10 Titillating Facts About Nipples

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Nipples are mysterious things. We all have them, and they provided the first nourishment many of us received in our lives, yet they remain taboo. How much do we really know about nipples? The answer may surprise you.

10Look Ma, No Nipples!

We’re so accustomed to seeing nipples on people’s chests that we hardly give a second thought to what it would be like without them. However, this is a reality for people who have athelia, a rare genetic disorder that prevents the development of nipples in the womb. Those with the disease are born with only one nipple or none at all.

Athelia can be benign on its own, but for most, it is a symptom of a medical condition like ectodermal dysplasia (ED) or Yunis-Varon syndrome (YVS). ED is a genetic condition that can interfere with the development or function of the teeth, hair, nails, and sweat glands. There are about 7,000 diagnosed cases around the world.

Those who suffer from YVS are even less fortunate. In addition to the ectodermal tissue problems caused by ED, the disease also affects their skeletal system, respiratory system, and heart. It was first recognized in the 1980s, and fewer than 15 cases have been reported since then. While ED sufferers can live relatively normal lives if their condition is properly managed, many of those who have YVS do not survive infancy.

9Prosthetic Nipples


Photo credit: Pink Perfect

For those not in the know, wooden peg legs and iron hooks are not the only prostheses available on the market. For those who desire to augment their nipples, there are a wide variety of options available. But nipple prostheses were created for a far nobler cause than pirate fashion: the emotional and psychological relief of breast cancer patients.

The most surefire way to eliminate breast cancer and prevent it from coming back is a surgery called mastectomy, the complete or partial removal of one or both breasts, which often means the loss of nipples. Women who have undergone mastectomy have been shown to suffer severe psychological distress after the loss of their breasts and nipples, including a decreased desire for sex. Prostheses are a cheap, risk-free alternative to expensive, painful reconstruction for these women, and they have seen a surge of popularity in recent years. Since stress can be detrimental to proper recovery and may even encourage cancer cell growth, fake nipples could even be a lifesaver.

8Nipple Makeup

Japan is home to some pretty bizarre subcultures and fashion trends, the latest of which is an obsession with pink nipples. Since permanent methods of altering nipple color, such as tattooing, can be painful and expensive, some have turned to nipple makeup. As an added bonus, users can choose among a variety of colors to suit their specific preferences or even their mood. You can have a new nipple color every day if you want, just like facial makeup.

But Japan doesn’t have a monopoly on nipple cosmetics—they are not even the first to invent them. The quest for perfectly plush and rosy tips dates back centuries, all the way to the Renaissance. During those times of chivalry and romance, Venetian courtiers had a few tricks up their sleeves to delight their knights in shining armor. One of those tricks was called pezzuola di Levante, a small piece of cloth dyed with pigment and used to add a beautiful reddish tint to their lips, cheeks, and nipples.

In the modern age, one of the companies that pioneered the production of nipple cosmetics hails from the United States. In 1977, a San Francisco cosmetic company called Benefit decided to answer the call of an exotic dancer who wanted a product to “make her nipples pop out and seem rosier.” The result was a product called Benetint, which is normally used to stain the lips and cheeks but was created for use on any body part the user wants to be a bit redder.

7Female Koro

Shocked asian young woman closeup
As we’ve previously mentioned, koro is a cultural psychological disorder affecting mostly Southeast Asian males that is characterized by intense paranoia that their penis is retreating into their bodies. But koro can affect women as well, although it is much rarer. Female koro sufferers are convinced that their nipples are being sucked into their breasts, which may or may not also be accompanied by the sudden retraction of their labia.

Traditionally, possession by a malevolent female ghost or a fox spirit is believed to be the cause of female koro. The recommended treatment is to make loud noises, usually with a gong or fireworks, to frighten the ghost away. If scaring the ghost does not work, the next course of action is to exorcise it through pain. The sufferer’s head is first covered in fishnet before she is severely beaten with branches. Her nipples will be pulled while the exorcism is taking place to ensure that they don’t disappear, which is believed to cause instant death.

It might seem strange to think that shrinking unmentionables could be fatal, but it all boils down to yin and yang, the respective negative feminine and positive masculine forces of Chinese philosophy. An imbalance of these forces in the body is believed to result in numerous ailments depending on which part of the body is affected by the imbalance, possibly leading to death. Koro is thought to be one such condition that results from an imbalance of yin and yang.

6Nipple Orgasms

Orgasms caused solely by nipple stimulation may seem ludicrous to most of us, but a brain-mapping study recently revealed its wondrous possibilities. Researchers from Rutgers University used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to view the brain activity of women touching themselves in various places. When the women were asked to stimulate their nipples, the data gathered revealed that nipple stimulation lights up the same part of the brain connected with genital stimulation, leading researchers to postulate that it has the same effect.

Before you boys start feeling cheated, there’s good news for you, too. Initial data from the study indicated that men were capable of the same response.

5The World’s Strongest Nipples

Anyone unfortunate enough to have been on the receiving end of a “purple nurple” is painfully familiar with the sensitivity of nipples, but that’s no concern for Sage Werbock. More famously known by his stage name, “The Great Nippulini,” Werbock built a career as a nipple strongman, lifting or pulling heavy objects with his nipples.

Werbock was inspired to make money with his herculean nipples when he saw videos of performers lifting things with their chests. He noticed that he had bigger nipples than they did and wondered if he could use his nipples instead of his chest to lift weights. He was right: The Great Nippulini is able to lift 32 kilograms (70 lb) on each side, earning him the world record for the most weight lifted by the nipples in 2009. Apparently unsatisfied with only one world record under his belt, he earned another in 2011 for pulling a nearly 1,000-kilogram (2,200 lb) vehicle across a distance of 20 meters (66 ft). Werbock achieved these feats even though he had suffered an accident in 2004 in which one of his nipples was partially ripped off during a performance. As horrifying as his act may sound, he claims that it does not cause him pain.

4Fashionably Exposed Nipples

When we picture women from centuries past, we always think of tightly laced gowns, modest dress, and definitely not nipples bandied about freely. However, recent studies on medieval fashion have shed new light on the subject. It looks like our venerable ancestors might not have been that different from modern people—in some ways, they were even more daring. For example, bare breasts with nipples in full view was a trend among the fashionably inclined between the 14th and 18th centuries.

It all began with Agnes Sorel, the mistress of King Charles the VII of France. Since King Charles’s wife preferred staying home to take care of her children to prancing around in court, Agnes soon took over such queenly duties, acting as the king’s consort during public ceremonies and functions. With her influence over the king and her constant presence at court, Agnes wielded great influence over the nobility, especially the women. Being one of the most beautiful women of her age, she liked to show off her womanly charms, particularly by flaunting her marvelous breasts. She was known to order her gowns intentionally designed to allow either one or both of her breasts to be displayed, and many noblewomen followed her lead. Agnes’s nipple-baring antics became so troubling for the Church that a bishop lodged a complaint with the king to stop her sinful ways.

Several decades after Agnes’s death, an influential noblewoman from Mantua named Isabella d’Este revived the fashion in the Italian and French courts. She was so successful that even the queen of France joined in on the nipple-baring fun. The noblewomen during this period were so concerned with keeping their breasts pert and their nipples in perfect shape that they hired wet nurses to suckle their offspring, saving them from the disfiguring effects of breastfeeding.

3Drugged Nipples

Thailand is a beautiful country, rich with magnificent natural wonders and spicy cultural heritage that will entrance any traveler. The country has become one of the most visited destinations in recent years, making the tourism industry one of its biggest moneymakers. A sizable part of this industry caters to the sexual appetites of foreigners, thanks to the country’s liberal prostitution laws. Thai gangs soon shifted their attention to fleecing these well-heeled tourists out of their money.

These gangs have a bizarre modus operandi, discovered in 1997 after several gang members at a Pattaya beach resort were busted during the investigation of the deaths of more than a dozen tourists by drug overdose. Their strategy is both simple and irresistible: A female or kathoey (transgender) member of the gang applies drugs to her nipples, lures an unsuspecting tourist to a hotel room or other secluded spot, and encourages him to lick her nipples, knocking him out within minutes. When the victim wakes up, nothing is left for him but the clothes on his back. Thai police have denied that this is still going on, but if you’re thinking of taking an Asian vacation, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to pretty strangers.

2Supernumerary Nipples


Photo credit: Zureks

Human nipples usually grow in pairs, but thanks to some quirks of nature, about 1–5 percent of the population have more than two. The extra nipples that signify a condition called polythelia usually appear along the milk lines of the torso, an evolutionary leftover from our multi-nippled ancestors. But they can also grow on other parts of the body—one woman even had a well-formed nipple, complete with an aureola and nipple hair, growing on her foot. Since most supernumerary nipples are not fully formed, they are often mistaken for moles or warts, which means that some people are not even aware they have them.

During medieval times, extra nipples were called “witches’ teats” or “witches’ marks” and considered to be a sign that the bearer was consorting with diabolical forces. Demonologists of the period believed that an extra nipple was used by witches to suckle imps or their familiars with their blood. Nowadays, there is no longer any negative stigma attached to having extra nipples. Some famous personalities have even admitted to having them in recent years.

1Sucking The King’s Nipples

Royal ceremonies are splendid things to watch. However, if modern monarchies followed the same rituals and traditions as the ancient Irish, the whole affair would have at least a PG-13 rating. To the ancient Celtic inhabitants, the king’s nipples were considered sacred, and they showed their obedience by ritually sucking his nipples during royal ceremonies.

Ancient Ireland wasn’t always such a safe place for a king’s nipples, however. Scientists researching bodies found in Irish bogs have speculated that the ritual mutilation of those nipples are signs that they were high-ranking royals. This is because the king’s nipples were such a big deal that cunning claimants to the throne often devised dastardly schemes to cut off their rivals’ nipples, and when a king conceded defeat in war or his people overthrew him, his nipples were cut off before he was killed.

It was also thought that the king served as the consort of the Celtic fertility goddess, which meant that famine or pestilence were the result of her displeasure with him, necessitating a sacrifice to appease her and bring bounty back to the land. As a result, any time misfortune befell the kingdom, the nipples had to go.


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