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Monogamy & Male Nipples

Updated on September 30, 2008

We have all heard the expression “as useless as teats on a bull.” Yet have we ever looked at the male human chest and wondered exactly what those nipples are for? It seems as every other anatomical feature has a clearly defined function, but male nipples don’t really do anything but just kind of sit there.

Female nipples are an indispensable part of the reproductive process. They provide access to the digestible nutrient for the offspring’s first months of life. However, the male nipples... like I said... they just kind of sit there.

When we consider the anatomical design that has produced us, it is a marvel of efficiency. Every structure has its function. There is no surplus, no unnecessary complication. Nothing just kind of sits there.

It just so happens that male nipples are not the exception to this rule. They serve a very important anatomical function. A recent experiment transferred a gene from a monogamous male rodent into the brain of a polygamous male rodent. Once duly implanted, the polygamous rodent suddenly formed a bond with a single female and set up house in an admirable paragon of monogamy.

No, madam, this procedure has not been proven to work on humans, therefore you must resort to more conventional ways of keeping hubby from straying.

It is natural for the monogamous rodent to stay with only one mate for life. That is the role which evolution has designed for the survival of that particular species of rodent. Evolution has also chosen a route that favors the survival of the polygamous species. Although the routes differ, upon analysis of the environmental and genetic factors involved in this evolutionary process, we can agree that these monogamous rodents are better off staying with one mate and protecting the offspring, while the polygamous rodents are better off spreading their wild rodent oats all over the place and hoping that through sheer numbers of fertilizations, something survives.

Neither approach is wrong. Each is right for the particular species.

Men love to sleep around.

Come on, guys, let’s face it. As dedicated as you might be to the Mrs., if a supermodel approached you at the office, closed the door and began disrobing, chances are you wouldn’t call the police and charge her with sexual assault.

Therefore are men monogamous or polygamous? Monogamy would assume the choice of a single mate and a lifetime commitment to the protection of the offspring of that particular union. Polygamy would assume the variety of an unspecified number of mates in a social setting where parentage was indistinct at best and where the uncertainty of offspring identification made protection of your own genetic material well nigh impossible.

All men need to do is look down at their chests for the answer. Down to those useless nipples that just sit there.

Many people are not aware that if an infant suckles on the male nipple long and hard enough, it will lactate. The male will produce enough milk to keep the infant from starving.

That function is designed in the case that the mother dies or otherwise becomes incapacitated during lactation. The father can take over the mother’s role and feed the baby from his own breast.

Cats have a wide variety of abilities which humans lack, and among them is the ability of identifying their offspring by scent. In a social setting where several females have delivered many kittens from different roaming fathers, a tomcat is able to sniff the kitten and determine whether it is his or some other male cat’s.

In many cases, when it determines that the kitten is another male’s, it kills that kitten.


A rather effective, if messy, way of ensuring that your own genetic material triumphs.

People cannot identify their own offspring by smell. Therefore, the male has a failsafe mechanism built in to ensure the survival of his baby even if the mother is not able to lactate. He is able to take over the breast-feeding functions and produce milk at a rate that will keep the infant alive.

The male is only able to identify the offspring if he has been in the company of the female throughout the gestation period. If the male had been roaming, there would be no way for him to determine his genetic linkage to the baby. Thus he likely would not make the intensive commitment to hold the child at his breast long enough for him to begin lactation. The baby would die of starvation.

If the baby is born into an established relationship where sufficient commitment exists to ensure monogamous sexual behavior, then the father has sufficient assurance of his parentage to make the sacrifices necessary to keep his offspring alive. Sacrifices that he would likely not perform if it were not his child.

Since humans lack the sense of smell cats have which can identify your own offspring, then the only other solution to ensure parentage is permanence as part of a committed monogamous relationship.

The act of staying with a female throughout gestation and into the formative years of the child are the textbook definition of monogamy. This is the type of behavior that is unknown in a polygamous “hit and run” social order.

Is it human nature to be monogamous? The answer is right there on a man’s chest. The nipples to feed its baby should the mother not be able to. Nipples that have as their basic function the manifestation of the definition of monogamy: long term commitment and sacrifice for the offspring.

Humans are monogamous: This is a tenet which our culture seems to have completely forgotten in the rush to embrace our modern holy grails of electronic pornography and the allegedly “free love” granted by effective artificial methods of birth control. In a single generation we have exploded the nuclear family structure which has served our race so well for tens of thousands of years. Through our infatuation with pleasure-seeking, we have created a bizarre alternate dimension of humanity which has no comparison in history. We’re having one heck of a party, and perhaps it is due to the fact that our collective human conscience understands at some very deep level that this cycle is almost over. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.” Maybe Prince was only partially wrong when he sang that “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1999.”


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      First off, male cats have nipples. Moreover, all mammals (both male and female) have nipples regardless of monogamous-ness or not.

      Second, there are many anatomical organs, which serve no purpose and "just sit there" i.e. human appendix, peacock feathers, your nose etc. The male nipple is actually formed from the exact same DNA as the female nipple; however, is not triggered into further development by female hormones. The reason men have nipples is because men share the same DNA as females who use their nipples...not because men breast feed or because men are monogamous...that is absurd logic.

      Third, the experiment mentioned about the monogamous/polygamous mice has more to do with placental and fetal development, litter size, testicle size and the differences in their nutritional environment than whatever you were talking if a gene could be removed and inserted into the brain of another mice. It was actually a very interesting study but you got the facts completely wrong and it has nothing to do with humans.

      Besides, all mice, rats, humans, cats, monkeys, apes etc. have nipples and only apes are monogamous. The smaller the (relative) size of the testicles, the more more monogamous the species, generally speaking.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      9 years ago from Toronto

      Actually the appendix seems to be a vestigial organ which was previously utilized for the digestion of fibery leaf masses. In the current human anatomy, it is also significant in the preservation of various types of cells that are linked with the immune system. That's one of the reasons why appendectomies are not performed today with the zeal that they once were.

    • LondonGirl profile image


      9 years ago from London

      Isn't the appendix an example of anatomical uselessness?

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      Kika Rose: I can truly only speak for myself, and I have never once in my life had two sexual relationships ongoing at the same period of time. I have been faithfully monogamous, including for more than two uninterrupted decades with one wonderful woman, and I simply could not see myself in any other role.

      Misha: I come from a Roman Catholic background where that was unthinkable just a few decades ago. As I've just stated on the condom Hub, I fully agree that there has been a long background of promiscuity in our species. However, I don't know if there was another time in human history when the mores of monogamy and the nuclear family were violated in such a global manner.

      Chef Jeff: I wish that HubScores were considered a valid resource for the purposes of mating. Now THAT would make me much happier than getting a few bucks from AdSense! :)

      spryte: I believe that the male should begin to lactate within two days which would be just before the infant enters into starvation mode.

      mistyhorizon2003: I remember reading a while back when I was breeding Bengals that some scientific tests were done on Bengal toms killing kittens and it turns out that at least in the Bengal world, they would only kill the kittens who were sired by other toms, even in the same litter as their own. I don't know if this would extend to cats who are not Asian Leopard Cat descendants, though!

      gwendymom: Thanks!

    • gwendymom profile image


      10 years ago from Oklahoma

      very interesting. Great hub!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 

      10 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Fascinating hub, but one flaw is that a litter of kittens can be sired by several diiferent tom cats, so once born they all smell the same, but may not all belong to the same tom cat. He is not going to know any difference, so will accept them all. Actually most domestic male cats will lose interest pretty quickly in the female once she is pregant, and will move on to pastures new.

      Second point, what about the appendix, that is a part of the human instestine that serves no purpose that we know of, unless we have evolved to no longer need it.

      Really interesting hub though :)

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 

      10 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      Among the bonobo (pygmy chimpanzes) the females generally rule the mating, not the males.

      And even amongst the larger common chimps, males are restricted by the alpha male and don't mate unless they can sneak it in behind a tree.  Many apes are polygamous, but only the alpha males generally mate.  It is the same with many carnivorous species.

    • Misha profile image


      10 years ago from DC Area

      Hi Kika (and others :))

      Once upon a time there was a girl on Hubpages who introduced this idea to me (or me to this idea? whateva!). She is long gone, but this hub still stays. Go read her hub. :)

      Oh, and I don't even touch on male nipples, I just don't have any opinion on this. However, it is a known fact that in many "primitive" societies babies are breastfed by any woman, if needed. It just takes a day or two of constant sucking to start the breasts...

    • spryte profile image


      10 years ago from Arizona, USA

      You can't possibly be serious? If I were a motherless child, I'd be screaming for a wetnurse if I found myself being offered a hairy chest and a rather non-existent nipple. And i'd want some sort of idea of just how persistent i would have to be if no wet nurse was available. Are we talking hours, days, weeks....?

      Perhaps nature did intend for mankind to be monogamous...and I'd almost buy it except for one small thing. Apes. The males also have nipples...and they certainly aren't monogamous. Now I can't vouch for whether or not the male apes have ever had to nurture their young by lactating themselves...but I believe that in their social order, should a mother be unable to provide, another female in the apes "harem" simply takes over.

      Nevertheless...I still prefer the idea of monogamy over polygamy in the emotional sense...but there are days when I really don't like cooking or cleaning and I think, hmmm...would it really be so bad to have to share?

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 

      10 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      Biologically, where society does not interfere, don't females look for a male who has plenty of resources? (Food, hunting skills, stronger, taller, etc.?)  and don't males look for women who are stronger for childrearing? 

      While societies are polygamous, and generally paternalistic, others are monogamous by reason of cultural or societal demands and pressures. 

      Culturally, monogamy is demanded and enforced mostly for identification purposes, religious beliefs and property rights. (Thus these are societal pressures.)

      Nature and Nurture go hand in hand, I would say, but when people start to become more societal than free, monogamy starts to become more the norm.

    • Kika Rose profile image

      Kika Rose 

      10 years ago from Minnesota

      Good afternoon, Misha! ^_^

      I don't know if that's entirely true. I mean, there are couples that stay together for their entire lives, without ever going astray. There aren't high numbers of these couples, but the numbers are still there. Also, genetic variability isn't wired into our brains; we're not actually made to make more different-looking babies. That just kind of happens based on simple genetic factors that follow family trees. Why do you think there are so few red heads? Genes are either dominant or recessive, and if both parents hold the formula for a recessive gene, that gene will more than likely appear in at least one of their offspring.

      Humans are more complex than rats and cats, but we're still animals with basic instincts that are hardwired into our systems, whether we like it or not. I have to agree that we're either one or the other. Just because people like to fool around before getting settled down, or even after the fact, doesn't mean we're not made for monogamous relationships.

    • Misha profile image


      10 years ago from DC Area

      I disagree Hal, humans are more complex than rats and cats. They are neither mono nor poly - they are both, or rather alternating.

      They are wired to stay together for a time needed to bring up the kid biologically, which takes just several years; and to search for a new partner after that.

      This ensures both high survival rate of offspring and high genetical variability :)

    • Kika Rose profile image

      Kika Rose 

      10 years ago from Minnesota

      This hub made me giggle, but it's very truthful. It may be a bit of a surprise to you, Hal, but they do teach this fact in most high school Health classes. The public education is good for something! What a surprise! xD


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