Friday, July 23, 2010


So I got to thinking this morning about male nipples, and not for the first time.

Nipples aren't sex-linked; they're like arms, legs, ears, the standard equipment that every human being grows from scratch, whether male or female. Male nipples are vestigial, never having been hooked up to a fully functioning mammary gland. Culturally, at least in our culture, it's only the mildest of aberrations for a man to display his nipples. Certainly he, I, shouldn't do it at a formal dinner party, or where food is being prepared or served, but on a public street there's nothing wrong with it, especially on a hot day.

And from time to time, I give in to my silly side and use the word "nipples" in class, referring to the male variety. One example: people ask me what's the longest my beard has ever grown, and I tell them it's been down to my nipples. That nearly always gets a nervous giggle, because students' first thought is that I've just said something off-color. If any of them try to correct me, I point out what I wrote above.

Today, however, I got to thinking in a different direction: what if women had a visible, non-functional man-bit that it was moderately acceptable to display? I reasoned by analogy from the nipple, which is not really the glandular tissue but merely a covering for the duct, and wondered what it would be like if women had ... well, if they had a part that rhymed with "so dumb," only without the contents that rhyme with "mutts." And what if it was located a bit higher than the male version, which, given how many young women display their bare midriffs, would mean it was often visible? People are certainly weird and irrational enough to find that attractive, sort of a like beauty mark: a little, wrinkly beauty mark, for the abdomen.

Wonder if they'd scratch it when it itched?

There's no real point to this. I didn't have any flashes of life-changing insight, or anything. It's just a sample of what it's like being in a line of work where you get paid to think about what most people ignore. Even when I'm not on the clock, my thoughts still spill out in weird directions.

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