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Will HBO Max's Minx change how TV portrays penises?

  • Full-frontal male nudity has proliferated on streaming and cable TV in the past decade, from The Affair to Billions to The Deuce and, especially, Euphoria, which famously had a "30 d*cks" scene. But full-frontal male nudity still "seems like television’s final taboo," says Vanity Fair's Kenzie Bryant. Set at a 1970s porn magazine for women, Minx isn't breaking new ground with its male nudity -- even though there are "like, a hundred penises in the first season alone," says Bryant. As Bryant points out, there is a distinction in TV's penis portrayals. "Call it the penis versus the schlong," says Bryant. "The penis is matter-of-fact, natural; it’s a sex organ, clinical, humble. The schlong, though? Hubba-hubba. It stands for virility. It’s powerful and sexual. It’s always huge. The penis tends to be regular-to-small sized, and treated as a big joke to this day—like in the first season of The Righteous Gemstones, when Danny McBride’s character, an evangelical preacher, snorts coke with a sex worker before his pal with the small penis has sex with her. Compare it to Euphoria’s '30 d*cks' scene, in which all of the adult men playing teenage football players taking showers are hung like horses. They have schlongs, and they’re meant to be sexily intimidating, intimidatingly sexy. (To be clear, schlongs are often played for laughs too. They’re just the kind of laughs that stem from shock or from sexual innuendo.) Minx shows great diversity of penis in terms of size, shapes, and color. There’s even a bit about it. One character tells Joyce, 'Not all wieners are the same, babe. There’s shorties, fatties, long ones, flatties,' and another adds, 'Playful, shy, jaded, bored.' But its average-to-small penises are played for comedy, while the centerfold who’s ultimately chosen, Shane (Taylor Zakhar Perez), is a man with an enormous—and ultimately prosthetic—schlong. To be fair, this makes narrative sense: If you’re launching an erotic feminist magazine for women in the ’70s, you’re going to pick the most eye-popping option. You’re going to pick a schlong." Bryant adds: "The penis still has power—more power than boobs or butts or vulva. It still means something. Maybe real parity won’t come until it doesn’t. But for now, the least surprising thing about seeing a schlong on HBO is how surprising it still is."


    • Why has there been an onslaught of male full-frontal nudity on TV?: "In interviews, academics and intimacy coordinators listed reasons including the ubiquity of pornography; the uptick in queer, female and nonbinary showrunners; the impact of the #MeToo movement; the presence of intimacy coordinators; and the need for attention grabs in a saturated media landscape," explains The New York Times' Alexis Soloski. "While several people I spoke with unthinkingly used the term 'tit-for-tat' in describing this proliferation, all nudity is not created equal. While breasts are a common locus of desire, a flaccid penis often has a more comic or pathetic aspect... And current standards permit that only flaccid penises can be shown in any sexual situation. Which means that while naked women have largely been used for decoration or titillation, naked men generally deepen character and drive story. Or at least help to land a punchline. Asking an actress to go topless may seem like a milder demand than asking an actor to go bottomless. But while nearly all of those breasts are real — if artificially enhanced, in some cases — those penises are not. Most of the ones that appear in mainstream TV or film are silicone prosthetics, and they are often oddly large."


    TOPICS: Minx, HBO Max, Euphoria, The Righteous Gemstones, Ellen Rapoport, Nudity