One of College Humor’s latest videos takes a stab (all puns intended) at the nudity double standard on HBO. Four college-aged girls try to strike a deal with the premium cable network; they’ll quit stealing their parents’ hbogo.com passwords if HBO shows “dong” amid the bevy of female breasts.
Feminist media seems willing to join the pact cut by the College Humor girls. Rebecca Pahle comments via the feminist site The Mary Sue, “One of my favorite bits: ‘For every topless background extra, every actress that bears her bouncies but doesn’t even get a line, every minute we have to sit through this dumb double-standard, you owe us an inch of grade-A man meat.’ Truth.” Over at the feminist site Jezebel, Erin Gloria Ryan notes, “…male actors on shows like Girls and Boardwalk Empire aren’t similarly exposed; in fact, on the preeminent destination for cutting-edge TV, male actors abound, but exposed penises are an endangered species.”
Taking a slightly more intellectual approach, Refinery29‘s Lexi Nisita begins her critique with a compliment of HBO that also acts as the rather oddball thesis for justifying all things immoral on television in the name of art:
Cursing, sex, nudity, and an admirable tendency to support some of television’s more interesting creations are some of the things that make premium channels so great. While we all love our favorite pithy sitcoms, the raw (if not always realistic) nature of HBO and other premium programming is not only refreshing, but a reminder that cinematic art can happen on the small screen, too.
This tired argument that sex, nudity and altogether foul behavior is somehow okay because it is critically acclaimed as “art” is only interesting in this case because of its juxtaposition with the implication that comedy, because it is funny, is not art. Given the fact that comedy is what inspired her commentary in the first place, Nisita would be wise to rethink the popular notion that for any media to be considered art, it must somehow make the audience miserable.
But, what of the double standard applied by HBO when it comes to onscreen nudity? Having previously concluded that onscreen sex is mere objectification, I question how any equality-seeking feminist could possibly pursue the public nakedness of the opposite sex. Nisita concludes,
The truth is, this is entertainment. There will be nudity because, among other things, that’s what keeps people watching. And a certain amount of objectification is part of that, and it doesn’t have to be a terrible thing. But there’s no reason we can’t be equal opportunity about it.
This is the perspective that popular culture has dubbed “truth”: Everyone should be naked because it brings in ratings. It is a popular argument that does more to illustrate the sham that is feminism than advocate for male nudity on screen. This is why the suffragettes paraded and the Rosies riveted, so that all of us, women and men, could strip down and sell out equally.
Ellen DeGeneres has already been tapped to host this year’s Academy Awards; perhaps she’ll grace us with a song about dongs to promote the cause. Then again, that’d only be a comedy act, not serious art.