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Lack of equal opportunity nudity reinforces tired gender dynamics

Photo CC owlandbear. Edits: Marta Kierkus

Subtlety is not Game of Thrones’ forte. The critically acclaimed HBO fantasy epic is filled to the brim with enough drama, intrigue, suspense, and gratuitous violence to situate its viewers at the very edges of their seats.

Oh yeah, and there’s boobs. In fact, there are enough naked female breasts in Game of Thrones to fill a giant ball pit. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but the kaleidoscope of breasts on display highlights a bigger issue: the severe lack of male nudity.

While it is true that the show’s creative team has tried to even out the playing field by flaunting some buff male chests and tight butts, only a handful of the male cast members have been shown fully naked. And while they’ve made a noble attempt at correcting this inequality, it still speaks to a much larger problem about how male and female bodies are depicted in the media.

Game of Thrones isn’t the sole perpetrator of this kind of gender imbalance—the over-use of female nudity saturates our daily media. Depictions of naked female bodies litter advertisements, video games, television programs, and films. Women’s bodies are displayed as objects, turned into objects, and even have objects placed on them, which reduces the female form to nothing more than a commodity.

We’re so used to this dynamic that when we view female objectification on screen it’s so easy to disregard it as normal. However, by contrast, any appearance by the naked male form is usually met with disgust or treated like a big deal. Why is the depiction of the penis a taboo that’s fervently guarded by those who possess it and by those who don’t?

Perhaps the issue is this: The penis has adopted the status of power, manliness, and strength. One must not lay eyes upon this elusive symbol of male power, or the status will be lost. Clearly, men can’t be depicted as being fully nude because naked people are seen as vulnerable or as passive, and this is unacceptable according to traditional male gender conventions.

Therefore, increasing the presence of male nudity in the media would help to break down some of these gendered stereotypes that we have all grown accustomed to. Because the way nudity is depicted now—as a rigid divide between the genders—is only enforcing regressive ideologies within our culture.

I’m not suggesting that depicting nudity in film or television is wrong and that it should stop. On the contrary, human nakedness is a part of our daily lives and the media should be encouraged to celebrate the human body in all its forms.

Some might argue that we can solve this problem of inequality by removing nudity from media altogether. But what’s the fun in that? Feel free to show me some flesh, just make it as varied and balanced as possible.

As the fifth season of Game of Thrones draws near, I hope to spot a few more naked man bits, especially now that a number of the show’s leading ladies and headlining hunks support the idea of equal opportunity nudity.

Personally, I’ll be on the lookout for eight to nine inches of Snow.