Parts is parts

Breasts: A Documentary and Private Dicks: Men Exposed

Sharon Stone crowed through her Basic Instinct 2 press junket that being 40-something and naked is “quite brazen,” while Hollywood patted itself on the back for courageously showing us how women really age. Alas, Stone’s latest carefully lit, personally trained and surgically enhanced anatomy is hardly reassuring to most of us. As one SN&R staffer quipped, “She may be 45, but those tits can’t be more than 5 or 6.”

Movies, the Internet and sex-reliant advertising have let us see a lot of other people naked while simultaneously destroying our perspective on what the human body actually looks like. For a reality check, try the recently released Breasts: A Documentary and Private Dicks: Men Exposed.

Filmmakers Meema Spadola and Thom Powers stuck to a simple formula for both features: gather people of all ages, body types and backgrounds; interview them about their bodies while they’re naked; and break up the interviews with a few risqué vintage cartoons and laughably dated educational videos. Though frank discussions of women’s body images are hardly groundbreaking in a Vagina Monologues world, Breasts offers moments of captivating sincerity. An elderly woman’s confession of a double mastectomy’s effect on her sex life is heart-rending, and a small-breasted modern dancer’s discussion of her lovers’ Lolita fantasies is creepily seductive. Dicks is at once more interesting—if only because we rarely hear men discuss their anatomy with the consciousness-raising intent embraced by the women’s movement—and less so, as many of the subjects seem inhibited or given to boasting.

But just as a documentary can reveal more about its creator than its subject, so can the act of watching one reveal more about the viewer than about the film. Study your own reactions to 70-year-old breasts, surgically enhanced penises and bodies that haven’t undergone rigorous Pilates training, and you’re bound to gain some perspective on your own body issues.