Jon Hamm has a great job playing repressed advertising executive Don Draper on Mad Men, what appears to be a terrific long-standing life partnership with actress and director Jennifer Westfeldt, and a great deal of critical respect for his work. He’s also got a large … problem. Just as actresses have been plagued by paparazzi shots up their skirts and with flashes that can, at times, expose their nipples, Hamm’s become perturbed by the proliferation of photos of and gossip about his penis, whether he’s caught at an unflattering angle on the street or asked to wear underwear on the Mad Men set so he’s not exposed by tighter-fitting suits.
“They’re called privates for a reason. I’m wearing pants, for fuck’s sake,” he grumbled to Rolling Stone. “When people feel the freedom to create Tumblr accounts about my cock, I feel like that wasn’t part of the deal.”
For an earlier generation of actors, it wouldn’t have been. But for actresses, having your anatomy scrutinized has long been part of the celebrity, er, package. The questions that Hamm faces, from whether he should just invest in some Calvins to whether he should be flattered by the attention, are ones actresses have fielded forever. It’s a framing that acts as if the problem were the kind of underwear starlets and their stylists were picking out, rather than the photographers who zoom telephoto lenses in on their crotches. It says that if people get a glimpse of your body once, they’re entitled to speculate about it forever, and you’re a prude for reminding people that you’re more than the sum of your junk.
What makes Hamm different from, say, Anne Hathaway, who had to weather discussion about the appearance of her nipples in her Academy Awards dress, is that Hamm isn’t used to being objectified. He has outrage left to burn, rather than being exhausted by endless appearance-based prying and insane body standards. It might be easy for men to brush off how women are treated when they’re unaffected. But when they’re subject to the same standards, men often discover quickly how difficult to endure they really are.