After hearing countless stories from friends of mine complaining about the dick pics they receive constantly, last year, I set out to answer the very h ard and extremely academic question: if “nobody” wants a dick pic, then why are dick pics sent out at such high rates?
Through interviewing 30 of my straight friends (18 girls and 12 guys), I started to notice a few things about the heterosexual dating world.
1. Unsolicited dick pics are almost always sent for the purposes of trying to get a nude photo back in return.
While unsolicited dick pics may sometimes feel like a form of digital violation to the person receiving them, dick pics are actually not being sent as a way to i ntentionally shock the person receiving the picture (at least, not in a clichéd trenchcoat exhibitionist sort of way), but rather, they are sent in hopes of getting a nude photo back in return.
Often, guys would say that they had never sent an “unsolicited” dick pic, but then they would also admit that the girl had never explicitly asked for the picture either. I started to notice that something wasn’t quite adding up. What seemed to be happening within these interactions is that guys would misinterpret signs as sexual, and this misunderstanding seemed to be symptomatic of a much larger problem, that guys were lacking an understanding of what consent means, and what sexual respect is.
2. There is such a thing as a solicited dick pic.
While we tend to think about dick pics as something that nobody asks for, there were definitely some girls who specifically requested them. Although when girls asked for dick pics from guys, they were typically solicited for much different reasons than for why guys wanted nudes from girls. That is, when girls asked for these pictures, it was usually for reasons like: blackmail insurance for nudes they had sent (in case their nudes were to be leaked), for intimate purposes within long distance relationships, or just for building better trust with the person.
However, while guys often admitted to using nudes as masturbation material, girls typically laughed at the idea that they would ever use a dick pic to masturbate with.
3. Both guys and girls send unsolicited nudes, but we interpret them in radically different ways.
Something I did not expect to find when I began these interviews was the prevalence of unsolicited nudes sent by girls. And when these unsolicited nudes were sent, both guys and girls expressed that guys should appreciate the unsolicited nudes. This difference in unsolicited interpretations, I think, has much to do with a culture that encourages male heterosexuality and discourages female sexuality (see: double standards in regards to slut shaming).
However, beyond this simple narrative, there are also a few subtle differences at play:
A belief in sex/gender essentialisms
An essentialism, in the way I am using it, refers to the belief that men and women have naturally different seuxal desires biologically. Through my interviews, these ideas were typically expressed in one of two ways. First, that men were inherently more sexual than women (aka: men want more sex than women do), and second, that men were inherently more visually stimulated than women (aka: women are more emotionally stimulated than men). However, I think that part of this explanation has to do with the types of pictures being exchanged. In other words, a dick pic is just that, a picture of a dick without any context whatsoever, whereas a nude coming from a girl typically involves much more of a whole person attached to the picture (it’s not just a closeup of a vagina, like a “clit pic,” but rather, there is usually more of a body involved in the picture).
I say this because throughout my interviews, girl did admit to being stimulated visually, but it was usually towards images of their masculine ideal, a fuller male body embedded within a context (like a male model or a celebrity of some sort), not just a stray dick practically severed from a dude’s body. In other words, girls were more likely to find a picture of Justin Bieber’s full body more appealing than a Justin Bieber dick pic on its own.
The ugly organ
The most prevalent and recurring theme throughout almost all of my interviews, agreed upon by both guys and girls, was the notion that the male penis is an objectively ugly organ. In fact, not one person, male or female expressed to me that they thought the penis was a particularly attractive member. And while I do not offer an explanation for this narrative, I do think that it raises quite a few interesting questions about the nature of heterosexuality. For instance, what does it mean about the nature of heterosexuality that both heterosexual partners can be grossed out, or at least admit to being grossed out by one of the main sexual organs involved within heterosexual sex?
4. Heterosexual guys send other heterosexual guys unsolicited dick pics.
Dicks are considered to be so ugly that even straight guys would send other straight guys pictures of their dicks as a way to gross each other out.
However, I tended to see this sort of a “joke” as operating more like that of a heterosexual challenge. What I mean by calling it a “heterosexual challenge” is that this transaction was used as a way to reaffirm that both guys exchanging and receiving the dick pics were n ot gay, but rather, both guys had to claim that they were still straight and repulsed by the pictures, not turned on by them.
However, this “joke” can only work if both partners are heterosexual, because if the sender or the receiver were to be gay, the dick pic would then be viewed as sexual (as either inciting some kind of homosexual activity, or at the very least, becoming the potential object of a homosexual fantasy, making the joke much more of a “real” sexual activity). In this way, straight guys reaffirm their own heterosexuality through making a joke about the dick pic, claiming that they are not gay nor turned on by it, but instead, grossed out by it.