Saturday, May 22, 2010

ACTORS TIP: Male Nudity...what's the big deal?

I've noticed lately that more and more movies/television shows (and I'm not talking porn here) are showing male nudity - and while it is happening more frequently - it seems this is still not considered "acceptable" or "normal" - while female nudity is perfectly fine. Why is that?

In a film - you see a woman's breast/butt or.. even more - it seems widely accepted by audiences as "art" or an artistic expression or commonplace. However - when a male is shown nude from the waist down - back or front - it seems more often than not - people find this offensive or get embarrassed.

I am guilty of this myself from time to time. I remember the first time I saw full frontal male nudity in a film - I was taken aback by it - of course moments before the "package" shot - female breasts had been bouncing across the screen and I had displayed very little reaction. Have we become desensitized to female nudity because it is so common? What is it about male nudity that is so off putting to viewers? The male body is just as much an expression of art in my opinion - just as natural a body part - so why the shock factor? 

What about in Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Was anyone else shocked when he dropped his towel and they panned back? I know I was! lol But had that been a woman - I may not have had the same reaction. Instead I may have rolled my eyes and thought - well typical - gotta throw in some boobs.

What about horror films - a large percentage of horror/slasher films feature female nudity. It almost seems like it's a necessary component for some. I recently watched the newest Jason flick and actually started counting how many times they were going to show a naked woman - needless to say - it was a lot. But how would you have felt if it was a man? Couldn't the killer sneak up on a man in the shower and slit his throat and as he falls out - his package flops about as he is grasping onto the curtain nude? What is the difference?

I truly want to hear your opinion on this topic. Do you have a different reaction with/to male nudity than female nudity? If so - why? Or why not?

As for myself - I really can't say. Perhaps it's because it's not as common. While I don't have a problem with it (and think it should be acceptable)- I am still taken back when it happens because I'm not ever expecting it - where as I am always expecting it with the woman. If a sex scene starts to happen in an R rated film - I'm almost more shocked if they DON'T show some part of the females body - ain't that something!?

The reason I bring this up is this - as an actor - a female actor - obviously, eventually I may be faced with that decision - and I've been asked before - would you consider nudity for a role. For me the answer is simple - it depends on the role. I'd have to read the script and feel very comfortable with the people involved. Believe it or not - some have criticized me for this - and what I want to say is... "Would you be asking me this if I were a man? Would it even matter?" 

Male actors can go their whole acting career and never have a nude scene - even the gorgeous male actors - and if they eventually do - it seems no one makes a big deal about it. But take Halle Berry who held out - and when she first decided to expose herself - it was a huge deal! And then she did Monster's Ball where she was buck naked in a graphic sex scene and people looked past all that - focused on a grand performance - and she won an Oscar for it. Well deserved too. Now, let's turn that around - let's take - say - George Clooney or Brad Pitt - what would your reaction be if they came out in a film with a graphic love scene and it showed full frontal nudity. Could we as the audience see past that - appreciate their performance - deem it "Oscar worthy" - or - would it be so much of a shock that people couldn't get past the huge dong bouncing around on the screen?

So you tell me guys... Male Nudity...what's the big deal - or is it just a small issue?

Nicole Alonso


  1. SENT TO ME BY @avflox on twitter:

    It's about desire. The female body always offers the promise of sex. Without an erection, the male body doesn't. There is something pathetic about a flacid penis. The display of a man as sexless in what is often a sexual context. As for random displays of nudity that do nothing for storyline? Silly.

  2. SENT TO ME BY Stiles Fifield from Facebook

    Never read you're blog before this, it is good, very insightful and well written. You definitely have some interesting points, I have never had a problem with male or female nudity as long as it's in an artistic fashion. I used to be a figure artist so I kinda got desensitized to it drawin' all them nekkid people.


    Same here Stiles - as an artist - I've drawn tons of nudes - male and female - and yet - the general public does seem to have a large aversion to male nudity onscreen - why - not sure - but it's there - Nikki and I both know people who walked out of WATCHEMEN - not because they thought the movie was good or bad - because of the male nudity - no judgement here on my part - just curious to see what people say and think about the issue ;-)

  4. Well - not sure about the comment flaccid being pathetic - have you ever seen the statue of DAVID - and I can think of many scenes in a movie - the original Bad Lieutenant with Harvey Kietel and The Watchmen where the nudity was needed and not about sexuality - and The Piano - and yet - people were put off by those images - Heck - it was a buzz topic when Kevin Bacon was naked and full frontal in that movie where he was in jail - and again - it seems aversion was taking place - and yet - a woman getting killed in a horror movie - which is not sexual - I hope at least it's not - is commonplace - you never see a male naked getting killed ;-/

  5. MARIA GREENFIELD writes: male frontal nudity rocks!!!

  6. SENT TO ME BY @ThatChrisGore on Twitter:

    My thoughts? Cocks can be repulsive... the female form is beautiful... like art. So, therein lies the double standard.

  7. LOL - you can always count on Chris for a blunt honest answer! Love it!

    Maria - I AGREE! :)

  8. I LOVE how men steer clear of commenting on this topic/question lol. I think that alone is a key to why this situation is so ;-) I'm Jus' Sayin'

  9. Chris put it bluntly, that's for sure.

    I believe most films are made/written by men, hence the prominence of female nudity.

    Nudity for the sake of showing a naked body always makes me roll my eyes. It is saying "I NEED this in there to make the film better because I am doing a so-so job on this film." If it doesn't naturally flow with the story you might as well have the character stop to fly a kite for a while, then start running after the bad guys with a gun again.

    As an artist that works in several mediums (oils, metal, driftwood, and more) the "average" female body is more pleasing to the eye with it's flowing curves and gentle shapes than the "average" male body. With female frontal nudity there is no genitalia shown. With men....well...that's where it is. As art, it ain't pretty either, but then again I am a straight guy. As one comedian said, I don't know how you women do it.

    1. I agree also sex sells so its i always find it a cheap move when the nudity or sex is thrown in.Majority of the time it has no purpose on a side note;halle berry in monsters ball.It was ok nothing worth winning and award the only part of the movie where she really gives it her the graphic sex scene for which no one she be rewarded for that.

  10. Hi Nicole,

    This is such an interesting and well-written piece that brings up an issue I've been chatting with lots of people about on Twitter (oh how I love synchronicity!).

    I think the reason that female nudity is acceptable while male is not speaks to the gender roles we are assigned in society. Since women, sadly, are not at the top of the totem pole and are many times used as (sex) objects not just in films but in life also, their objectification has been normalised.

    I discuss an even more sinister theory regarding the objectification of women in an article I wrote about the horror film DEADGIRL:

    In the article I discuss the idea of homosociality, which is a social theory regarding men and how they tend to relate to each other using women as a mediation tool. Because masculinity is constructed so as to be inflexible, and since men do make up the majority of filmmakers, male nudity becomes a threat to their sense of self as men.

    One reason why I adore Viggo Mortensen is because he never shies away from full frontal. There is an incredible scene in EASTERN PROMISES where he is in the sauna, wrapped only in a towel, and two fully dressed and huge thugs try to kill him. In the process of the intense fight his towel is lost and we see him in all his glory fighting for his life. On Twitter I joked that Viggo has replaced Johnny Depp in my heart (don't hate me!) because any man who can pull off a nude fight scene with manhood intact, pun intended, trumps all other actors. All the credit can't go to Viggo, though, since the scene was written and directed by David Cronenberg, someone who has always pushed the envelope of what is considered acceptable for his entire horror filmaking career.

    Until masculinity starts being constructed in a more flexible way, I feel there will always be the discrepancy between male and female nudity. The bottom line is that men need to start being comfortable seeing other men's bodies in states that do not involve sex. That said, it's ironic that men are perfectly comfortable watching other men have sex in pron, but seeing Kevin Bacon, or Viggo or Jason Segel in the buff is discomforting.

    Great post, Nicole! I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

    All the best,


  11. Spot on Sezin - in fact - and many men will push this statement aside but I think - it's not that men "think" that the male package is unattractive - and/or out there and not tucked in and that the female body is more curvy - and on and on - for as an artist who learned about the beauty of line in both the female body AND the male body - one realizes that the male body is just as beautiful as the female body - there are lines and curves on the male body just as the female - why does one think male body building is so popular - anyway - it is we - the males - who decided we would sexualize and dictate that the female body is beautiful and curvy AND NOT the male body... which is not true at all - once we strip away what we have been taught and truly study the body - as most artists are trained to do - and why would males push this line of thinking on society - hmmm - back to that ina minute - what it really means - is this - males are fine with women being naked and embracing small chests vs big breasts etc - but males don't want to be naked and compared to other males. That's the truth - we just don't want to be compared to other males - yet we sure don't mind women having to do so with each other... good thing women took that and empowered themselves on that subject finding beauty in all shapes and sizes of the female body - or - we'd have males forcing all women to have HUGE chest. Men have chosen this line of thinking by society - this - the male body is crude and clunky - and the female body is an object of beauty - simply because - males don't want to have themselves - or more to the point - their "package" judged against other males package(s) - that's the simple - but pretty damned truth to it. Here's to Harvey - and Viggo and Kevin - putting it out there to be judged!

  12. The good news is - things are changing - what with Viggo and the TV show Blood and Sand - which has naked men running around pretty much the whole show - frontal nudity - as if it was normal - can you imagine - NAKED MEN - OY' lol - so - as people grow - and change - so does how we look at this subject - and that's one of the great powerful aspects of film and the medium - it can and does change society - and this subject - 10 to 20 years from now - may be very mute as the human body - male and female will be looked at as that - a human body - nothing to be ashamed about.... hopefully anwyay.

  13. Hi Oklahoma Ward,

    What a great response and you should give yourself a pat on the back for being one of the few men in the male nudity revolution. :-) What's interesting is that all bodies are beautiful. Fat, thin, whatever. There is always something unique to be found; isn't it sad that even standards of beauty reflect a minority body type?

    It's also interesting what you say about men not liking their nether regions compared to someone else's. I think most women would agree that female nudity is also something that, while "normal", has been the catalyst for many a body image disorder. However, we sort of have to grin and bear it and either become stronger by not judging ourselves against actresses and models or we crumple under the weight of how we think we should look.

    Like you, I also hope that in the years to come media portrayals will become more balanced. I always say that the best way to accomplish that is through dialogue and then applying what we learn into new art. As an indie filmmaker you are soooo on the right track!

    Cheers to you,


  14. Well it was interesting to read the various remarks on this subject. And I agree with Nikki in many cases, I am always a little shocked when a male is shown in a movie in full frontal nude view. Of course you have to remember I grew up when the first tv ads of women's bras (and the women were in them) was considered a little racy. Maidenform was the groundbreaker. We had seen these ads in magazines but watching real women on tv was something else. So, as time has marched on, we grew accustomed to more and more nudity. It didn't happen overnight, even though it seems that way. And its not just the nudity, the sexual scenes became much more explicit. Notice I didn't say more erotic, I said explicit. The director can many times create great sexual scenes between a couple without making the audience watch Everything! Now The Tudors was a very sexy series and the sex scenes always had nudity with the females. The men might be seen from the rear but no explicit frontal nudity for the men. The women were shown completely nude but limbs placed so the bottom front of the ladies was not exposed. Even Big Love shows some nudity for the women, less so for the men. Interestingly enough, Madmen seems to follow the trends of the 50s, 60s and so on. There are love scenes but they are shown with less nudity. In the scene where the very very handsome leading man was in bed with a young woman (California setting supposedly), her father walked in, sat down, and had a conversation with both of them while they were in bed. Our hero felt decidedly uncomfortable with this situation and the whole idea was hinted that the daughter and the father were very sophisticated, wealthly, and weary world travelers. Our hero was shown as somewhat an American puritian in this matter. Then we jump to Spartacus, Blood and Sand. Sex is shown very explicitedly, and very casually crude between the "masters" and the "slaves." The slaves were merely sexual objects to be used and it was a little shocking at first. Then we began to see extreme nudity and sexual scenes. Many of the women never seem to wear anything at all beyond a string of beads, etc. Also the males were shown completely nude, and frontal views, and they were viewed explicitedly by the prospective buyers, especially if a woman, to see how they were "hung" so to speak. I have to say at first, while viewing with my husband, we both were a little uneasy and even commented we felt we were watching porno. But we got over it and continued to watch the series and loved it over all. Excessive violence also is hard to watch and the constant blood and gore and heads flying off gets to be a little hard to watch too. So, what does differ from porno and this? I'm not sure. It makes me wonder what will be acceptable to watch in public in 20, 30, 40 and so on years!!! All of you will have to decide this and each one will have to make their own decision.

  15. I, personally, don't have any problems with male nudity much to my neighbors' chagrin. If they're so damned sensitive, don't look in my curtainless windows.

    Seriously though, I hate to be the philistine, but isn't this a question of commerce rather than art? If I want to put 18-35 male butts in seats, I'm going to pack as many taut yet supple bosoms into the film as possible.

    I also think there's something to said for the passive form that female nudity takes in art rather than the active male nude (the heroic nude in art and Ward's own example of bodybuilding). I would argue that Viggo and Harvey's nudes are expressions of power rather than the stereotypical "hot girl in the shower" Hollywood female nude. To be a passive nude, to be the object of the gaze, rather than the lens, is something that many men find culturally impossible.

  16. Good points DIttman - here's what I'll add to the discussion - I'd say on the whole - American films are absolutely about packing them in - and yes the large target range for "females-nude-on-that-screen" is 18 to 35 males... but - things-are-a-changing - let's take Sex and the City the movie - that movie was made for women - at least the major target range - and bam - in that movie the infamous penis shot in the shower by the "gorgeous hunk" (as I overheard women in the audience describe lol)- now - I may have to turn in my male card for saying this - but I loved Sex/City - and yes I was in the theater when the jam-packed female audience shrieked and yelled and clapped when that shot happened - so much so I had to laugh out loud - it was nice seeing men in the audience taking it on the chin like women have had to in so many films - it seems Hollywood realized - women want to see too - and men are sexual objects too - and full nudity via the male role may at some point be something male actors have to think about - just as women do - reason for the change - major audience target range out there ain't just males anymore - women are becoming powerful audience target members - take Twilight - young girls mostly(and boy is every mother out there discusiing the sex scene and how it will be handled in the upcoming movie - which I find hilarious lol anyway) - take Sex and the City - women driving that cash cow - now of course - in foreign film - they are way ahead of us in being comfortable with showing the male/female body without sexual overtones involved with it in numerous films - but that's a whole 'nother discussion. Point here is - I think anyway - I guess I'm looking at specifically how interesting it is that changes are happening - the male frontal shot is happening more and more - I would also discuss - from my POV a major distraction for me: when I see a male getting killed in a gritty realistic Indie Film - and I can tell the director went out of the way to make sure the naked guy always has something in front of "privates" it takes me WAY out of the moment - pulls me right out of the film - now is that painstaking camera work to make sure the male front is covered because they know the male target audience can't handle the "shot" and if so - how long will it take for the male audience to become comfortable with it - or should they become comfortable with it - me - I'd rather be pulled into the movie - being naked and getting attacked is a fear of mine - having a dog bite there - or a robber wield a knife - arghhh I wince - so would I put the shot in - I sure would. Unless of course the backers of the film came to me and said no - the target audience can't stand to see that - and my hope is - the audience I make films for would rather see the film kept intact than changed. All this gets blown out by Hostel 2 where they show the guy getting the junk cut off - I noticed the male audience didn't have a problem there lol - they yelled as did the women - and why was it ok for the male audience to see the male member get mangled - but it seems a shot of the male member walking form the shower to the bed to answer the phone - is a big no-no lol. Lots of questions - where it all lead I don't know - but maybe soon - male actors will indeed be facing the same question female actors have to face daily fro role offered to them - how much will I show - and if don't - is it my career?

  17. I just saw your blog and wanted to chime in. As a non-emaculated, heterosexual male I am sick and tired of all this male frontal nudity only. I am sick and tired of females thinking that if they show breasts then that equals it out. NO, IT DOESN"T. There has been nothing but male genitals in movie after movie after movie and every cable series which exist. Female frontal nudity is almost nonexistent. It is time to see female nudity shown as male nudity has been shown. However, it is very clear that these filmmakers are very much emasculated and fear doing anything that would upset females but have no problem showing males. It has become a sickening double standard. Let's see a close up of the labia with the lips flapping open and closed like its talking like they did to males in "Bruno." How about showing a female squatting over a pan and peeing into it like they did on "Oz" with males. How about showing two females close up, one with camel toe and one with a regular labia, like they did in "Hall Pass" to males. How about some female frontal nudity in a documentary like what would have been an excellent one on "John Adams" but included male frontal nudity. The point is, I can go on and on with what they have done to males. I am not saying not to show male frontal nudity but how about starting to show some good female frontal nudity for those of us who are heterosexual. Breasts are nice, but it is partial nudity just like a male's bare behind. So Nicole, if you are in favor of true equality for all, let's see you support seeing equal amounts of female frontal nudity in films and cable series. Or, are you one of those females who only support equality when it benefits you ? Remember if you truly want equality you must also be willing to give it !

  18. I think no one wants to see males nude as much as females secondly .Doing nudity as and actor is usually means a low point its never a high one .How the hell halle berry got and award for her performance in monsters ball it was beyond me .The movie sucked and she's not a very good actress she looked hot getting plowed but that was about it .I think it more has to do with politics of the business people don't mind seeing female nudity and as far as options for a female actors that's toward the top of the list.
    I think for men they know they can do other things to excell their career because let's face it sex sells.I think people use the word artistic" to get females into stripping don for a role.It's all about dollar signs in the end i don't care how artistic someone says it is;it's not.