To Nip or Not to Nip: A Pocket Guide to Showing Your Non-Male Boob in Public

In case you’ve been living under a rock, America got to see two of Adam Levine’s nipples bouncing around on stage at this year’s Superbowl Halftime Show, and the Internet is not happy about it. Recall Nipplegate, when Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction got her blacklisted from the Grammys, MTV, and VH1 following nipplegate, even after she issued a humiliating video apology to viewers around the country; meanwhile, the bodice-ripping Justin Timberlake, slunk away without even a scratch.

Should you ever have the opportunity to perform at the Superbowl, keep this double standard in mind and remember that if you are not a man, do not expose your nipple. Here is a current-events-inspired pocket guide to help you navigate other scenarios in which you are considering revealing a nippled breast:

YES: In Public, Accompanied by Breastfeeding Child (Preferably An Infant)

Even though breastfeeding has been around for longer than the United States has been a colonized country, breastfeeding in public just became legal countrywide last summer. Idaho and Utah were the final standouts. Still, “doing it” in public will probably be a mixed bag of support and sneers

For some historical context, up until the 2017, bartenders in Utah couldn’t even pour beer in the sightline of the public and instead were hidden behind “Zion curtains.” You can imagine the resistance that Utah lawmakers would have to the boob. Congressman Curt Webb raised concerns that the law would lead nursing mothers down a dark path of immodesty: “[The law] seems to say you don’t have to cover up at all. I’m not comfortable with that, I’m just not. It’s really in your face.” Actually, it’s in the baby’s face, but who’s keeping track?

Even though the World Health Organization recommends at least six months of exclusive breastfeeding, followed by a combo of breastfeeding and solid foods up to the age of two, be warned that many Americans are totally freaked out by mothers who extend breastfeeding past their child’s infancy and that you’re likely to be shamed for it.

NO: At Rowan University

If you’re a cross-country athlete that practices at Rowan University in New Jersey, don’t even think about showing your nips. Up until recently, you couldn’t even practice in a sports bra without causing a kerfuffle that required you to accommodate the attention spans of nearby men.

On an unseasonably hot day this past October, both male and female members of the Rowan University cross-country team shed their shirts during practice. This was apparently the last straw for the university football coach, who had previously stated that women athletes were distracting to his football team. Both teams typically practiced in the same complex, but after the sports bra incident, the university informed the cross-country team that their practices would be relocated to a nearby high school track.

“As girls, we could look at the football team and say that their tight pants showing off everything is asking for it, but we don’t,” wrote a former cross-country runner. “If they are distracted by us, then their practices clearly don’t require their full attention, or they just aren’t as committed to the sport.”

YES: On Instagram and Twitter

If you’ve got male-presenting breasts, you can post your nipple pretty much anywhere you please.

For the rest of you, as long as there’s a baby on your nipple, you can post your naked breast on Instagram. No baby though, and there’s no nipple post for you. (Nipples that are censored with pasties are acceptable, while breasts that hold the scars of a mastectomy are also allowed.) Twitter has allowed all of its users to #freethenipple for a while now, with few strings attached.

Again, you’re going to get lots of positive comments and emojis for posting a breastfeeding shot on Instagram, but you’re probably going to get some shamers. To deal with the shamers, look to Chrissy “Proud Shamer of Mommy Shamers” Teigen for some inspiration. When a twitter user posted that she didn’t want to see photos like Teigen’s that capture human moments like breastfeeding or menstruation despite understanding that these things are natural, Teigen responded in kind: “I don’t care to see grainy fireworks, coachella selfies or infinity pool pics but I let people live.”

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