According to the Chinese zodiac, 2022 is the year of the tiger, but, based on the current trend of penises on TV, it’s looking more like the year of the one-eyed snake. Seriously. If you want to see an on-screen peen, you don’t have to look too hard. Pardon my French, but what’s with all the dicks?
First, there’s Euphoria, everybody’s favorite high school dramedy, which seems to relish its ability to let the dongs out. Season 1 brought us that locker room scene, complete with plenty of dicks flopping about in the background. This year, season 2 (finally) came out, and for anyone hoping for a barrage of male genitalia, you won’t be disappointed. There are plenty of penises—including one seen dangling over an open toilet during a mid-house party dump and another that’s been bloodied and mangled. If you ask me, that’s the most unrealistic part of Euphoria. I went to high school for four years, but I didn’t see nearly as many wieners.
In the recent Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That, two penises were shown in a single episode. That might not seem too shocking for a show about sex, but when you consider that not a single dick made an appearance over the course of Sex and the City’s original six-season run, it kind of is.
Not to be outdone, Hulu’s 2022 series Pam and Tommy featured a talking penis. (You read that right, the cock in question spoke.) And in HBO Max’s new comedy, Minx, the pilot episode alone had a whopping 20 dicks (yes, I counted. For, uh, research.)
Other recent shows with full-frontal men include White Lotus, Sex Education, Scenes from a Marriage, and Sex/Life. While the continued rise of streaming services (which don’t have to cater to FCC regulations) is partially responsible for this sudden influx of dick, it’s not just TV serving up steamy penis scenes. Movies like Don’t Look Up, Nightmare Alley, The Worst Person in the World, and The Power of the Dog had fully nude men on screen. Although both Don’t Look Up and The Power of the Dog had limited theatrical runs before being released on Netflix, the willies weren’t censored for the cinema.
Seeing a dick on the big screen isn’t exactly new; back in 2014, Ben Affleck showed (part) of his peen in Gone Girl, and the internet promptly lost its goddamn mind. It’s worth noting that the film also featured a topless Emily Ratajkowski, but that split-second side shot of Matt Damon’s other half (and his other half) was far more titillating for moviegoers.
Affleck wasn’t the first actor to let his pecker loose for a role (see both Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Hangover), nor was he the first major movie star to whip it out (see Richard Gere in 1980’s American Gigolo.) But it was still a rare enough occurrence that it garnered a mass amount of attention.
Over the last five years, the on-screen peen has steadily increased in popularity. Which begs the real question: why? Are they simply there for shock value? Or are they intended as a way to even the playing field? Is showing a dick on TV a feminist statement of sorts in this post-#MeToo world? What exactly are these penises (talking or otherwise) saying?
Whether or not this advent of mainstream male nudity signals gender equality in Hollywood is beside the point. Because what actually matters is whether or not tit-for-tat is equal. Sadly, the answer is typically no.
For one thing, when men flash their dicks on screen, more often than not, it’s a prosthetic. With the exception of Lily James in Pam and Tommy, this is rarely the case for women. When an actress goes topless in a movie, the audience probably sees her real breasts.
People tend to give one of two arguments as justification for this disparity—that boobs aren’t the equivalent to male genitalia, or that penis size is more personal to men than breast size is to women. Neither is particularly compelling.
Sure, in terms of reproduction and biology, boobs aren’t the same as penises. But considering that the vagina is internal, I’d say breasts are a fair comparison. Not to mention that the list of female actresses who’ve gone full-frontal in a film far outweighs the list of male actors.
As for the argument that it’s more embarrassing for a man to have a small willy than for a woman to have itty bittys, I’m not buying it. Personally, I know plenty of men who are quite proud of their packages, but I have yet to meet a single woman who is genuinely happy with how she looks naked. And besides, why are we so willing to accommodate the possible embarrassment of male actors while dismissing the comfort level of actresses?
Women are expected to bare their real breasts if a script calls for it, whereas if a man goes fully nude on screen, sans prosthesis, he’s lauded for his bravery. Countless articles have already been written about Bradley Cooper’s decision to bare all for his latest endeavor, Nightmare Alley. Oscar Issac and his lack of a prosthetic penis went viral on social media even though his Scenes from a Marriage co-star, Jessica Chastain, appeared nude alongside him. Even the discussion of her nakedness centered more on him, as she’d only agreed to do it if he was also expected to go full-frontal.
Another big difference is how nudity is used. When women are naked on TV, it’s almost always sexualized, intended to arouse (either another character, the audience, or both). A naked penis, on the other hand, isn’t there to turn you on. It’s there to make you laugh or prove a point (like, that the show is progressive and boundary-pushing).
So, while the uptick in on-screen dick is progress, we still have a long way to go before tat is genuinely equal to tit.
Images: Erin Simkin/Hulu; Eddy Chen/HBO; AMANDA MATLOVICH/NETFLIX