If you've seen a movie, you've seen tits. You've seen asses like crazy, too, and, obviously, loads and loads of torsos. But overwhelmingly, you've seen tits. You've seen them so much you probably hardly even think about them anymore, and who needs to? They've been exhaustively documented and considered.
But you've probably also noticed that, increasingly, there are more dicks than ever out there in movie land these days, PG or otherwise. And perhaps you've rushed out, girlfriends in tow, for a stiff drink to celebrate that we're finally, at long last, moving toward some utopian equal-opportunity exploitation of all types of naughty bits on screen. But not so fast. Tits and dicks do not a democracy of nakedness make. What about more vag? How do we feel about assholes? See, this thing is way more complicated than we realized.
First off, we all know there's more female nudity than male nudity in movies. I'd dig up a link to try to bear that out but seriously, why bother, when the point is as obvious as another pair of tits in an Entourage episode. You don't need a PhD in film theory to notice that men are behind more cameras, men are making the most movies, and that whenever you see a movie with a sex scene where the majority of that sex scene is from the vantage point of a dude, which is usually, that it's a safe bet that dude likes fucking women. (If you don't know that, go here to start but also, please, spend time here to blow that all apart while still honoring its central premise.)
When movies purport to be for everyone, they betray that when the second it's time to get sexy, suddenly we are all supposed to turn into heterosexual men for the sake of how the camera takes us through the doin' it. That's not to say no one does female nudity or sex scenes well, or that women can't enjoy films from male perspectives with female nudity, or that women aren't making their own films with their own points of view on this stuff. They do! We have! We do! We like! They are! It's all useful. We should all have such intimate knowledge of other sexual orientations' preferences and desires.
There's also no point wishing it would stop when yet another pair of gratuitous tits are trotted out in the service of a cheap thrill, because the best we can hope for in this world of two turntables (tits) and a microphone (dick) is that every willing adult is exploited equally in this game of take-it-off. So then, what would that look like? Here are a few suggestions. To be sure, I have not seen every film ever made and many films that exist today surely contain some of the below. Feel free to mention in the comments. I'm merely advocating for more of the following:
More dicks, more dicks, more dicks. First off, a coupla dicks is not equality. The dicks need to show up a lot. No, I'm not saying a dick for a tit is fair, for one, because there are two tits to every dick, so, you guys have a LOT of catching up to do, k? Obviously, I know hard dick is an issue, but more boners would be nice, seeing as how they are, in fact, so common. Democracy now!
If you don't like seeing dicks, let's talk about that, OK? I have a theory that the whole "Eww, dicks aren't pleasing to look at thing" is a weird socialized lesbian problem that we have, where we have been watching the female body objectified for so long that everyone has internalized a heterosexual criteria for viewing and appraising female bodies. I realize this will never stop, but find it insane to suggest that the vagina has some kind of beauty that a penis can't compete with. It's obviously different, but the dick needs a better PR campaign. Dicks are hot, ya'll.
More "unconventional" bodies in sexual scenarios. Sorry folks, Lena Dunham showing it off a coupla times in GIRLS doesn't mean we can shut it down and call it an equally naked day (although this great essay does discuss her contribution to "democratic nudity".) If we're going to fetishize like crazed horndogs, we should fetishize all kinds of body types to show that everybody knocks boots and a lot more people are attractive than just the slim demo of gals who might qualify to appear on a Miller Lite poster. This includes older people! Not just Diane Keaton! Just that we allow for a wider variety of depictions of the sexy sex we are all so apparently desperate to watch other people do on film.
More "unconventional" sexual positions We know people like anal sex and it doesn't have to be a violent power play. We know that people like assholes. We know people like a lot of things. We could show that and normalize that without making it seem like the most taboo, outsider way to get it on around, when it isn't. Obviously, that would be something like formicophilia. You can leave that one out, Hollywood, unless you think it could really serve the character?
More vag, or I guess, any vag at all: Ok. Look, I know this'll get an argument right off the bat. A vag is something that's more inside and a peen is outside and looking at a vag is more delicate or private or invasive than looking at an outside thing, so I'm told. Ok, if we say so. But also not if we don't say so. Here's a pretty funny show-more-labia plea that's worth a look. Highlight:
From Michael Fassbender in Shame to Jason Biggs in American Reunion, these are mainstream actors in mainstream films from mainstream Hollywood, so what is going on? You MAY see a famous actress's breasts in a film, or maybe a bare ass, but let's be real here, they show man-ass on prime time TV. We have been somewhat desensitized to breasts and ass, and that is a direct result of mainstream media and the influx of what we see daily. But the thing about female nudity that no one ever says is: they never show labia.
More orgasms: It's not just that we should see orgasms, but rather, more realistic ones, or rather, a more realistic lack of orgasm, and also more realistic masturbation from women, whether it leads to orgasm or not. This was cool in The Kids Are Alright — it showed oral sex taking forever because someone was distracted. Only lady masturbation scene I can think of otherwise off the top right now is Sharon Stone diddling it in Sliver, which was kinda cheesy. (And the infamous scene from GIRLS.)
More LGBT sex but not for the sheer purpose of titillating heteros: Yes, I get that you really have no control over what titillates whom — you could turn someone on by featuring crisp white sheets in a movie for all I know. But it's nice when gay and lesbian couples have sex in realistic ways on screen that feel realistic to a scene and a world, and not so much that thing where we have two hetero chicks suddenly making in yet another grab for teenage bones everywhere.
More realistic sex in general: Sex is still hot without having to turn it into some ridiculous performance art — we know that, right? I recall thinking that the sex in The Strangers seemed a lot like how you would actually do it on a table in a cabin in the woods before you were going to be stalked and tormented for two hours. More of that, please. (Not the stalking/tormenting.) Elsewhere, sex scenes seem to need to announce their very important arrival and ground all the action to a halt, dim the lights, cue the cheesy sexy music so we can all watch the performance. Too funny to be a turn-on.
More male objectification without having to make a whole movie about male objectification: Just put it right in there with the female objectification, OK? Magic Mike is great — let's just not quarantine this. Men should be watching their own get the treatment right in there with the action films and the tits. One gets the feeling that Ryan Gosling movies are shot the way are because there is an assumed female viewer to please (and thank God for that), while hot lady stars are fetishized in movies that are, again, purported to be for everyone.
More kinky sex but not for shock value: I don't know, if the news that Harvard is getting its own BDSM club and the success of FSOG is any indication, everyone you know is sitting right beside you watching CNN with some Ben Wa balls up in it and some genitals encased in leather. So show it! Show it good!
More male nudity in general, and just not for a (sad/funny) punchline: I often find that another guy scampering off with a saggy ass set up for a laugh is more than a mockery of just his ass. It's a mockery of us: Women, flesh and blood, looking for as good a time as men have been having since, well, the dawn of time. Missed opportunities, indeed.
More transnormative bodies or sexual scenarios shown realistically: The beauty of showing a full range of human sexuality, orientation and desire in film is not just that more representation is a good thing, it's that it's also educational — it can give a public that grapples with how to consider something it may simply not know much about, or that is feared and marginalized (or worse) a kind of roadmap toward embracing it.
In conclusion, move over, tits. There is a whole world down there we've been dying to check out for some time now.
Image by Jim Cooke