Free the Nipple – The American War On Boobs

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Not that we can really scoff here in Britain, given the moral prudishness that grips our nation, but the American terror of the female breast – or more specifically, the nipple on the female breast – is continually baffling. And annoying, as the rest of us have to suffer because of it, with social media companies issuing a fatwa against it and banning anyone who dares to transgress against it – even if the photograph is showing breast feeding, or is a classical painting or is entirely non-sexual in nature. Given that back in the 1960s and 1970s, you could see bare breasts in PG-level movies, on daytime TV and pretty much everywhere else without the world caving in, it does feel like we’ve gone backwards to a time when bare breasts were seen as the height of immorality.

Some women are fighting back against the continued sexualisation of the breast (or nipple) and the double standards of a society that allows men to whip their shirts off in public – even men with hefty moobs – but forbids women from doing likewise. The Free the Nipple campaign is a valiant attempt to normalise public toplessness, and it is possibly heading to the Supreme Court, after three New Hampshire women fight a city ordinance that bans public nudity, which includes “the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering any part of the nipple.” Ginger Pierro was arrested for doing topless yoga at her local beach without said nipple covering, and two other women were also arrested as they went topless on the same beach to protest the earlier arrest. All three challenged their convictions in the local courts and lost, and are now attempting to get the Supreme Court to overturn the verdict and give de facto legal protection to the naked nipple.

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The state courts decided that the exposed female breast “almost invariably ¬†conveys sexual overtones”, though quite how a tiny bit of cloth covering one small part of the breast can somehow negate those overtones remains a mystery. And other countries – even the UK – seem to cope with topless sunbathing without the beaches descending into wild orgies. Such government-mandated sexualisation of what is, after all, not a sex organ does seem a little odd.

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Nipples covered and so not remotely sexy

Of course, in Britain, moralisers dressed as feminists have successfully campaigned to make women in newspapers and magazines cover up – and again, seem entirely happy with breast exposure as long as the nipple is invisible, suggesting it was less to do with objectification and more to do with old-fashioned prudishness – so perhaps we shouldn’t scoff. But if the three women in this case are successful with their campaign, then maybe we can finally accept that bare breasts do not equal pornography and the likes of Apple, Facebook and Instagram will finally change their 1950s moral attitudes. Maybe then, more Free the Nipple campaigners and celebrities will actually free their nipples, rather than covering them up in protests – a strange prudishness that rather undermines the argument being made.