Quick hit: What’s with all the naked dudes?

I have a piece at the Australian site Daily Life today, about the increase in the amount of substantial male nudity on offer in romantic comedies lately.

Before 2009, shirtlessness was pretty standard for men in romantic comedies (why do you think chronic shirtophobe Matthew McConaughey makes so many rom coms?) But in the last two years, we’ve seen the barely-clad bodies of Justin Long (Going the Distance), Jake Gyllenhaal (Love and Other Drugs), Ryan Reynolds (The Proposal), Ashton Kutcher (No Strings Attached), and Justin Timberlake (Friends With Benefits). In What’s Your Number?, producers appear to have forgotten to make room in the budget for a wardrobe for Chris Evans, who spends most of the movie stripped down to his birthday suit.

Before you press “Print” and run to your nearest video shop with the above list in hand, let’s take a moment to ask ourselves: what’s going on here?

What’s going on here? Well, for one thing, it would seem that the straight women who are the target audience for romantic comedies are now allowed to publicly enjoy looking at naked dudes. But only if those dudes look a certain way. And we need to consider the possibility that the pressure to look that way is going to mess men up as badly as it’s messed women up.

You can read the whole thing here.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/cassius/ Brüno

    Easy answer, women pay money to see these movies and as soon as women pay money for it, it is assumed that naked bodies of moderately fit men help with the selling.

  • maeve

    You forgot the most important naked dude. Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall! He went full on frontal nudity not once, but twice. And he wrote the screenplay, so it was done purposefully and willingly on his part.

    • maeve

      Okay, never mind. You mentioned him in your article, just not here.

  • http://feministing.com/members/robbieloveslife/ Robert

    “And we need to consider the possibility that the pressure to look that way is going to mess men up as badly as it’s messed women up.”

    I appreciate the concern but I doubt men are going to all of a sudden care about their looks the way women do. I work out often because I used to be huge and hated it but most guys I know don’t care about how they look. I’ve seen guys brag about their beer bellies. Some things men really care about is how much money they got, who’s got a faster car, or who is better at video games. I don’t play many games so they think I’m less cool even though I get more attention from women. Shit some of these guys are in love with female video game characters and don’t think actual women are worthy of dating because they don’t have the perfect body they see on the screen. Women are objectified beyond belief.

    • honeybee

      I would have to agree – I don’t see it messing up men. In fact I’ve often heard men say they WISH there was a male beauty standard so they would know what they’re supposed to look like. Some guys find it frustrating that women don’t seem to agree on what an attractive man is, b/c then they don’t know how to make themselves look to get more female attention.

      Regardless I’m all for equality. Since we’re never going to get rid of female nudity or the female beauty standard, might as well have men share in the fun. It certainly can’t hurt women and could very well help us if they are treated in a more similar manner.

  • http://feministing.com/members/alwaysalready/ Suzy

    A more radical change would be for us to start seeing female nudity depicted as humorous or embarrassing — the way male nudity is depicted in scenes such as these: http://www.dose.ca/photogallery.html?id=3501246 — rather than merely seductive. Being naked in public is a thought that evokes anxiety for many (hence all those dreams where you randomly realize you’re naked), but a naked woman depicted this way would not be readable (unless maybe it were a very conventionally unattractive woman) because her body is coded as sexual and the gaze of the camera and the audience empathizes with the titillated male witness to said nudity rather than the exposed woman.

  • http://feministing.com/members/andejoh/ John

    Here is the perspective from an MRA, which means my comment will probably get moderated out, but when feminist website get things right (mostly) it’s important for people in the MRM to recognize that. There’s a lot of common ground among the movements and sometimes it’s just distrust, ignorance or misunderstanding that sets us apart.

    “And we need to consider the possibility that the pressure to look that way is going to mess men up as badly as it’s messed women up.”

    Very well said and an astute observation. I wish I had an answer because I don’t feel that denying women the pleasure of looking at men (and men the pleasure of being looked at) an acceptable situation also. We’ve had discussion concerning body issues on the good men project. One of the make editor posted pictures of himself to spark a discussion.

    http://goodmenproject.com/the-good-life/body-image-2/im-stark-naked-deal-with-it/

    Maybe you could give it a read. I’d be interested to hear your opinions.

    @ Robert

    “I appreciate the concern but I doubt men are going to all of a sudden care about their looks the way women do.”

    Not all of a sudden. They already do. It probably would have been helpful if the article had mentioned the extent to which men have been affected by eating disorders instead of just mentioning that men are a greater number. Boys and men make up 25% of people with anorexia or bulimia.

    “Last month, Harvard researchers reported the results of the first national study of eating disorders in a population of nearly 3,000 adults and found that 25 percent of those with anorexia or bulimia and 40 percent of binge eaters were men.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/09/AR2007030901870.html

    @ Honeybee

    “Some guys find it frustrating that women don’t seem to agree on what an attractive man is, b/c then they don’t know how to make themselves look to get more female attention.”

    I don’t think an unattainable beauty standard would be any better.

    “It certainly can’t hurt women”

    As long as the women have no fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, male friends, etc.