Nipping Sniggers in the Bud
The way she was mocked, chastised, and
condemned for the evening’s biggest fashion “oops,” you’d think
Ellen Pompeo had arrived at the Golden Globes in a gown of
gleaming panda bear pelts. But what was the Grey’s Anatomy
actress’s actual crime?
She dared to show up on the red carpet — on a chilly January
night — with her nipples visibly standing at attention beneath her
white Versace dress.
“It’s white,” smirked E! Channel host Ryan Seacrest when the
actress paused for an on-camera interview. “And… it’s cold.”
I need to explain something that men don’t seem to understand:
This is not a female erection.
Unless Pompeo was wild with lust for Seacrest—hello, have you
seen her fiancé?— the phenomenon taking place at the end of her
breasts was simply a full-frontal form of goose bumps. The result
of temperature, and nothing more. So why should it inspire
“Three words,” explained a frank and bodacious girlfriend of
mine. “Boys are dumb.”
Men like to dream up — or even drum up — eroticism where there
is absolutely none, she said. “I dated a guy in college who worked
at a grocery store. I used to stop by to see him and he would
always find a reason to shuttle me to the frozen food section.”
Male friends of mine insist they understand the basic
physiology — that nipples’ abundant nerve endings cause the
surrounding muscle to contract in response to cold, friction,
sexual excitement, and even nervousness. And that when it happens
in public, it’s almost never because the woman’s looking for
action. But they don’t care. They think it’s hot.
“Please!” said one. “I’m not going to let reality interfere with
my little nipple-inspired fantasies.”
Two things happen, though, when women are treated as sex objects
simply for forgetting to wear a sweater—and I should point out the
double standard that no one calls Simon Cowell a slut, though his
nipples are as prominent a part of American Idol as Paula Abdul’s
dilated pupils. First, we begin to feel self-conscious about
something as involuntary as a sneeze. And products like Nippits
Nipple Covers, which promise to conceal any sign of chill “even
under wet swimsuits,” don’t exactly counteract the shame.
“I think everyone has a different sensitivity level on the
subject, which has as much to do with your age as the situation in
which it happens, bar-hopping versus boardroom meeting, and how
much decolletage you are working with,” said a friend of mine. A
busty gal, she was once horrified to see “an adolescent boy
alerting all his friends to my—ahem—condition.”
The other casualty of this way of thinking is that women begin
to turn on one another — and no, fellas, I don’t mean we turn each
other on. I mean we judge and snipe at other women for failing to
get their areolas under controlla.
“It’s always a little inappropriate,” confirmed another
girlfriend. “I had an employee whose nipples were always showing
and usually at odd angles, and I always thought she should do
something about it. It made everyone uncomfortable.”
Times may be slowly changing. On television, the mere glimpse of
a protruding nipple used to send Standards and Practices watchdogs
scurrying for their “CENSORED” stamps. Now Jennifer Aniston is
allowed to flit about the Friends set with her breasts set
on permanent frost alert. And we can all titter as Samantha struts
through Sex and the City wearing silicone falsies that
maintain an eye-catching boi-oi-oing under her blouse at all
If any real good is to come from snide comments about Ellen
Pompeo’s golden globes, women must wear our bosom buttons with
pride. “Science” and “sexy” can exist side by side, under the same
shirt, can’t they?
“I was pretty ambivalent about the whole nipple thing, until I
nursed two kids,” said my buddy, she of-frozen-food-aisle fame.
“Now, when the pointer sisters stand at attention, they pull all
that loose, sagging skin with them and — for a few magical
moments — I actually have a decent looking rack again. Who can find
fault with that?”
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