“Men’s nipples can be carnal command centers.”
This is the phrase that sticks most in my head after a week of looking deep into the mystery of men’s hard nipples. The sentence appeared in a 2014 Cosmopolitan piece about male nipple sensitivity, and I’m not sure if it’s just the simple alliteration that made me remember it, or if it’s the image I got in my head of a ship captain steering his vessel with a couple of areola. Whatever it is, I now fear that the phrase “carnal command centers” may never leave my brain.
Perhaps I should start at the beginning. A little while back I was reading a piece we did here at MEL on what men and women really think when they see hard nipples in public. Unsurprisingly, dudes find it super hot to see hard nipples on a woman, as evidenced by the endless online chatter about Rachel’s nipples on Friends, as well as countless other instances of dudes spotting women’s nips. Hard nipples on a guy, though, didn’t seem like much of a thing for women — the piece made mention of the testosterone-driven jocularity between guys about hard nips on their buddies, but outside of that, the mystery remained: Are women into guys’ erect nipples?
There is a surprisingly exact answer to this question, but before we get there, let’s quickly go over a few things, starting with why men even have nipples at all. As per Live Science, it’s because nipples develop on an embryo pretty early in the process, before the Y chromosome starts doing shit around week six. By then, those pepperoni slices are already baked into your cheese, whatever base you end up being served with. While I didn’t know exactly why men had nipples until I looked this up, I correctly figured that it had something to do with a quote I remembered from Jurassic Park, when Henry Wu tells Ian Malcolm, “All vertebrate embryos are inherently female.” This, frankly, is how I’ve gotten the majority of my scientific knowledge: Steven Spielberg movies.
So what, then, causes male nipples to get hard? There are really only like three reasons. The most obvious one is that they’re cold — in the same way goosebumps stand up on your skin, the nipples do as well, especially since nipple skin is more tender. Then there’s sexual arousal — as guys start to get excited, their nipples will stand erect, just as they do in women. Finally, it could just be that you have overly sensitive nipples.
You may smirk, but nipple sensitivity is a big deal for a lot of guys, and it can lead to their nipples being hard nearly all the time. For example, there’s this Reddit thread by a guy who writes, “Since I’ve started working out a couple years ago they’ve frequently been erect. They poke through my shirt and draw a lot of attention.” And there’s this guy from a bodybuilding forum, who is also embarrassed by his rock hard pec-toppers.
As you might imagine, this embarrassment mostly comes from typical guy ball-busting. As user BigCasino relates on that bodybuilding forum, he often runs into jokes like, “Is it cold out here, or is it just you?” from his male friends. Then there’s this Reddit thread, asking what people think when they see guys with hard nipples — you can see a plethora of bros making nipple jokes (along with lines about smuggling raisins and nipple tweaking, there was this bit of thought-provoking prose: “You nippin’ dog?” So clever!) Even Robert Pattinson joked about Taylor Lautner’s hard nipples back when Twilight was still a thing.
But the problem goes beyond simple embarrassment. The pointiness of some guys’ nipples means they often rub against the fabric of their shirt, causing chafing and irritation. As well as being Drax’s problem in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, it also was an issue for Andy Bernard on The Office, who was petrified of nipple chafing.
The problem is so pervasive that it’s even referred to as “jogger’s nipple” or “runner’s nipple,” and according to Ultra Running, coarse materials like cotton cause this problem, along with nipple sensitivity, which seems to be more prominent during workouts due to stimulation from the blood circulating. To tackle this problem, or any general nipple irritation, stylist Todd Hanshaw recommends guys try out some nipple covers, which can be found at any store like Target. Sure, they may be primarily marketed toward women, but guys can use them as well — even Mark Wahlberg talked about wearing them on Ellen. “Just be careful if you have a hairy chest,” Hanshaw jokes.
These nipple covers can also be used to disguise hard nipples in any setting, not just athletics, but if you’re not into taping your tits up, you do have another option. According to Hanshaw, for the guys out there suffering from perpetually pointy nips, “You just don’t want to wear thin fabrics. So go with a stiffer or thicker materials to hide them. That’s really it.”
That kind of is all one can do to remedy this situation. Looking online, the only other solution I could track down was rubbing them to warm them up, but going around all day rubbing your own nipples is probably going to lead to far more awkward conversations than you were originally dealing with. There were some suggestion for calming lotions like castor oil, or massage oils and that may be worth trying, but outside of that, the only other suggestion was surgery, and usually those surgeries are for gynecomastia, which is about puffy nipples, not hard nipples. Very different.
So now we’ve established that hard-nipple dudes are likely to stay that way, let’s get to the real question: Do women like them? They are, of course, a sexual part of the body for men, too. Aside from that Cosmo piece about “carnal command centers,” you can find tons of advice out there on how to stimulate — or torture — a man’s nips. Due to their sensitivity, they’re definitely an erogenous zone, and many guys are indeed into nipple stuff.
But again, back to the original question, do women like them?
Honestly, most women really don’t seem to give a shit one way or another. A woman on this Reddit thread succinctly summed up the general sentiment: “I guess I’d be less attracted if a dude didn’t have nipples.” According to a Yahoo! thread that asked the question, only one woman, out of the six who replied, said she was actually into nipples. Another on Reddit had 30 responders — just three of which dug dude nips. There was also a video by YouTuber Tyrone Magnus that posed this question to his viewers. Out of 27 respondents, there were three male-nipple-loving women. Then there’s this video, called “Women Talk About Men’s Nipples” by As/Is, where six women discuss a man’s nipples. Out of those six, it appeared that just one was really into nips at all.
If you do the math from the two threads and two videos above, an average of 13 percent of women care about man nipples. While this is hardly scientific, I’m pretty sure it’s at least somewhat accurate, due to a couple of more methodical surveys done by Nikki Spa! First, in a 2013 survey of 100 female office workers who were asked if they’re grossed out by seeing a man’s nipples through his dress shirt, just 16 percent were cool with seeing those man nips. Then they repeated the study in 2014 with 750 women and found that the percentage of women who were okay with seeing a man’s nipples through his dress shirt was exactly the same: 16 percent.
Now, I get that these surveys weren’t about attraction to male nipples, but I’m pretty sure that if this was a survey of guys talking about women’s nipples, it would be a fairly unanimous thumbs up, so I’m thinking we can assume this number is right on the money for those who are into nipples.
So, to finally answer the question succinctly: The precise answer is that 84-87 percent of women — the vast majority — are completely oblivious to your nips, perky or not. Sorry, proud male nipple owners — you can tell those bad boys to stand down.