Local Government
Berkeley Looks at Decriminalizing Display of Female Nipples

Berkeley Looks at Decriminalizing Display of Female Nipples

By Steven Tavares.

An inequity exists within Berkeley municipal nudity laws, says Councilmember Kriss Worthington, that criminalizes the display of women’s breasts and, specifically, nipples while overlooking topless men in public.

Worthington’s proposal Tuesday evening would delete a reference to the public display of female areola in the city’s municipal code. Violators could be subjected to a misdemeanor or fine. Worthington says the current law pertaining to women is “non-sensical.”

“Implying that the display of a woman’s chest is inherently vulgar enough to warrant illegality needlessly objectifies her as a sexual object,” wrote Worthington, also noting Berkeley’s law exempts women who are breastfeeding in public. “If a woman’s nipples are fit to be seen by the most innocent and impressionable portion of the population, babies and toddlers, then it stands to reason that nipples are not inherently sexual and are fit to be seen by the rest of the population, if that woman so chooses.”

Furthermore, said Worthington, there are few scientific differences between the nipples of men and women, and he is specific about it, according to a memo from his office.

“…The assumption that female nipples are inherently more sexual is erroneous, as they serve a working purpose that is not erotic in the slightest. This is especially poignant when female nipples are compared to male nipples, which are vestigial but still erogenous. Also, the physical differences between male and female breasts and nipples can be quite minute. Some men naturally have a high amount of breast tissue or prominent areoles, which can be nearly identical to mammaries; yet, male nipples are still deemed fit for public exposure.”

Washington D.C., New York City, Portland and Columbus, OH have all approved similar revisions to their ordinances.

In addition, the changes backed by Worthington may also help protect shirtless male transgender members of the community who are born female, but have not undergone surgeries, such as a mastectomy to remove breasts, from legal and privacy concerns.

“Either the city must invalidate a citizen’s identity, which is extremely harmful and the absolute antithesis of all that Berkeley stands for,” wrote Worthington, “or the city must arbitrarily choose to allow the exposure of biological female breasts.”

Originally posted at East Bay Citizen.

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