Kathy Sheridan: Gentlemen, please put those nipples away
The tendency to fling the kit off is beginning to look a tad exploitative . . . and not clever
Vladimir Putin: bares his nipples at every opportunity. Photograph: Alexei Drizhinin/AP Photo
Most social movements are born for worthy reasons and occasionally, of course, they go too far. So officer, get your cuffs out: this nipple-flaunting rash must be stopped. The tendency to fling the kit off regardless of onlookers’ age or sensitivities , is beginning to look a tad exploitative. It’s not big and it’s not clever. As a parent, I despair. The narcissism that often accompanies it is not pretty either.
“My fingers are long and beautiful, as – it has been well documented – are various other parts of my anatomy.” Oh wait . . . sorry. That was Donald Trump. Who has not taken his top off (unless one counts the hapless, tiny creature on his pate, which presumably skitters back to the zoo under cover of darkness). But the flagrant ease with which other gentlemen have been baring their nipples is nothing short of indecent.
In recent months, this columnist has found her gaze directly in the sight-line of many pairs of hairy, male nipples peering out of sweaty torsos. Among other places, these apparitions have occurred in a supermarket, on a pub terrace and at a match, where several um, exuberant fans whipped their kit off in some rehearsed action. The latter may be taking their cue from Ronaldo, who for some reason flung his top off after Portugal’s victory in the Euros, until directed to put it back on again. If social media is any guide, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s nipples are on display 24/7. Vladimir Putin bares his at every opportunity. David Cameron, topless on the beach, and a naked Orlando Bloom on his paddle board, nether regions pixelated, have dominated several news cycles.
Television is infested with whole regiments of topless men, clad only in tiny budgie-smugglers. That beyond-weird sport of synchronised diving is rendered even weirder by the fact that when performed by men, the uniform consists of a minuscule sliver of ingeniously engineered fabric, arranged with infinite care around the nethers. Yet the women synch divers get to wear no-nonsense one-pieces. How odd is that? Such an extraordinary reversal of titillation convention deserves closer scrutiny.
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One newspaper reporting on the Rio opening ceremony declared the hit of the night to be a flag-bearer wearing “only a ta’ovala skirt, sandals and possibly a tub of Vaseline”. The topless, Vaselined one was a man of course, a Tongan taekwondo competitor by the name of Pita Taufatofua. Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen hardly got a look-in – probably because she was fully-clothed.
Officer, I am offended. Grossly offended. Do your job. Get your scissors out and snip off those credentials. Is nowhere safe from the advancing nipple? It’s holiday time. Children are allowed stay up past bedtime to watch this stuff on television. What kind of example is this? Some kind of heroic male conspiracy to strike a blow for social justice? An urge to free themselves from the shackles of body-shaming? To subvert normative sexual politics? To demonstrate to the poor sleep-addled children that male empowerment comes not just in nipple form but in tiny pouch things?
And officer, let’s be clear: arrests should not be influenced by aesthetics. In this brave new world, is not one nipple as offensive as the next, regardless of its housing?