HomeOur ObsessionsFull-frontal men: Where’s all the peen on screen?

Full-frontal men: Where’s all the peen on screen?

Female nude scenes are common, but full-frontal male nudity is not, even when the story seems to call for it. Where's all the shlong on screen?

Full-frontal men: Where’s all the peen on screen?

If you felt disappointed by the lack of male full frontal nudity in gay romance Call Me by Your Name, get in line, because screenwriter James Ivory is also (understandably) pissed about it. You might remember in October director Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) defended his decision to keep the movie distinctly dick-free (despite Ivory’s script specifying nudity), telling The Independent, “I thought that the display of nudity in this specific movie was absolutely irrelevant.”

More recently, he claimed the lack of nudity was an artistic decision. Speaking with The Guardian, Ivory called bullshit on Guadagnino’s assertion he made “a conscious aesthetic decision not to” include any nudity.

“When people are wandering around before or after making love, and they’re decorously covered with sheets, it’s always seemed phoney to me. I never liked doing that. And I don’t do it, as you know. (In his 1987 movie Maurice) the two guys have had sex and they get up and you certainly see everything there is to be seen. To me, that’s a more natural way of doing things than to hide them, or to do what Luca did, which is to pan the camera out of the window toward some trees.”

Considering how ubiquitous female nude scenes are in TV shows and on film, (sometimes even in scenes that don’t even call for it), the idea of full frontal male nudity being irrelevant to a story about sexual awakening definitely sounds preposterous. So where is all the shlong on screen?

'Fifty Shades Darker'

Fifty shades of flaccid (on the cutting room floor)

Recently, the question was raised in regards to the Fifty Shades franchise. The movie series – about a horny millionaire (Jamie Dornan) boning a bland, naive babe (Dakota Johnson) – has shown plenty of female nudity. These are sex movies, after all!

However, what they have never shown is Mr. Grey’s (probably gold-plated) dick. Considering the target audience for the movies are horny heterosexual women looking to add flesh to their fantasies, the absence of a legitimate, human love-pump on screen is puzzling.

Fifty Shades Darker director James Foley insisted to Entertainment Tonight they did film some nude scenes with Dorman, but they were cut from the movie “for dramatic reasons.” Like the many women who wasted money on potentially seeing Dornan’s dong on the big screen, Foley claimed the scenes “just didn’t come.”

At the premiere of the movie, Dornan ended the mystery of the missing dick once and for all. “I feel like if it serves a story to see more, then I am all for it. If I don’t think it adds anything or I don’t deem it to be necessary to move the story along, then I don’t think you need to see that part of me, or that part of Dakota (Johnson). It just becomes sort of gratuitous if we don’t need it.” In a movie about sex? Yeah, totally unnecessary – good call.

'Black Sails'

Year of the peen

None of this is to say there isn’t any full frontal male nudity on screen. There are glimpses of it everywhere if you know where to look. The gratuitous dick shot has long made a cameo appearance in numerous arthouse and independent movies (especially those by Gaspar Noé), but it’s mysteriously absent in many mainstream movies that otherwise favor a healthy portion of tits, ass, and vadge.

Just four years ago, 26.4% of the top 100 movies featured female nudity as opposed to 9.1% featuring dudes (in all likelihood, that figure is representative of a bare ass rather than a swinging dick.) Since we’re still having this same damn conversation in 2018, we can only pontificate that statistic hasn’t changed too radically.

However, on TV we’re seeing a gradual change towards shows being more liberal and daring with full frontal male nudity. But is it proportionate to how often the female naked body is shown? Just a year after the aforementioned movie statistic was released, Vulture celebrated 2015 as a year in which “full frontal nudity was all over TV”. That year, shows like Outlander, Togetherness, Black Sails, and Penny Dreadful all featured naked male characters.

As a show featuring such a scene in the pilot episode, Shameless executive producer Nancy Pimental explained to the website why and how the full frontal male nudity scene happened. “People are becoming more and more comfortable with their sexuality. On our show, we’ve made nudity just part of the characters’ lives, as opposed to, ‘all right, where can we put some cock in this episode?’ That’s never a conversation. Ever.”

Showtime's 'The Affair'

Tasteful, appropriate peckers

Showtime’s The Affair also debuted one of the most eye-catching and prominent examples of male nudity that same year. Coming halfway through the show’s S2 premiere after Helen (Maura Tierney) and old friend Max (Josh Stamberg) have what looks to be some potentially regrettable sex, Helen notably recoils at the sight of Max’s flaccid penis.

Speaking to Buzzfeed, show creator Sarah Treem contended she wanted the show (which is full of female nudity and raw sex scenes) to “be as equal as it can,” but also suggested the male nudity served an important purpose.

“That whole first scene is about the experience of having sex with someone who isn’t her husband and how depressing it actually is. We felt the nudity was appropriate for where she was in that scene and that it would be an important thing about having sex with somebody new; there’s [sic] new genitalia you have to contend with and it can sometimes throw you.”

Amen to that. More recently, some notable moments of male full frontal nudity have included Josh Hutcherson in Future Man (a scene he confessed was achieved with a combination of “camera lock-offs, and also a stunt double, and a lot of prosthetics”), Alexander Skarsgård in Big Little Lies, and fellow Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman (and the rest of his insanely bodacious body) in Altered Carbon.

Watch 'Altered Carbon' on Netflix now

Penis with purpose

In every one of these shows, the nudity came with a very clear narrative purpose, as indicated by Altered Carbon showrunner Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) who said of the show’s scene, “The whole crew could see we were making something different, because they were not sexual scenes, and it wasn’t exploitative. It was (about) finding your way back into a physical body that you hadn’t inhabited before.”

But is a clear narrative purpose really so important to necessitate a nude scene? There have been countless TV shows showcasing a variety of gratuitously naked women without serving the plot.

For The Washington Post, writer Sezin Koehler speculated the ratio of on-screen nudity between men & women is so disproportionate that it’s damaging to audiences. In shows like True Detective, True Blood, Hung, and Game of Thrones, for all the many numerous full naked shots of female characters, there are only one or two full frontal nude shots of a man. Do you feel “damaged” by all the tits & ass in Westeros? Probably not. But it wouldn’t hurt to see Jon Snow swinging his meat sword about the place once in a while.

Despite the title and premise of Hung – a show ostensibly revolving around a man’s dick – Koehler pointed out how audiences were offered only a brief, partial glimpse of Ray’s (Thomas Jane) prized tool while female characters were fully nude. “Even when a show is about the sexual objectification of a man and his sexual organ, it’s still women who are the default sex objects.” But take heart, dick lovers of the world. There are still some TV show creators determined to push boundaries when it comes to peen on screen.

'The Leftovers'

Passionate for that phat phallus

After featuring a sensational set of male nudity scenes, including an extended sequence where a sailor (Jack Bennett) streaks through a submarine while firing nuclear missiles, HBO show The Leftovers became an unexpected TV advocate for male nudity. This is something co-creator Damon Lindelof (Lost) was proud to champion in a bid to change the industry. Per TV Line:

“There’s an incredible disproportion between naked women and naked men on television, and if you’re going to do a show on HBO, which is one of the few places where you can do full frontal nudity, there’s no excuse not to show more dongs.

“I’m passionate about it . . . the audience still has a very odd reaction to seeing male genitalia. Yet when they see female genitalia or naked breasts, they’re completely nonchalant about it. (So) I’m just the beginning of the vanguard, but I want to normalize male nudity on television.”

Here’s hoping the show – which aired its final episode in 2017 – has managed to inspire some more penis platforming on screen. TV shows & movies need to stop hiding the organ under bedsheets or panning the camera out of the window in a bid to hide it from our delicate sensibilities like we’re young maids from the 19th century. Real talk: a few shlongs on screen never hurt anyone, so do us all a favor and free the penis, already. We can handle it.

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Amy Roberts is a freelance writer who occasionally moonlights as a hapless punk musician. She’s written about pop culture for websites like Bustle, i-D, and The Mary Sue, and is the co-creator of Clarissa Explains F*ck All. She likes watching horror movies with her cat and eating too much sugar.