Flaccid penises are awkward. There really isn’t any other way around it. They just kind of hang there, flopping about in the breeze. But that really isn’t a good enough reason to not feature more full-frontal male nudity in film and TV.
Full-frontal female nudity abounds in film and television. Movies like American Pie, Not Another Teen Movie, and others from that same genre make plenty of dick jokes, but never actually bother to show one. They do feature more than their fair share of female nudity, though. While I will admit that there have been plenty of shirtless guys and more than a few bums in these types of films, all of them suffer from a distinct lack of peen.
The first time I saw full-frontal male nudity on screen was when I was 12 (sorry, Mom). It was at a sleepover and we were watching The Good Girl. While the details are blurry, I remember seeing a naked Jake Gyllenhaal running across the screen with it all hanging out. It lasted for maybe two seconds, but that moment was forever burned into my memory. In my young brain I was expecting that this was going to be some sort of normal occurrence in movies for adults. I was very wrong.
When I watched Old School the next year, my expectation was rattled. There was a streaking scene that featured prominently in the film, but even with its R-rating, all you ended up seeing were some male bums. While this wasn’t disappointing per se, I was confused. This confusion has persisted until the present day.
While there has been somewhat of a shift recently to show more frontal male nudity, the disparity still exists. So much so that if a film or TV show has a rating above PG-13, I just naturally assume that at some point I will be seeing naked women. I don’t have that same expectation for male nudity.
That is where the issue lies: the lack of equality in nudity. I am not saying to throw in an uncontextualized crotch shot to tick some sort of equality box, but it would be nice to see more male nudity on screen. It is something that happens in the real world. Men don’t always wear pants, or in the case of Chris Evans in Not Another Teen Movie, whipped cream.
Whether this is related to the aforementioned awkwardness of wangs, to the fact that there is a sexual bias in the industry, a lack of male comfort, or some combination of these factors it is hard to say. What is clear though is that the lack of on-screen full-frontal male nudity isn’t good for anyone. It confirms that the female body, unlike the male one, is considered a sexualized object, and even women in film and TV with a sense of agency and personality can be reduced to simply boobs and a vag. It also teaches young males that this is how they should view women, too.
This trend can also be seen as shaming the male body. There’s been a big push recently to assure people that vaginas and breasts are all beautiful and we should accept their differences, but there doesn’t seem to be a similar discussion surrounding the penis. If anything, it just confirms that they are floppy and awkward, and shouldn’t be seen or talked about. But you know what else is awkward and kind of flops around? Boobs. Yet we see them and talk about them all the time.
So, next time you see a penis on screen, celebrate it. It may feel strange or seem awkward, but embrace it. It will be better for everyone — and maybe soon, we’ll stop seeing flaccid penises as awkward and instead see them as beautiful.