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Sure, you can show plenty of breast in ads, clothing, the internet and so on. But there is a forbidden territory in this display, and it is baffling to me. Kindly explain.

At the age of eighty, I have had a natural curiosity to learn, study, and understand. But even after all these years, there is one thing that still baffles me, and it involves a discussion of women’s breasts. In particular, one part of the breast, in which even the word suggests pornography. The word: nipple.

In America, sexuality is pervasive. It dominates virtually all our ads for a wide range of products. It is seen in movies. It is the chatter of talk shows. And “showing skin” is everywhere on the internet. But there is a limit, apparently, to the skin you can show. The top of the breast: OK. The sides: OK. The décolletage: OK. But the nipples: no way!

This is not a new phenomenon either. As a young teenager in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, there was a lively burlesque theater that we would occasionally visit (I guess they were pretty lenient on age prohibitions back then). And among the bubble dancers, fan dancers, and other titillating acts, the ladies showed it all – except their nipples. They used what were called “pasties” to cover that one square inch of their breast. Why? Tell me.

Which reminds me of the very old joke: there was a burlesque theater in the neighborhood of a youn teenager. Naturally his father cautioned him regularly: “Never, never,  never go into that theater – you will see things you should not see.” Naturally, that was a clear invitation for the kid to go into the theater. And in fact he did see things he should not see. He saw his father.

Anyway, what is it about the nipple that makes it taboo? It is a natural and essential part of human reproduction, and certainly existed eons before Gerber and various baby formulas. Many societies have no such hang-up. In Africa, it is common (or at least was common) to see scantily clad women without anything at all covering their breasts. And today, many societies still allow women to come to the beach topless. Some societies even allow total nudity.  But in America, such behavior appears to be forbidden. Apparently the nipple is…well “pornographic” in some perverse way.

Americans it seems are very convoluted in their sexual habits. Women intensely study ways to increase their sexuality, their attractiveness, their allure and so on, and many do it by exposing as much breast as is allowable. And that permits plenty. But get to the nipple and it’s no go. It would seem to me that by exposing the nipple, there would be greater attraction and allure? Well, maybe not.

At any rate, if anyone can explain this inconsistency to me, I am ready to listen. Till then, as Bob Hope would sing: “Thanks for the mammary”.

Originally posted to myles spicer on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 11:06 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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