Why do we see so much more female nudity in TV and films than we do male nudity? Jeannette Francis takes a look at the screen career of the penis.
Airdate: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 19:30
Channel: 
SBS Two

HBO and similar premium cable TV shows have brought dull-frontal nudity to our screens. But the representation is noticeably uneven; while naked women are extremely common, full-frontal male nudity remains off-limits.

Actress Natalie Dormer, who plays Queen Margaery Tyrell on Game Of Thrones, has called for ‘more symmetry’ in the show’s depicition of nudity. “I think Thrones has been better than your average show with the equality, but they could definitely ramp it up! Absolutely!” she said during an interview with The Daily Beast.

There are classification reasons why this discrepancy exists. While male genitals are able to be depicted onscreen, the convention has been that erect penises are unacceptable. A penis can only be erect to a certain angle before it gets barred from broadcast.

According to rumour, British filmmakers used to apply the famous Mull of Kintyre test, which means the angle of a penis could not exceed that made by the Scottish region of that name. The British Board of Film Classification has denied that this was an official rule).

Nudity on screen is a very fraught issue, with many actresses including Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts, and Jessica Alba having no nudity clauses in their films. It’s also common to be very specific about the amount of the actresses’ body that may be depicted, or the right to use body doubles.

It is, however, the stipulations of networks rather than actors which have led to the imbalance. Until broadcast standards change, it may be a long time before we see equal representation of male and female bodies in entertainment.

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