I think about nipples all the time. Specifically mine and how threatening or off-putting they may be to you.

A few years ago a social justice advocate I know was posting on Facebook about the unfairness of the fact that men can go shirtless and it’s illegal for women. At the time I thought, what’s the big deal? This is a tiny thing and who cares really?

But over the years the absurdity of how our culture thinks about nipples began to reveal itself to me. It used to be illegal for anyone to reveal their nipple in the United States, but men won the right to go shirtless in the 1930’s.

Though breastfeeding is legal in public, there’s still controversy around it. People with breasts are told that they need to be modest and should find a private place to breastfeed. (It’s hard enough just caring for a baby, but now a mom needs to inconvenience herself to take care of this crucial task?)

The unfairness of the situation is exaggerated in hot weather. A man can cool down by peeling off his shirt. Women are required to keep theirs on. In most states, she could be fined or arrested for being “indecent.”

What Does All This Have to Do with Cuddle Sanctuary?

Bras. At Cuddle Sanctuary, I always wear a bra. I wear it not because I need support and not because it provides me comfort. I wear it to cover my nipples. Female nipples are apparently so erotic that their existence must be masked. And I – as the leader of Cuddle Sanctuary – must set a good example. Even though it annoys me.

For some, bras decrease back pain. For others, they are a private beauty accessory. My goal isn’t to judge, it’s just to offer options.

Cuddle Sanctuary’s Bra Policy

People with breasts – you are welcome to come to Cuddle Sanctuary without a bra if you choose.

Wait – Your Events Are Supposed to Be Nonsexual – Isn’t That a Mixed Message?

For those who find breasts arousing – and there are a lot of us who do –  I have some information and advice for you. First, know that not everyone on the planet agrees with you. Your interest in breasts is not a biological thing, it’s cultural thing – something you’ve learned. According to Paul Abramson and Steven Pinkerton’s book, Sexual Nature, Sexual Culture which was published by the University of Chicago Press, “Where breasts are normally left uncovered, men apparently do not “eroticize” them…”

Katherine Dettwyler and Patricia Stuart-Macadam’s book Breastfeeding: Bicultural Perspectives attempts to understand why breasts are eroticized in some parts of the world – like the U.S. – and not others. They went to Mali, West Africa and interviewed people about it. Those people thought that eroticizing breasts was “unnatural,” and were surprised that “men would become sexually aroused by women’s breasts, or that women would find such activities pleasurable.”

There’s no shame in being a part of this culture and finding breasts sexy because we were all taught to. But it does limit the freedom of those of us who have them – if you find them distractingly sexy every minute of the day. I’ll speak for myself, if my nipples are prevalent, I fear that I will be leered at, disrespected and even assaulted. And so it feels dangerous not to wear a bra. That’s why even though our policy is to welcome people not to wear a bra, I myself, may not do it. Or maybe one day I will. I hope.

How Should I Handle Myself? Give Me Some Tips!

If a person with breasts attends Cuddle Sanctuary without a bra and you happen to notice, keep in mind that it’s a choice about comfort. Keep cool. Don’t jump for joy. Don’t freak out. Just don’t mention it. Let the person be comfortable and silently applaud them for allowing themselves to be more comfortable – even though it may feel risky for them.

Another thing to consider is that it’s very possible for all of us to think differently about breasts. Here’s an example. We have the capacity to choose what’s erotic or not – depending on the context. Many people – when they are enjoying sexy time – use their lips for kissing and other wonderful things. And yet lips are bared in public every day. They are used for talking, eating and smiling. They can become erotic during sexy time and non-erotic during other times. It can be the same way with breasts. Rather finding breasts distractingly sexy all the time – we can create a new habit. We can decide.

Making this decision can allow so many people to feel more comfortable and safe in the world. (Like me!)


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