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Why does everyone want to talk about Chris Pine's penis?

Guest article from Anna from Defiant Success

Following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September, film critics who had seen David Mackenzie’s Outlaw King were all abuzz on Twitter. The one scene they were very vocal about: star Chris Pine going full frontal. Following the social media explosion, Pine expressed his discomfort not at filming the scene but rather at how it was receiving more attention than the rest of the movie. (“There’s so much beheading in this. And yet people wanna talk about my penis.”) Subsequent interviews had Pine talking about how there’s a double standard in Hollywood towards performers going full frontal for their work; men receive a lot of press for whipping it out but when women bare it all for the camera, it’s barely noteworthy. In all honestly, Pine isn’t wrong in the slightest.

Mind you, there have been male frontal nudity scenes for decades -- at least for as long as the MPAA rating system has been in existence...

There’s the wrestling match between Oliver Reed and Alan Bates in Women in Love; Graham Chapman’s “coronation” as the messiah in Monty Python’s Life of Brian; Richard Gere’s impromptu moment in American Gigolo; Julian Sands, Rupert Graves and Simon Callow skinny dipping in A Room with a View; the reveal in The Crying Game… men going au natural for movies isn’t new. It’s just that these movies were released before cell phones and social media were commonplace so word didn't spread immediately.

the 3 second wide shot that got all the attention

Some performers don’t seem to mind regularly stripping down for a role (i.e., Kate Winslet, Viggo Mortensen, Ewan McGregor) but that’s not to say every actor is willing to do so. Some might refuse out of fear of what future prospects will hold for them, others won’t do nude scenes because of personal reasons (i.e., their faith, family members). And depending on the actor and project, the situation gets more complicated as more people become aware of it.

Michael Fassbender got a lot of attention for baring it all in Shame but co-star Carey Mulligan did the same thing in the very same film and no one batted an eye. On the inverse, Sarah Jessica Parker received a lot of flack for having a no-nudity clause in her contract on Sex and the City, something co-stars Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon clearly didn’t have the need for in theirs. (Unsurprisingly, this clause was deployed as an in-joke for Parker’s actress character in State and Main.) Why is it men get more coverage for their lack of it but women are deemed prudes for standing their ground on the matter? Could you imagine the media firestorm if it were the reverse?

Men very seldom get naked for the camera and if they do, it’s just a shot of their backside. (Looking at you, Game of Thrones.) The rare instances where they do go full frontal tend to be of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety (i.e., Tom Cruise in All the Right Moves, Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ben Affleck in Gone Girl, and now a blink and you'll miss it from Chris Pine). Of course, with Hollywood being an industry dominated by straight men, it’s obvious why women are regularly disrobing while men aren’t. (Film industries from other countries aren’t as squeamish with nudity, male or female.) That being said, there are scenes in some female-directed films where men are in more of a state of undress than women (i.e., Harvey Keitel in The Piano, Mark Ruffalo in In the Cut). Baby steps, yes, but it’s a start.

Personally, I think the main reason most men don’t get naked is because generally speaking, many actors – regardless of gender – are insecure people. During the Drama Actress Roundtable several months ago, Thandie Newton talked about how she and Westworld co-star Evan Rachel Wood “have grown accustomed to [being naked]” whereas Simon Quarterman “was terrified” at the prospect. Newton brought up how “men are also really worried about how their bodies look. So much more worried than us.” Is that the reason? Are female actors just accustomed to it whereas men don’t know how to handle the eyes on the set staring at them? 

It’s high time for men to start speaking up about this. Much like with the #MeToo movement, they should acknowledge when something doesn’t feel right. They should be more vocal about what their female co-stars regularly endure on the set. Simply put, they should – like Pine has been doing – use their male privilege to shine a light on the problem within the industry. And a good starting point is to call out how the press handles the matters of nudity in media, be it male or female.

previous article from Anna: Gods and Monsters

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Reader Comments (36)

That's a very disappointing frontal. I think the press kept talking about it because they're click whores nowadays. Sad.

November 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

He has one of those horrendous American circumcisions were all the head pops out.

November 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMadame Curie

Fascinating article. As a kid, I always thought it strange there was such a lack of full male nudity, while actresses seemed to do it regularly. I remember seeing The Innocent and being shocked at the appearance of a penis. I guess straight men do run the world. Sigh.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Well, I just want know if his penis is.... above average?

I got a closer look through close-up pics and I must say as a dude, not bad. The ladies at least know they got something good.

Plus, I'm for more full-frontal male nudity. As much as I enjoy seeing women naked in film. I feel like showing some penis evens the playing field a bit more. If I was a filmmaker and shooting a sex scene. I want to show as much as I can for both men and women.

I remember watching Walk Hard in the theaters and there was a scene of a guy walking towards John C. Reilly and he's showing himself in all of his glory and this couple just walked out of the screening. I found that moment to be funny but I still don't understand what is so offensive about seeing someone's penis and balls?

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

The American response to male frontal nudity is a juvenile one simply because male virility is linked to penis size. Flaccid penises below average in length are subject to ridicule.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I still remember how another film by director David Mackenzie was released fifteen years ago (boy, I'm getting old): Young Adam. It is a really good film, and one of the finest performances in Ewan McGregor's career, but when it came out, all the reviewers just talked about McGregor going full frontal in it. It was more than bizarre: Ewan's penis was no stranger to the big screen at all (although I believe this was his first full frontal after playing Obi-Wan Kenobi and starring in Moulin Rouge! made him a household name), but all that talk about a scene that lasts just a few seconds (admittedly a better frontal than Pine's) totally obscured the fact that the film and the performance are worth watching for other things than Ewan's dick. Also - in line of what you mention in your article - Tilda Swinton was lying fully naked right next to him in that scene, and no reviewer cared to mention that.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

I think the insecurity thing is a big one. With women they kind of know how they measure up with other women because breasts are noticeable and so prominent. Whereas for most men you have no idea how your penis meaures up to another man, which can lead to insecurities, especially since it is such a big talking point when it happens. Imagine say Chris Pine didn’t measure up. He could have been the subject of some unflattering headlines. I’m not saying that it isn’t difficult for women as well, it’s just that there is a lesser chance of an unfortunate surprise when it comes to a woman than man.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

Well at least he's all au naturel and no shaving going on..

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Great article, Nathaniel! Comments on the other hand - very disappointing. This is not a piece about Pine's penis, but about double standard in Hollywood and its reasons.
If You want to grade size, shape, pubes etc. (or sth like that) is the right place.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterpawel

Sorry, meant to say: great article, Anna!

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterpawel

Jeff, tbf, I think women have made more of a thing about Chris Pine's penis than any straight men have. I think this is one of those situations where there really are double standards because to me a lot of the comments on Twitter have been verging on objectification. But that's just my two cents on this.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterevangelina

I only eat mushrooms when they're on the side and sautéd

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSocialite.

The ultimate in hypocrisy (and pointed out by Nathaniel at the time) was The Sessions. Helen Hunt goes fully nude quite often, and was rightly praised for her courage. Yet in the big scene where she holds up a mirror and lets John Hawkes see his own penis for the first time, the camera discreetly and ostentatiously blocks us from being able to see it too. It completely threw me out of what otherwise was an honest and brave film about sex and being handicapped.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s

@Jeff - yeah. It is also the attractive thing. A woman going full frontal is gonna have acmillion guys thinking she is a sex kitten, small boobs, big boobs, doesn’t matter - guys like both and plenty prefer small to big. while most women are not going to enjoy below average penis or even average penis. that right there makes it less likely for 50% of male actors to go full frontal

not sure I buy it but there is also the argument I’ve heard that male genitalia are external and female internal. and most full frontal actress nudity has merkins. and the media would make a big fuss if the Nicole Kidman’s lips were clearly visible as a male actor’s head or balls. achest is s chest and an ass is an ass and both are clearly shown regularily by both sexes.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterhuh

To me, the "controversy" surrounding the nudity in this film feels like PR. Pine's full-frontal scene is little more than cheap padding for a very dull storyline. If any actor (male or female) is going nude in a film, I'd prefer it be meaningful.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

/3rtful and Jeff -- agree about Americans being juvenile in this regard and men being insecure (with good reason). The ridiculous thing is you'd think no one had ever seen a flaccid penis before every time this happens. No matter how big it is (unless it's a monster like Fassbenders) you'll immediately get the "it's so small!" responses even if the person has a perfectly beautiful average sized penis.

the void -- agreed. more nudity! only when we see lots of it will people stop being so juvenile about it. I think this is why europeans are so blase about it.

November 11, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Interesting topic.

Of course (American) male actors are reluctant to do frontal nudity! When they do, headlines and comments boards are loaded with evaluative comments about whether they are "big enough" and labeling them "disappointing"/"not disappointing." And this seems to generally be considered normal/fun/funny/acceptable or some kind of "turning of the tables," which is really problematic.

Also, men in American culture are socialized to not articulate their vulnerabilities. So there are LOTS of men that have insecurities about their bodies, but actually talking about it is considered taboo/whiny/"unmasculine," so there's not much discussion of it.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJJM

It's also good for clickbait. Not this article, which is a thoughtful analysis of a complex topic, but I mean the shitty articles weird gay guys send me about Chris Pine's dick. I'm like, I DON'T CARE. JUST GO WATCH PORN.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

He is a beautiful movie star and very few male actors have the balls to flash their cocks on screen - I hope the other hot Chrises- Pratt, Hemsworth and Evans join the full frontal fraternety

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Great article Nat! I'm kind of befuddled that Hollywood makes such a big deal about male nudity when it has been happening in European movies since the 60s and these Europeans hardly bat an eyelid. And yes, definitely double standards on gender perception.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJans

It comes down to the old addige. Soze matter. A penis is one of the organs that grow and shrink depending on the situation (sexual arousal or a swim in cold water.) So look down and see what it looks like in different situation. It's rare to determine an exact size.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterK. Brady

When I said it was a disappointing frontal I meant it was dark and too far away. No size implications.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

@ken s. - I thought the exact same thing at that scene; a bad message to send for an otherwise sex-positive movie.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

It's especially weird because if you think about it core feminist film scholars like Laura Mulvey talk about how woman are punished for their lack (of penis) in male gaze films, but we never see penises on guys anyways.

November 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

Kind of surprised to only see Huh so far mention the main difference that male genitalia is exposed in frontal nudity but female very rarely is I think that’s a significant factor for the different levels of attention. . The only instances of seeing clear labia from known actresses I can think of are Adele Exarchoupolous in BITWC and Eva Green in The Dreamers.

November 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDean

It is a double standard, and it's frustrating. The vast majority of men have dicks that probably don't look dissimilar in terms of size and shape, but there is a real insecurity about being judged on that basis. The idea that having a flaccid penis that looks small means you are somehow inadequate is still a powerful one, and it has only been exacerbated in this age of social media and the generally infantile nature of society's response to sexual matters. Even so, I've been a little taken aback by the response to the Chris Pine scene - imagine the cries of sexism if an article was published saying "Here's the timecode you need to see Florence Pugh's tits in Outlaw King," and yet I saw such a headline related to Pine this week.

November 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPhil

To echo Dean's comment, I'm also very surprised that Huh's comment is the only one to realize the very obvious observation of the external and internal factors. Hello weird people who think you are championing some kind of cause here. How often does one see labia and and more in theaters? Certainly less than we see penises on screen. We all know you only see bush with female nudity the vast majority of the time. What are you guys and girls even worked up about? We see man ass all the time. We see woman ass all the time.

Look and just listen for a second. We see woman ass and titties the majority of the time. Sometimes there's a bush. Who cares? We just see pubic hair we don't see a vagina. BE HONEST ABOUT THIS TO YOURSELVES. Male ass and nipples have been shown on screen just as long as woman ass. You might say men don't have breasts so it's unfair that women show them on screen so therefore men should show their penises. Boobs and dicks aren't the same thing people. Dicks and equivalent to a visible vagina shot and like we already talked about we almost never see a view of the vagina itself. Also it's worth noting that many of the same people who cry about some double standard and complain there's too much female nudity also go around saying free the nipple and "it's just a nipple" and all that business. A little inconsistent here.

The reason dicks are uncommon is the same reason why an actual clean view of a vagina is uncommon. It's a different level of explicitness. I don't hear any of you noble people saying it's unfair that we don't see a woman spread her legs wide on screen and part her vagina lips for the camera in a mainstream movie. That's the next level of explicitness. Following that would be wet vaginas blushed and aroused in conjuction with erect ejaculating penises. Now if anyone has some knowledge of cinema you would be able to cite a few examples of just that. But that is rare as hell and we all know it. So why not complain about that?

Also as one comment pointed out just imagine if there was an article on TV GUIDE that noted the exact minute and second that we got to see Natalie Portman's vajayay in all its glory. Wouldn't be received very well by this group I'd imagine. Now you might say "there are tons of websites that tell and show where the female nude scenes are." You're right and I've used them. But those are on porn sites and not mainstream websites.

Just wanted to clear up the sloppy sloppy thinking surrounding this ultimately inconsequential cultural event. People here trying to make this some sort of civil rights issue or some shit LOL YOU PEOPLE!!111!!1 XD

November 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterdon't yall think

What makes these debates about nudity so tedious and frustrating is that everyone's right.

November 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

In 20 years we'll be having this same discussion, but it will be over, shall we say, the state of arousal.

I agree with Lena Olin,I believe, who said that nudity is just another costume.

If I was an actor, I'd probably agree to full nudity but I'd want some control over how it is presented. Actors are vain (as they should be I guess), and I'd demand the Full Streisand when it comes to the nether regions! ;-)

November 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Hollywood

Anyone who gets this worked up about "parity" in nudity is fetishizing it the same way puritans do, but to different (but equally scolding, antiseptic) effect.

November 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

Even so, I've been a little taken aback by the response to the Chris Pine scene - imagine the cries of sexism if an article was published saying "Here's the timecode you need to see Florence Pugh's tits in Outlaw King," and yet I saw such a headline related to Pine this week.

....These sites have existed for more than a decade. And no, not just porn sites, as some are claiming. The exact reaction you're seeing to Pine was the norm for actresses for ages. Now, I think it's simply an issue of people being so used to seeing naked women it doesn't strike anyone as particularly scandalous unless she's like a former Disney star or something. This is a case of the way men have treated women coming back to bite them (so much exploitative female nudity has also made it fairly mundane now, lack of said nudity for men makes it more noteworthy when it does happen). This isn't a form of sexism or whatever toward men. The ball is around our ankles, men are just tripping over the chain in this instance.

November 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commentersam

What a ridiculous article claiming men aren’t naked as much as women. Me are naked MORE than women are. Male chest is shown more than female chest. Male butts are shown more than female butts. Male genitals are shown more than female genitals. In every category, the male version is shown more often. What this author is doing is comparing ANY part of a woman to a penis. A penis is equal to a vagina and only that, not breasts or butts. Vagina is almost unheard of without some fake pubic hair merkin covering everything. That is not equal to penis. This is why female nudity is not considered as big of a deal as male because you DO NOT see any female genitalia - no vulva no labia, nothing! Did you think if they show labia on screen that women wouldn’t go ballistic?

November 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNone

Penis talk is common with attractive actors, bit you have a good point about the #Metoo campaign. Actors should only strip if they are comfortable doing so. Consent is a major thing in sex positivity.

November 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKiara

The truth is, western society in general is much more prudish about male nudity than they are about female nudity. It isn't just a "Hollywood being run by men" thing. All you have to do is look at the revealing outfits women get away with in public vs how men are usually ridiculed for wearing perfectly acceptable Speedos at the beach or pool.

Recently they even banned profile photos of users in Speedos on gay hook up apps! *clutch the pearls*

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterStephen S

Stephen S, you are wrong. Western society is more prudish when it’s FEMALE nudity. Women still get heckled being shirtless out in public, even in places where it’s legal (like NY). Plus, penises are shown in several films now, yet vagina is still almost unheard of.

February 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNone

You need to watch more movies if you think that LOL

April 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterStephenS

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