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Exposing Nudity Double Standards in ‘The Sessions’

Exposing Nudity Double Standards in 'The Sessions'

The new film The Sessions premiered at the Sundance Film Festival as “The Surrogate,” a reference to the fact that the main character, poet and journalist Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), hires a “sex surrogate” (Helen Hunt) to help him lose his virginity at the age of 38, a plan complicated by the fact that as a result of a childhood bout of polio, Mark is essentially paralyzed from the neck down and spends 20 hours a day inside an iron lung. But a strange truth of the movie’s sexual content suggests another layer of relevance to the discarded original title: while Hunt spends a hefty portion of the film totally nude, Hawkes never does. In this story of sexual discovery, Hunt’s character not only plays surrogate to Hawkes’, Hunt’s nudity has to play surrogate to Hawkes’ as well.

This subject was covered — and discussed by “The Sessions”‘ filmmakers — earlier this week in an article by John Horn for The Los Angeles Times. In it, writer/director Ben Lewin explains his decision to show Hunt’s naked body repeatedly and from just about every angle, while Hawkes remains chastely covered:

“‘My task was not to challenge the MPAA,’ Lewin said, adding that any male frontal nudity, especially showing O’Brien in an aroused state, would guarantee a NC-17 rating… ‘I was pretty aware of [the MPAA’s] attitude toward erect penises — that we’d immediately be dumped into quasi-porno land,’ Lewin said. ‘And there was no point in showing John’s penis if it wasn’t erect.'”

If there’s a double standard to blame here, Lewin suggests, it’s not his double standard — it’s the double standard of the Motion Picture Association of America and their ratings board. If Hawkes had been visibly nude in the scenes between Mark and Hunt’s Cheryl then the movie would have been slapped with an NC-17 — meaning fewer theaters would show it, fewer outlets would publish advertising for it, and “The Sessions” would have a longer and tougher road back to profitability. Lewin’s quotes imply that in a perfect world Hawkes would be just as naked as Hunt. In our world, the nature of the NC-17 demanded an approach that is arguably unfair — and inarguably smarter business practice.

It’s tough to dispute Lewin’s assessment of the MPAA’s attitude toward male nudity. And he’s almost certainly correct that an erect male penis is an automatic NC-17 — do not pass go, do not collect $200 million. But is he right that there was no point to showing Hawkes’s body if it wasn’t in a state of arousal? After watching the movie last night, I’m not so sure.

By the time “The Sessions” meets Mark O’Brien, he’s in his late 30s. A devout Catholic, Mark knows that God considers sex out of wedlock a sin. But approaching his “sell-by date,” as he jokes at one point, and having been rejected by a woman he’s asked to marry him, he begins to worry that if he doesn’t have sex soon, he never will. While researching an article on the sex lives of the disabled, Mark learns about the world of sex surrogates, essentially hands-on therapists who are paid to perform sexual acts with their patients as part of their therapy. Searching for spiritual counsel, he undertakes a series of confessions with his priest, Father Brendan (William H. Macy), who listens to Mark and decides that, at least in this case, God will allow an exception. So Mark hires Cheryl, who agrees to meet him for a series of six sessions — and no more, for reasons that are not explained, although the legal boundary between surrogacy and prostitution could have something to do with it.

Mark and Cheryl’s sessions are explicit and graphic — but only to an extent. I’ll skip the Mr. Skin-esque rundown of each act, but let it be noted that by the end of the film, to paraphrase an episode of “Seinfeld,” if I had to describe Helen Hunt’s body to a police sketch artist, the police would pick her up in about ten minutes. Hawkes, on the other hand, remains relatively obscured, perpetually hidden below the edge of the frame or swaddled in blankets.

There are all sorts of practical reasons for that, most having to do with Mark’s polio — and Hawkes’ able-bodied frame. The actor does his best to contort his body into a shape that suggests a crippling illness, but the more of it we see, the more we realize that he is an actor playing a part and not a man with an actual disability. Showing less of Hawkes’ body not only keeps the MPAA off the movie’s back, it keeps the audience from thinking too much about his appearance. It might also be worth mentioning that Mark’s polio means there’s no logistical way to include any sort of male nudity that the MPAA allows in an R-rated film (frankly, ass shots) because his condition makes it impossible — he spends the entire movie lying on his back.

As a result, male nudity in “The Sessions” became an all-or-nothing proposition. Lewin went with nothing. And while that decision is certainly understandable from a practical position, it’s not always defensible from a thematic one. Mark’s journey, his conversations with Father Brendan, and his encounters with Cheryl are about openness, self-acceptance, and self-worth. The movie suggests we’re all beautiful, but the camera’s awkward handling of the male body suggests otherwise. 

For instance, in one particularly poignant moment during a therapy session, Cheryl holds up a mirror so that Mark can look at his own naked body — something, he’s earlier confessed to Father Brendan, he hasn’t seen in decades. Through ever-so-careful framing, Lewin positions Hunt and her mirror so that Hawkes’ can see his body, but the audience cannot. Contrary to Lewin’s comments, this moment has nothing to do with erections or orgasms. It’s about Mark accepting and being comfortable with himself and his sexuality. And yet by deliberately framing Hawkes’ nudity out of the shot, the movie suggests it itself isn’t comfortable with him. In the context of that scene — one in which Hunt’s character is standing across the room, fully clothed — not showing Hawkes’ nudity sticks out like a sore thumb. Technically, it sticks out like something else that we’re not allowed to talk about or see, but whatever.

To be clear: “The Sessions” is a charming movie. It’s sweet and funny and hopeful — it just doesn’t make you equally hopeful about the depictions of human sexuality in future American movies. In a film about learning to be fearless, the choice to expose Hunt and hide Hawkes feels like a timid decision.

Read more of “Why John Hawkes Doesn’t Do the Full Monty in ‘The Sessions.’

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Unless I missed it in the above discussion, a very important point was left out. Yes, an erect penis will get a
NC 17 Rating. But Sessions could also have gotten an NC 17 rating if Helen Hunt’s vulva was shown for less that two seconds. The male genitals can be shown in a close up, extended amount of time, with good lighting and, now, semi-erect in a very graphic manner and get an R rating while any part of the female genitals will get an NC-17 rating under any cinematic circumstances. I saw a list of the top 60 penis showings on film and next to it a column heading of Female Genitals (vulva/clitoris/labia/ vagina) and under the heading the word NONE. Ask the MPAA why and you will not receive an answer. Actually, I think it’s like mother’s all across the world answering their child’s question—why? ‘Because I said so, that’s why.’


If you watch American TV and movies you will see explicit penis scens but almost never a vagina! So why has this politically correct moron moaned about female nudity? If a woman has shaved her vagina you would easily see at least some of it from a full frontal. They show completely shaved penises on TV and films why not shaved vaginas instead of hairy ones or even worse something called a merkin which is a wig to cover a shaved vagina! I think these were used in Game of Thrones and Spartacus. So they’ll show shaved penises but make shaved women put on a vagina wig so people can as usual only see a mass of pubes and not their vagina!!! This is political correct liberal feminism gone mad! Just imagine if the situation was reversed and they only ever dared show men’s pubic hair but all (or at least some) of women’s vagina. The feminist and politic correct mob would go mad. You’ve said that if the camera went between a woman’s legs to see her vagina it would be porn, what then is your opinion about explicit close ups of penises? So if we see a vagina it’s porn but if we see a penis it isn’t porn? Is that what you’re saying? I am absolutely sick to my back teeth of American TV programmes and movies showing penises but NEVER a vagina (except in a 2013 film called TRANCE which if you google it will immediately answer your camera between her legs reply as we see a woman in full frontal with a shaved vagina. You can clearly see at least some vagina on a shaved woman from full frontal so why does American TV and movies insist on only having naturally hairy women or god almighty vagina wigs?! This whole situation literally beggars belief! Just reverse this situation and see how you’d feel if you saw vaginas so often and only ever men’s pubic hair. Feminists rage on and on about sexism and women being on the wrong end of it well I’m telling everyone that as far as sexism on American TV and movies is concerned it’s most certainly aimed against men. You even have feminists and some fluffy liberal men claiming it’s the other way around and that there’s hardly any penises shown but an excessive amount of vaginas!!! What are they watching? They’re clearly confusing vaginas for pubic hair or those hideous vagina hiding sexist merkins. I’m from Britain and the UK used to be like America is until about 15 or so years ago. They wouldn’t dare show a vagina on TV (although they had no problem with woman’s pubic hair) but would show plenty of penises. Mercifully that’s certainly changed and on sex programes they’ll certainly be as explicit showing vaginas as they are with the penis although I still think they show more penises than vaginas. What is it with America? Aren’t Americans embarrassed with this weird situation? And why don’t more women recognize this as supreme political correct feminist sexism against men? Loads of men support women’s causes but I’ve only read two or three women who support men on this issue. If they’re going to show a penis show a vagina and not a mass of pubic hair or a god awful vagina hiding wig! Men should email American TV stations and movie companies demanding they show shaved vaginas just as often as they do penises. Take action and contact these criminals as I have done.


This has been a very interesting thread. Lots of passion and arguments based on passion, not facts. Fact, male genitals have been shown in mainstream R rated film and on cable TV for over 50 years; recently for extended screen time, up close, and semi-erect, while the female genitals have NEVER been seen, period. The MPAA promises an NC-17 rating to any movie that would even consider it. Why is this? Many say it's because female genitals are ugly and or pornographic. Those people are WRONG on both counts. Some argue that there is a certain amount of insecurity with women regarding their genitals. This may have some validity as 20+% of all females have never seen their own vagina. I'm not a psychologist, so I don't know the ins and outs of this issue. I do know that it's just a body part and we should all adjust our sensitivities to that fact, including the actress that said, on this topic, "You can fell it, finger it, f**k it, just don't even think about looking at it."


Really Gina, name one of these so called full frontal shots of a women when she is shaved. Showing men graphically is the equivalent of a women on screen, legs open exposing everything. That's right let's compare apples to apples. Boobs to penis, not a comparison. I bet you can't name one that exposes a female graphically like a male. And to put an erect penis in, wow watch some porn. If you call for that then I hope to see you arguing for spread leg shots of the female genitals stimulated. Cause fair is fair?


Oh please….20nude women to one flaccId nude man is not even close ….you know it we all know it ! And yes many movies are showing fully shaved nude women so why don't they show an erect penis when they do instead of 30 scenes of boobs and full female frontal ….women are visual as well……so for you men out there ..yes your girl does get the urge when she sees a "hot" guy also.


Not even close Alan. These comments are filled with nonsense. The double standard lies in that men are shown fully nude (graphic) no wig to cover parts. While females are shown partially nude, or topless. Not even close to being the same. For many of you it would be a good thing to take a anatomy class again and learn the human body. The only double standard that exists is that women are never shown fully nude, or in the graphic form, while men are, in almost every R movie released now.


Twaddle, it certainly would not have been the only point to show charecters"erect" penis. It would have been quites appropriate to how him nude and flaccid. It is a double standard


are u kidding me! all i see in movies today are penises.


I don't understand why they won't show erect penis'…they show erect nipples why not erect penis . Because of this double standard we dont watch it


    A penis and vagina are equal… a mans chest and a womans chest are equal… if u cant get this then there is no hope for humanity


Yea I dont watch movies with naked women in it ….I research the rating and if I see nude women I won't watch it.. also my husband knows how I feel and he won't watch it out iof respect towards me . I know a lot of couples that do samething …when they start losing women audience or couples… maybe then they will try to make a blockbuster…

Pam in the Valley

I am so glad that you published this info. I have been debating with friends for ages about there being a double standard in male-female nudity and some other situations with males and females. But you explained it wonderfully. Now to change the rules so that there is an even playing field.
We women really do want to see male frontal nudity, not the behind shot.
And a topless male is not nude. Oh what myths made by men!!! Women do not believe these little dick headed men!!


There are several films that could justify full expose and close ups of the males but did not. I wish they would have to have had more impact. One is "I Spit on Your Grave" where several males gang rape a woman. This film should have allowed a close up of her cutting their balls off and even in Sudden Impact where a woman is killing a bunch of males by blowing their balls off for raping her sister, I would love to have seen one of the males coming out of the shower with the woman looking at his nuts with a close up so we knew what she was looking at before they disappeared because she blew his balls off. It would be justfied for forced or gang rape. If a dozen men gang rape a woman, there should be a dozen dead males without their balls. I would vote for a law to execute rapist and child molesters by hanging them by their balls or crushing their nuts one at a time in public and letting women have the honors of removing their testicles and then cutting the pricks dicks off and feeding it to them for one last meal. Maybe we would have a few hundred thousand to a million dead males but it would make it safe for all women and children, a price well worth it. Show it on TV with close ups of them doing it so that every girl will know she is vauled and every boy would learn to keep his prick in his pants.


    You need psychiatric help… like now!


    Mike you just spoke what ive said to everyone I know

    Yes! Mike I wholeheartedly agree & have been saying exact same thing forever to everyone I know. I even went so far as to compare men who died in say a big war verses every nine minutes in our heiness world a woman is raped. Turn on any ID,SVU Law and Order most episodes (ripped from headlines usually),
    ID,Missing, with Beth any Holloway,and so many others woman are murdered for no reason other than their birth gender? I’ve been asking myself lately Why?? Why weren’t all these bastards aborted how nice that would be. These men do not see the humanity in half the human race! A woman is treated as piece of actual meat to eat and is malleable to their sick and twisted brains. I mean our society and pop culture is hugely to blame for distorted and mysognist, double standard magazines,etc. esp.our sick,sexist,twisted,double standard media! But it goes much more than that for some sick reason society is obsessed with destroying innocence, namely a young woman more often than not white. A film like “Killer Joe with Matthew Mconoghy made me sick couldn’t watch anylonger. This horrid, perverted obsession with virgins porn. It’s already borderline pedophile almost culture were tragically living in. How can this be? There are way too many stupid,sick,cruel,screwed up people are breeding or become parents. That is one reason counts for high rate of incest in families too.

    The ugly,disparaging,despicable double standard
    have been not just murdered but also raped as well. Statically more than a million women or young girls are sexually trafficked,assualted,raped,tortured, and murdered on our sick planet. Trafficking is billion dollar industry as hard core pornography. We all don’t want to remember to that lite Indian girl riding bus coming back from her grandparents, four monsters brutulized and gang raped her and she died three days later in the hospital.
    I have been enraged and very upset for some time over the unfair double standard with the men not showing their penis a man woman sex scene. It makes my blood boil and get angry.
    I really think is desperately needed now more than everis to show more male nudity and to really expose and portray males as serial beings, even at times to objectify over as well. Someone needs to show more scenes where the man is for a refreshing change a sexual victim of the woman. I mean like a high school girl gets revenge or even with a boy who rapes her. By drugging him and sticking pipe in his mouth or buthole. That kind of message to young girls everywhere would be huge! Not to be sequally abusive or criminal, to show that a young girl is not always so helpless and powerless as hundreds of thousands of images on TV and elsewhere show to girls. I can mention only a handful of top of my head “Hard Candy”,”All the Boys love Mandy”, but so few exist. I mean why couldn’t a title of a movie reflect negativelyrics on boys? Like “All Jocks must Die?” or “Blue eyed Blond boy Butcher”? Why does almost every single title even books about true crime Portray female as evil and to be destroyed? Search female and hundreds of titles like “The Final Girl”, ” I mean every spiritual movie except Insidious always portrays girl or a female as evil. Or bad or evildoer,enraged,bad,evil, callous,uncarung,unfeeling,sadistic,masichistic,emotionally crippled,against society,negligent and most of all Dangerous.What have we done but just exist to warrant or deserve such potrayal in the entertainment industry? As recent as 2015 I believe it was Harvard did studies on whether boys or girls tended to be the more compassionate gender. They gave boy and girl toddlers a teddy bear and asked them to share, the girls shared but the boys were more selfish, and competitive with the bear.

    I’m toyed with idea of having a mission to show and portray girls in real life helping,guiding, caring, nutering, Protecting, and Rescueing others with their internal strength. A true life account of bravery and loyalty between two best female friends happened during the Colorado movie theatre shooting. One friend was shot twice and down on floor bleeding. Her best friend stood by her and pulled her then carried her to safety. President Obama gave her a medal of courage for her,selfless act of love. We don’t see these types of positive and goodness portrayed in media, instead we have female empowering cable show like”Devious Maids”.

    People need to look up the youtube video with Corey Feldman from Lost Boy 80’s fame. In interview trying to hint to us the public strongly without actually saying their names of these pedophile’s high up in Hollywood. Sour many producers, directors,writers, CEO’so on of major movie studio names. I would love to start some and try petition the MPAA ratings board and challenge this unfair nudity double standard for actors versus actresses. Are they that untouchable to mere minions like us? Their must be some way without it like going to a high court. Or if that so needed then indeed fine. I remember seeing this interview for Van Diesel’ latest blockbuster sci fi sequel. She was awkwardly asked how she felt doing a very brief top less shower scene.It was dark in shower but still She said that it was bit uncomfortable for her mom and dad to see that scene. The point I’m trying to make here is there was absolutely no reason for such a scene to be scripted! This Shower scene was between action scenes with macho male leads of course. This needs to stop and is getting out of hand on TV especially. These mysgonstic,perverted,power hungry controlling bast Ardsley in Hollywood are pushing, and it’s a very thin, transparent line between porn and storyline with graphic or non graphic sex scenes. It’s all being lost in thetranslation. Good and actual well thought out scripted story are being swapped for endless in our face more,more uneccessary nudity,sex,and graphic depictions of misogynistic violence to women. These actresses speak up sometimes about how grueling it was physically, even psychology for them. But the male actors usually don’t have to endure or forced to put up with half of what the actresses do. Especially we see this all the fricken time in horror flicks. It’s if they keep saying it’s more appealing to watch female in trouble than a male.Most horror slash and blood expoloitation flick are almost virtually all male (sadistic)and terribly mysgonist writers, producers, creators, and directors. How many horror movies are written by women were women are shown as victims or being victimized and usually naked? In my opinion if it counts we as society are allowing and encouraging these movies to keep being made.We are the stupid consumer watches another Friday vs Jason 16th or Sorority slasher film. Like some people were saying about their friends who are couples, we have to start saying it’s Not all right to exploitingredients female actresses and boycotting is the strongest way.

    hypocrisy and sexism in Hollywood. I want t


"lose his virginity" If this was about a male losing his virginity, it would have made more sense for the male to be naked most of the time. Actually, it is popular for males to be naked even when women are fully dressed. I have attended many parties where all the males are totally naked and all of the women toally dressed. We even had a male tell a woman she needed to cover her clevage more as she was wearing a low cut dress, all the while he was totally naked with is dick and balls fully exposed. Oddly males behave much better when they are totally naked and women totally dressed. It should be the norm for all events. Nothing special about a couple of nuts and a dick hanging over them. Show more of them in the movies and then males who want to show their pricks to little girls would not scare them, the girls could learn to tell them they have seen bigger pricks on babies.


Women have over the ages been conditioned to regard a topless man as not being nude. if all men had to refuse being topless for the next 100 years, then I bet you topless male nudity will also be an issue. for this reason, men have for much longer been showing skin. I think it is womens turn to start showing much more nudity..

Also, mens genetalia is external to their bodies so the extent of male nudity can never be equaled by female nudity, unless you get a shot of ovaria! for this reason, women should start showing clits and labia!

vaginas does not show sexual arousal as with male nudity, so there should not be a problem showing vagina!

O yes also… a women told me the other day that it is ok for men to walk around topless because there is nothing to see. my argument, why dont women not show themselves full frontal since there is nothing to see?

truth hurts ladies. be carefull what you wish for!


But you have the luxery of not having to deal with that they show all varities of male if that wasn't nudity at me a female ass and let me decide if its funny that's all I'm sayin.enough with the t.v show man ass enough with the gay crap.


And what do you show.t.v doesn't even show a female scared it will be sexy.funny you worry about vagina showin when nuts hang a lot lower.and who wants to see hairy man ass.I doubt even you would dig that.even you would rather see a womans disgusting what you want to squeeze that sweaty hairy crappy mess.come on I guess its hilarious right and not disgusting and unnecessary at all huh


Gays in hollywood got all the male nudity you women can handle.on regular television can't change channels without seeing male parts or some kind of gay conduct involving men.keep pushing that gay agenda you guys might finally achieve an orgasm


Oh bullshit you dummies are the ones spreading bullshit.always count on a woman to lead you astray fill your head with bullsshit and blame everything on you.


@Cam, leave the ugly profane language off, or go somewhere esle.

The testicles are not genitals, and are just for storing sperm, but you all keep them hidden, don't you?

So why would you all keep copying each other's statements about men having breasts too. That is the biggest lie!! Men DO NOT have breasts. Men have chests that mimick the look of breasts. They are 100% different from women's breasts. Women's breasts are no where like a man's chest. Stop make ridiculous statements. You men are so desperate to get women to strip and be naked, that you come up with these pathetic fairy tales about women's bodies. It is so sad.

How many of you men would be willing for your mothers, your wives, and your daughters to walk down the street topless. Well, think about it, all the other women of the world have men in their lives who love them, and normally those men do not want their females to show their breasts to the nasty world that is dominated by disrepectful, horny, men like some of the ones who are using foul language and demeaning and scolding women on this blog.
Do you really believe that sensible women will ever show their breasts in public? H____ no!!!
Not until you all show some parts too and not your chest that you think is a pair of breasts! :)
You all are hilarious!


Really?you're bitching bout the titty thing?y breastfeed in public?its naatural rightwomen cracck me up with this double standard shit,not only against us but for them and their benefits.


What are these women talking about?if they ever show anything its covered up by hair.while the guys junk they could bust a nut to.never show female nudity for laughs yet you running into male ass everywhere you look.I'm tired of tired little tits and we don't have anything to do with what you idiots get paid for,we love pussy yes so do you women are beautiful thats why u want to be like them.u want dick?spread your lips

Mac 10.

Male nudity and female nudity are completely different things… one is admired the other is mocked. That is why i never understood why womens groups will moan and complain about breasts in a movies…. all the audience is doing is admiring them, and enjoying the beauty of the actress. That is not being 'dehumanized' or 'humiliated' that is being idolized.

But with male nudity…. i cannot imagine why any actor would have such little self respect to show is penis on camera. Do they know that that means millions of men women and little kids will be laughing at your body. The ones that do not laugh will cover their eyes in horror and disgust. That is the height of humiliation if you ask me.

I litteraly get sick to my stomach about this soceity…. its not so much the blatant double standards, but the fact that on just about ever issue that is actually unfair to men…. everyone thinks its unfair to women. The fact that people will equate a penis and testicles to nipples is beyond insane. Nipple are not genitalia, you don't have sex or use the bathroom with them.

Why do people want to see male nudity in films anyway, just something to laugh at? whats the point?


Where and when did we start allowing men to make such a crazy rule that women's breasts are not a part of the female genitals and are not private. This is one of the biggest myths that men have put out there and have shoved down females' throats, besides that crap where males tell girls/daughters that their daddies own their bodies and minds until they get married.

You males have gone too far.
Females out there you all have got to stand strong and stand united and take back our female power from males. Males have gone too far. They would never allow us to say that the testicles are not genitals. They would not allow female media to take pictures of a the testicles and put them on magazine covers. Why then do we allow the male media to take pictures of our private breasts???


    Its actually a fact that breasts arent genitals lol its actually a fact you moron


please, send me free always all full naked, nude, open & hot panis of all and cocking together with others. I like and love them.


I asked my doctor, candidly, about male and female nudity. She said that men have a penis and a scrotum while women have labia and a clitoris for genitals. Both men and women have areola, nipples, and mamary glands. The only anatomical difference with breasts has to do with size which is attributed to fat tissue. So I then asked if women's breasts were like men's biceps……primarily the same for both sexes, but just a different size for each gender. She said…typically yes. She also said that men could produce milk and breastfeed like a woman if he had problems with his pituitary gland, which we all have in our brain. This would cause an overproduction of prolactin which causes one to lactate. So if an attractive male quality like biceps are a turn on for women, then breasts being an equally attractive female quality being a turn on for men, then we would still have an attractive gender quality double standard in regards to exposure, right? Why do women get hot and bothered when they see a fit shirtless man and say it is not nudity, but if a guy sees a fit shirtless woman it's objectionable, exploitation, disgusting? Jealousy and insecurity double standard? Penis and scrotum in plain view equals labia and clitoris in plain view. Pretty simple. Pubic hair equals pubic hair……how many women would be pissed off if they only showed a man's pubic hair as "full male nudity"? An article like this shows nothing but ignorance to ration and logical thinking……and is a total double standard within itself.

Mike M.

Matt, I am not sure what type of goggles you are wearing, but male nudity is far, FAR more prominent and EXTREMELY EXPLICIT compared to female nudity! Furthermore, your complaint about a double standard, which is completely untrue, makes it sound as if you have been living under a rock somewhere. I realize nudity is subjective to ones definition and/or cultural bias of it; but for the sake of fairness, you have to compartmentalize nudity into two different categories: GENITAL NUDITY, and, NON-GENITAL NUDITY. If you took a moment to step outside that obvious brainwashed, radical feminist indoctrinated, woman-pleasing mantra you seem to believe in, you would see that the true double standard, with respect to the frequency and explicitness of nudity, is against men. Jessica D's post hits the nail on the head, you can fully show a Penis on-screen and in any state of arousal, or context, and will still secure an R rating! But God help it if a movie or prime-time cable TV show shows any hint of a woman's genitals –Vulva–, it automatically gets an NC-17 rating, a.k.a, X rated! Furthermore, female genital states of arousal are strictly forbidden outside of porn! Now, I know a lot women will never see eye to eye with men on this, but showing a Penis, aroused or not, is far, FAR, more explicit than showing a pair of breasts or fake pubic hair.

Mike M.

Matt, I am not sure what type of goggles you are wearing, but male nudity is far, FAR more prominent and EXTREMELY EXPLICIT compared to female nudity! Furthermore, your complaint about a double standard, which is completely untrue, makes it sound as if you have been living under a rock somewhere. I realize nudity is subjective to ones definition and/or cultural bias of it; but for the sake of fairness, you have to compartmentalize nudity into two different categories: GENITAL NUDITY, and, NON-GENITAL NUDITY. If you took a moment to step outside that obvious brainwashed, radical feminist indoctrinated, woman-pleasing mantra you seem to believe in, you would see that the true double standard, with respect to the frequency and explicitness of nudity, is against men. Jessica Dawson's post hits the nail on the head, you can fully show a Penis on-screen and in any state of arousal, or context, and will still secure an R rating! But God help it if a movie or prime-time cable TV show shows any hint of a woman's genitals –Vulva–, it automatically gets an NC-17 rating, a.k.a, X rated! Furthermore, female genital states of arousal are strictly forbidden outside of porn! Now, I know a lot women will never see eye to eye with men on this, but showing a Penis, aroused or not, is far, FAR, more explicit than showing a pair of breasts or fake pubic hair.

Jim brown

This is one of the most biased and poorly written articles ever.

There is a double standard and its towards men! Male genitals are graphically shown in mainstream movies all the time. Women NEVER show anything beyond pubic hair and they even fake the pubic hair with a merken patch! Movies treat breasts with a double standard as well. Women's breasts are considered offensive and need to be covered but not male breasts?


Wait, are Helen Hunt’s genitals (fully visible Vulva) actually shown? …I highly doubt it! And it’s something you’ve conveniently omitted in your article. So, with Helen Hunt not showing her Vulva in scenes where one would EXPECT to clearly see it … it hardly seems fair, nor does it make any sense to rant or question why John Hawkes Penis wasn’t shown — regardless of the context.

Seriously, we can easily flip this argument around and ask why Helen Hunt’s genitals are not shown? Or do you have a double standard where movies should only contain genital nudity from the male actors and non-genital nudity from the female actresses?

Better yet, name 20 Hollywood movies (made in the USA), that’s right, 20 movies in the past 20 years, rated PG-R (NOT NC-17, UR or NR), that actually shows a woman’s fully visible Vulva … good luck!

If you even bothered to do a quick Google search before writing this article you would find that there’s literally well over several hundred movies (PG-R rated) with full-frontal male nudity — up close, full Penis w/Scrotum shown in them, especially in the last 10 years! Erect/Semi-Erect…, Visible Masturbation…, Graphically Mutilated…, Defecation out Penises…, Visible Molestation/Rape…, Graphic Underage Male Genital Nudity…, and yes, even full shots of Penis specifically shown for Female Titillation — all on-screen (no censoring), and all R-rated or lower. I challenge you to find a PG-R-rated movie actually showing a woman’s genitals period, especially in any of these scenarios/contexts. Again, you’ve conveniently omitted all of this in your “MPAA has a double standard against women” argument.

I know this may be difficult for you to accept, but the MPAA allows (and has allowed) for far more explicit genital nudity from men in PG-R rated venues (as I pointed out in the paragraph above). On the flip side, female genital nudity is very, very, rarely allowed; otherwise, it’s automatically slapped with an NC-17 rating.

Again, we can easily flip this argument around and clearly state (with fact) that the MPAA has a double standard against men and that they obviously go out of their way to protect women. Male genital nudity can be gratuitously shown in almost any context, whereas, female genital nudity is completely “off-limits”!

Whether you choose to believe it or not, those are the facts!

— Jessica D.

Sources: Film Studies Major and 20+ years in the movie industry.


This article has a very flawed perspective. The double standard with genital nudity is quite the reverse with the mpaa. Male genital nudity has become very commonplace, and graphic. Look at bruno for example, that has a 2 minute long extended scene that is a macro-view closeup of bruno's penis, flapping up and down in slow motion.

Female genitalia is the thing thats almost guaranteeing an NC-17 rating. Let me ask you this, when is the last time you saw a movie with female full frontal nudity where you could actually see anything? And by that I mean any hint of a crevice between the labia majora… any movie where a woman has had a normal, modernized hair "style" down there. Directors make actresses wear "merkins" or pubic hair wigs, knowing that they will get an NC-17 rating stamped on otherwise, all the while not shying away from the penis in full view.

There is an interview with the director of Zach and Miri Make a Porno where he says the hardest scene to shoot was the one where they were casting female porn actresses. He had said that it was almost impossible to find a woman in LA with enough pubic hair to get past the censors, despite the fact that you see full fledged penis, and even a shot with an actor bending over from behind, seeing his scrotum and penis.


I really don't care if I see penises or not in mainstream films, but this film was different. When Helen Hunt held the mirror up to him to help him accept and be proud of his body, and then to not show his body made no sense. Just ditch the scene. What you're showing and what you're trying to convey just don't match. I thought it was a great film otherwise. It dealt with sex on many levels and didn't take itself too seriously.


I'm guessing the writer of this article didn't see Forgetting Sarah Marshall where the male lead shakes his penis around on camera while all of the female co-stars are fully clothed? Or Hall Pass, where the camera zooms in on two guys penises that are inches away from the male leads face. Whining ensues when the ladies get naked and the guys stay clothed, but when its reversed we hear only silence. The fact is that full frontal nudity of men is now very commonplace in Hollywood movies but is nearly non-existent for women (the last time I saw actual ladyparts in a mainstream film was Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct way back in the early 90s. Even then it was a dimly lit, blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot). Face it ladies, in this department you really have nothing to complain about (though obviously that won't stop you).


Typical female response. You take an inch and they demand that you give them back a mile. They're like that about everything. A breast really does not equal a penis in terms of itimacy of sexual organs, and neither does pubic hair (it's just hair for god's sake).

I really don't care if they show male frontal nudity or not, but I'm getting pretty tired of it in all the comedies. Sorry, but dangling a penis in my face isn't particularly funny or creative. It's just lazy and poor writing (FYI the new film Holy Motors has plenty of frontal male nudity, including erections, but zero on the female nudity, so that should make a lot of people happy).


I'm not so sure about this supposed double standard— When have you ever seen female sexual organs (female genitalia) in a film? Probably never outside of porn, yet everyone thinks male genitalia should be splashed all over the screen to make things "equal"…. Erect penises? Would you expect to see an actress spread her legs and display dripping wet genitalia and an engorged clioris? Probably you wouldn't— Yes there is a lot of female nudity in films, breasts, behinds, and occasional pubic hair, but there's at least as many bare male behinds, and there's a LOT more male breasts than female breasts (I don't know why female breasts are even considered nudity, but that's a whole other issue)– The bottom line is we are a lot more restrictive and puritanical about the female body than we are about the male body.– Double standard, yes. But you have it the wrong way.


I am so sick of hearing all the excuses not to show male nudity such as Lewin's excuse that erect penises are a no-no!… so show Hawkes' penis BEFORE its erect. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this out. Its all about the giving the male audience their eye candy and NONE for the female audience. Yet another movie I will boycott due to double standards and gender inequality nudity.
Ps. Isnt this a story about a mans penis urges? – so if any nudity is shown , it goes without question it should be his penis but instead they show us female nudity only!! WTF??!!!!


My pick for the movie Fifty shades of Grey to Play Christian grey is Matt Bomer. You can find more information on


Holy Motors is out now in theaters and there is full male nudity, including a well visible erect penis. It is rated R.

bob hawk

This particular "issue" never even occurred to me when I saw it way back in January at Sundance. Why? Because I reasoned that Hawkes' body in general would not be that of someone who had been immobile for so many years. There would be little to no muscle tone, especially in the legs (even with physical therapy, massages, etc.). If the filmmakers had wished to give equal time to male nudity (with an unaroused penis, of course) they would have had to use a body double — one whose body accurately reflected this condition.


Did anybody else even read this to the end? The problem isn't that the ratio is off, the problem that steering away from the male body undermines and contradicts one of the film's biggest themes.


It could of been that john hawkes didn't want to show off his body.Sometimes its a choice of the actor i'm sure it came up before the film started.The real issue isnt and shouldnt be about nudity that's the truth .The very fact that this article came out shows that maybe someone missed the bigger picture here .Of what the story was trying to convey i dont know i havent seen the movie yet .

I feel showing graphic nudity and sex in a film isn't going to show people that it's ok to be more open sexually.Being open sexually isnt just about exposing to everyone it's about your emotions being ok.With what emotions sexuality has stirred up in you its your nature its not so much what you do.Than how you feel look at the world we live sextapes and sexting are big things today .It's not so much the physical as it is the emotion people don't know how to express those feelings .Confidently and comfortably it's ok to feel aroused by someone else its ok to feel aroused period .

This is why movies canidates when it comes to creating social change they should stay out of the politica and socially economic arean all together.When the people in the real world start being open to to educating people on sex.Than we will be comfortable with it that's not however going to come from a movie .All these years and movies later and we are still dealing with this .That just shows how ineffective that strategy is also i think showing as graphic as sex in a near explicit manor under the guise of a good story.Just a excuse for the indie crowd to use pornography because lets face it .Dry humping isn't enough these days they need to realize the audience creates the illusion of whats going on.Same with violence do we really need to get closer and closer to showing really graphic violent stuff almost to the point where it looks like someone actually got murdered ????? No these things all elude the bigger picture and after all isnt that the point of a story ? To open our eyes to the big picture ?

At the end of the day you care how much male to female nude ratio there is in films .Some actors dont mind being nude other do its that simple .In helen hunts case let's face it she hasnt had a movie in a while and what way to reintroduce herself with a little controversy

Kevin Tostado

So you're arguing that Ben Lewin should have risked a NC-17 from the MPAA (and the complicated appeal process involved) just to better balance the ratio of female to male nudity? I saw a packed screening of this film in Boston and after the film ended, I didn't hear a single comment regarding the issue you raised. I agree that the MPAA presents double standards when it comes to gender (don't get me started on the level of violence allowed in comparison to nudity), but that battle is not Lewin's to fight.

I think the more risky decision that Lewin took was making this film in the first place. He fully admitted in a Q&A that all the studios passed on this script, which is why he had to finance this film primarily from friends and family in Australia. It is an excellent film, and Hawkes and Hunt both did an amazing job of bringing their own insights to the characters that Lewin based on the characters' real-life counterparts.


Let's not forget that The Full Monty chickened out too and the title proved to be false advertising since the film should have but didn't go Full Monty.


There’s a difference between full frontal nudity of male vs. female in a movie like ‘The Sessions.’

For the female, for Helen Hunt, the only thing showing is pubic hair –– not the clitoris, or the labia minora or the delightful, delicate feminine tent it makes over the clit, or the opening to the vagina. (It was nice to hear Hunt’s character to correctly refer to ‘vulva’ rather than the misused ‘vagina’).

Full frontal for the male, however, is full frontal –– penis, scrotum, balls – the full shebang.

In The Sessions, “full frontal” was really pretty much the same for both – all you saw of either was the pubic hair – more from her than just the partial peek of his at the edge of the sheet, but still.

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