I Have A Question: Why Do Men Have Nipples?

I Have A Question will be a new series of blog posts that I write where I try to discover answers to questions that intrigue me or that just pop into my head for no apparent reason (the question I'm answering today is the latter).

Why do men have nipples? We don't use them for anything at all - maybe just to estimate the temperature on a scale from hot to cold. It is understandable why females have them because they serve a purpose. Is it that males used to have breasts (a thought that can actually be seen today in the form of moobs (or 'mreasts' as I like to call them))? Surely that's preposterous!

Well after doing some digging around I was able to find the real answer. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a macho man then brace yourself. Nipples are there to remind us that gender is anything but clear-cut, especially when we're "under construction" in the womb. Whatever your current gender, everyone starts off as a female in the womb.

When developing in our mother's stomach, we begin life following a "female blueprint," from reproductive organs to nipples. It is only after roughly two months that testosterone kicks in (for those of us with a Y chromosome), this is what changes the cell activity of the genitals and brain. But it's already too late to do anything about those nipples.

So why do they stay with us throughout our lives and why do they contain nerves and blood vessels? 

In many male mammals nipple formation is stunted by hormones, but not in humans. There is a lack of evidence for my previous suggestion that males nursed their young. It is more likely that full-grown nipples, being as harmless as they are, don't disappear via natural selection.

But this then begs another question: why are male nipples perfectly acceptable in public but female nipples are considered somewhat vulgar and must be hidden?

This is a question for another time that will take a lot of answering. However, it was social media that spoke out as to nipples not being okay. At least, not if they’re a woman’s. This was what inspired artist Micol Hebron’s nipple template designed to cover images of women’s nipples with a man’s, thus making them “appropriate” for social media.

An 'acceptable' nipple from #freethenipplecampaign.

Read more about the #FreeTheNippleCampaign here

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