There was an interesting article in Time recently about Facebook’s censorship of pics with nips, specifically eliminating pictures of breastfeeding moms (and, in their defense, a few of topless women who just happened to be holding babies). But, this brought up an age-old question of Mormondom: why are there no nipples on the Nephites in the BOM vids?As expected, the Time article focused on the “merry war” betwixt the voyeurs (er, “shocked and outraged Facebook customers” or “trigger-happy censors” depending on your perspective) and the exhibitionists (uhm, “militant lesbian feminists” or “health-conscious nurturers” depending on your perspective). But it also raised a few important questions about this very specific form of censorship:
- Double Standards: Breast vs. Bottle. Is breastfeeding shameful or obscene? Should breastfed babies be neither seen nor heard at least in “the act”? Perhaps bottle-fed babies should also be closeted away in fairness or stuffed under a hot blanket for cover. Who is to blame: the baby or the mother?
- Double Standards: Sexism. Does the female nipple have special powers not housed in the male nipple? After all, males are capable of both lactation and breast cancer. Is this bias strictly because men are more visually stimulated by women than women are by men? Other examples of female nipple prudery:
- “topless” models at BYU must wear bathing suit tops
- Barbie has no nipples. Except the ones we poked into her with a pin. Ouch!
- Thanks to TiVO, Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” had 125% viewership, meaning people who were watching TV watched it on average 1.25 times. That would not have happened if 1) she had actually had a wardrobe malfunction (and it had stayed intact) and 2) access to nipple imagery was commonplace and 3) it had been an exposed male nipple.
- Double Standards: Racism. And why are only native people portrayed topless with their nipples brushed out (or never brushed in)? Could they have instead done the Mike Myers thing where they hold up various potted plants or small woodland animals to hide the naughty bits?
- Extreme prudery. If men’s visible nipples are perfectly acceptable in polite society (including YM/YW pool parties–you can’t airbrush actual nipples off an actual chest), why are they too obscene for Mormon BOM vids and temple murals featuring topless native people? Other examples of male nipple prudery:
- Rodin’s statue “The Kiss” was deemed too racy.
- ZCMI attempted to censor be-nippled male mannequins and Tarzan comics.
- The famed copy of David in the British Museum comes with a detachable fig leaf that could be used to cover his naughty bits when Victorian ladies came to the exhibit. Nips were okay, though. It takes a lot of prudery to out-prude the Victorians!
- Chad Hardy’s calendar of shirtless missionaries could be added here, although the objection was more due to brand image rather than the male nipple per se.
Here are a few thoughts on the topic from various ends of the spectrum:
“While it wouldn’t be hard to come up with examples of Mormon literature that convey a sense of repressed or frustrated sexuality, rarely do we find Mormon artists and writers willing to celebrate the beauty of the naked body.” Hugo Olaiz
“Michaelangelo’s David is a prototype of pornography.” Orem high school sophomore at a Scorn Porn rally
““Don’t be paralyzed by prudery. Don’t fall into the opposite excess of pornography.” Levi Peterson
Is this (pardon the expression) making a mountain out of a molehill or does the mere site of male nips send you into a frenzy of sin? Discuss.