The Penis In The Movies

Susan Bordo has pointed out that the penis used to be, as it were, invisible in the movies; we have, however, passed from respectful taboo to merciless screen mockery. There has surely never been a female equivalent to the infamous zipper scene in There’s Something About Mary. Men, says Bordo, are now also insecure sex objects.

If this sounds like a reasonable payback, it is misleading. Men have always been insecure sex objects. Only the Greeks ever made an aesthetic virtue of the small penis, regarding a big one as the sign of the scary barbarian within or without; but in any case, all non-erect penises look rather silly, while erect ones have always been considered unacceptable in serious art. Men simply cannot win this one, whereas there is nothing comparable about a nude woman to distract and confound the viewer or the producer of the images. For example, after viewing Breillat’s Romance, everyone comments on how big Rocco Siffredi is and how tiny Sagamore Stévenin is, while no one comments on Caroline Ducey’s neat, slim body. Putting penises into film is always trouble, so penile invisibility in film was and is a matter of contractual preservation of economic value. That is, it is a business and marketing decision.

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  1. Written by Ghost in the Machine
    on September 5, 2011 at 14:51
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    “Contractual preservation”…do I see a pun here?

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