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Are male nipples of any practical use at all? (Aside, that is, from providing a convenient place to hang nipple rings?)
Well, apparently not. The female of the species needed hers to nurse, so when we guys were made from similar raw materials, our nipples, useless though they might be, were just tossed in the inventory. "Males have nipples," says evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, "because females need them."

Not that having nipples can't be a whole lot of fun. As many queer men will agree, they can be a particularly yummy erotic spot, rich in pleasure-giving nerves. And far from being passive participants, nipples usually swell and get erect somewhere on the road to orgasm.

Proper stimulation of the perky little things can send a guy through the roof. Or not. As with many another erogenous zone, not everyone finds nipple play equally arousing. (And when it comes to straight guys, I hear, the equation of "nipples" with "women" makes many a bit squeamish, so the pleasure potential of their own nubby nips goes unexplored. Pity.)

Some men find that regularly working on their tits increases their responsiveness. Piercing also, but not always, can add to sensitivity in the area and sometimes makes the nipple tissue grow. At the very least, guys with extra-small or flat nipples find a nice, silvery ring gives their loved ones something to grab onto.

One nice thing about nipple play is that it requires no equipment. You can suck on them, stroke them, lick them, squeeze them, and nibble them. And, if the occasion requires, bite them, pinch them, and pretty much torture them, all with your mouth and fingers. But just because this week's trick likes his nipples pinched hard doesn't mean next week's will. "I like to have my nipples played with" does not (automatically) translate into: "Bite me until I scream." And using your fingers on a guy's nipples doesn't mean tweaking the hell out of them in the first few seconds.

Take it easy. The lips and tongue can suction, pull, and bathe a guy's tits, and is a safe way to start out, as is gentle stroking. And when playing with pierced tits, be extra-cautious. Some men's piercings can be pulled hard, but others need a more gentle approach, and an injured nipple piercing can take seemingly forever to heal.

If it's your nipples at stake, the occasional murmured "You can do that harder" or "That's too much" gives your partner useful information. Titplay is an endeavour where starting slow, exploring the options, and watching for feedback will lead to rich rewards.

Although you don't need equipment for titplay, that doesn't mean you shouldn't use any. Man is, after all, the tool-making animal, and somewhere along the line he invented titclamps, handy little gizmos that automate the nipple-squeezing process. Using wood clothespegs instead of clamps adds a homely touch. The suction cups in snakebite kits can have their uses, even when the only reptile around is the trouser snake. And guys into rougher stuff might explore such edgy play as hot wax.

If your loved one's nipples aren't hardwired to his cock, fret not. There's plenty more to play with on his body. And if it's your chest being attended to, do give your hardworking partner a break after an hour or two. Fair's fair. As with other things sexual, being open-minded, adventurous, and communicative can get guys in all sorts of delicious tit-centered trouble. Nipples - sensitive, sexy nipples - are one of nature's many gifts. It would be downright ungrateful not to enjoy them.

Simon Sheppard

Now here's your chance to meet the man behind this column. OutUK has an interview with Simon Sheppard or you can take a look at some of his books that are currently available:

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Looking for something very sexy and just as smart? Man on Man collects the best and hottest gay sex writing by Simon, who is also co-editor of Rough Stuff: Tales of Gay Men, Sex, and Power as well as a collection of gay erotica called Hotter Than Hell.

In KINKORAMA : Dispatches from the Front Lines of Perversion he takes readers behind the unmarked doors and black vinyl curtains that lead to the sometimes shocking, often hilarious, relentlessly arousing scenarios of extreme sex. There are also stories of bears in Tales from the Bear Cult: Beat Bear Stories from the Best Magazines.


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