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America: obsessed with nudity (but only the lady version!)

By January 7, 2013 5 Comments

The end of a year always brings with it some interesting “Top Ten” lists, ranging from best dressed to most money to least likely couple. But The Huffington Post took it to a whole new level with “The Best Nude Scenes of 2012.”

Image of shirtless men in the movie Magic Mike.

Magic Mike made headlines in 2012 for showing more nearly nude dudes than any movie before!

Drawing on movies released throughout the past year, the Post created its list based on both the amount of skin showing and how “sexy” the movie scenes were.

While Hollywood saw more male nudity in 2012 than ever before, the disparity between men and women appearing on-screen without clothes was still enormous — and the Post’s article exemplified this perfectly.

Of the ten films listed, only three of those were due to male nudity: Magic Mike, The Sessions, and The Vow. (Interestingly, both Magic Mike and The Vow feature Channing Tatum as their token naked man. The Sessions featured John Hawkes.)

The other seven included Take This Waltz, Wanderlust, and On the Road, and promoted solely female nudity.

So, what gives? Why is it that women still make up the overwhelming majority of nude people in movies? This emphasizes the idea that female bodies are objects, viewed by others as a source of pleasure and entertainment. Why can’t men’s bodies serve the same purpose?

Here we find ourselves in an interesting quandary. Often, we are annoyed at how frequently women are sexualized in the media; these days, it’s hard to come by a movie that doesn’t make a point to have their female actresses show some skin. But, in the same respect, many of us find ourselves cheering when a movie, like Magic Mike, has some male nudity for a change, and attempts to equalize the status quo.

But by celebrating a movie like Magic Mike, are we only furthering the cycle of objectification? If women find sexualization of the female body offensive, isn’t it safe to say that men would feel the same way?

Still of Kristen Stewart from the film On the Road.

In On the Road, Kristen Stewart appears topless and participates in a threesome with the two male characters. Talk about steamy!

To achieve equality, then, there are really only two options: lessen female nudity, or increase male nudity. Both are viable options – it really all depends on how you look at it.

Personally, I think America’s made some great strides towards becoming a sexually liberated, sexually progressive country. We realize that sex and bodily pleasures can be beautiful and should be celebrated.

In light of this, I would suggest moviemakers increase male nudity. But – and this is a big but (no pun intended) – there’s a respectful way and a disrespectful way to do this.

The characters movies portray nude ought to be presented as just that – characters. Not nameless, faceless figures with only bodies to offer their viewers.

A character’s nude body should be only one facet of their importance in the film; after all, what’s a character without personality, goals, and mysterious secrets? In doing so, moviemakers would not be objectifying actors and actresses, but presenting them as well-rounded human individuals, sex lives and all.

What do you think? What’s the best way to equalize the nude portrayals of men and women in the media?

Hailey Magee is a Women’s and Gender Studies and Politics double major at Brandeis University. Her foremost interests include media literacy and empowerment of young girls. Hailey hopes to one day pursue a career in the political arena and become an advocate for gender equality.