As a photographer/artist I see a lot of nudity, pretty much on a daily basis. I’ve photographed countless nude models, and posed nude myself. It doesn’t phase me. That coupled with the fact that I’ve been on the internet since I was about 11, so I’ve seen more than my fair share of weird shit. I have to say, nudity, or more specifically women’s nipples, are probably on the lowest end of that “weird shit” scale.
Since I was a child I always viewed nudity to be natural, I never once felt offended by it. It wasn’t until I became older that I realized there were actually people in this world that viewed nudity as being wrong, disrespectful; quite a lot of people in fact. This still perplexes me. Especially when it comes to nipples, specifically the female kind. I wouldn’t classify myself as a hardcore ‘feminist’, mostly because I’m not one for labels (I know, how pretentious of me). If anything I would consider myself an ‘equalist’, as I believe everyone deserves the same rights as the next person (or animal), not just women. But being a female myself, this topic does feel a bit personal to me.
I couldn’t count the amount of times I’ve witnessed particularly “large” men walking down the street topless, sporting bigger breasts than I could ever dream to have. And somehow their nip exposure is considered to be socially acceptable, not the least bit offensive to anyone. Personally I’d rather not be forced to see a 400 pound man topless, but hey it’s a free country (for some). If I were to decide to take my top off on a hot summer day among a crowd of people, I would most certainly receive a lot of stares, judgement, and mothers covering their children’s eyes so as not to ‘poison’ their innocent little minds from the sight of a woman’s breasts. That being said, I don’t particularly have an interest in walking around topless in public, but it would be nice to have the option to do so without feeling demonized.
One of the biggest aspects of this issue that irritates me is how women’s nipples are portrayed on social media. On Facebook, for example, you are allowed to post a nude portrait of a woman as long as her nipples are either blurred out or completely removed. Editing out the nipples makes it acceptable and will allow it to stay on the site even if it is reported. However if the nipples are visible, it is likely to immediately get flagged and taken down. The same rules apply to Instagram, and plenty of other photo sharing websites. I see images of women with blurred/removed nipples pretty regularly, as I follow a lot of fellow photographers. And honestly seeing these “safe” versions of the images make me feel far more uncomfortable than the “unsafe” ones ever would. What exactly is the point in removing a woman’s nipples, how does that make it less offensive? As if a child, or anyone viewing the image, would not be able to guess what she would look like had her nipples not been edited out? As if it somehow makes the image more appealing by just seeing a breast without a pink/tan/brown patch of skin in the middle? I certainly don’t mean to go all ‘social justice warrior’ on this, but I’d genuinely like to know why men are allowed to display their nipples, and women aren’t? Yes, women tend to be more sexualized in the media than men, their breasts often the main focus of the sexualization; but to me, a nude male can be just as sexual as a nude female, why are they so different?
I suppose what really concerns me is, why is a photograph of a naked woman suddenly appropriate if her nipples aren’t visible? What is it about the nipple specifically that gets everyone so worked up? Why would a parent tell their child to look away if a topless woman were present, but not a topless man? Why does a topless female present in a movie earn it an “R” rating, yet a topless male ranks “PG-13″? Every time I see an image like this on Facebook, I’m always left wondering..