The Real Reason Everyone Is Talking About The Affair's Full-Frontal Male Nudity

Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.
Sunday night's season 2 premiere of The Affair, a show already well-known for its explicit treatment of sex, pushes the boundaries even further by presenting a moment of full-frontal male nudity. The man in question is not one of the series leads, but a recurring character named Max (played by Josh Stamberg), who was Noah's (Dominic West) best friend in season 1 and is apparently cozying up to Noah's soon-to-be ex-wife Helen (Maura Tierney) in the show's second season.

The scene itself isn't particularly shocking or unusual. Helen and Max are together in a hotel room, having morning sex after having spent the night together. The most shocking thing in the scene might be the revelation that Max has just purchased the hotel they're in (hello, Mr. Money Bags). What's remarkable about it is how real it is. It's shown from Helen's point of view, and it appears she's so not into it, but rather simply going through the motions while they have sex, appalled afterward at the mess they're leaving for the hotel staff to clean up. The scene isn't sexy or romantic at all. It reads like an instance of average to below-average sex, a kind which we've all experienced.

What is remarkable about this full-frontal scene is why it happened. Tierney told Vogue that it was a moment one of the male executive producers on the show, Jeff Reiner, made a hard push for, while the female co-creator of the series, Sarah Treem, wasn't so interested in it at first. Tierney called it a "crusade" for Reiner, who wanted to really go for it, given the show's consistent use of sex to push the narrative forward.

A major part of the impetus for the scene seems to be a push for parity among the sexes. The women on the show, especially Ruth Wilson, who plays Alison, spend much of season 1 in the buff and having sex. In fact, Wilson told Stephen Colbert during a recent Late Show appearance that she'd like to see the camera linger as long on male faces (specifically on West as Noah) as it does on hers during moments of orgasm.

As far as the scene itself, Tierney told Vogue that it was just as awkward to film as it appears on-screen. "It was a closed set supposedly, but at one point I looked around, and I was like, 'Everyone’s in here milling around!' It was like the most unclosed closed set ever. I’m wearing, like, a thong with no sides on it that’s glued to my body that’s flesh colored. It’s bizarre. You have to laugh."

And after most viewers got over the shock seeing full-frontal male nudity last night, laugh is likely exactly what they did watching the uncomfortable scene.
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