Ben Affleck made headlines after announcing that he'd appear fully nude in "Gone Girl," one of this season's most hotly-anticipated new movies.
While viewers have so far been divided as to whether or not Affleck's full-frontal scene lives up to the hype, the actor's proclamation once again sparked a conversation over why male genitalia continues to be such a taboo, not just in Hollywood but also society at large.
Filmmaker Brian Fender aims to explore this dilemma, as well as others in regard to male sexuality, in "Dick: The Documentary." For the film, Fender interviewed 63 men, between the ages of 22-82, who stripped nude and revealed themselves "physically and emotionally" through personal stories about their relationship to their penises.
Directed by Fender and produced by Chiemi Karasawa ("Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"), the resulting documentary is billed as "a revealing and candid exploration of an unspoken 'member' of modern society," the penis.
Fender revealed his inspiration for the new movie, and shared his thoughts on why male sexuality, in an interview with The Huffington Post. Check out a clip from the movie above (WARNING: NSFW) and check out what he had to say below.
The Huffington Post: Where were you when you first got the inspiration for the film?
Brian Fender: I was at an independent filmmaker’s conference (IFP) listening to a symposium on innovative ways to raise money for film. I had just finished an accidental documentary film called “XYQ,” which had started out as a video installation in a gallery show about LGBT youth in St. Louis.
I self-produced the two DVD set and now have about 950 copies in a closet in our Upper West Side apartment. So, I was thinking that for a commercially viable film, it had to be about sex. I am gay man, so obviously I was curious how men were affected by their dicks. I certainly have been affected by other men's dicks.
How do you think finding subjects via Craigslist affected the outcome of the film?
We tried other ways of soliciting people, but Craigslist was the only successful venue. I would have preferred a broader cross section of participants, but what I got was an educated sample of men that thought this was a worthy project and wanted to be a part of it. I only got one creepy guy, who wore a Lone Ranger mask. Even though I met him for coffee to explain my intentions for the film, he still thought I wanted to hook-up.
What was the most surprising thing you learned while making the film?
I found that the men who participated were very thoughtful. I didn’t get any sexist thugs, which I was kind of disappointed about. I assume that men who are more conservative and judge sexual expression beyond the heterosexual paradigm -- and would probably call these men, myself included, a pervert -- would, I imagine, have less healthy sexual attitudes and feel threatened by the questions this film asks. But as educated as my subjects were, many of them told me that this was the first time they had said these things out loud and that they found it cathartic. I had also wanted to talk about using your dick as a weapon, but I got the feeling from these men that they weren't sexually aggressive. The one thing that is funny is that there isn't a glimmer of consensus about the dick. The opinions are as varied as the penises themselves.
Though the phallus rules all, the sight of a penis is still a taboo thing in many respects. Why do you think that is?
The reason why the phallus is so taboo with men is homophobia. If I freely look at another man's penis, am I gay? What if I get turned on? For women it is the member that can make them a "whore." If they admit to loving dick and look at dicks freely what does that mean about them? We are all conditioned harshly to not even consider men's penises except in a humorous context or porn.
The truth is: most people love dick. Most men love their own, most women love them, and gay men are obsessed with them. That's why I wanted to confront the audience with all of these penises in an innocuous setting. After about five minutes it just becomes a non-threatening appendage and people start making the bodies into faces. I think at some level, a large majority of people in this country think the human body is shameful.
What do you hope viewers take away from the film?
I hope it opens up a dialogue about sexuality in general.
My unrealistic hope is that people will start talking to their kids about sexuality while they are young: letting them know it is a gift that they should cherish and care for and that when they want to act on their sexuality, they should be responsible. But that's too rational for most religious people, so they will distort their boy’s minds through guilt and shame and create sexually immature men who abuse women and children because they don't how to express their sexuality appropriately. Sexual abuse is an epidemic; we have to do something different.
Check out more on "Dick: The Documentary" here.