Full Frontal: TV's Male Nudity Boom with 'Minx' Star Oscar Montoya

If you've watched Minx, Euphoria, And Just Like That, or really, any show on HBO, you probably have noticed something new happening: there's a boom of full-frontal male nudity on TV. How could you miss it, right?

Some are hailing this moment as a positive step forward for equality among the sexes when it comes to nudity in Hollywood—but others argue that the use of prosthetics on male actors is actually further concealing actual male nudity.

On the latest episode of Newsweek's Parting Shot, we looked into this apparent explosion of full-frontal male nudity on TV. HBO's Minx is the latest example of this new trend. The series follows Joyce, a young feminist in 1972 who creates the first erotic magazine for women. Within the pages of Minx magazine are scholarly articles on the advancement of women's rights mixed in with layouts of naked male centerfolds.

Full Frontal: TV's Male Nudity Boom
Jessica Lowe, Oscar Montoya, Lennon Parham from HBO Max's 'Minx.' Photograph by Katrina Marcinowski / HBO Max

In one particularly memorable scene, a model named Dane (played by newcomer Nate Crnkovich) is hired to pose in a photoshoot inspired by Michelangelo's David statue. The only difference between the model and David is one particularly large appendage.

"When you're talking about the male porn industry, they want these characters that are very well endowed," Crnkovich told Newsweek. "So I think when they cast that, they want to get a good actor for the role, first and foremost... The character calls for having a very large penis. It's just something that's sort of necessary for the character."

But it isn't fully Crnkovich in the scene. His performance is enhanced by a prosthetic.

"I think it did give me a little more peace of mind knowing that it wasn't actually me on film. Everything else is me. I mean, you get a good shot on my backside, too... But I think it definitely kind of helped put me at ease a little bit, especially since this is my first ever time being on camera like that."

As Crnkovich explained, in great detail, getting a prosthetic penis is no walk in the park.

"You're in the makeup trailer, kind of in the back. It takes a while—I mean, you're standing there, pretty naked, for I want to say an hour? Hour and a half, to put it on? And they have to make it match your skin tone, they have to make sure it's sticking in place. They have to move your bits out of the way... For lack of a better term, you have to tuck [your real penis]. And from there they can put the prosthetic in place. It's a lot of tape, a lot of glue."

"It's kind of an awkward situation, obviously. But [Minx's makeup artists] made it so easy... At no point did I feel like it was an uncomfortable situation."

Full Frontal: TV's Male Nudity Boom
Idara Victor, Jake Johnson, Jessica Lowe, Ophelia Lovibond, Oscar Montoya from HBO Max's 'Minx.' Photograph by Katrina Marcinowski / HBO Max

The use of a prosthetic on many different programs, not just Minx, has inspired an interesting conversation: are we actually in a full-frontal renaissance on TV, or does the use of prosthetic penises somehow continue the double standard between male and female nudity in Hollywood?

Prosthetic penises have been used in a number of shows; sometimes it's to reflect the character's penile size (like on Minx or Netflix's Sex Education), but in other cases it simply conceals the actor's body (as done in HBO's Euphoria).

Peter Lehman, Emeritus Professor of Film and Media Studies at Arizona State University, thinks it's a bit of a misnomer to consider this moment a huge advancement in equality.

"There is no equality here. A prosthetic penis is a costume that you put on just to fool people—in the shot, that this is your penis—and then you take it off. If a woman has breast enlargement surgery, for example, then it really is part of her body," Lehman told Newsweek.

Lehman goes on to say we have to think about seeing naked penises differently than we'd think about butts, or boobs, or what have you. Society has conditioned us to associate the penis with manliness, and therefore with power. So the choice to show it at all—and then the choice of in what context, for how long, and how long the penis even is—all of that plays off of ideas we already have about masculinity.

"The penis is strongly connected in many people's minds with the phallus. And the phallus is actually a symbolic thing. The symbolism of the phallus is an extreme sense of power, which is actually imaginary. No one man or woman can really have that kind of phallic power. But we connect the penis, which is just really an organ, with this powerful symbolic notion," Lehman said.

"We live in a culture where we define masculinity as something which is quantitative. How much of a man are you? That's a common question. But with women it's not how much of a woman are you, it's how beautiful of a woman are you," he continued.

"What I call the 'mature' use of nudity [works] against this over-symbolic valuation ... and [has] variety of size, shape, and everything, in a way that we don't pretend tells us something significant about the character in terms of his strength, power, prowess as a lover."

At the end of the day, Lehman believes it's important to keep in mind that what you see onscreen might just be Hollywood magic:

"We're being told, 'Look at this! This is daring! We're showing you a penis on television. Here's this guy with this big penis in the centerfold.' But the only problem is, not only is it not a [natural] big penis — it's not a penis, it's a costume. It's a costume of a penis... And there has to be a match between the penis and the character, but there is no such match except in an imaginary world."

Full Frontal: TV's Male Nudity Boom
Oscar Montoya from HBO MAx's 'Minx.' Photograph by Katrina Marcinowski / HBO Max

On Minx, the character photographing all these naked men is Richie, played by Oscar Montoya. Even though Montoya agrees that the use of prosthetics can be used to conceal an actor's real penis, he still believes the presence of any nudity involving penises is a step forward.

"It goes back to the question of vulnerability, right? About being comfortable," said Montoya.

"I'm gonna tell you this: the prosthetic to natural penis ratio [on Minx is] a lot more natural than there are prosthetics. As an actor, sometimes your performance might be affected by just letting it all hang out. So sometimes that's a comfortability issue, when you want to just get the right performance and not feel self-conscious about exposing your member to the masses," he continued.

"Whether or not you're wearing a prosthesis, does it actually matter in the long run? I mean, you know, you're seeing 'peen.'"

Montoya went on to say that the acceptance of nudity on Minx made him feel better about his own body.

"I've seen so much d*ck on this show, I really have. I have seen more penises on the first episode of Minx than I have truly seen in my entire life. Not to sound corny or anything, but working on this show really made me get over this weird complex I have with my body... Like, it's just a little fleshy part. People give it so much power and for what? Why?"

"It's made me feel so much better about my body, and just bodies in general. Because that's all they are—just bodies. Big bodies, little bodies, it doesn't matter. We're just bodies. It's all beautiful," he added.

To hear the full discussion, listen to the latest Parting Shot. New episodes of Newsweek's Parting Shot drop weekly. Subscribe on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.