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Nudity and sex in horror: Why is it so one sided?

It’s been a one way street.

As someone who enjoys the horror genre, I’ve seen a whole lot of different types of scary films. Something that I’ve seen is very popular in these films, especially slashers, is naked women. Now let’s be crystal clear, I am no prude and I have no issue with nudity in cinema, but over the years as I saw more and more of these films, I couldn’t help but wonder why it was only the females disrobing in these films.

I can think of a whole lot of horror films in which multiple women are completely naked and none of the men are. Do filmmakers think that only people who enjoy looking at naked women are watching horror films? Why is it that the men in these films are never sexualized like the women are??

There are two huge examples of this completely one sided sexualization that come to mind immediately for me: 2009’s Friday the 13th and 2009’s My Bloody Valentine. Let’s take Friday the 13th first, which was of course an installment in the long running Jason Voorhees franchise. Bare breasts and long lingering shots of naked women engaging in sexual acts are heavy in this one…. and guess what? Not a single man in this film is ever naked or sexualized in any way.

There is only one scene where a man is engaging in sex and we only see a few brief shots of his face… meanwhile we get long lasting eyefuls of the woman. I couldn’t help but see the misogynistic nature of it all. But of course I wasn’t at all surprised by any of this because it’s expected of women to be nude and hyper sexual in these films. Again, it’s as if they think the theaters are going to be filled only with people who are attracted to women.

The My Bloody Valentine remake, released that same year, told the same story… plenty of boobs and vaginas and shots of women being sexy, and zero from the men. This film was actually even more tough on it’s female characters. There is an extended scene where a clearly sexist trucker hooks up with a woman, films her secretly, then when she sees the camera and gets mad he throws cash at her and calls her a hooker.

After that, there’s an extended chase scene where this woman is completely naked the whole time. When I first saw this I couldn’t help but think: would they ever request this of a man in a film? The clear answer to that question is no and it was abundantly clear that they decided to have her be completely naked in this 5 minute long scene for no other reason than to sexualize her.

These two films are only two egregious examples of course, there are many other films in this genre in which the women are given this treatment and the men are not. Other horror films where this is the case include: Freddy Vs. Jason, Halloween (2007), Halloween 2 (2009), Hostel (2007), I Spit on your Grave (2010), Piranha 3D, Piranha 3DD, Final Destination 3, House of Wax, and others. Women have always been seen as lesser than in our society and the fight for equality still rages on to this day.

As far as women’s portrayal in film goes, while great progress has been made over history, the horror genre (slashers in particular) is still behind, I’m afraid. The suggestion that I have isn’t that we strip all nudity or sexual content from these films, it’s that we make things more equal. If you’re going to include some sexy fun in these slasher films, don’t thrust all of it on the women in the film. If you’re going to have nude scenes, don’t make it all female… let’s have some fairness.

It makes sense that these films include sexual content, young people are full of hormones and if a group of college students go away to a cabin, there’s probably going to be sex involved. I don’t think we need to strip any and all sex from these films, but we have to stop framing as if the audience has just stepped into a female strip club.

Some of those horror films I listed included some of the most attractive young male actors in the business…. so why weren’t they at all sexualized or included in the “eye candy”. Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, and Travis Van Winkle are all extremely attractive and they aren’t even shirtless at any point during these films.

The one sidedness is impossible to miss. As I said before, it’s not just a theater full of people attracted to women who go see these films… I’m sure the ladies or gay men in the audience wouldn’t have objected to the men getting in on the eye candy action.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a horror film (or any film) having a sex scene or some nudity, let’s not be prudes, BUT can we stop acting as if these films are just made for straight teenage boys. Not only is it unfair and clearly sexist for women to be the only ones sexualized or naked, but it’s also just illogical. Like I said, you think those attracted to men, like myself, wouldn’t have enjoyed seeing Jared Padalecki or Jensen Ackles in some kind of sexy manner?

Honestly, I think the key to adjusting this inequality is getting more female filmmakers in the horror genre. Horror directors are overwhelmingly male and straight, so it’s really no mystery as to why these kind of films only ever sexualize the women.

This is a “norm” about this genre that needs changing. Let’s move on past this and let’s start a new “norm” when it comes to sexuality and nudity in horror.

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