Naked men on TV

Are we more okay with guys letting it all hang out on TV and in film than before? While there seems to be more naked men on tv than ever before,  what I found in my public nudity survey still surprised me. Some NSFW images follow.

TV Tropes puts the conventional thinking best:

We all know that the Moral Guardians of America loathe and fear the female nipple, or yet more fearsome, vulva. But there is one thing that is even more vile, disgusting and taboo in their eyes: the penis. In fact, it’s not just prudish Moral Guardians who get upset when one does make an appearance on the movie screen. Most writers (and directors, and producers, and their ‘preferred’ market of viewers) are male. And (nominally) straight. And are somehow convinced that seeing a penis other than their own will turn them gay.

My guess is it’s not the content creators that are worried about seeing penises, but rather the men content creators think makes up their target audience. Let’s be honest. There is a set of guys out there for whom the above holds absolutely true. (Also see the related Stupid Sexy Flanders trope and the Right Through His Pants trope, the latter being were men on TV have sex with their pants on and the former where comfort with the male form is foreshadowing for a deeper character issue).

Still, the majority of people who took my survey said they weren’t necessarily disturbed by male nudity in television and movies, and frontal male nudity at that. Just think about shows like True Blood and Oz and my god, Spartacus—none of these have exactly been what we’d call shy, right? Is the trope no longer holding true?

Spartacus

A scene for Spartacus, Starz’s short-lived series full of fully-naked men.

I don’t know. Women were still statistically more likely to express discomfort with frontal male nudity in TV and movies than men in my survey, so I think  we need more research on how gender differences play into this. Especially because past research has shown different effects, right along the lines of the trope above—many are generally affected negatively by male nudity in media. So, either my survey is an anomaly, or the increase in the visibility of gay people in society (gay men in particular) and gay rights in general might be changing the way men to seeing other men naked. There may be other reasons, too. Men just might be growing up a bit. Religion’s grip might be loosening, too, but more on that in a bit.

Christopher Meloni in Oz.

Christopher Meloni in Oz.

First, I should to point out that two-thirds of the men in my survey identified as gay, which is not only probably very high compared to the general population, it had a large effect on how the questions was answered—gay men were, understandably, more comfortable seeing naked men on television and in movies. Those that identified as heterosexual expressed more discomfort, but were more okay with it than I expected. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most uncomfortable, the straight average was 2 and the gay average was 1 (P-Value < 0.00001, Cohen’s f 0.605).

Back to religion. As has been the case for every other question I’ve looked at, religious service attendance was a big factor in the way the respondents answered the question. Those who attended a religious service within the last two weeks averaged 2.73 on the discomfort scale versus  1.53 for those who hadn’t. ( P-Value 0.0000131, Cohen’s d 1.03). At this point, it’s almost funny how much something like going to church correlates coming out against public nudity in all its forms. Definitely an area to look at more closely.

For now, I leave you with this:


But… if you really, really want more, try all of these naked men on TV… and MOVIES.

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Justin is a writer and actor in Washington, D.C. His non-fiction stories have appeared in Wired, Popular Science and San Diego Citybeat among authors. He's the author of the Station One Series and Treknology: Star Trek' Tech 200 Years Ahead of the Future.