Men, Can You Cover Your Nipples?


shirtless man

On my new commute to work, I passed a man wearing a navy blue suit, white button-down shirt, and sneakers, carrying his backpack over one shoulder. While his suit and shirt appeared neat and unwrinkled, the man’s attire looked a little off. With the morning sun shining, I saw it. He wasn’t wearing an undershirt and his nipples were showing through! Then it got me thinking, why are male nipples and body hair okay at work but frowned upon for women?

There has always been a double standard of how male nipples are viewed versus how female nipples are viewed, and it goes beyond company dress codes. Male nipples are not considered sexual objects the way women’s nipples are. Consider all the times male athletes, male celebrities, and other male public figures have bared their nipples in magazines, television, and social media. No one bats an eyelash if  Mick Jagger goes topless on stage during a performance, but everyone remembers Janet Jackson’s “Nipple- gate.”

Another example is fragrance advertisements. Brands like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Christian Dior have used bare-chested, nipple-exposed men in their ads, but women’s nipples are obscured and covered. The most we see in these fragrance advertisements are a woman’s cleavage and the shape of her breasts. I could go on with examples, but you get the idea. Outside of a man’s genitals and buttocks, male nipples are not considered “graphic.”

Yet women’s breasts and nipples are. Consider Facebook’s rules on nudity and the kinds of images that could be removed from the site for being graphic. Female nipples are treated differently than male nipples. Unless you (as a female) are using your nipples in protest or for an educational purpose, your nipples need to be covered. Facebook does not address or touch male nipples. Besides social media rules, let’s also consider our own company dress codes. In general, what men have to wear and keep covered is vastly different than what women have to wear and keep covered.

The irony of it all is that the same hypersexualized parts of our body that we are supposed to keep covered and shielded also provide our babies with the nutrients they need for the first several months (or years, if you do it) of their lives. We celebrate and honor breasts in August during “National Breastfeeding Month,” but we can’t share photos of women breastfeeding. How do we normalize breastfeeding if we, as a society, berate women for breastfeeding in public?

If  “Freeing the Nipple” can be a movement that sparks conversation about the importance of de-sexualizing female breasts, perhaps a “Cover the Nipple” movement for men can spark a conversation about the desensitization of male breasts and nipples in society. In the meantime, men, can you wear an undershirt or an under-tank? Until all nipples can be free, can you cover your nipples, too?     


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Jeanne is a married, full-time working mom with an MBA in Marketing from Golden Gate University and BA in Communications from San Francisco State University. She is an Associate Director of Sales for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and loves that her career enables her to promote the city she loves. Jeanne and her husband Daniel live in San Francisco with their two daughters, Ilse and Alice. When Jeanne is not working, writing, or volunteering at Ilse's school, she enjoys traveling, spending time with family, and cooking from her collection of cookbooks (70 and growing) while sipping Hudson Bay Bourbon. Follow her adventures on Instagram.



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