The Deuce Freed The Penis In The Realest, Most Unsettling Way

The Deuce Freed The Penis In The Realest, Most Unsettling Way

We might be currently living through the Donald Glover renaissance, with the musician-actor-general creative genius gifting us with both Atlanta and “Awaken My Love!” within a year of each other. But, before the high-minded artiste Glover appeared, he was a delightful standup comic who once noted, “Penises are gross! That’s why we talk about them all the time and hold them and stuff — because we know they’re gross.” Lately when shows try to free the penis, they bypass Glover’s anatomical theory by leaning towards the erotic or just plain appealing parts of the male form. Yet, we get absolutely none of that romanticism with the premiere of The Deuce, where penises pop up not once, not twice, but three times in a single episode. And, yes, every single time was fairly unflattering, proving The Deuce is deeply obsessed with realism when it comes to the most disturbing parts of sex and sex work.

The first time we see a penis on The Deuce debut "Pilot" it seems to be its own entity, practically detached from any living man; it’s more like a needy random appendage that could belong to anyone. That’s because it appears while Vincent Martino is making his way through the seedy, pre-Giuliani version of Time Square, which is made up of neon signs reading “Girls! Girls! Girls!” and sex workers on various “dates.” One of those so-called “dates” is going down in a phone booth. First we see a glimpse of an old man’s face in unsettling ecstasy. Seconds later, we look into the booth from Vinny’s point of view and see a sex worker on her knees, holding the man’s shiny penis in her hand, mid-blow job. She looks bored of the activity. There is absolutely nothing appealing about the idea of an septuagenarian forcing young women to perform oral sex on him for money — it’s especially unappealing to know that it's happening in the middle of the street. That’s the point: sex work isn’t glamorous in the way movies like Pretty Woman make it out to be, and what these women have to do is oftentimes unnecessarily degrading.

We get further proof of how disgustingly men tend to treat sex workers when another guy’s member shows up. A few minutes after the blow job scene, viewers see Darlene (Dominique Fishback), a young Black sex worker, walking into her apartment. Before Darlene knows what’s happening, a man is beating her, throwing her on the bed, undoing his belt, and screaming, “Fucking whore!” It’s a truly disturbing sight, considering just how rare aggressive sexual violence actually is on a show like The Deuce. The next time we check in with Darlene, her attacker is sitting completely naked on her chair, his entire package in full, prolonged view for all to see. It’s safe to assume almost no one is turned on by the image of the unnamed, sexually assaulting john’s small limp penis.

To make matters even less sensual, the man’s body is in the background as Darlene inspects the bruises on her face, which are slowly turning purple, and she mentions her wrist hurts. “It’s really swole-up, right?” she asks her customer, tenderly touching the spot where her face is changing color. The john's terrible response is, “Oh, jeez, Darlene you know I’m sorry. You got me going tonight.” Later he says he “thinks it was the shoes” that inspired his hateful, implied rape fantasy-obsessed attack. Yes, apparently, it’s Darlene’s fault this monster assaulted her. The contrast of the scene — with a beaten Darlene in the foreground and the nude regular behind her — seems to suggest the entire reason Darlene is in so much pain is because of the unattractive penis looming in the background the whole time.

The last featured penis in The Deuce ’s “Pilot” belongs to Stu (Russell Posner), the young, wide-eyed “birthday boy” john of Candy Merrell (Maggie Gyllenhaal). While Stu doesn’t have the yuck-factor of old man getting a blow job on the street, or an assaultive “regular” customer, there is still something distinctively uncomfortable about the young man. Viewers only see a flash of Stu’s penis before he prematurely ejaculates while Candy puts a condom on the guy with her mouth. Although an extremely nervous Stu attempts to be as polite as one can expect a john to be, his disrespect for Candy surfaces when she won’t give him a second orgasm for free. “It doesn’t seem fair. You barely had to do anything,” he argues. “And it costs just as much for someone who takes longer.” There’s nothing appealing about seeing a teen boy demand sex from a woman simply because he finished quickly. Thankfully, Candy explains as much, using a very appropriate analogy involving car dealerships.

When it comes down to it, The Deuce is a show about sex, who sells it, why they sell it, and who has the power during those transactions. It’s a series that clearly recognizes most sex work is geared towards men, who can be rude, violent, or just generally disrespectful, and that’s not something that’s worth looking at with rose colored glasses. And, in reality, all of that just boils down to penises wanting what they want, when they want it. But, fingers crossed we don't have to see them at their most unflattering states three times an episode for the rest of the Deuce 's freshman season.

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Tags: Fashion, Music, Atlanta, Giuliani, Darlene, Vinny, Donald Glover, Time Square, Glover, Stu, Ashton Kutcher Mila Kunis, Vincent Martino, Darlene Dominique Fishback, Stu Russell Posner, Candy Merrell Maggie Gyllenhaal