I am an occasional recipient of a big, juicy cock. Veiny, purple, erect usually, and disembodied from the owner. I have never requested these, and they all belong to men I have never met. I have quite a collection. If you’re a woman with a public social media profile, you probably do too.
After receiving the latest addition to the collection, I got thinking about the modern institution of the unsolicited dick pic (UDP). Specifically, the UDP from a stranger who has never met you and knows little or nothing about you. Most women who have dated online will be familiar with the drill. You wanted to chat? Well here’s my cock to help you decide whether to meet for a coffee. Women who look vaguely attractive and maybe show skin/booty/swimwear/lingerie on Instagram are also asking for it, it seems. Thankfully, these penises are in digital form, so no obvious, immediate harm done to us, other than a temporary feeling of revulsion and WTF. The standard ‘feisty woman’ response is: (1) reply in strong language to the sender of the image (2) save a screen shot (3) block him and (4) post the screen shot somewhere so that others can laugh and pre-emptively block the creep. The pithy, witty responses on the internet sent to UDP offenders are a source of much hilarity. One of my friends set up a Facebook page dedicated to dick pics she receives. When she gets a new one, she posts it up and sends him a link.
Is this one of those things that we have to accept as the new normal? Once I started pondering this question, I had some others:
- Why do gay men, who love dick, like dick pics, whilst straight women, who also love dick, hate them?
- Do men realise that the vast majority of women hate UDPs? If so, why send them?
- Are there any women who enjoy receiving UDPs? There must be some because if there is no market for them, why would men continue to send them?
- Are women right to shame men who send a UDP?
- What’s the different between a dick pic and a boob pic?
Here’s also what was making my head hurt.
- Creeps send UDPs
- Not all men are creeps.
- Some men are good men.
- Some good men also send UDPs.
- Does that make them creeps?
I realised I was making a number of assumptions based on my own experiences and decided to run a quick, completely unscientific poll on Instagram. About 180 people participated in the poll, so it’s a very small poll. Remember, even in proper surveys, people lie. Many people participate without understanding the question. I had several men answer the questions for women, and vice versa, so the results are heavily caveated. But here they are nonetheless.
Ladies have you ever received an UDP that you welcomed?
Ladies, have you ever gone on to interact in a positive way with the sender, like gave your contact details or met with the sender in person?
People with penises, have you ever had a positive reaction from a woman to your dick pic?
Ladies have you ever sent an unsolicited pic of your boobs or vagina?
The fundamental question I am trying to answer is why men like to share pictures of their genitalia. The poll data (as unscientific as it might be), together with anecdotal data, indicates strongly that most women hate these disembodied images of flesh from strange men. I know that not all men do it, and fewer still do it to strangers. But is there an innate male urge, whether acted upon or not, to show off the penis? Think back to David Beckham and the alleged sexting incident with Rebecca Loos. This was about 10 years ago so I’ll forgive you for not remembering. A man who knows that he’s fêted for his looks, charm and masculinity, but still not immune from the pull of the nude selfie (allegedly) to show off his Golden Balls. From the poll and subsequent discussions with participants, I circled around these possibilities:
A digital form of peacocking.
“Here’s my beautiful body, I am showing it off to you. My penis is the most important part of my body, the apex of masculinity and manhood. By sharing it with you, I am showing you how masculine I am. Hopefully I will succeed in bedding you, but if not, I will keep trying until someone does”
“I’m horny and need to get laid soon. My brain signals are clouded by my hormones and whilst, in more rational moments, I understand that this is not how to woo a woman, I don’t really care right now because this might get me one step closer to getting laid. You have a picture on the internet. Even though I went looking for it, you look totally up for it too.”
Like the flasher in the dirty raincoat, this guy knows it is offensive to show you his arousal. He does it because your disgust and revulsion is a response he can control – he expects it, and enjoys it. In that moment, he has power over the woman’s physical and emotional responses. The power feeds his arousal. The UDP from this guy is intentional, low-level sexual assault.
Ignorance and misunderstanding
Women are nowadays confident in showing their bodies off. We stand out there in the world, sexually confident, wearing clothes that make us feel sensual and proud of our bodies. We put ourselves out there on dating apps, making approaches, not waiting around for our dance card to be filled. Some men, especially younger men, misunderstand our intentions. Their selfishness and ego think that this is all done for them and their gratification. “This is how you make me feel when I see you looking all sexy in your lingerie and swimwear. It’s all your fault.” When these men are informed that we are posing in swimwear and lingerie for ourselves, this is sometimes brand new information for them.
Here’s my message to all men, whether you’re a UDP sender or not.
Even if a straight women wants to get as quickly as possible to a straight fuck, a UDP is rarely the teaser she wants. She is more likely to be drawn in by information about the man generally, e.g., is he going to be attentive in bed, have a nice pair of biceps, have sexy but kind eyes, give great head, have terrific fantasy scenarios, smells nice. A penis is just an organ, a body part – removed from all context. You don’t know this woman or anything about her desires. You don’t know what she might find triggering. Whilst some women get aroused by images, many more women get more turned on by words and deeds. Gay men are clearly different, because they are men, and they get the whole penis-obsession. For them, it is an essential component of the transaction. Straight women, even those who are partial to a penis, generally only like penises that are attached to people they know and like. Yes, you’re proud of your penis, I get that. It gives you so much pleasure and you want to share that pleasure around. I’m proud of my body and I want to share the pleasure of my lingerie around. Big difference – whilst almost no one of any gender would be offended by me coming up to them in person as I am dressed on Instagram, very few women would be happy to have an unknown cock shoved straight into their eye-line. It may seem unfair, but that’s life.
To all the good men out there (“oh no, she said good men, that’s not me,”, said no one ever), if you are struggling with this and can’t understand why it is rude/offensive/bad-taste to send a UDP, when you have only the best of intentions, remember – IMPACT vs INTENT. Judge your actions by the impact they will have (assuming you are able to think rationally) rather than your intentions. And the odds of a positive response are not good!
The arrival of the camera phone has revolutionised crime-fighting, documented the overthrow of states and police brutality, enabled us to express ourselves through a new medium and, most significantly, changed human courtship rituals. Whilst sexting can be seen as simply a modernised version of the lusty, romantic correspondence that two people engaged in for centuries, there has been no equivalent of the nude selfie that I know of. If the characters in Jane Austen’s books could have sent nudes to each other, would they have done so? I’m pretty sure wartime sweethearts would have done so. Pictures enhance the epistolary build up to a sexual encounter, a love affair, a romantic relationship. Allowing that person to enter by stages into your private areas is part of crossing the bridge of desire, from wanting to having. The digital age’s gift is also its curse.
Rarely do people set out with the intention to cause offence. Many are ignorant or selfish or horny, or all of the above. As satisfying as it is to shame the guy who sends the UDP by reposting it, it is possible that we women, who are increasingly certain of our position in society, need to help men learn about healthy, respectful interactions with women. Perhaps the better response is to tell them that this is unacceptable, without immediate condemnation. If they turn out to be unrepentant, or go on the attack, then calling out their behaviour publicly is an appropriate response.
Mentors in Violence Protection shared this rather grim infographic to underscore that seemingly innocuous disrespect forms the foundation in a hierarchy of gender inequality.
Whilst it is not a woman’s responsibility to educate a potential aggressor on how to be less aggressive, society has a collective responsibility to educate a generation of men, especially young men and boys. A more positive spin on this infographic would be to ask how to convert this into a virtuous hierarchy. Perhaps open dialogue, connecting through positive experiences and teaching skills for empathy might, if we plug away at it with as much energy and effort as we do into divisive rhetoric on the internet, MIGHT result one day in Mutual Respect and Gender Harmony making it to the top of the hierarchy. A hierarchy of equality. Such utopian dreams may just be possible this century and I hope my children live to see that day.
NB: If anyone would like to collaborate on some proper research into this topic, do reach out to me.