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Thinking pop culture

Where are the Willies? The Missing Penis in “Magic Mike”

Magic Mike, now showing.

I was never going to enjoy Magic Mike. I’ve no history of being turned on by men I’ve never met. My heart doesn’t race for an oiled up six-pack and my genitals certainly don’t moisten for gyrating g-strings.

I like a wordsmith who’ll laugh at my jokes and who won’t steal my razor to shave his armpits. I’ll leave the Duffman-style thrusting and fireman/GI Joe/Tarzan costumes to those keen on tucking cash into anal cleavage.

Nonetheless, I saw Magic Mike and it was every bit as loathsome as I’d anticipated, made much worse by mumbled dialogue, too many sex industry cliches and way too much Matthew McConaughey.

Loathsome, but fortunately not totally void of talking points. For this piece, I’m curious about the cock. Or lack thereof.

How can a movie about male strippers exist with only the briefest glimpse of a penis (sheathed, might I add, by the plastic of a vacuum pump)? How can a movie about male strippers have more boob shots than balls?

Don’t get me wrong, Magic Mike is very penis-centric. They’re worshipped and stroked, nuzzled by randy bachelorettes and at various junctions - complete with sound effects - even thrusted as machine guns at the audience (in one of director Steven Soderbergh’s many nods to feminism).

And yet each penis is covered by lycra or the American flag or by the predictable faux animal print.

A small number of mainstream films have dared to show full frontal male nudity - think the brilliant, if disturbing, Shame for example, or Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But the penis is not a common feature of non x-rated films.

Why? What’s the big deal? Why are breasts routinely bared but penises remain duly covered, contained and condemned? Why is an uncloaked penis considered so scandalous, so salacious, so boundary-crossing?

While I understand that many men don’t feel comfortable about seeing penises - cue some vaguely laughable concerns about accidental arousal and envy - there were two men in the near-full cinema I saw the film in. Magic Mike wasn’t made for men, it was a cash cow for the 50 Shades audience; cock-confrontation fears are moot.

So why no wang for the ladies?

Lots of explanations circulate, perhaps the standard is grounded in aesthetics: apparently ladies simply don’t swoon for the penis. Such an argument routinely explains why the Playgirl and Australian Women’s Forum audiences were only ever gay men; why the male strip industry remains much less lucrative than the female eqivalent.

Apparently a penis is just not considered as pleasing to the eye as a pair of bouncy breasts.

I find this argument preposterous and so depressingly childish. Only one set of genitals I’ve ever had contact with were aesthetically challenged and that was purely because they’d been waxed. I’m a loud and proud champion of the pubes and hairlessness confuses me.

My own preferences aside however, the central problem with the nonsense aesthetics argument is that it immaturely treats the penis as somehow hideous and confronting and as naturally aggressive. Incredibly unhelpful.

No, I’m not particularly interested in seeing anonymous dicks. And neither am I interested in ogling breasts. But if a film like Magic Mike is going to market itself as somehow offering equal opportunity perving - as the promotion tour seems eager too - at least provide us something to adequately objectify.

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