What is so indecent about a woman's nipple?

Perhaps this has been discussed before, but it always struck me as kind of wierd that on television, its not actually the breast itself that is really indecent but the nipple. Why?! There are swimsuits that cover less than 1% of a woman’s body, but that 1% is just about always at least covering the nipples. Men’s nipples aren’t covered, and they don’t look radically different. Why cover up something we’re already seeing half the time?

If you had two women at a normal beach, one had a top that covered 1/4 of the breast and covered the nipple, and the other had a top that covered 1/2 of the breast but had the nipple exposed, would the one with exposed nipple get in trouble for indecent exposure, even though less flesh is actually exposed?

I’m really curious to know where this started/originated. People seem to develop an interest in something that they can’t see. I wouldn’t be surprised that if in a country where women always covered their hair, to see a woman’s uncovered hair may be exciting to me.

Leave the nipples alone, cover the naval instead. Blechh that thing is gross! :wink:

It’s difficult to understand why any part of the body is objectively indecent.

Erectile tissue.

I was involved with a group where the standard for indecency was “visible erectile tissue”

So don’t go sticking your tongue out at people, either. :dubious:

… but if that’s the case, why can’t women go bottomless? And why don’t men have to wear tops?

I’ll second that.

Also note that these are societal issues. Go to a beach in Europe and women will be running around topless all over the place…nipples and everything.

So then this is just a cultural thing?

This kind of reminds me of the ‘what if people had tails’ post someone made several months ago. I brought up the concept of the possibility of them being some taboo body part and always covered/hidden.

And what kind of “group” was that, eh? :dubious:

I knew of a man who, during the early part of the last century, sat on his porch with a spy glass just to get a glimpse of women’s ankles as they boarded a trolley. I think there is some truth to the idea that what is forbidden or hidden is exciting.

Agreed. The measure of indecency is largely cultural based on society’s acceptable level of comfort with the human bodies. Settled by Puritans, are you really surprised that something so trivial would still be in the laws? I guarantee that no Native American were ashamed to show any part of their body if it got a little too hot in the summer. Thong bikini’s were outlawed here because women street vendors would be a distraction to the passing motorist, yet sex sells. Check the billboard down the street with a hefty view of cleavage.

American society is full of silly contradictions like that, which I find pretty disgusting. Perhaps thats something that belongs in the IMHO string. I’d rather be skyclad.


The group was an SF convention. Because people tend to dress rather outlandishly they had to come up with something that said “you can’t let your (female) nipples hang out and keep your unit in your pants” Don’t know why they didn’t do the same for men. Apparently, the men weren’t the type for nipple arousal, and this allowed the “electrical tape” crowd to “dress” unfettered.

It was a rationale, maybe not a good one.

But objectively, I don’t see any reason for the weird double standards regarding what is obscene and what isn’t.

It’s completely cultural. I prefer to go topless but in Slavic countries sunbathing is typically nude. I think Americans are Puritanistic.

Im rather sure it has something to do with breastfeeding. A bit in a hurry right now so I dont have time to dig up a cite, but I would bet money on it having to do with breastfeeding.

mmmm nipplesauce…

-x out

Interestingly, this question has had an effect on indecent exposure laws in a lot of the US. A number of ‘women’s nipples bad, men’s OK’ laws have gotten struck down or modified on equal protection grounds, largely IMO as a result of pro-breastfeeding groups’ efforts. So in a lot of the US now ‘indecent exposure’ is now below the waist as far as laws go, but aside from breastfeeding and certain locations, going topless is pretty rare.


I think it is just the opposite to being involved with breast feeding. In fact, I have on a few occasions seen mothers brazenly breast-feeding their babies in public, with the entire breast exposed. No one even considered saying anything about it.

I would think it is because a woman’s nipple is a secondary sexual organ – used for stimulation during intercourse. Granted mens’ nipples are also sometimes used that way too, but I think this is ignored because of the whole “boys/men playing sports without their shirts on” thing.

In support of this, I saw a television news article many years ago describing the strange case of a woman who called a baby care hotline to ask if it was normal to experience sexual gratification from breast feeding. Although it is normal, the people on the hotline didn’t know this, and called the child protective agency. A lengthy traumatic court battle ensued. (No site).

The really weird thing-many American municipalities have laws stating how much skin can be (legally) shown. For example, Miami/Dade County says that bikini tops have to be big enough to cover the aureole (the dark skin around the nipples). This means that the gals wear tops that are the size of postage stamps. Concerning bottoms-in South Beach, I’ve seen the smallest thongs-just enough to cover the mound of Venus will do.
I wonder why people get so worked up about this stuff-after all, you go to the beach to swim, not participate in a fashion show!

Well, I go to the beach to look at women in thongs…

One of the strangest things I ever saw was a daytime talk show that had as a guest a man who, on a bet, had gotten breast implants. When he showed them, they blurred out the nipples. What’s the logic there?

That guy was also on the Man Show, and IIRC they didn’t blur the nipples. But then, this was the Man Show.

LOL! Nipples must only be obscene if they have round breasts behind them.