About The Everyday Female Nipple On Instagram

Why are images of nipples considered more offensive than images of firearms? Nipples are a basic feature of human anatomy. Why is it uncomfortable for us as a society to see female nipples?


You might have already noticed the absence of female nipples on Instagram. You might have also already noticed the prevalence of sexualised recordings, GIFs and videos that show women twerking, rolling on the beach and sitting on a man’s lap in thongs—but never their nipples. The only breasts on full display belong to AMAB people, and Kim Kardashian’s butt.

There is, somehow, an allowance made for female breasts that are “covered” with see-through tops. Yet what’s not allowed are completely natural phenomena such as menstrual spots, non-superstar buttocks, female pubic hair above the panties, and female nipples in general.

Nipple Censorship on Social Media

Why do we find nipples so offensive, even more so than pictures of firearms? Nipples are a basic physiological characteristic of women. Why are we so uneasy with public images of them?Moreover, why do we accept—even normalize—the objectification of women?Depictions of bare breasts (with female nipples!) have a long history, from images of nursing Madonnas in the 14th century to French nudes in the latter 16th century. Naked breasts have been artistic subjects since long before Instagram and its ban on female nipples.In the beginning, Instagram appeared as a great democratizer of photography, ushering in what seemed to be a new chapter in art history. Social media platforms enable an exchange of diverse experiences and perspectives. However, Instagram’s terms of use challenge this freedom. Users can only post content suitable for a broad audience. “For a variety of reasons”, nudity is not tolerated. But what is nudity? What is art? Where is the boundary? Does content have to cater to “universal” standards of likeability?

No Nudity Policy on Instagram

While the prohibition of female nipples is evident, pictures of busts seem acceptable. Notably, nudity in images of paintings and sculptures is also acceptable. This underscores the basic principle of social media wherein a line is drawn between photography and all other forms of visual art.

The definition and acceptance of nudity, especially concerning the female nipple, are continually shaped by social media platforms. Although there exists a general censorship policy for “mature content”, its inconsistent implementation has led to an ambiguous understanding of nudity. Instagram and Facebook lack a clear distinction between nudity as pornography and nudity as art.

Instagram claims to refrain from value judgements on the cultural interpretation of images of nipples, asserting that they intend their guidelines to reflect a sensitivity to diverse cultures worldwide. This is bullshit. We see the world the way it is depicted on social media platforms and, above all, we can depict it ourselves. The world we perceive is shaped by social media platforms, allowing us to depict and influence it. In the current era of nude art, a disturbing trend emerges: Women, often the ones holding the camera or brush, find themselves self-censoring to attain visibility.

Controversial Guidelines

Social media’s guidelines, far from promoting true sensitivity, mirror society’s ambivalence toward the female body. These rules result in the (self-)censorship of female breasts while presenting male breasts as mundane, normal and public. The erasure of nipples and bodies deemed offensive presents a profound hindrance to contemporary artists who wish to leverage social media as freely as others. When websites that serve as platforms for news and expression make a practice of selectively and unexpectedly deleting posts, they are engaging in censorship. Restricting the access of artists and art lovers to social media based on the content of their works becomes discrimination.

The suppression of images of female nipples has an enormous potential impact on how we communicate about visual art, as well as sex education, discussions about sexual politics and even individual self-censorship. The locus of freedom of expression has shifted to private companies.

The question lingers: Is it truly possible to distinguish between art and obscenity?

Porn, Nudes, Art and Social Media

In a bid to limit the spread of pornographic material in their forums, most social media sites restrict the posting of nude pictures. Typically, their terms of use permit the sharing of images featuring nude paintings and nude sculptures. However, the challenge for many artists and art enthusiasts lies in the platforms’ struggle to consistently differentiate between artistic nudity and explicit content. The often blurry line that distinguishes pornography from art plays an important role in determining whether a picture or work is deemed obscene.

Social media platforms have made it easier for women to present themselves through a variety of images, showcasing the diversity of the female body. Nevertheless, their ongoing censorship, wherein certain images vanish from public view, achieves the opposite effect.

Social media is no longer a counterbalance to the constructed image of women seen in magazines and other media; it has failed to provide a space free from the censorship of the female body. While digital connectivity could have enabled women to present themselves publicly, to create their own identity and to free their bodies from oppressive social forms, the everyday depiction of the female nipple is systematically prohibited.

Forbidden Hashtags

In 2020, breasts and, by extension, the female nipple, continue to be laden with cultural and sexual expectations. The question arises: Why is it proving so difficult to challenge and dispel these expectations? The prohibition of hashtags such as #nipple on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest raises concerns about censorship and raises fundamental questions about their authority to dictate content. These platforms do not have the right to censor, just because someone might be irritated by female nipples. What will be censored next? What will we be bothered with next?

About #uncensoredme

We invite our community to share cases of biased and unfair censorship on social media. The current guidelines lack transparency and often discriminate against certain groups. The ambiguous and arbitrary enforcement of these rules pushes content into spaces that are anything but safe.

By participating in this campaign, you become part of a movement towards a destigmatized approach to nudity and sexuality.

Use #uncensoredme to participate or to learn more about the campaign.

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