Eight Inches of Privacy

Feministing links to an article about nudity issues in South Dakota.

One of the things that really surprised me when I was shooting Familiar Men was that men are not considered nude unless the penis is in the picture, whereas much of the female body is considered nude. A PG picture of a woman’s back is a nude. What’s more, male genitalia are considered private and female genitalia are considered public.

We see female nudes everywhere, and except in gay male erotica, the male nude remains mostly hidden. Think about the enormous fuss that’s made any time a film (even Schindler’s List!) shows a penis.

Initially, I found this really confusing. After some thought, and bringing up the issue at various workshops and panels, men explained to me that the penis is private because the “phallus” is a symbol of male power and, in their words, the penis doesn’t measure up.

We’ve all heard the size queen conversations, but this topic is really beyond size. It’s about how the realities of bodies undermine the symbolism of power.

And this can really screw individual men up, because it’s yet another way that boys and men try to measure themselves against the impossible. Like the inescapable Photoshopped pictures of impossibly thin supermodels, the surreal “superdick” creates a goal that can’t be achieved. For example, look at this famous photograph by Robert Mapplethorpe. Click on the image to see a larger version.


The net effect is the exact opposite of what the Sioux Falls parents and their allies everywhere are striving for. Preventing schoolchildren from seeing real bodies hooks the teenagers into the porn fantasies and not the reality of “the body that God made.”