Some men’s reactions to our #FreeTheNipple piece show why we had to do it

One man called someone in the article ‘retarded’

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Earlier this week The Tab ran an article as part of the Free The Nipple campaign which was hugely successful.

As of today 34 students and grads, men and women, have got involved – that’s 68 nipples, give or take. It’s had thousands of shares, and helped publicise a great cause.

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Mostly, the reaction was one of support, solidarity and empowerment. But it hasn’t all been positive.

Publishing this article has betrayed a seedy underbelly to the internet. In between the messages of support, weirdo guys (always guys) have messaged, tweeted, commented and followed me, and many of the other women in the article.

Ranging from messages asking which boobs were which girl’s to calling the women in the article “retarded”, the comments reveal the sad truth, that there’s an unhappy, small, but considerable contingent of men on the internet who are deeply uncomfortable with women taking control over their own bodies.

Along with an inbox being flooded with emails from men and women interested in taking part, my Twitter followers shot up and my Facebook was filled with friend requests from strangers and odd messages in my “other” messages folder, none of which were particularly pleasant. Unfortunately, the situation isn’t unique.

The responses ranged from guys using it as a clumsy attempt to pull to some saying it was “retarded” or “belonged in pornography”.

Liverpool grad Cat Reid was hounded with Tweets when she shared her support for the article. She described the onslaught, in which she was called “retarded” by a man posting on Twitter as Mike. Bz as “the reason we did the article.”

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And it’s not restricted to oddballs online. Although most women taking part in our Free The Nipple had a positive response, and support from their friends, some messaged with complaints from their boyfriends, who criticised them and in some cases, asked them to take their photos down. These were boys who had a problem with them taking ownership of their own bodies and taking part.

Basically, they didn’t want other people looking at their girlfriend’s tits.

One powerful submission read: “I’ve only recently had the courage to leave a boyfriend who overly objectified me and sexualised my body, making me ashamed if I wore (what he deemed as) low cut tops and short skirts.

“Being a devout advocate of feminism and equal rights I’m mortified at myself for putting up with it for so long and letting people like him think that it’s normal and okay.

“So here’s a bit of a middle finger to him, and a reminder that we should stand together against people like this.”

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It’s sad there are still a group of men – young, well-educated men – who are insecure enough to treat women as a possession. And what’s sadder is there are more of these men online, ready to treat women they have never even met in the same way.

A complete stranger posting under the name “Rob Tarzan Brown” sent me this.

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Not as bad as some other responses, sure – but why contact me?

Lucy Neely Morgan, Newcastle FemSoc Pres who was featured and named in our original article, said off the back of waiving her anonymity she got “40 friends request in the hour from men who had no mutual friends with me.”

For Lucy, the response was very positive. One guy even told her she was “brave” and “really inspirational” for taking part.

Earlier this year, when Oxford second year Ellie Shaw wrote an article about her week without a bra, she was inundated with disturbing messages and dick pics from strangers.

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Ellie said: “The feedback was generally positive, but obviously creepy men were the main demographic. I’ve received close to 250 random friend requests and the same number of creepy messages from men saying ‘hi’ or ‘great article’. Thanks for the sentiment boys, but it wasn’t for you.

“I’ve also received a few from ladies saying ‘you rock’ which is much more appreciated.”

Men posting as Brindley Woodward and Oliver Cowlishaw messaged her on Facebook with misguided compliments.

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Although Ellie says her Twitter and Instagram followers shot up after the article, she told me it was a double-edged sword.  As her online presence increased, so did the criticisms and she even received rape threats.

“I was pretty shocked at first but I thought to myself if I don’t laugh I’ll cry. I stupidly publicised my Snapchat and promptly took it down, so I also got a few dick pics with the article in the background saying ‘you inspired this’ which was pretty traumatising.

“I don’t understand the inane culture of these people. Some are just keyboard-warriors bashing strangers over the internet so it baffles me more than offends me.”

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The pic that caused all the fuss

Thanks to the mostly positive feedback, Ellie doesn’t regret her article, as is the same with most of the girls (and guys) involved in our Free The Nipple campaign.

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One of women included in our Free The Nipple article boldly proclaimed: “I should be the only one with the power to sexualise my own body”, and that ownership is what the campaign is rooted in.

Unfortunately, although a sentiment the majority of people share, there will always be a sinister group of men online who will try to regain ownership and lambaste any attempts against it.

Men posting under the accounts Alex Purvis and Harry Stingray Thomas appeared to think our nipples belong on RedTube and nowhere else:

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What it comes down to is an entitlement from a relatively small group of men online. It’s a manifestation of a need to have the last word.

Basically, they really don’t want the nipple to be freed. Don’t let them win.