Let’s talk about naked men and penises. That first sentence made you feel uncomfortable, didn’t it? The image above these words you’re reading is probably making you uneasy, too. But Tom Ford doesn’t want you to feel that way. In fact, he devoted an essay to the subject of male nudity in the spring/summer issue of Britain’s GQ Style. He explores why looking at and talking about naked men makes us so uneasy. Why, he asks, is it “gay” for another man to comment on another man’s figure, when women can freely tell other women their boobs look great? Like women, men notice how members of their sex look, Ford explains. But “it’s so uncomfortable for us to fit ‘masculine’ and ‘beauty’ together. So we tend to avoid the issue entirely,” he writes. Fascinating. He provides many more Fordulous answers to equally pressing queries. Enjoy our exercise in pretending we got to interview him.
But, Tom, why do you objectify women more than men in your ads?
“As much as I’ve tried, it has been consistently harder to get images of nude men onto magazine pages and billboards than it has nude women. In a society where images of brutal violence are consumed during breakfast, the male nude is one of our last taboos. There’s a double standard at play here: magazines that are happy to fund ads featuring an artfully lit female nude will balk at an image of her male counterpart.”
American fashion magazines don’t show breasts like European ones do. Do you think nude phobia is a uniquely American problem?
“In Sweden or Japan, or other places … casual nakedness at the sauna or the bath house is part of daily life, but in the places that I call home, the fear factor around nudity seems to be rising. I have always found it ridiculous that, in America, if I wanted to run an ad of a woman with bare breasts I had to retouch her nipples. Now why would a woman’s bare breasts, created as nature intended, be more shocking than a bizarre pair of breasts with absolutely no nipples? What could be more perverse?”
So tell us the damn truth about being a woman.
“Women have long been objectified in our society; images of beautiful female forms are everywhere. Go to a dinner party and women are wearing tiny dresses, exposing their legs and baring their toes in high-heeled sandals. They’re basically naked, with a little bit of draping over their body. Think of how tough it must be to be a woman in our culture. Women are constantly judged by their bodies and the size of their breasts.”
But, Tom, what if we lived in a world where penises were breasts?
“Imagine … if our suits were entirely designed to show off our penises. Imagine if contemporary fashion demanded that you left your cock hanging outside your trousers, with perhaps just the head trussed up in a tiny pouch like a dick bra. Everyone would see our cocks all the time, in the same way that fashion features women’s breasts.”
Tell the ladies why male nudity is so very different from female nudity.
“Women may have a hard time understanding this, but imagine if, when they were dressing for a party, their breasts looked great, and then, just as they were stepping out of the taxi to enter the restaurant, their breasts withered to a sad, wrinkled little things. Perhaps the unpredictability of the penis can make us nervous about taking our clothes off.”
But the models in this photo shoot look so comfortable!
“[I]t was almost impossible to find non-professional models to volunteer for the photographs on these pages. The result is a mix of models, actors and ordinary guys … [M]ost of the straight models who showed up had their pubic hair completely shaved; some artistry on the part of the hairdresser was required to get the natural look we wanted.”
But you make clothes, Tom. Gorgeous ones, too. Why are you championing being without them?
“With a more natural relationship to nudity, we might also be freed up to find each other a lot more fascinating. There’s an equality to being naked; the fewer clothes and accessories a person wears the less you judge them, and the more you notice their truest traits, like their eyes or their charisma, their great hands or their one-of-a-kind hair or, most importantly, their personality and character. As much as I love clothing, it gives us one more layer to hide behind.”