Freed nipples are coming to a yoga class near you

Freed nipples are coming to a yoga class near you

CultureDecember 19, 2016 By Brandy Simmons

Confession: 
I freed the nipple. Amongst roughly 50 unsuspecting — mostly clothed — yogis at one of the area’s most popular studios, I alone went completely topless. Then my reflection in the mirrors terrified me.

We’ve all been intimidated by boobs before; don’t pretend.

We make nudity, especially female nudity, excessively taboo, so I propose going topless without warning in public yoga classes to any woman who’ll listen. It’s legal in Boulder, and breastfeeding-in-public debates clearly indicate the world needs more free nipples, more free bodies and more free thinkers.

The plan to put my boobs where my mouth is in a yoga class included other topless women and ready stats about the 1930s protests and arrests that helped legalize male toplessness in the United States.

Instead, I overheated whilst standing in the front row with one topless, male friend by my side. Then my indignation at stifling inequality took over. So, nipples pointing everywhere, boobs free to do what boobs do, I practiced yoga topless, averting my eyes from the mirror as though the woman reflected there was my seventh-grade Sadie Hawkins dance partner. I felt shame.

Around the world, we regulate women’s bodies, affections and relationships both legally and socially. Never mind the discomfort of wearing bras, we tell ladies they need them for support, sex appeal and propriety, even as science and research says they contribute to breast sag and disease.

“... The bra is a false need,” researcher and professor Jean-Denis Rouillon told France Info following a 15-year breast study. “Medically, physiologically, anatomically, the breast does not benefit from being deprived of gravity. Instead, it languishes with a bra.”

The concept of nipple deviance seemed asinine with truths like that, so I first ditched bras in the name of common sense and equality, then got other women to join in. No matter how allegedly equal, legal or beloved the boobs in question, health and “nipple lift” sold the movement. After that, yoga-class equality (read: topless women) proved easier to sell somehow. We began to plan.

Then I committed to taking a yoga class right after teaching one to underprivileged Denver children. When I teach, I cover my “give what you need” forearm tattoo with long sleeves. Heavy traffic meant I showed up to my practice seconds from late with nothing to change into.

Of course I wasn’t wearing a bra; I love women, damnit.

My sales pitch mocked me. Within 15 minutes, most all of the men around me were shirtless, the women arbitrarily hiding their nipples in tiny tops, and I gasped, ready to pass out from heat, humidity and exertion. I glared at bare, male chests through my sweaty haze, and in the name of equality, I joined them.

“You’re not wearing anything under that!” the woman next to me urgently whispered, sure it was accidental.

“I know ...” I fumbled at earning her support quietly without drawing further attention. I choked, terrified she’d eviscerate me and/or leave.

“Oh, OK. It’s OK,” she filled my word void, and we practiced on.

The instructor continued her lesson about acceptance and making space for each other. Practice continued for the majority of the students as domestication screamed at me to get my shit together. Every forward fold brought solace, each nipples-up chest expansion an affirmation that I’d lost my ever-loving mind.

To use a term from “Sex at Dawn,” our “standard narrative” demonizes men as uncontrollable, ravenous fuck hounds who evolved to spread their paternal line while whorish women evolved to exchange sex for resources and security. We restrict female dress under the premise of keeping women and girls safe and moral, but that pseudo-logic protects nobody. Keep women under control, and men will follow, we allege, but less-biased evolutionary biology proves the standard narrative wrong and regulating sexuality this way to be backward.

Here’s some truth: My butt cheeks hung out of tiny shorts as I prayed in front of my public-school locker in school. I signed a virginity contract — and meant it — even as I fought to be allowed to wear a bandana for a shirt.

Nobody raped me, and when it was time to void the contract, my sweaty cross-country clothes didn’t help me “ask for it.”

We wreak havoc on each other by encouraging and perpetuating this narrative. Following my little rebellion, a friend told me I’d given up my power, that it would take other women’s power to follow suit — a power of attraction via scarcity. To make the female nipple equal and as common a site as the male nipple would do a disservice to relationships, he argued. Other men have since agreed.

Manufactured scarcity creates power struggles, not healthy relationships or societies. In Jane Goodall’s early days, she and researchers baited wild chimpanzees — who naturally foraged and shared their findings — with bananas to keep them close and easy to study. Upon learning a nearly effortless food option awaited so close, the chimps foraged less and began viciously fighting, not just over a limited number of bananas, but in general as they spent their days in one place, obsessed with boxes of bananas. Goodall’s team manufactured a need and limited access to the desirable object, creating a power struggle.

We’re as related to the peaceful, horny bonobo as the chimp, especially socially and sexually. Our anatomy — and women’s multiple orgasms and volume during sex — show we’re designed to copulate, often, and with many partners.

To take away sex, touch, connection and autonomy for a falsified standard narrative is cruel. Manufactured sociosexual scarcity in human societies damages our minds just like the chimps’, only you’re hunched over your laptop whacking off to unrealized sexual fantasies — your bananas, so to speak. Creating the necessity for movements that box in sexuality, gender-appropriate behavior, family and marriage pits us against each other without any logic as to why. Tell us we can’t or show us a limit, and we start acting like animals.

Manufactured scarcity tells us to react strongly to skin. We then operate as though skin indicates who’s down-to-fuck and who’s a prude, even though we all know it doesn’t dictate a woman’s desire for a sexual encounter. We sometimes use clothing/visible skin to indicate openness to sexual encounters, a kind of conditional availability that gives both genders the wrong impression of consent, autonomy and respect. It’s the whores against the rapists, and nobody wins. By embracing non-communication and denying each other sexual autonomy, we open the floodgates for the well-domesticated to oppress, shun, batter and kill over human nature.

Basic equality offends and terrifies us because we fail to see how effective a tool this judgement is in managing a society … and in oppressing a population. Laws, social regulations and dress codes around the world dictate different standards for women and flexisexuals than men, all based on a standard narrative disproved entirely by science. This manipulation — ruling each gender criminal, sinful, offensive and inappropriate in its natural state — means equal existence becomes deviant because we’re all at war with our sexual counterparts.

Consider birth control. Now that for-profit businesses count as people, they may also have religious morals as selectively and politically as the rest of us. Never mind that the science doesn’t back Hobby Lobby’s claims about its rejected forms of birth control for women and that the company pays for men’s birth control options. A predominantly male Supreme Court effectively ruled corporations to be more deserving of constitutional equality and human rights than women. Keep in mind: Family planning dominates as one of the best tools for ending poverty, especially for women and children, but we have to control loose women here.

If we stop attempting to steal jurisdiction over each other with judgement and punishment, “moral” or otherwise, we may adopt a more egalitarian approach. Change the narrative, and everybody gets more healthy love connections. Each individual human on this planet holds the power to tweak the narrative daily.

For others to treat my body as autonomous and inoffensive, I had to do the same, and I had to do it publicly to open the dialogue, even though I loathe confrontation. Put to the bullshit test, female breasts prove no more offensive than a man’s sexy pecs or flopping moobs. They feed children, compare easily to pectorals, and they’re no more sin causing than the sinner himself.

We can’t hold others responsible for our intolerance or refusal to embrace their autonomous actions as harmless to our values. We don’t have jurisdiction over each other’s bodies or each other’s love. We take jurisdiction and accept that theft in such a way that touch, sex, sexuality, gender and our bodies become tools of manipulation and oppression. Then we validate ourselves by shaming anybody who doesn’t conform.

Well-domesticated women lash out when others don’t respect the narrative. Two walked out of that class after I got topless. I hope it wasn’t my nipples, but I thank them now, publicly, for leaving quietly. My mother raised “ladies” without giving antiquated gender roles and homophobia a second thought. My “rose buds” were to stay protected behind no less than two layers for life.

Momma tried. After this, I’m not sure we’re still speaking. Equality won this one, even as our models shied away from the shoot and I found myself suddenly super-invested in a movement we shouldn’t even need.

We can’t keep fueling inequality, so afraid of brazen challenges to old ideologies, an archaic narrative and trumped-up gender roles that we obsess over breastfeeding women or boys who so much as hold hands or carry an “effeminate” purse. My nature doesn’t vibe with roasting while topless men enjoy their yoga practice. Our definition of deviance can’t be this narrow.

Given breastfeeding’s comeback and the fact that men’s nipples serve no purpose at all, we should see the female nipple most often. Men don’t benefit from being seen as out of control and predatory, nor would women take power from men by living openly and equally.

So I practiced yoga traditionally: topless, and when class finished, I thanked the woman on my right for being chill and staying. My head was spinning and I’d put my shirt back on inside out, but I heard her praise this as a liberating move.
I bought Champagne to celebrate. What exactly, I’m still not sure.

We’re biologically promiscuous, sexual apes, and our bodies need not be weapons in a manufactured war over human nature. Science is only now beginning to separate that nature from historical moralistic biases in research and reporting. We’re rejecting genital mutilation, discrimination against homosexuals and even reassessing marriage, family and the idea of humans as monogamous.

As a society, if we turned around and embraced human’s natural state a little more, we could vilify men and victimize women far less. If you think this isn’t your movement, imagine your childhood without shaming or taboos surrounding our bodies. Better still, consider dating without the assumptions. Equality and open dialogue could make it way easier to harmlessly and blamelessly get exactly what we want socially and sexually.

Yes, it’s terrifying to break a social norm with a hypersexualized body. I’m sure it’s scary for Boulder County judges to issue marriage licenses with Colorado Attorney John Suthers embarrassing himself by fighting marriage equality, too, but it’s happening. We’re changing society, right here, right now.

Deviance makes us all a little rowdy, be that politically angry or turned the hell on, but it can do great good. You, dear Rooster reader, will eventually venture away from these titillating pages and onto greater things.

What’s greater than nipples? Not only half of the nipples, that’s for sure.

Adopt a policy of audacity in the face of inequality. Love whomever you want in any quantity. Be a man who’s affectionate with both the men and the women in his life. Gender bend. Ditch the bras, and let your free nipples do the talking. Follow the movement at #FreeTheNipple.

- Photo: Dan LoGrasso