HBO has developed a bit of a reputation for not being afraid to display full-frontal nudity in its shows. From "True Blood" to "Hung" to "Game of Thrones," nudity is so commonplace that "Desiring God" author Pastor John Piper has said Christians who watch "GoT" are "recrucifying Christ" as a result. Others have asked, "At what point does the nudity go from something crucial to the storyline to simply being gratuitous?"
What's lost in the discussion -- over whether there's too much or too little nudity, and whether or not it's moral to take pleasure in watching it -- is the fact that the full-frontal nudity contained in these shows is almost exclusively that of women.
Why is it that "Game of Thrones" and other HBO programs have become so well known for their female nudity -- to the point that "Saturday Night Live" has spoofed a behind-the-scenes look at the show, revealing that the final script is written by a 13-year-old boy played by Andy Samberg -- but the instances of full-frontal male nudity throughout the run of these shows can be counted on one hand? It comes down to the fact that as a culture, we've been conditioned to accept that there's nothing wrong with treating women as little more than sexualized objects for male enjoyment.
This attitude -- this urge to cater solely to the straight male audience -- is by no means constrained to Hollywood, though what we see on TV and in movies serves as a barometer of culture as a whole. That there's an uptick in female nudity on screen while male nudity remains rare is simply the logical extension of the sexism that has existed in entertainment media for decades.
In 1985, Alison Bechdel introduced what would, appropriately enough, be referred to as the Bechdel Test. In any given movie, are there two female characters who at some point or another talk about something other than a man? If so, congratulations, this film has passed the Bechdel Test.
This test -- which, if applied in reverse to male characters, would come in with a nearly 100 percent pass rate -- is something that roughly half of all major studio Hollywood films fail.
"Amazing Spider-Man 2"
"Star Trek: Into Darkness
"Air Force One"
All Bechdel Test fails.
Does passing the Bechdel Test mean that a work is in and of itself a feminist masterpiece? Of course not. That so much of Hollywood culture has used women as merely boy-crazy, sexual objects for male characters to chase, however, is subtle programming for society as a whole, and a measure of the sexism that runs rampant throughout society.
From the wage gap to sexual assault victim blaming to the fact that there are companies that see nothing wrong with insurance plans covering Viagra but not contraception, we live in a world where the cards are stacked against women from the moment they enter it.
So, HBO, do us all a favor. Fight sexism, and while you're at it, let's see some more full-frontal male nudity.
Parker Marie Molloy is a media activist and RedEye special contributor. Parker's work has appeared in publications ranging from Rolling Stone to the New York Times to The Advocate Magazine.
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