male nudity

Game of Thrones Has Never Been Afraid of Penises

Theon Greyjoy, owner of one of Game of Thrones’ most famous penises. Photo: HBO

If you wanted more penises on Game of Thrones, Sunday night’s episode gave you a penis alright, with a jarring close-up of a Braavosi actor examining his afflicted genitals — warts and all. Across the internet, the move was celebrated as an end to the show’s usual dick-shy ways: “Game of Thrones finally showed a penis,” wrote The Telegraph. The series “finally showed its first penis,” wrote Marie Claire. “It’s about damn time,” said Stephen Colbert.

As media talking points go, this one has never made such sense: Since its inception, Game of Thrones has shown more penises than just about every other premium-cable show that’s aired since Spartacus. While everyone was astonished at the wave of full-frontal male nudity that hit TV in 2015, Thrones has been showcasing the true D since 2011. At the risk of outing myself as Vulture’s resident pervert, here are all the adult penises we’ve seen in Game of Thrones before Sunday. (Season three also saw a newborn baby’s penis, but that felt kind of gross to include in the list.)

• Theon Greyjoy showed an unrealistically flaccid post-coital penis during a scene with Ros in season one.

• Hodor flashed a large prosthetic* penis in season one that actor Kristian Nairn called “very realistic-feeling.”

• Also in season one, the wine merchant (Simon Lowe) that attempted to poison Daenerys went full-frontal for the scene in which he was stripped naked and forced to walk behind Drogo’s khalasar.

 In season four, the Meereenese champion showed the head of his (potentially prosthetic) penis when he urinated on the ground before his duel with Daario.

• Olyvar goes full-frontal in a brothel scene in season four.

• A customer and prostitute in Littlefinger’s brothel both briefly showed their penises as the Sparrows rounded up sinners in season five.

• During Cersei’s walk of atonement in the season five finale, a man in the crowd flashed his penis at her, and was later killed by zombie-Gregor for his trouble.

*If you want to say that prosthetic penises shouldn’t count as male nudity, that’s fine, but would you also make that argument about the show’s use of merkins?

By our count, that’s two regulars, one supporting character, and a bunch of one-offs, with Theon and Olyvar the only ones to show their penises in a sexualized context. It’s not much compared to the bevy of King’s Landing strips the show has served up, but it’s not nothing. And while fans, including Anna Kendrick, have complained that main characters like Daario and Jon Snow haven’t shown their privates, the rate of full nudity among the series’ stars is fairly equitable for both genders: Of GOT’s main and supporting female characters, only Cersei** Melisandre, Osha, and Ros have gone full-frontal.

The thing that gets elided in much of the conversation about Thrones’ nudity gender imbalance is that the harshness of onscreen nudity isn’t the same for each gender’s respective body parts. GOT has shown plenty of shirtless dudes, but — New York state law notwithstanding — no one would argue that this is the same as the show’s parade of topless women. The campaign to get more cocks on Game of Thrones often assume that penises are a roughly equivalent level of nudity as a female breast, but in real life, we’re mostly comfortable agreeing that’s not the case.

Is a flaccid penis a greater level of nudity than a vulva? I’m not sure. An erect penis clearly is, which is why we haven’t seen one of those on HBO since Tell Me You Love Me. (A popular urban legend says British censors once used a peninsula in Scotland to define the exact level of tumescence at which a penis becomes obscene.) Many men would say their genitals would feel more exposed onscreen than a  woman’s during a full-frontal scene, though it’s hard to tell if that’s just masculine insecurity talking.

We’ll end with a note on rears: Butts are the one facet of nudity that’s more or less equally scandalous for both genders, and on that count, Thrones is fairly equitable. As the tumblr Game of Butts can attest, eight of the show’s prominent male characters have shown their buns, compared to seven prominent female characters. It’s like they say: a Lannister always shows his butts.

** This post originally left out Cersei from the list of female characters who have shown full-frontal nudity.

Game of Thrones Has Never Been Afraid of Penises