Balls And Double Standards

A reader writes:

My first reaction to seeing the scrotum was yay for you, and this from a feminist who is also a lesbian. Think of all the (non porn) movies containing full frontal female nakedness and/or female privates. Think: how often does a movie show a really naked man? Think of all the paintings in which men are covered and a woman in the scene is naked. Think of all the naked women in art. Think how many public places would welcome a statue of a naked woman, but not of a man. Think of all the after-sex scenes in movies where the woman is lying there naked and the man has a sheet or blanket strategically placed. Same with coming-out-of-a-shower scenes, with towels, etcetera, etcetera.

I have to say this occurred to me too: that there is a sexual double standard here. A naked breast and a woman’s hairy armpit resulted in Cerne-abbas-giant-2001-croppedno complaints. But an abstracted view of a foreskin or a simple Wikipedia photograph of testicles created a furore. I’m not adding to the NSFW debate; that’s settled to protect readers from workplace sexual harassment laws when they are reading at work. I’m just noting a double standard with nudity.

Is my reader wrong? Are men (and women) more disturbed by public displays of the male anatomy than the female one?

The irony, of course, is that one possible reason for humans’ relatively large, descended scrota was display. Our ancient ancestors in England certainly seemed to think so (see right from Cerne Abbas). Compared with other apes, human balls are very “in your face”. The Liam Drew piece which we linked to provides this as one of a few potential reasons:

Portmann argued that by placing the gonads on the outside, the male was giving a clear indication of his “reproductive pole,” a sexual signal important in intergender communication. Portmann’s best evidence was a few Old World monkeys who have brightly colored scrota.

The human penis is also far bigger than any of the other African apes who are our closest genetic cousins. Humans’ dicks are three times the size of gorillas’. Again, among the most plausible explanations for this is display to attract females – and display will tend to be more common in warmer climes, where hanging loose is more comfortable than in, say, Japan. Hence Madeleine Kahn’s famous remark: “It’s twue!” Hence Chinpoko Mon‘s PR strategy in America.

So our civilization now conspires to hide what might once have been designed to display. Freud was onto something, wasn’t he?