The Peenissance

HBO’s Minx Is The Latest Addition to The Penis Renaissance

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If you thought Euphoria had a lot of on-screen peen, get ready for HBO’s newest show, Minx, which ups the ante with a whopping 18-penis montage in its first episode. Oh, and these penises are real, not prosthetics.

Minx follows Joyce (Ophelia Lovegood), a feminist in ‘70s California who’s roped into the softcore porn mag business by publisher Doug (Jake Johnson). Together, they start a new erotic magazine aimed at women, inspired by real-life magazine like Viva and Playgirl.

Of course, a magazine needs a centerfold, so the two set off on a casting call for the perfect penis, presented as a minute-long montage where about 18 men strip, strut and dance for the camera.

That fictional casting call required a real one, conducted by showrunner Ellen Rapoport, who told the New York Times she looked through hundreds of submissions, all sorted into piles based on physical traits.

“Like: small ones, big ones, crooked ones, foreskin,” Rapoport said. “I just wanted it all.”

“All” meant getting some penis diversity. Rapoport didn’t want the picture perfect prosthetic penises usually seen on TV.

“I just wanted to make the whole show feel grounded and real,” she said. “I tried to do that with the penises as well.”

But using real dicks is tricky. “Penises are delicate and annoying,” Rapoport explained. “You have to maintain the continuity from shot to shot.” Thankfully, with a montage scenario like Minx’s, each penis only got about a second of screentime, so continuity wasn’t an issue.

“If anyone needs me I will be recovering from the 18 penises I met this week,” Rapoport wrote on Instagram after shooting the scene in December 2020.

 
 
 
 
 
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The montage is designed to put the viewer in Joyce’s shoes as she discovers the nudity-saturated world of pornography. “It’s necessary,” Rapoport said. “It helps you get into her head and almost takes you on a penis journey with her.”

Couldn’t that have been accomplished without parading 18 penises across the screen?

​​“Sure,” Rapoport said. “I just don’t think it would have been as good.”

Minx is just one of many recent shows to showcase male nudity. Euphoria, Sens8, Sex/Life, Succession, Pam & Tommy, The White Lotus — the list goes on. What’s the reason for this penis renaissance on television?

There’s a number of possible explanations: the prevalence of pornography, the increase in queer showrunners, the implementation of intimacy choreographers on sets, the need to find new ways to grab audience attention.

Another part of it is evening the playing field. Female nudity has been common for a long time on premium cable — Game of Thrones comes to mind as one of the biggest offenders — but until recently, penises remained rare. Current standards still prevent shows from showing erect penises; only flaccid dicks are allowed to be shown in a sexual situation. But modern showrunners and directors are embracing that challenge. 

Luke Persiani, one of the actors featured in the montage, said he’s glad to help close the nudity gap: “If I can do some part, big or small — hopefully, most people think big — to bring a little more balance to that, I’m happy to do so.”

Minx is now streaming on HBO Max.

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