Kevin Bacon did a very funny fake PSA for male nudity in film recently—with some sincerity behind it. Hours of naked women on Game of Thrones and no male nudity? 50 Shades of Grey and no frontal of Christian Grey? Unacceptable. Where's my shot of Jamie Lannister walking stark naked through the streets of King's Landing??
The truth is, male nudity IS a matter of gender equality. Straight men have enjoyed an unbroken tradition of female beauty on screen while art geared toward women's sexual desires—movies starring handsome, idealized men; romance novels—have been considered the lowest form of literature or film. Well, eff that.
Thankfully, women have a new batch of bona fide heroes: Channing Tatum, Chris Pratt, Joe Manganiello, and every other guy who's out there defending women's right to lust. Here's Chris Pratt on being a beefcake:
"I think it’s appalling that for a long time only women were objectified, but I think if we really want to advocate for equality, it’s important to even things out. Not objectify women less, but objectify men just as often as we objectify women." (He also adorably continues: "We’re just big bags of flesh and blood and meat and organs that God gives us to drive around.")
Then there's Outlander's Catriona Balfe on the many, many, many beautiful shots of naked Sam Heughan on her show:
"I think obviously women have been starved for quite a while because all of these films and shows that are coming out right now that are catering to that, you see the voracity of the audience . . . it’s some kind of mini-revolution of sexual awakening for women in the media."
And best of all here is writer Christopher Rice (Anne Rice's son) on romance novels:
"If I read one more purported 'think piece' about how romance novels 'damage people' by setting up unrealistic expectations, I might vomit. This is sexist nonsense that seeks to depict fantasies of brave sexual intimacy as a toxin swimming through a superior landscape of stereotypically male destruction and violence. . . . It also furthers a bogus image of the largely female romance novelist population as a bunch of delusional ninnies suffering through a string of broken relationships because of their purported 'unrealistic expectations' and 'dangerous fantasies'. The majority of successful crime novels streamline the realities of the criminal justice system in an unnatural way to deliver a nice, tidy, bad-guys-go-to-jail resolution, and yet there’s no concerted effort to constantly wage the accusations of 'dangerous fantasy' against them with a barrage of sanctimonious, finger-wagging news articles and blog posts. And when was the last time people accused a male crime novelist of harboring secret fantasies of being a serial killer?" (It's hard for me not to quote the blog post in its entirety because it is so, so good. Here's a link to it: Christopher Rice's Rant.)
True objectification has its problems—reductionism, hostility, and so on. But we shouldn't confuse objectification with simply enjoying physical beauty and sexuality, which is one of our most basic cravings, male and female. When the Oscars tried to be funny by putting Sofia Vergara on a rotating platform while the Academy president read out the award rules, the outrage wasn't because they were objectifying Vergara but because they were catering to straight male taste as if it were universal—which is so, so last century. Had they put Joe Manganiello on a matching platform, everyone would have been happy. Now is that so hard?