It's Not Porn. It's HBO.

The bar for gratuitous, arbitrary, and generally female nudity is getting more and more extreme while appearing less and less essential. So let's go down the list at both networks, in no particular order, and flesh out a few of the more egregious examples.
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We already knew young King Joffrey ("Game of Thrones") was a monster. If it wasn't the perpetual sneer or the seething arrogance pouring from every pore, it might have been the beheading of his betrothed's father in front of his betrothed. That always signals trouble. So why, I ask, was it necessary to further cement his evil cred with a scene in which two wenches (the go-to period/fantasy word for "whore") are obligated to abuse each other with hideous metal objects, the victim stark naked, her lovely -- likely anachronistic -- Brazilian in full view, and her ass turned awkwardly so the camera could catch the full range of her exposed, about-to-be-thrashed, lady bottom? Really? We needed that?

Then, of course, there's Littlefinger, always nicely garbed in his well-tailored Nehru tunics, who can't seem to have a conversation without one or two naked wenches writhing behind him in real or feigned ecstasy, a lascivious backdrop to the more important scene center stage as they lick, moan and thrust all manner of limbs into body parts unspecified. Apparently we needed this clarification to really get the profession of our noble pimp, naked women surrounded by slobbering men in the lobby notwithstanding.

Yeah. Premier porn.

Before I go on, let me make this clear: I'm not a priss, get that right out of your head. I went to college during the sexual-revolutionizing 70s, was a single girl during the wild years of 80s rock and roll, and though my proclivities were always of the one-on-one-with-a-guy sort, I know a thing or two about boundary pushing, I sure do. That said, I don't mind naked bodies, I can enjoy lusty depictions of love and sex in a tale in which love and sex occur, and I happen to actually like "Game of Thrones" (though I must admit, this season, bereft of Mark Addy and Sean Bean, is not quite as fun or noble). I also like HBO... a lot. My problem is that the bar for gratuitous, arbitrary, and generally female-exclusive sex and nudity is getting more and more extreme while appearing less and less essential... and that's putting me off. (The S & M aspect does seem to match the current Zeitgeist, what with books like Fifty Shades of Gray flying off the shelves to panting women looking for some literary "strange"... chicken or egg, I wonder?)

But it's not just HBO. In fact, I'd say Showtime out-porns HBO on a regular basis but the clever title of my piece precluded their mention until now! Showtime has been in the premier porn business for awhile and it seems they just can't help themselves... every new show delivers the requisite "crazy/horny chick who can't wait to get it on with whomever wherever," or the "crazy/horny business associate who'll take on anyone anywhere"; and, of course, "the crazy/horny neighbor/friend who yaps about sex constantly and can't wait to get it on with everyone/everywhere," and...well, you get the gist. Stupid sex is everywhere; even "The Big C" is currently running a gratuitous storyline about gay phone sex that is so inane that John Benjamin Hickey and Victor Garber should be embarrassed!

Apparently the writers and show runners holding the reins in premier cable land are bursting to expose every sexual anecdote they've ever heard, witnessed or experienced. I'm sure every/many/quite a few lumpy, self-conscious 20-something girls have pulled up their skirts to bare their behinds to stupid, unfeeling men, but do we really need to see that onscreen? And that one was written by a woman. Equal opportunity TMI.

So let's go down the list at both networks, in no particular order, and flesh out (pun intended) just a few of the more egregious examples:

"Game of Thrones" (HBO): We've covered this but let me add that apparently no men in this fictional time and place are obligated to be as naked or as sexually utilized as the women. Either the fear is that flaccidity will diminish their fierceness or the producers figure the women watching don't require as much prurient pandering. And of course, the men do own the arena of Violence Porn, utilized prodigiously on this show. There can't be enough dripping, face splattering blood; enough severed, vein-dangling heads, or enough sword-entering-flesh sound effects to satisfy the appetite. Great storytelling that requires a barf bag may be a tad excessive.

"Girls" (HBO): The aforementioned skirt-lifting had a certain wincing honesty but, again, I question why we need so much of that particular type of honesty? I'm interested in this show and delighted by both the atypical lead and the fact that Lena Dunham got a deal on HBO (albeit with Judd Apatow's help!), but I wonder if, in the YouTube/Facebook generation of today, there's a misguided belief that everything about oneself is interesting, when, perhaps, it's not. Wouldn't the implication of humiliating sex be enough? Do we have to see each angle of dimpled flesh to get the point? Perhaps the writer thinks the audience she's writing for might. They might need to see sexually bloodied fingers and women's restroom masturbation scenes, too. I love irreverence in service to the story and maybe this is all cutting edge and truthful. If so, we may have become the voyeuristic audience of unboundaried storytellers.

"The Borgias" (Showtime): Apparently, similar to Hank Moody on Showtime's other show about male narcissism, everyone wants to jump the Pope. Yes, in that way. While Jeremy Irons stays modestly wrapped in his gauzy sleep wear, here, too, the wenches are raw, naked and always ripe for the taking. They're utilized for the requisite girl-on-girl partying (it seems lesbian sex games were all the rage even before Madonna and Britney kissed!), to exemplify the virility of the always-clad male stars, to be sacrificed cruelly for bloody, neck-snapping (and usually naked) deaths, and to be strewn around as various forms of set decoration. Here, as in Thrones, the Violence Porn is high, with lots of medieval torture chambers where sadistic, pig-eyed men appear to salivate (even sexually... ugh) over the bloody, squishy deaths of their enemies (and we go crazy when a cop uses a taser!).

"Californication" (Showtime): I've written an entire article about this mess of a show (The Carnal Carnivorous Californication), but let me add that while it was refreshing to see Hank get his comeuppance in many ways this season (yes, I watched... I had to see if they took my advice!:), they simply shifted the focus from Duchovny's naughty bits to those of lesser character, Charlie Runkle, a slightly repulsive man-child who couldn't be more unattractive and whose constant state of blubbering sexual misadventure had a stomach-turning quality. Here, however, they offered the revelation of male nudity -- whether we wanted it or not! -- but the females still kept pace in every slutty, libidinous way possible, to the point that I wondered, does anyone actually know people so crude and inelegant? If so, I feel sorry for them... unless, of course, they, too, enjoy publicly fornicating and sharing loutish repartee with anyone within earshot.

"House of Lies" (Showtime): I was eager to see this show because of the very talented Don Cheadle and after an initial bout of "here we go" eye-rolling over the banal, compulsory sexual shenanigans, I grew to like the show. But I would have liked it better without the been there/seen that "girl-on-girl getting it on in a public bathroom" sex scene (that these have gotten boring tells you everything!), the ridiculous insatiability of the crazy ex-wife character, and the need to utilize every female involved to play horny, sexually voracious, slightly crazy, often nude characters. That Don Cheadle exposed his glutes notwithstanding, but how much more interesting would his show have been had he'd dared flout the premiere cable mandate to hyper-sexualize his show. It didn't need it.

There are others, but the gist has been expressed. The only good thing is that with all this period nudity, "real" breasts are back in vogue. I expect local cosmetic surgeons to be rushed with young actresses demanding the removal of their silicone bags so that they, too, can wench their way to fame and fortune.

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