by Emma Glassman-Hughes
“Yeah, she’s gross. She has pepperoni nipples.”
My lanky, newly pubescent friend (who shall remain nameless, because I’m feeling nice) turned to me during our lunch period in the 7th grade and told me, through a mouth full of braces, all about the “crazy” girl in his class who “desperately” flashed a group of boys “for attention,” but “wasn’t even hot” because she had big, flat, brown nipples. They looked like pepperonis, he said. He laughed.
I think at that point I was twelve years old, and I’m sure I hadn’t really developed breasts yet. Even so, I started frantically trying to picture the otherwise delicious pizza topping, juxtaposing it in my head with my own nipples--nipples that I’d only just begun to acknowledge as an integral part of my newly blooming body. In the moments immediately following his gratuitous nipple-shaming, my mind was flooded with worries: I worried that my nipples were oddly shaped, that they were too big, that they could be seen through my shirts (and my bras), that they were ugly and unorthodox and not suitable for a Playboy centrespread, that they were comparable in sexiness to a highly processed lunch meat. I was twelve years old--for context, I'd never even laid eyes on a tampon, and I hadn't yet learned how sex worked--and I was sincerely worried that I wasn’t going to be fuckable enough because of what was growing on my chest.
Nice one, dude.
We don’t even need to address how, on the hot-o-meter, Madam Pep-For-Nips (above) was lightyears ahead of any 7th grade boy with rubber bands on his teeth and a sock stuffed in his pants. That much we can all agree on.
The issue is more the way we are socialized to think about our bodies, and in this case a girl’s or a woman’s nipples/areolas. And since we can’t just wrangle up all the 7th grade boys and send them far away to an island where they can safely let out all their misplaced hormonal energy until they turn twenty-five and have reached a state of maturity endurable by the rest of us, I suggest we focus our energy on normalizing healthy nipple-talk.
Women are subjected to both ends of the constant nip-pocrisy that has us sexualized by third parties to a point of objectification, but then shamed when it becomes clear that we are not object, but, in fact, human--complete with unique and sometimes strange-looking but lovable body parts and functions. CC: cellulite, discharge, etc. etc. This hypocrisy is partially to blame for the nipple-policing, too, that allows men to waltz around shirtless while women are clothing-bound in all social settings (and all social media platforms). People who don’t have breasts enjoy a freedom that, for those of us who do have them, remains off limits except in fleeting moments of carelessness (drunkenness? Idk) like in someone’s pool under cover of darkness. From the scrutiny of their appearance to their unsolicited hypersexualization, lady nipples have it hard. *wink*
As for many bodily insecurities, nipple aesthetics wouldn’t have swelled into a source of anxiety for me if it weren’t for the pointed judgment of others that I began internalizing by the tender age of twelve. Listen here, folks: no matter what any brat-ass, ball-dropping tween boy has to say about them, an ugly or undesirable nipple is a straight up (or straight out?) oxymoron. Nipples do incredible things, including but not limited to providing many people a lot (a LOT) of pleasure; feeding small humans; alerting passersby when it is cold and that they should probably grab a sweater; etc. Here’s all the stuff you should know about your nipples, big or small; perky or saggy; pepperoni or vegetarian. These nips were made for lovin’ and that’s just what you’ll do. #FreeTheNip #FreeTheMind
Some Notes on the Nip
A little nip knowledge never hurt nobody.
by Kelsey Duchesne
What is a nipple???
Okay, we know this sounds a little obvious, but we’d like to differentiate between the nipple and areola before we get deep into tit talk.
The areola is the circular ring of pigmented skin around the nipple. The nipple itself is in the center of the areola and that is where, to be frank, all the magic happens (i.e. breastfeeding, stimulation, sensitivity, etc).
We are alllll born with nipples (seriously, they develop before your genitals do!) and, believe it or not, no matter how they look, they are normal! Pointy nipples? Normal. Super hairy nipples?? Normal! Inverted nipple? Normal. (That is, if you were born with it. If it happens over time, check in with your doctor).
But in any case, nipples rule. We love 'em. And even though (female) nipples are not really accepted in our culture (why is a photo of a woman breastfeeding so shocking, again??) we want to celebrate them loudly and proudly by discussing the good, bad, and the hairy.
Is there anything more irritating than nipple chaffing? We’ve all been there. This is a common issue when breastfeeding, but is sometimes an issue for us childless peeps, too! Like, ya know when you’re lounging around your house without a bra but your shirt material is too rough on your nips, and then you have searing pain? Makes us squirmy just thinkin’ about it.
But fear not, braless wonders! If you have a case of chapped nips--sometimes it just takes a little vaseline and a soft bra to get your nipples back to normal. If you are experiencing chapped nipples through breastfeeding, you may want to try medical-grade modified lanolin or hydrogel dressings.
Remember, some nips are more sensitive than others! Always do what feels comfortable for your nipples.
Are you thinking of piercing your nipples? Wahoo! A few brave members of Team THINX are on that train, and not gonna lie, they look v. rad indeed. Just remember to keep your nips healthy and clean by using saline solution to clean and be cautious of clothing and sensitivity until they are fully healed, which can often take 9 months to a year. Woof.
A nipple pro? Piercings can increase nipple stimulation and add to your sexual arousal. How about a nipple con? Like all piercings, there is always a risk of infection, nerve damage and allergic reactions. It’s extremely important to do research and find a safe and well regarded place to get the piercing, as nipple piercing has been linked to hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. Always be safe when piercing, friends! (And be extra safe when piercing friends).
For all you pierced mamas: You can breastfeed with nipple piercings, but it’s recommended that you get the piercing 18-24 months before you get pregnant, so they are healed before you breastfeed. It’s easier to take out your piercings when you breastfeed, as the piercings could increase latch difficulty.
Nipple discharge is often a normal reaction to the breast being squeezed, however, it’s often a good idea to get it checked out by a doctor to confirm everything is A-OK. This is because it’s difficult to determine whether the discharge is normal based on color--unless it's blood, in which case you should see a doctor immediately. If the discharge is abnormal, it will often be coming from only one breast with nothing to prompt it, like squeezin.' Important distinction: nipply discharge is not the same as breast milk post-pregnancy.
If you have hairy nipples you are just a normal human with, well, hairy nipples. It is estimated that 30% of women have nipple and areola hair. The most common reasons for nipple hair growth is just regular ol’ hormonal changes or taking certain medications. Nipple hair is v. normal and is not a symptom of any health problems.
You can let your nipple hair grow, or you can remove it--the choice is yours! Whether you pluck, trim, or wax, just remember that there is always a chance to could get an ingrown hair or infection, leaving a lil red bump. A permanent solution? You can always get laser removal surgery, but that will certainly be the priciest.
Loving your nipples.
Time for the most important part! In times when it just feels like all of society is rubbing you the wrong way (giving you some major chafes... see point no. 2), remember that lady nips have the ability to sustain life. Remember that they are beautiful because they are entirely themselves, and entirely yours. Remember that it takes a long time to undo what’s been done--that many of us grew up being told to hide and to cover. If you don’t quite love your nipples yet, we hope you will, eventually.
To nip-finity and beyond,
xoxo Team THINX