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What Can I Do with a Male Nude? (1985)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Over a black screen, photographer John Levitt explains that he is about to photograph his 21-year-old model. He bemoans the new dark age, saying that darkness is ignorance. But he is defiant.

Levitt's studio, with a male nude on a platform, facing the back of the room. Nude photographs litter the floor. Levitt explains that he runs a mail order business for men and women that is very popular. Traditional sex shops, he says, exploit women, which is why feminists have attacked them. To counter his own prejudice, he joined the Anti-Sexist Anti-Patriarchy Mens' Liberation Photography Unit, organising demonstrations, cake baking, and running a crèche.

Levitt describes how naked men have been represented in art from Ancient Greece, through Renaissance painters' interpretation of the Bible, where Adam was more popular than Abraham, to representing concepts and activities like liberation or industry. Meanwhile the model illustrates the examples on the podium. Levitt talks about 1950s muscle magazines sold on the pretext of being about health and fitness, and comments that the invention of the posing pouch meant that more postures were possible as the genitals could be easily covered.

In the 1960s, Levitt says, the new permissiveness led to an explosion of magazines showing nude men, including some specifically for women. However, now a new censoriousness prohibits the depiction of the penis. The model drops a football to show his penis. The photography session comes to an end, and the model dresses in a policeman's uniform. The photographer realises that he did not hire a policeman's outfit and hears police sirens and helicopters outside his house. The policeman approaches the camera, ominously taking out his notebook.