This dude found a brilliant way to test Instagram’s nipple censorship

Instagram is no place for the female nipple. That’s been made clear time and time again. But what about a male nipple that sort of looks like a female nipple? What then?

In a new twist on the #FreeTheNipple movement, James Shamsi decided to do an experiment to test the boundaries of what Instagram deems an appropriate nipple. He posted a random photo on Instagram that he found online of a bare-chested man with areolae larger that the typical male’s. In other words, nipples that more closely resembled those of a woman. Then he put out a call to his Facebook friends to help him test a theory.

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“I saw a lot of posts recently about #FreeTheNipple by friends, so I started looking into it just this week,” Shamsi told the Daily Dot via email. “Soon enough I realized Instagrams (and societies) policies are still a little archaic when it comes to the perception of the Human chest. So, I wanted to see for myself and prove to Instagram just how silly their policies are.”

That’s when he came up with the idea to see if Instagram would have the audacity to take down a post that was actually not violating any of its policies. “They should hopefully see how daft and over sexualized the entire thing is,” he said.

Shamsi posted the photo, and just as he expected, it was subsequently taken down after multiple users reported it. 

Shamsi is no stranger to using social networks to prove a point or find an alternative use for it. In September of last year, he posted his résumé on Tinder—and it actually worked. After graduating college in London and moving to Los Angeles, he realized he need connections to get a job. And after sharing his work experience on the popular dating app, he ended up with multiple job offers.

This isn’t the first experiment to test Facebook and Instagram’s boundaries. Artist Micol Hebron created a campaign last year where she  asked women to post topless photos of themselves with a stock photo of a male nipple pasted over their own.

Micol Hebron

Many Instagram users joined in on the experiment, and their photos have not yet been taken down by community managers, illustrating to many a double-standard.

C’est absurde n’est-ce-pas ? #freethenipple Regram @alinenilsson

A photo posted by Dylan Bianco (@dydou._) on

When reached for comment, an Instagram spokesperson said the company is “looking into this.” 

Update Aug. 20, 2:24pm: Instagram reinstated James Shamsi’s photo. The company did not provide any additional clarification about its policy or the decision. 

UPDATE: Instagram reinstated the photo because these were male #facepalm

A photo posted by James Shamsi (@jamesshamsi) on

Update Aug. 20, 4:56pm: An Instagram spokesperson provided the Daily Dot with the following statement. 

“Standards around nudity vary greatly by culture, country, age, and other factors. Our goal has always been to find a balance between enabling people to express themselves, while also making sure that our large, diverse, global community feels comfortable. Striking the right balance is hard – and examples like this highlight the complexity of this issue. As always, we continue to analyze our policies to make sure that we’re listening to people and meeting the needs of our global community.”

Photo via osseous/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

Marisa Kabas

Marisa Kabas

Marisa Kabas is a lifestyle reporter and activist. Her work has been published by Fusion, Fast Company, and Today. She’s also served as an editorial campaigns director for Purpose PBC, a social movement incubator.