John Cena’s Oscar Modesty Garment Explained

At the 2024 Oscars on Sunday, John Cena took the stage — seemingly in his birthday suit, save for a winner’s envelope, a Rolex Explorer and some Birkenstocks — to present the award for best costume design. But the wrestler turned actor was actually wearing an item called a modesty garment, often used in film and television to cover an actor’s intimate areas.

After donning the flesh-colored sling as part of a skit that nodded to streaker Robert Opel at the 1974 Academy Awards, Cena was given a curtain-toga to cover up during costume designer Holly Waddington’s acceptance speech for Poor Things.

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While the bit about a popular actor’s bits got its share of laughs, the question remains: What is a modesty garment, or modesty pouch, anyway?

Jessica Steinrock, one of the leading intimacy coordinators in Hollywood and CEO of Intimacy Directors and Coordinators, Inc., tells The Hollywood Reporter that there are usually two kinds. One resembles a coin purse or drawstring bag, and the other looks like a strapless thong that is attached with a little bit of adhesive in the front and the back. The latter is what Cena wore on the Oscars stage, a flesh-colored pocket sans straps that covered his front and back areas.

Steinrock says there are several companies that make modesty pouches. One company, Covvier, was launched in September 2022, as the demand for such specially designed garments rose along with the presence of intimacy coordinators on sets since the #MeToo era. Lucia Shapiro, Covvier co-founder and set costumer on Emmy-winning TV shows, says that while Cena did not don one of their company’s products, which are made from nylon, spandex and lined with neoprene (to act as a barrier between actors during sex scenes), he looks to be wearing a garment filled with a soft cup mold, attached to his skin with an adhesive like Top Stick, a men’s toupé grooming tape used by wardrobe departments to adhere fabric to skin.

Steinrock explains that these garments are created to match the actor’s skin tone. “Having diversity in size and skin tone is really important,” she adds. Intimacy coordinators have more recently started collaborating with costume and hair and makeup departments to further “prioritize actor care and actor dignity,” says Steinrock.

Even before intimacy garments became more of a staple, Shapiro says the industry has always worked to protect actors during intimate scenes, from using fishing wire instead of visible straps with regular underwear, to adding shoe insoles or part of a plushy costume inside underwear.

She notes, “[HBO’s] The Deuce was the first time that it was like, ‘We’re gonna put something in between these actors other than just this flimsy piece of fabric.'”

Shapiro tells THR that the demand for these intimacy garments has been unprecedented since the actors and writers strikes ended at the end of last year — so much so that they are sold out of several products. “It’s great that the culture around sex in film is changing,” she says. “We’re able to help and that we’re selling out of everything because that just means that it’s going in a better direction.”

Representatives for Cena and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have not yet responded to THR’s requests to elaborate on this scant ensemble.

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