest, if someone's getting topless in front of you for the first time, you probably have better things to do than to start analysing their nipples.' And Rey Day, who’s seen a schmorgazboard of nips in his time, agrees: 'Guys should be open to any nipple really, no two nipples are the same so if you go in with a preconceived notion of what they should look like you’re going to be disappointed.' In other words: 'It’s a nipple you lucky bastard'.
I think most of the worry comes from hiding the nipple. It’s one of only two things we would automatically cover if suddenly found naked by a stranger - we’ve all had the naked dream and what do you do? You put one hand over your crotch and an arm covering both nipples. Nipples are a thing of shame, for many; until recently, Nip Pics were banned on instagram - and still are on Facebook. In New York, however, it’s not illegal to be topless as a woman. According to statute 245.01 per the Appeals Court of The State/City of New York, it is completely legal for a woman or a man to opt not to wear a shirt (or bra) in public. But here? Well, it’s legal on some beaches, but on the whole it’s illegal for a woman to be topless, which means that a cheeky nip flash is basically publically indecent. No wonder we’re a reserved nation, and it’s even less surprising that we’re shy about showing off our bodies.
It stands to reason that, if girls saw as many nipples as they do bums, they’d know that at the end of the day they’re all different, and they’re all just groovy, man. It's telling how similar the fear is around vaginas - google 'Is my vagina' and the first autocomplete is, of course, 'normal' - considering that these are the two things you'd never be able to expose in a Tesco. And no, your vagina isn't weird.
'I think we need to see more healthy images of women,' says Lina Esco, founder of #freethenipple and the director and actress in the 2014 feature film. 'Women reclaiming their bodies and owning them in whatever shape or form they choose to. Lets normalize nipples. Being topless does not equal to nudity... that is a big misconception.' But how do we go about reclaiming our nip nips? Lina doesn't believe you should take your shirt off if you don't want to, but found that the topless scene in Times Square from the Free The Nipple movie was one of the most 'liberating and empowering experience' ever. 'I couldn't stop smiling all day after that. I'd recommend it... and if anyone says 'she asking for it' well you know what? if a guy is topless is he is asking for it too?'
So hiding the nipples certainly contribute to our weird feelings towards them, but on top of this, porn and mags and porn mags are peppered with women whose nipples look like they were pulled straight from a ‘female form’ text book - shoving spherical, gleaming, areolas in our faces with a huge, red 'SEXY RUTHS REAL RASPBERRY RIPPLES' or some other neanderthal nonsense slapped across the top of the page.
Yes, the nipple is seen as a sexual, sensitive and mysterious feature of the body, we can’t escape that, but it’s also a nurturing and innately maternal feature with a remarkable job to do. It sustains life. It bonds mothers to their children and it and it’s usually the first sign of a problem when it comes to breast cancer. As writer and columnist Ella says 'My nipples are one of the first points of contact I had with my new-born daughter. They were for continuing life, nourishment and bonding. Nipples to me are not sexual, I mean of course they are used in that way, my husband thinks that they are fascinating - but to me, they are just another part of the amazing female body.'
So who cares if one's bigger than the other? And so what if they’re brown instead of pink? Walk around your flat with your nips out. The more you see them, the more you'll accept them. Inverted, small, lopsides, massive, oddly coloured, in the shape of little cars, they’re you’re very own fucking genius boobprints. They’re not the same as each other, and they’re not the same as anyone else’s, and that’s the way it should be. Let's stop being worried about our nipples because, my god, there's enough shit to be getting on with already without two little areolas bogging us down, too.
And, at the very least, 'nipples' is just a really hilarious word to say aloud isn't it?
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Follow Gina on Twitter: @geegeeash
This article originally appeared on The Debrief.