Are Fake Nipples The New Political Agitators?


When it comes to the press, tits are hot property. I’ve written about them before – here and here. In the former of these pieces, I discussed how there is a boob cast system – the tyranny of the tit – that sees artfully-lit fashion tits accepted as chic, whilst pendulous, milk-dense tits, or garishly lit Page 3 tits are vulgar. To be tucked away, unless you like, you know, tarty things. In the latter, I discussed my breast reduction, over a decade ago. My editor at the time was furious that I’d written it for my own platform rather than for a mainstream publication. Like I said: tits. Hot property.

But recently they’ve been doing a curious kind of new salute. Call it the Nip-riBullet – as they take on a almost rigid interpretation of Free The Nipple. Yung Hollywood – Bella, Kendall, et al – have been wearing theirs al fresco, under sheer tops, nipples duly on guard. And now the poetically named Molly Borman has launched stick-on nips, which you see me wearing here. She calls it her new “side hustle” – which is ironic, as that’s exactly what my nipples (or rather, the nipples on top of my nipples) are doing here.

Borman has several eye-catching slogans on her site like, ‘Boners for Women’ and ‘Look Cold, Feel Hot!’ I’m not sure about the boners for women one – we’d probably not be so keen on guys merrily walking the streets with rock-hard cocks; at least I wouldn’t be, you filthy animals – but I’m actually into the idea of wearing fake nipples, as a one-off, because I’m literally able to fool myself that my nipples sit where they sit in the photos. But how did we get to this point – of faux bulleted nipple dreams?


Firstly, to answer a few house-keeping ques: the nipples are $9.99; they are adhesive, and look like little pearls atop of daisy-shaped plasters, which stick on your bra (you can stick them over your nipple, but I worried about that); as long as you don’t use them on your skin, they can be reused, but I ripped mine first go; and no, no-one noticed I was wearing them. Not even Frances, the photographer, until I turned to the side and she went HELL-O SAILOR. Okay, she didn’t. I did. Part of me enjoyed the prominence of my nipples because it is such a novelty – I rarely go without a bra, so my nipples are normally sleepily cloaked, throughout the day. Prior to my faux nip debut, I found people who deliberately flash their nipples a bit mortifying (what were they trying to prove? I thought.) Perhaps they weren’t trying to prove, anything. I felt positively regimental in these.

I think it’s pretty obvious why significant conversation is happening around the boobs and currently, the mini locus that is the nipple. The leader of the free world is a man who told the women on his campaign trail in February to “dress like a woman” – with someone that conservative, retrograde and reductive, it makes women more likely to use parts of their bodies as political agitators. But I do wonder if there’s something quite contradictory about Free the Nipple. If it’s solely about ridding ourselves of body shame, then that’s wonderful – but more often than not, it feels more to me like a fashion statement. A, my tits look great so I’m going to show my nipples, vibe. And that’s fine. That’s fine to feel like your tits are great and you want to show off your nipples. Or your legs. Or your hair. ‘Flaunt’ – as the Daily Mail would say – what you want to flaunt. But can you call them feminist? They’re certainly not un-feminist. But are they political charged; or just purdy and perty?

At first, Borman’s nipples might seem like a gimmick. But you only need to read anything she says on the subject to know that there’s a lot of thought behind this. (For example, fake nipples can help trans women and women who have gone through mastectomies. Although it’s worth noting that fake nipples are nothing new; it’s the fact that these fake nipples are erect, which gives them the edge.) Can Borman’s erect nipples move the conversation forward? For example, on the subject of de-sexualising the nipple — surely an erect nipple will always have sexual connotations? It also raises the idea of, should we be dis-robing to further female choice? (I grappled with a bit, here.) Or should we be covering up, to show that we are not the sum of our parts? This is thrown into complexity when you consider that my nips are somehow both covered up, and uncovered. I hate the idea that we should obscure ourselves to prove a point; but is this ‘adding something on’ to ourselves less about obscurity and more about empty provocation?

I’m genuinely on the fence with this one. I think that this is where second-wave and third-wave feminism crash in to one another, at the most interesting but also, the trickiest intersection — where the second-wave saying that we should think about feminism as a cause not a personal choice; and the third-wave saying, well hold on: this makes me feel good and that’s my feminist right. I’ve lost touch of how many cultural historians and psychologists I have recently interviewed, who are 30 years older than me, who are bemused by our pop-culture take on feminism. Free the nipple? They’ve got more important things to worry about, they tell me.

Borman says she sold clean out of her nips over the Women’s Marches. Women were quite literally wearing them as badges of honour. And there’s a lot to be said on Borman’s own ‘you do you’ take on it. “If I put a smile on someone’s face for one second,” she said in a recent interview, “that makes all of the other ‘is it feminist, is it not?’ worth it.” Well, quite. Will it make much a long-lasting change outside of the internet-savvy liberal circles? Maybe it doesn’t need to. Make it society can rear a generation of women, and men, willing to discuss the body as a site of interesting and intellectual conversation, rather than a site of sex and shame, that will be success enough. If fake nipples can help this? Give me four.

It’s not all to do with feminism, either. Societally, I feel uneasy about ‘presenting’ myself in certain scenarios whilst wearing a pair. It feels showy. Perhaps, because I know they are not mine and that I’ve made a conscious effort to, well, present my assets. It’s also made me wonder why I am so reluctant to celebrate the overtly public nipple and the idea that they can be malleable, or worn for visual effect – as someone who has had breast surgery, surely I should be on board with this? I often come to a definitive conclusion on discussion points like this; but this time, I’m just intrigued by the wefts and warps of this conversation. Please write in the comments section and let me know your thoughts, too.


Photos by Frances Davison

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