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Exposing Nudity Double Standards in 'The Sessions'

by Matt Singer
October 24, 2012 11:38 AM
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"The Sessions."
"The Sessions."

The new film "The Sessions" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival as "The Surrogate," a reference to the fact that the main character, poet and journalist Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes), hires a "sex surrogate" (Helen Hunt) to help him lose his virginity at the age of 38, a plan complicated by the fact that as a result of a childhood bout of polio, Mark is essentially paralyzed from the neck down and spends 20 hours a day inside an iron lung. But a strange truth of the movie's sexual content suggests another layer of relevance to the discarded original title: while Hunt spends a hefty portion of the film totally nude, Hawkes never does. In this story of sexual discovery, Hunt's character not only plays surrogate to Hawkes', Hunt's nudity has to play surrogate to Hawkes' as well.

This subject was covered -- and discussed by "The Sessions"' filmmakers -- earlier this week in an article by John Horn for The Los Angeles Times. In it, writer/director Ben Lewin explains his decision to show Hunt's naked body repeatedly and from just about every angle, while Hawkes remains chastely covered:

"'My task was not to challenge the MPAA,' Lewin said, adding that any male frontal nudity, especially showing O’Brien in an aroused state, would guarantee a NC-17 rating... 'I was pretty aware of [the MPAA’s] attitude toward erect penises -- that we’d immediately be dumped into quasi-porno land,' Lewin said. 'And there was no point in showing John's penis if it wasn’t erect.'"

If there's a double standard to blame here, Lewin suggests, it's not his double standard -- it's the double standard of the Motion Picture Association of America and their ratings board. If Hawkes had been visibly nude in the scenes between Mark and Hunt's Cheryl then the movie would have been slapped with an NC-17 -- meaning fewer theaters would show it, fewer outlets would publish advertising for it, and "The Sessions" would have a longer and tougher road back to profitability. Lewin's quotes imply that in a perfect world Hawkes would be just as naked as Hunt. In our world, the nature of the NC-17 demanded an approach that is arguably unfair -- and inarguably smarter business practice.

It's tough to dispute Lewin's assessment of the MPAA's attitude toward male nudity. And he's almost certainly correct that an erect male penis is an automatic NC-17 -- do not pass go, do not collect $200 million. But is he right that there was no point to showing Hawkes's body if it wasn't in a state of arousal? After watching the movie last night, I'm not so sure.

By the time "The Sessions" meets Mark O'Brien, he's in his late 30s. A devout Catholic, Mark knows that God considers sex out of wedlock a sin. But approaching his "sell-by date," as he jokes at one point, and having been rejected by a woman he's asked to marry him, he begins to worry that if he doesn't have sex soon, he never will. While researching an article on the sex lives of the disabled, Mark learns about the world of sex surrogates, essentially hands-on therapists who are paid to perform sexual acts with their patients as part of their therapy. Searching for spiritual counsel, he undertakes a series of confessions with his priest, Father Brendan (William H. Macy), who listens to Mark and decides that, at least in this case, God will allow an exception. So Mark hires Cheryl, who agrees to meet him for a series of six sessions -- and no more, for reasons that are not explained, although the legal boundary between surrogacy and prostitution could have something to do with it.

Mark and Cheryl's sessions are explicit and graphic -- but only to an extent. I'll skip the Mr. Skin-esque rundown of each act, but let it be noted that by the end of the film, to paraphrase an episode of "Seinfeld," if I had to describe Helen Hunt's body to a police sketch artist, the police would pick her up in about ten minutes. Hawkes, on the other hand, remains relatively obscured, perpetually hidden below the edge of the frame or swaddled in blankets.

There are all sorts of practical reasons for that, most having to do with Mark's polio -- and Hawkes' able-bodied frame. The actor does his best to contort his body into a shape that suggests a crippling illness, but the more of it we see, the more we realize that he is an actor playing a part and not a man with an actual disability. Showing less of Hawkes' body not only keeps the MPAA off the movie's back, it keeps the audience from thinking too much about his appearance. It might also be worth mentioning that Mark's polio means there's no logistical way to include any sort of male nudity that the MPAA allows in an R-rated film (frankly, ass shots) because his condition makes it impossible -- he spends the entire movie lying on his back.

As a result, male nudity in "The Sessions" became an all-or-nothing proposition. Lewin went with nothing. And while that decision is certainly understandable from a practical position, it's not always defensible from a thematic one. Mark's journey, his conversations with Father Brendan, and his encounters with Cheryl are about openness, self-acceptance, and self-worth. The movie suggests we're all beautiful, but the camera's awkward handling of the male body suggests otherwise. 

For instance, in one particularly poignant moment during a therapy session, Cheryl holds up a mirror so that Mark can look at his own naked body -- something, he's earlier confessed to Father Brendan, he hasn't seen in decades. Through ever-so-careful framing, Lewin positions Hunt and her mirror so that Hawkes' can see his body, but the audience cannot. Contrary to Lewin's comments, this moment has nothing to do with erections or orgasms. It's about Mark accepting and being comfortable with himself and his sexuality. And yet by deliberately framing Hawkes' nudity out of the shot, the movie suggests it itself isn't comfortable with him. In the context of that scene -- one in which Hunt's character is standing across the room, fully clothed -- not showing Hawkes' nudity sticks out like a sore thumb. Technically, it sticks out like something else that we're not allowed to talk about or see, but whatever.

To be clear: "The Sessions" is a charming movie. It's sweet and funny and hopeful -- it just doesn't make you equally hopeful about the depictions of human sexuality in future American movies. In a film about learning to be fearless, the choice to expose Hunt and hide Hawkes feels like a timid decision.

Read more of "Why John Hawkes Doesn't Do the Full Monty in 'The Sessions.'"

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More: The Sessions


  • Lewis | May 12, 2014 1:15 AMReply

    This has been a very interesting thread. Lots of passion and arguments based on passion, not facts. Fact, male genitals have been shown in mainstream R rated film and on cable TV for over 50 years; recently for extended screen time, up close, and semi-erect, while the female genitals have NEVER been seen, period. The MPAA promises an NC-17 rating to any movie that would even consider it. Why is this? Many say it's because female genitals are ugly and or pornographic. Those people are WRONG on both counts. Some argue that there is a certain amount of insecurity with women regarding their genitals. This may have some validity as 20+% of all females have never seen their own vagina. I'm not a psychologist, so I don't know the ins and outs of this issue. I do know that it's just a body part and we should all adjust our sensitivities to that fact, including the actress that said, on this topic, "You can fell it, finger it, f**k it, just don't even think about looking at it."

  • Randy | January 23, 2014 3:55 PMReply

    Really Gina, name one of these so called full frontal shots of a women when she is shaved. Showing men graphically is the equivalent of a women on screen, legs open exposing everything. That's right let's compare apples to apples. Boobs to penis, not a comparison. I bet you can't name one that exposes a female graphically like a male. And to put an erect penis in, wow watch some porn. If you call for that then I hope to see you arguing for spread leg shots of the female genitals stimulated. Cause fair is fair?

  • gina | January 21, 2014 10:58 PMReply

    Oh please....20nude women to one flaccId nude man is not even close know it we all know it ! And yes many movies are showing fully shaved nude women so why don't they show an erect penis when they do instead of 30 scenes of boobs and full female frontal ....women are visual as for you men out there ..yes your girl does get the urge when she sees a "hot" guy also.

  • Xavier | April 27, 2014 3:39 AM

    You're a joke, like MJ Snow and sooooo many females commenting at HBOWatch. Comparing tits and bush to actual genitals. I don't know how old you are, but you've been duped into believing the double standard to be against females. And that's okay, but to forward your completely biased limited view is unacceptable. Did you do any research? Do you even care? Oh wait... doing the male vs female thing will always get you attention. No matter the facts.

    I urge everyone to go and check out MJ Snow's 'article', and then CRUCIALLY the comments as well; for its the comments where Snow and her quest for 'genital equality' is torn apart. To quote one commentor from , and there are tons more like this:
    " The same thing happens here in the US. Women have severe vagina insecurity issues, that if you show a woman with fake pubic hair covering the vagina (happens in mainstream movies and shows like GoT ALL THE TIME), women viewers STILL complain, get angry and call the movie porn, even if it has nothing to do with porn. Even Trance was called porn by vaginally insecure women everywhere, and yet that movie couldn't be further from porn. It's actually good to see more and more men (and some women too) standing up to this feminazi garbage of how women supposedly are getting the shaft nudity-wise, yet the truth is men are the ones getting the shaft and women are in such ridiculous denial. Denial over having insecurities regarding vaginas, and denial over who really is getting the shaft nudity-wise.

    Dick = Pussy, and only that. Not boobs or fake female pubic bush. Why is it so difficult for women to accept that, unless vaginas scare the daylights out of women everywhere? "

  • Xavier | April 27, 2014 3:14 AM

    Oh really? Name 1 American mainstream movie showing visible labia. One!

  • Randy | January 17, 2014 3:29 PMReply

    Not even close Alan. These comments are filled with nonsense. The double standard lies in that men are shown fully nude (graphic) no wig to cover parts. While females are shown partially nude, or topless. Not even close to being the same. For many of you it would be a good thing to take a anatomy class again and learn the human body. The only double standard that exists is that women are never shown fully nude, or in the graphic form, while men are, in almost every R movie released now.

  • Alan | January 14, 2014 4:42 PMReply

    Twaddle, it certainly would not have been the only point to show charecters"erect" penis. It would have been quites appropriate to how him nude and flaccid. It is a double standard

  • r | December 17, 2013 9:21 PMReply

    are u kidding me! all i see in movies today are penises.

  • tessa | September 28, 2013 12:13 AMReply

    I don't understand why they won't show erect penis'...they show erect nipples why not erect penis . Because of this double standard we dont watch it

  • Xavier | April 27, 2014 3:20 AM

    What!!?? Erect nipples to erect penis? Are you 12? Jeezus arguments like this is why females are labeled illogical. Makes me think of that lovely quite by Jack Nicholson's character in "As good as as it gets", when asked how he as a writer writes women so well. "I think of a man, and I take reason and accountability".

  • chloe.aldaine | January 6, 2014 1:25 AM

    I don't understand why this concept is so hard for people. nipples are not analogous/homologous to the penis. If they are going to show an erect penis, the equivelent would be an erect clitoris

  • kevin | December 3, 2013 1:13 AM

    Are you kidding, the real question is: if they show erect penis they should show open vagina…right? Both men an women have nipples. Nipples to penis is hardly a fair comparison.

  • tessa | September 28, 2013 12:10 AMReply

    Yea I dont watch movies with naked women in it ....I research the rating and if I see nude women I won't watch it.. also my husband knows how I feel and he won't watch it out iof respect towards me . I know a lot of couples that do samething ...when they start losing women audience or couples... maybe then they will try to make a blockbuster...

  • Pam in the Valley | September 2, 2013 6:43 PMReply

    I am so glad that you published this info. I have been debating with friends for ages about there being a double standard in male-female nudity and some other situations with males and females. But you explained it wonderfully. Now to change the rules so that there is an even playing field.
    We women really do want to see male frontal nudity, not the behind shot.
    And a topless male is not nude. Oh what myths made by men!!! Women do not believe these little dick headed men!!

  • chloe.aldaine | January 6, 2014 1:27 AM

    You are incredibly misinformed. This article only covers erect penises. I challenge you to go do a tally between visible penises and visible labia in movies over the past 10 years. the mpaa will slap an nc-17 rating on just about any shot that shows a hint of detail of the external female genitals.

  • Mike | August 11, 2013 1:40 AMReply

    There are several films that could justify full expose and close ups of the males but did not. I wish they would have to have had more impact. One is "I Spit on Your Grave" where several males gang rape a woman. This film should have allowed a close up of her cutting their balls off and even in Sudden Impact where a woman is killing a bunch of males by blowing their balls off for raping her sister, I would love to have seen one of the males coming out of the shower with the woman looking at his nuts with a close up so we knew what she was looking at before they disappeared because she blew his balls off. It would be justfied for forced or gang rape. If a dozen men gang rape a woman, there should be a dozen dead males without their balls. I would vote for a law to execute rapist and child molesters by hanging them by their balls or crushing their nuts one at a time in public and letting women have the honors of removing their testicles and then cutting the pricks dicks off and feeding it to them for one last meal. Maybe we would have a few hundred thousand to a million dead males but it would make it safe for all women and children, a price well worth it. Show it on TV with close ups of them doing it so that every girl will know she is vauled and every boy would learn to keep his prick in his pants.

  • kevin | December 3, 2013 1:16 AM

    Mike, with all that hatred towards "balls" are you sure your really Mike and not a Michelle that has a serious problem with men?

  • Anne Evans | November 19, 2013 6:55 AM

    A man after my own heart! Very unusual to hear a man with this point of view! Wow! We should make you minister for Justice!

  • Kathy | August 16, 2013 2:33 PM

    Mike I love both of your comments. I would watch those movies 100 times if they showed close ups of males getting their balls blown off. For real rapist, I would offer my services to crush their nuts Your thinking is not too bad----for a MALE

  • Mike | August 10, 2013 5:44 AMReply

    "lose his virginity" If this was about a male losing his virginity, it would have made more sense for the male to be naked most of the time. Actually, it is popular for males to be naked even when women are fully dressed. I have attended many parties where all the males are totally naked and all of the women toally dressed. We even had a male tell a woman she needed to cover her clevage more as she was wearing a low cut dress, all the while he was totally naked with is dick and balls fully exposed. Oddly males behave much better when they are totally naked and women totally dressed. It should be the norm for all events. Nothing special about a couple of nuts and a dick hanging over them. Show more of them in the movies and then males who want to show their pricks to little girls would not scare them, the girls could learn to tell them they have seen bigger pricks on babies.

  • kevin | December 3, 2013 1:17 AM

    Kathy, your just as sick as the rapist. You and "Mike", i guess that is what we should call her, need plenty of counseling.

  • eric | May 28, 2013 6:12 PMReply

    Women have over the ages been conditioned to regard a topless man as not being nude. if all men had to refuse being topless for the next 100 years, then I bet you topless male nudity will also be an issue. for this reason, men have for much longer been showing skin. I think it is womens turn to start showing much more nudity..

    Also, mens genetalia is external to their bodies so the extent of male nudity can never be equaled by female nudity, unless you get a shot of ovaria! for this reason, women should start showing clits and labia!

    vaginas does not show sexual arousal as with male nudity, so there should not be a problem showing vagina!

    O yes also... a women told me the other day that it is ok for men to walk around topless because there is nothing to see. my argument, why dont women not show themselves full frontal since there is nothing to see?

    truth hurts ladies. be carefull what you wish for!

  • Pam in the Valley | September 2, 2013 6:35 PM

    Listen sweetie dear, when women show their breasts all the dog gone time, that's real nudity.
    The male dominated media in this and some other countries protect men from showing their penises and testicles. This is not fair. And a man being shirtless is about as nude as a woman showing her thigh. We need to show some testicles for all the breasts we let men see.

  • cam | April 10, 2013 3:45 AMReply

    But you have the luxery of not having to deal with that they show all varities of male if that wasn't nudity at me a female ass and let me decide if its funny that's all I'm sayin.enough with the t.v show man ass enough with the gay crap.

  • kevin | December 3, 2013 1:20 AM

    Pam, start comparing apples to apples. When movies start showing vulva, not pubic hair, then yes they should start showing penis's. Oh wait they already show full frontal mail nudity.

  • cam | April 10, 2013 3:41 AMReply

    And what do you show.t.v doesn't even show a female scared it will be sexy.funny you worry about vagina showin when nuts hang a lot lower.and who wants to see hairy man ass.I doubt even you would dig that.even you would rather see a womans disgusting what you want to squeeze that sweaty hairy crappy mess.come on I guess its hilarious right and not disgusting and unnecessary at all huh

  • cam | April 10, 2013 3:28 AMReply

    Gays in hollywood got all the male nudity you women can handle.on regular television can't change channels without seeing male parts or some kind of gay conduct involving men.keep pushing that gay agenda you guys might finally achieve an orgasm

  • cam | April 10, 2013 3:21 AMReply

    Oh bullshit you dummies are the ones spreading bullshit.always count on a woman to lead you astray fill your head with bullsshit and blame everything on you.

  • Avalanche | March 8, 2013 10:43 PMReply

    @Cam, leave the ugly profane language off, or go somewhere esle.

    The testicles are not genitals, and are just for storing sperm, but you all keep them hidden, don't you?

    So why would you all keep copying each other's statements about men having breasts too. That is the biggest lie!! Men DO NOT have breasts. Men have chests that mimick the look of breasts. They are 100% different from women's breasts. Women's breasts are no where like a man's chest. Stop make ridiculous statements. You men are so desperate to get women to strip and be naked, that you come up with these pathetic fairy tales about women's bodies. It is so sad.

    How many of you men would be willing for your mothers, your wives, and your daughters to walk down the street topless. Well, think about it, all the other women of the world have men in their lives who love them, and normally those men do not want their females to show their breasts to the nasty world that is dominated by disrepectful, horny, men like some of the ones who are using foul language and demeaning and scolding women on this blog.
    Do you really believe that sensible women will ever show their breasts in public? H____ no!!!
    Not until you all show some parts too and not your chest that you think is a pair of breasts! :)
    You all are hilarious!

  • Randy | March 3, 2014 3:02 PM

    You are possibly the dumbest person on this site. The testicles are not genitals just for storing sperm? By this statement alone you prove your lack of intelligence. But that is to hard for a militant ignorant feminist like yourself to grasp. Can men get breast cancer? Yes or no? You are so desperate to attack someone that you present no facts. That is the most common theme when feminist make their argument. No facts and just rants. You prove our point by making ignorant statements with no facts to back it up. You should take an anatomy class before you post another statement.

  • Avalanche | March 27, 2013 6:15 PM

    We want to see testicles and penises. Stop getting mad because women want to see men naked just like men want to see women naked. Every woman is not afraid to look at a penis. You men can't be spoiled on this blog. Go away!!

  • cam | March 6, 2013 10:32 AMReply

    Really?you're bitching bout the titty thing?y breastfeed in public?its naatural rightwomen cracck me up with this double standard shit,not only against us but for them and their benefits.

  • Avalanche | March 27, 2013 6:11 PM

    Really ?? You're bitching about the nut thing??

  • Beryl | March 8, 2013 10:06 PM

    First of all you are too ig________, to use respectful language, then you have the nerve to get mad because most women want their breast to be private, and don't want you to see them. Men won't show their testicles, so you all can 't even complain.

  • cam | March 6, 2013 10:23 AMReply

    What are these women talking about?if they ever show anything its covered up by hair.while the guys junk they could bust a nut to.never show female nudity for laughs yet you running into male ass everywhere you look.I'm tired of tired little tits and we don't have anything to do with what you idiots get paid for,we love pussy yes so do you women are beautiful thats why u want to be like them.u want dick?spread your lips

  • mike | August 10, 2013 7:20 AM

    Beryl, cam can not help it if is prick is so little and he sure does not respect women to use the terms he does for women. Even on main stream TV and most movies and sit coms you seldom hear slang terms used for women (except maybe for breasts) but I have often heard the penis called dicks, cocks, pricks and other things while our testicles are nuts or balls mostly. Of course we often see women hitting males in the balls or kicking their nuts and that is OK with me although it makes me check my own balls. If there are double standards, since women are far superior to us males, I want the double standards to be in womens favor, the more so, the better. If males were such pricks, I would not think this but most males do think with the brain in their cock.

  • Beryl | March 8, 2013 10:09 PM

    And we women want to see nude men. You all guard your little ittiy, bitty, erections and expect for women to show everything. Such double standards that come from men in this country.

  • Mac 10. | February 17, 2013 12:16 AMReply

    Male nudity and female nudity are completely different things... one is admired the other is mocked. That is why i never understood why womens groups will moan and complain about breasts in a movies.... all the audience is doing is admiring them, and enjoying the beauty of the actress. That is not being 'dehumanized' or 'humiliated' that is being idolized.

    But with male nudity.... i cannot imagine why any actor would have such little self respect to show is penis on camera. Do they know that that means millions of men women and little kids will be laughing at your body. The ones that do not laugh will cover their eyes in horror and disgust. That is the height of humiliation if you ask me.

    I litteraly get sick to my stomach about this soceity.... its not so much the blatant double standards, but the fact that on just about ever issue that is actually unfair to men.... everyone thinks its unfair to women. The fact that people will equate a penis and testicles to nipples is beyond insane. Nipple are not genitalia, you don't have sex or use the bathroom with them.

    Why do people want to see male nudity in films anyway, just something to laugh at? whats the point?

  • Avalanche | March 8, 2013 10:48 PM

    @Mac, then get men to show their thingies, so that we can admire them.

    The sooner you men strip, the sooner you can get us to show stuff. Ha Ha Ha You must be fair and balanced. Are men that stupid, that they do not get it? Or ar you all pretending, so you can try to persuade us to strip. You first! :)

  • Beryl | March 8, 2013 10:15 PM

    @Mac 10,
    That double standard is not fair. You are showing a double standard here. You think it is okay for women to show nudity and men to stay covered up? No way!! You me have got to give it up just like women. Men laugh at women's saggy breasts. But you think we shouldn't laugh at and tease men. And whether women will tell you or not, they really do want to see naked men. We are just too scared to admit it. So stop saying that it's okay to show breasts and not testicles.

  • Pam | February 16, 2013 5:16 PMReply

    Where and when did we start allowing men to make such a crazy rule that women's breasts are not a part of the female genitals and are not private. This is one of the biggest myths that men have put out there and have shoved down females' throats, besides that crap where males tell girls/daughters that their daddies own their bodies and minds until they get married.

    You males have gone too far.
    Females out there you all have got to stand strong and stand united and take back our female power from males. Males have gone too far. They would never allow us to say that the testicles are not genitals. They would not allow female media to take pictures of a the testicles and put them on magazine covers. Why then do we allow the male media to take pictures of our private breasts???

  • Randy | January 11, 2014 12:53 PM

    Pam you are a complete idiot. Breasts are not genitals. Your whole argument is invalid because you are an idiot. Learn anatomy and get back to us. Take your feminist BS and find some group of uneducated folks to talk to.

  • Mike | August 10, 2013 7:11 AM

    "This is one of the biggest myths that men have put out there " Pam the biggest myth males have put out is that women are the weaker sex and that males are superior to women when all evidence shows women are far superior to the human male. In fact all throughout nature the female is superior to the male. The sooner we males realize it and accept it the better it will be for everyone including males. I think the fact that women are superior to males and girls supeior to boys (in fact most girls are superior to adult males) should be taught in grade school so every male will soon accept it If every male had the balls to admit this we would treat women so much better and the world would be a better place.

  • JESSICA | February 19, 2013 3:24 AM

    " Breasts are Genitalia "....? ..................Are you for real? Pam, when you were in health class, did the teacher tell you "Boys have a Penis and Girls have Breasts"?

    WAIT!!!... If "Breasts are Genitalia", then Breast Feeding is Sexual Abuse...!!! ;) ;)

  • mohin | February 11, 2013 3:28 PMReply

    please, send me free always all full naked, nude, open & hot panis of all and cocking together with others. I like and love them.

  • CJ | January 26, 2013 5:48 PMReply

    I asked my doctor, candidly, about male and female nudity. She said that men have a penis and a scrotum while women have labia and a clitoris for genitals. Both men and women have areola, nipples, and mamary glands. The only anatomical difference with breasts has to do with size which is attributed to fat tissue. So I then asked if women's breasts were like men's biceps......primarily the same for both sexes, but just a different size for each gender. She said...typically yes. She also said that men could produce milk and breastfeed like a woman if he had problems with his pituitary gland, which we all have in our brain. This would cause an overproduction of prolactin which causes one to lactate. So if an attractive male quality like biceps are a turn on for women, then breasts being an equally attractive female quality being a turn on for men, then we would still have an attractive gender quality double standard in regards to exposure, right? Why do women get hot and bothered when they see a fit shirtless man and say it is not nudity, but if a guy sees a fit shirtless woman it's objectionable, exploitation, disgusting? Jealousy and insecurity double standard? Penis and scrotum in plain view equals labia and clitoris in plain view. Pretty simple. Pubic hair equals pubic many women would be pissed off if they only showed a man's pubic hair as "full male nudity"? An article like this shows nothing but ignorance to ration and logical thinking......and is a total double standard within itself.

  • Randy | March 3, 2014 3:09 PM

    Pam along with Beryl and avalanche desperately try to make an argument but present no facts. They seem to be the most ignorant people here. Learn your anatomy and get back to us. And Pam I'm sure your more intelligent than a doctor, lol. Beryl, your ignorant swipes at the size of a mans genitalia show just how pathetic and how much of a low life you are. No facts and just rants.

  • Pam | March 8, 2013 10:17 PM

    You tell your doctor to come and speak to me.

  • Dave | February 26, 2013 2:27 PM

    I think Pam suffers from the mental illness of being an irrational feminist. Get a clue Pam, men and females have breasts. Females have demanded the right to go shirtless in public, and in many states in the U.S. they have had that right validated. For you to whine that it is men trying to force this view on females is hilarious. Crawl back into your cave with the other feminists who rant about everything until maybe you develop a tiny amount of intelligence.

  • Pam | February 16, 2013 5:26 PM

    I don't care how many nipples and how many mammary glands that a man has!! A man's chest is NOT the same as females' breasts. You men can twist and push this concept all you want. There is no way common sense women will allow you all to brainwash our gullible females and make them believe that crap. A doctor who calls himself/herself a doctor, would never give that idea that a man has breasts like a woman. It's plain ludicrous and outrageous!! It's like saying the female clitoris is like the man's penis.
    Some of you people are so unbelievable. I don't care if other females are afraid to speak up,I will stand up and speak up for the truth. The female breasts are private and should not be exposed outside of the doctor's office or outside of the privacy of your home. Those of you who are horny, need to find a woman of your own to look at. These men need to sit down and shut up!!! Spend some of that time trying to get men to show their testicles.

  • Mike M. | January 9, 2013 10:53 PMReply

    Matt, I am not sure what type of goggles you are wearing, but male nudity is far, FAR more prominent and EXTREMELY EXPLICIT compared to female nudity! Furthermore, your complaint about a double standard, which is completely untrue, makes it sound as if you have been living under a rock somewhere. I realize nudity is subjective to ones definition and/or cultural bias of it; but for the sake of fairness, you have to compartmentalize nudity into two different categories: GENITAL NUDITY, and, NON-GENITAL NUDITY. If you took a moment to step outside that obvious brainwashed, radical feminist indoctrinated, woman-pleasing mantra you seem to believe in, you would see that the true double standard, with respect to the frequency and explicitness of nudity, is against men. Jessica D's post hits the nail on the head, you can fully show a Penis on-screen and in any state of arousal, or context, and will still secure an R rating! But God help it if a movie or prime-time cable TV show shows any hint of a woman's genitals --Vulva--, it automatically gets an NC-17 rating, a.k.a, X rated! Furthermore, female genital states of arousal are strictly forbidden outside of porn! Now, I know a lot women will never see eye to eye with men on this, but showing a Penis, aroused or not, is far, FAR, more explicit than showing a pair of breasts or fake pubic hair.

  • Mike M. | January 9, 2013 10:51 PMReply

    Matt, I am not sure what type of goggles you are wearing, but male nudity is far, FAR more prominent and EXTREMELY EXPLICIT compared to female nudity! Furthermore, your complaint about a double standard, which is completely untrue, makes it sound as if you have been living under a rock somewhere. I realize nudity is subjective to ones definition and/or cultural bias of it; but for the sake of fairness, you have to compartmentalize nudity into two different categories: GENITAL NUDITY, and, NON-GENITAL NUDITY. If you took a moment to step outside that obvious brainwashed, radical feminist indoctrinated, woman-pleasing mantra you seem to believe in, you would see that the true double standard, with respect to the frequency and explicitness of nudity, is against men. Jessica Dawson's post hits the nail on the head, you can fully show a Penis on-screen and in any state of arousal, or context, and will still secure an R rating! But God help it if a movie or prime-time cable TV show shows any hint of a woman's genitals --Vulva--, it automatically gets an NC-17 rating, a.k.a, X rated! Furthermore, female genital states of arousal are strictly forbidden outside of porn! Now, I know a lot women will never see eye to eye with men on this, but showing a Penis, aroused or not, is far, FAR, more explicit than showing a pair of breasts or fake pubic hair.

  • Jim brown | January 7, 2013 12:18 PMReply

    This is one of the most biased and poorly written articles ever.

    There is a double standard and its towards men! Male genitals are graphically shown in mainstream movies all the time. Women NEVER show anything beyond pubic hair and they even fake the pubic hair with a merken patch! Movies treat breasts with a double standard as well. Women's breasts are considered offensive and need to be covered but not male breasts?

  • Dave | February 26, 2013 2:30 PM

    Avalancheinthevalley: WRONG! I see men without shirts on broadcast TV but no females without shirts. I see men's rears on broadcast TV but no females' rears. Watch Spartacus, Real Sex, Sideways, The Piano, ... and tell me how many times you see female genitalia exposed. The answer is almost never. On the other hand, penises show up on all of those programs, and many more.

  • Avalancheinthevalley | February 15, 2013 12:26 PM

    You all are so wrong!! Those are lies! What do you all think there is on tv on the movie channels.....All female breasts!!!! Plus all over the internet, just type in breasts and they will show every nude woman in the universe. But the men are not shown ful frontal. What planet are you all from!! There are no penises anywhere.

  • Jessica | December 9, 2012 12:00 AMReply

    Wait, are Helen Hunt’s genitals (fully visible Vulva) actually shown? …I highly doubt it! And it’s something you’ve conveniently omitted in your article. So, with Helen Hunt not showing her Vulva in scenes where one would EXPECT to clearly see it … it hardly seems fair, nor does it make any sense to rant or question why John Hawkes Penis wasn’t shown -- regardless of the context.

    Seriously, we can easily flip this argument around and ask why Helen Hunt’s genitals are not shown? Or do you have a double standard where movies should only contain genital nudity from the male actors and non-genital nudity from the female actresses?

    Better yet, name 20 Hollywood movies (made in the USA), that’s right, 20 movies in the past 20 years, rated PG-R (NOT NC-17, UR or NR), that actually shows a woman’s fully visible Vulva … good luck!

    If you even bothered to do a quick Google search before writing this article you would find that there’s literally well over several hundred movies (PG-R rated) with full-frontal male nudity -- up close, full Penis w/Scrotum shown in them, especially in the last 10 years! Erect/Semi-Erect…, Visible Masturbation…, Graphically Mutilated…, Defecation out Penises…, Visible Molestation/Rape…, Graphic Underage Male Genital Nudity…, and yes, even full shots of Penis specifically shown for Female Titillation -- all on-screen (no censoring), and all R-rated or lower. I challenge you to find a PG-R-rated movie actually showing a woman’s genitals period, especially in any of these scenarios/contexts. Again, you’ve conveniently omitted all of this in your “MPAA has a double standard against women” argument.

    I know this may be difficult for you to accept, but the MPAA allows (and has allowed) for far more explicit genital nudity from men in PG-R rated venues (as I pointed out in the paragraph above). On the flip side, female genital nudity is very, very, rarely allowed; otherwise, it’s automatically slapped with an NC-17 rating.

    Again, we can easily flip this argument around and clearly state (with fact) that the MPAA has a double standard against men and that they obviously go out of their way to protect women. Male genital nudity can be gratuitously shown in almost any context, whereas, female genital nudity is completely “off-limits”!

    Whether you choose to believe it or not, those are the facts!

    -- Jessica D.

    Sources: Film Studies Major and 20+ years in the movie industry.

  • chloealdaine | November 24, 2012 3:44 AMReply

    This article has a very flawed perspective. The double standard with genital nudity is quite the reverse with the mpaa. Male genital nudity has become very commonplace, and graphic. Look at bruno for example, that has a 2 minute long extended scene that is a macro-view closeup of bruno's penis, flapping up and down in slow motion.

    Female genitalia is the thing thats almost guaranteeing an NC-17 rating. Let me ask you this, when is the last time you saw a movie with female full frontal nudity where you could actually see anything? And by that I mean any hint of a crevice between the labia majora... any movie where a woman has had a normal, modernized hair "style" down there. Directors make actresses wear "merkins" or pubic hair wigs, knowing that they will get an NC-17 rating stamped on otherwise, all the while not shying away from the penis in full view.

    There is an interview with the director of Zach and Miri Make a Porno where he says the hardest scene to shoot was the one where they were casting female porn actresses. He had said that it was almost impossible to find a woman in LA with enough pubic hair to get past the censors, despite the fact that you see full fledged penis, and even a shot with an actor bending over from behind, seeing his scrotum and penis.

  • Dave | February 26, 2013 2:33 PM

    I think Pam and Avalancheinthevalley are the same person. They are arguing the same thing even though they are totally wrong. It is feminists who have demanded that men's and females' breasts be treated the same way. As to movie nudity, do an apples and apples comparison and you will see that they are WRONG about that as well.

  • Avalancheinthevalley | February 15, 2013 12:33 PM

    They show females' breasts all the time. Where have you all been hiding? And the breasts ARE private parts, it's just that men have been scolding women to believe that they are not private.... so that gulible, brainwashed, females will continues to show their breasts, while labeling females who do not want to show theirs........ as prudish females.
    Women have a lot more private areas than men, and men want us to call our breasts the same as male breasts. Unbelievable!! That is so ludicrous, and women fall for this bull___ !!!

  • Jake86 | November 17, 2012 7:36 AMReply

    I really don't care if I see penises or not in mainstream films, but this film was different. When Helen Hunt held the mirror up to him to help him accept and be proud of his body, and then to not show his body made no sense. Just ditch the scene. What you're showing and what you're trying to convey just don't match. I thought it was a great film otherwise. It dealt with sex on many levels and didn't take itself too seriously.

  • bob | February 17, 2013 12:00 AM

    What is wrong with you? In most cultures around the world breasts were not considered a private part at all. Until very recently.

    Breast are not genitalia, the are not reproductive organs, and you do not use the bathroom with them. How can you equate a penis to breasts? ppl like you are so silly

  • F-zero | November 9, 2012 6:31 PMReply

    I'm guessing the writer of this article didn't see Forgetting Sarah Marshall where the male lead shakes his penis around on camera while all of the female co-stars are fully clothed? Or Hall Pass, where the camera zooms in on two guys penises that are inches away from the male leads face. Whining ensues when the ladies get naked and the guys stay clothed, but when its reversed we hear only silence. The fact is that full frontal nudity of men is now very commonplace in Hollywood movies but is nearly non-existent for women (the last time I saw actual ladyparts in a mainstream film was Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct way back in the early 90s. Even then it was a dimly lit, blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot). Face it ladies, in this department you really have nothing to complain about (though obviously that won't stop you).

  • Danny | November 9, 2012 11:00 AMReply

    Typical female response. You take an inch and they demand that you give them back a mile. They're like that about everything. A breast really does not equal a penis in terms of itimacy of sexual organs, and neither does pubic hair (it's just hair for god's sake).

    I really don't care if they show male frontal nudity or not, but I'm getting pretty tired of it in all the comedies. Sorry, but dangling a penis in my face isn't particularly funny or creative. It's just lazy and poor writing (FYI the new film Holy Motors has plenty of frontal male nudity, including erections, but zero on the female nudity, so that should make a lot of people happy).

  • Avalanche | February 15, 2013 12:37 PM

    It's about time!! They show all inside the vagina, during birth scenes, with the poor crazy, brainwashed woman actually allowing her father to be in the room and actually look. Women are so confused to do stuff like that. That's nasty to let dad in the room. This world is crazy!!

  • Nk55 | November 9, 2012 10:10 AMReply

    I'm not so sure about this supposed double standard--- When have you ever seen female sexual organs (female genitalia) in a film? Probably never outside of porn, yet everyone thinks male genitalia should be splashed all over the screen to make things "equal".... Erect penises? Would you expect to see an actress spread her legs and display dripping wet genitalia and an engorged clioris? Probably you wouldn't--- Yes there is a lot of female nudity in films, breasts, behinds, and occasional pubic hair, but there's at least as many bare male behinds, and there's a LOT more male breasts than female breasts (I don't know why female breasts are even considered nudity, but that's a whole other issue)-- The bottom line is we are a lot more restrictive and puritanical about the female body than we are about the male body.-- Double standard, yes. But you have it the wrong way.

  • mike | August 11, 2013 1:24 AM

    Avalanche, if you could get women to stand together, we males would not have a chance and if the battle of the sexes became an all our war, women would be able to kill almost all of the males before a 10th of the women were killed.

  • Avalanche | March 8, 2013 10:30 PM

    The female breast is private. You men on this blog see your mamas walking in the mall topless. I prove my case!! it's just the male dominated reign and rule all over the world made it that way, just like testicles are hidden all over the world. Men have done a slick trick and women fell far it. And women can be so foolish, that we scold each other for standing strong against men. One thing I have to say about you men is you stick together, whether it is for a double standard, or justifying cheating on your woman, or hiding your thingies, you all sure will stand united. And you try to attack females like me who are not afraid of you!!!
    I wish I could get females to stand together.

  • Leanne | November 7, 2012 4:00 PMReply

    I am so sick of hearing all the excuses not to show male nudity such as Lewin's excuse that erect penises are a no-no!... so show Hawkes' penis BEFORE its erect. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this out. Its all about the giving the male audience their eye candy and NONE for the female audience. Yet another movie I will boycott due to double standards and gender inequality nudity.
    Ps. Isnt this a story about a mans penis urges? - so if any nudity is shown , it goes without question it should be his penis but instead they show us female nudity only!! WTF??!!!!

  • Randy | January 11, 2014 12:43 PM

    You are a complete idiot. The fact is breasts are not gentials. Full nudity is full nudity. Another beat down woman that doesn't really want equality. Fully nude men in nearly all new R movies and rarely a topless woman and the mystical unicorn "the fully nude woman" but she is covered by a mane of pubic hair that was meant for a lion or 70's porn star. Get your damn facts straight before you bitch about equality.

  • mike | August 11, 2013 1:27 AM

    I agree Leanne, they should not have exposed the woman at all but it did make perfect sense to fully expose the male and let everyone see his dick. After all, it was about helping a male lose his virginity so expose him to show it and that would also have allowed the film to show an erect cock.

  • Avalanche | March 8, 2013 10:22 PM

    Thank you Leanne. You are among a tiny majority that makes any sense on this blog.

  • Mike M. | January 10, 2013 12:00 AM

    Leanne, where are all of these movies that show a woman's Vulva. By the way, a Vulva is a woman's genitals since you seem to be confused about what is and what is not genitalia... After all, you seem to believe breasts and fake pubic hair ARE genitalia... I mean, why else would you try to justify/equate the exposure of a Penis to a pair of breasts, or fake pubic hair...? Leanne, either you are that ignorant, or, you are conveniently omitting and/or ignoring the fact that female genitalia (again, this is called the VULVA, Leanne) are NEVER shown outside of pornography. Penises ARE shown in tons of R rated movies AND prime-time cable TV shows, yet the female equivalent, the showing of a Vulva, is virtually non-existent! There's a double standard alright, but you have it backwards!

  • jim brown | January 7, 2013 12:26 PM

    Maybe you need to rent a gay porn if all you want to see in movies are penises.

  • Janet | October 25, 2012 6:16 AMReply

    My pick for the movie Fifty shades of Grey to Play Christian grey is Matt Bomer. You can find more information on

  • Ferd | October 25, 2012 4:39 AMReply

    Holy Motors is out now in theaters and there is full male nudity, including a well visible erect penis. It is rated R.

  • Aaron | October 25, 2012 11:09 AM

    As far as I can tell, HOLY MOTORS is NR (not rated) - looking at IMDb and Fandango, no rating is listed. This is normal for films that probably would be rated NC-17 or just don't need to go through the trouble of the ratings board.

  • bob hawk | October 25, 2012 1:01 AMReply

    This particular "issue" never even occurred to me when I saw it way back in January at Sundance. Why? Because I reasoned that Hawkes' body in general would not be that of someone who had been immobile for so many years. There would be little to no muscle tone, especially in the legs (even with physical therapy, massages, etc.). If the filmmakers had wished to give equal time to male nudity (with an unaroused penis, of course) they would have had to use a body double -- one whose body accurately reflected this condition.

  • Alan | January 5, 2013 9:49 PM

    I'm glad someone realizes the real double-standard in this movie is an able-bodied male actor pretending to have a disability and so being in no position to appear naked. Never mind your American unhealthy obsession over nudity - it should be as unacceptable for an actor to pretend to be disabled as to ask a white actor to pretend to be black (or does that still happen in your country?)

  • Forrest | October 24, 2012 9:17 PMReply

    Did anybody else even read this to the end? The problem isn't that the ratio is off, the problem that steering away from the male body undermines and contradicts one of the film's biggest themes.

  • Leanne | November 7, 2012 4:02 PM

    you got it spot on !

  • josh | October 24, 2012 8:17 PMReply

    It could of been that john hawkes didn't want to show off his body.Sometimes its a choice of the actor i'm sure it came up before the film started.The real issue isnt and shouldnt be about nudity that's the truth .The very fact that this article came out shows that maybe someone missed the bigger picture here .Of what the story was trying to convey i dont know i havent seen the movie yet .

    I feel showing graphic nudity and sex in a film isn't going to show people that it's ok to be more open sexually.Being open sexually isnt just about exposing to everyone it's about your emotions being ok.With what emotions sexuality has stirred up in you its your nature its not so much what you do.Than how you feel look at the world we live sextapes and sexting are big things today .It's not so much the physical as it is the emotion people don't know how to express those feelings .Confidently and comfortably it's ok to feel aroused by someone else its ok to feel aroused period .

    This is why movies canidates when it comes to creating social change they should stay out of the politica and socially economic arean all together.When the people in the real world start being open to to educating people on sex.Than we will be comfortable with it that's not however going to come from a movie .All these years and movies later and we are still dealing with this .That just shows how ineffective that strategy is also i think showing as graphic as sex in a near explicit manor under the guise of a good story.Just a excuse for the indie crowd to use pornography because lets face it .Dry humping isn't enough these days they need to realize the audience creates the illusion of whats going on.Same with violence do we really need to get closer and closer to showing really graphic violent stuff almost to the point where it looks like someone actually got murdered ????? No these things all elude the bigger picture and after all isnt that the point of a story ? To open our eyes to the big picture ?

    At the end of the day you care how much male to female nude ratio there is in films .Some actors dont mind being nude other do its that simple .In helen hunts case let's face it she hasnt had a movie in a while and what way to reintroduce herself with a little controversy

  • Kevin Tostado | October 24, 2012 3:16 PMReply

    So you're arguing that Ben Lewin should have risked a NC-17 from the MPAA (and the complicated appeal process involved) just to better balance the ratio of female to male nudity? I saw a packed screening of this film in Boston and after the film ended, I didn't hear a single comment regarding the issue you raised. I agree that the MPAA presents double standards when it comes to gender (don't get me started on the level of violence allowed in comparison to nudity), but that battle is not Lewin's to fight.

    I think the more risky decision that Lewin took was making this film in the first place. He fully admitted in a Q&A that all the studios passed on this script, which is why he had to finance this film primarily from friends and family in Australia. It is an excellent film, and Hawkes and Hunt both did an amazing job of bringing their own insights to the characters that Lewin based on the characters' real-life counterparts.

  • Leanne | November 7, 2012 4:06 PM

    There is no male /female nudity ratio - it's simply NO male nudity and ALL female nudity.

  • David | October 24, 2012 12:25 PMReply

    Let's not forget that The Full Monty chickened out too and the title proved to be false advertising since the film should have but didn't go Full Monty.

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