Triple nipple pubs!

One never knows where research might lead, and I’m not going to disparage work that attempts to quantify what seems to be a trivial and obvious conclusion. I do find it weird that such work can justify three (3) published papers, though, even if the three do have clearly different goals. Welcome to the world of women’s erect nipples.

The Point of Nipple Erection 1: The Experience and Projection of Perceived Emotional States While Viewing Women With and Without Erect Nipples

Given the research that suggests men attend to nipples and that nipple erection is triggered by sexual excitement (among other triggers), we questioned whether men see nipple erection as a sign of sexual interest. Our findings indicate that men (but not women) see women as sexier when they have nipple erection and also see themselves as sexier, supporting the idea that nipple erection is perceived signaling arousal or sexual interest.

The Point of Nipple Erection 2: The Effect of Nipple Erection on Intended and Expected Altruism

This study shows that men are more likely to do things for sexualized women, in this case, women with nipple erection. Women, however, would prefer to avoid women with nipple erection socially. This can have implications for sex and dating strategies, and female interaction in social settings.

The Point of Nipple Erection 3: Sexual and Social Expectations of Women With Nipple Erection

Nipple erection is a cue that triggers sexualization and objectification of women; women with nipple erection are thought of as less intelligent, less moral, and more promiscuous by both men and women. Women cannot control their nipple erection, yet these data show that it is used by men and women to make presumptions about women’s character and behavior.

I don’t usually notice such things because, you know, clothing, and it seems to me that clothing choice might be a stronger signal for all the things measured than involuntary smooth muscle contractions. Also, here in Minnesota, it might be more a product of being cold.

Then I read the methods. All three papers were based on a variant of this detail from the first paper.

Eighty-five men (average age 22.6 years,SD 7.33) and 355 women (average age 20.7years,SD 3.79) were surveyed. Participants were primarily White (83.4%) from a regional public university in the northeastern United States.

I recognize the pattern. Psych 101! You recruit the students from an introductory psychology course, give them a survey-based procedure, and then stat the hell out of the numbers you get. It’s the laziest kind of psych study. You’re quizzing young men and women about erect nipples in this case, and probably had no shortage of volunteers.

Then you publish it in a journal titled “Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences”, even though it has no evolutionary implications at all, and maybe, at best, measures socialized, conventional behavior in a single population of horny college-aged students with a mundane protocol designed more for the convenience of the investigators rather than probing deeply into the basis of the behavior. Come on, psychologists, do better. At least sample multiple diverse populations before making conclusions about human behavior.

It is rather depressing that one result is that showing signs of arousal is interpreted to mean a person is less intelligent and more promiscuous. Human beings, do better.


  1. hemidactylus says

    Could there be something to nipple erection being associated with oxytocin, trust and forming lasting bonds? The voles…the voles.

    Overalls dude has high beams. Is he pair-bonded?

  2. hemidactylus says

    Well it appears I may have been a wee bit off:

    *“The notion that pair bonding in humans may have evolved through a tweaking of the brain mechanisms underlying maternal bonding could explain certain unique characteristics of human sexuality. For example, female sexual desire may have become decoupled from fertility, and the female breast may have become an erotic stimulus for males, to activate ancient maternal-bonding systems. The stimulation of the cervix and nipples during sexual intimacy are potent releasers of brain oxytocin, and may function to strengthen the emotional tie between partners.

    Pair bonding in males involves similar brain circuitry to that in females, but different neurochemical pathways. In male prairie voles, for example, vasopressin — a hormone related to oxytocin — stimulates pair bonding, aggression towards potential rivals, and paternal instincts, such as grooming offspring in the nest. Variation in a regulatory region of the vasopressin receptor gene, avpr1a, predicts the likelihood that a male vole will bond with a female.”*

    A bit reductive and maybe outdated by now. But sure beats speculation based on female nipple erective states. Don’t bras typically mask that anyway?

  3. Ridana says

    Why were there 4x as many women in the study as men? Since they did compare women’s reactions to men’s, wouldn’t that kind of make reconciling the statistical analyses more difficult? I mean, wouldn’t you expect more variation among hundreds of women than tens of men? I know there are ways to deal with comparing unequal population sizes, but why would you choose to make it so lopsided in the first place? (Haven’t taken statistics in decades, so I don’t know.)

  4. Drew Needham says

    The very first time I let a boyfriend see my breasts, he complained that my nipples weren’t big enough.

    “Aww, how come they’re not pointier? Don’t you like me?” In the whiniest tone of voice imaginable wtf?

  5. says

    #6: that’s why I surmised it was just a sample of students in a particular class. It’s typical that an intro psych course will be three quarters women. It wasn’t a choice by the researcher, it’s what the class had.

  6. John Morales says

    ahcuah @4,

    Aw, man. And here I thought, from the title, that this would be about supernumerary nipples. :-)

    I thought it might’ve been about pubs.

    (not to be confused with ‘pubes’)

  7. monad says

    Maybe no shortage of volunteers…but if you are comparing how much men and women thought something was sexy in women, you’d think you should at least try to get some subjects other than heterosexuals. Doesn’t look like they found enough.

  8. Jazzlet says

    I thought it was about pubs too, one of the jobs when you bar tend (whch I have done) in a pub with decent beer is unscrewing the nipples for cleaning at the end of the night.

  9. euclide says

    There is something wrong in the text of the post that is breaking my RSS client

    men (average age 22.6 years,SD^B7.33) and 355 women (average age 20.7years,SD^B3.79)