It’s easy to see, logistically speaking, where the meteoric rise of dick pics originated.
The advent of send-and-destruct apps like Snapchat has taken the risk out of swapping nudes, and in many ways normalised it.
In fact, dick pics have become such a ubiquitous part of modern courtship that my mum knows about them, and even spent one tipsy afternoon scrolling through my camera roll with me marking them out of ten and occasionally grimacing.
They’ve also become a staple of popular culture, a kind of shorthand for laughably misguided and unwanted attention.
Polling a group of my friends, predominantly women and gay men, about their experience with dick pics, I found that a lot of them weren’t really into them, even when they’ve been actively solicited. And when I talked to a schlong-sending friend about it, he likened the interest women have in dick pics to “the way you feel when a cat brings you a dead bird”.
Now it might just be me, but I’m going to throw it out there: that isn’t a particularly sexy metaphor, is it?
And if even the people sending the snaps are aware that the pictorial representation of their sexual potency is feeble at best, then why do they even bother? What is the thought process behind a dick pic?
I decided that it was up to me to become the Louis Theroux of badly framed pictures of wangs. Except unlike Louis Theroux, literally every single question I would ask would be “why?.” So I asked around.
Amongst the men I asked, there was definitely a sense that their dick pics are genuinely great. Almost every guy I asked told me that they’re such prolific senders because women just love their cocks, and most of them coquettishly suggested that it was because of their superior size or shape or texture.
And, y’know, maybe I did just happen to speak to a portion of society with beautifully crafted dream phalluses. Maybe they were all right, and the exchange of pictures is simply a way of sharing their gift with the world.
But delusions of grandeur aside, what do dudes think their recipients are getting out of it? Swept off their feet with lust? Overcome with passion? Well… kind of.
A good number of the people I talked to were insistent that their partners loved the pictures (and they probably did), but others were aware of their limitations. One guy told me about his long distance relationship, in which swapping naked pictures was a habit. Did his girlfriend enjoy it, though? Not so much.
“Dick pics did absolutely nothing for her, and looked kind of weird, but she accepted it was a ‘sexy’ thing and so allowed it”.
I found similar reactions from friends. Whilst a few of us had received genuinely outstanding and, dare I say it, arousing dick pics, the vast majority were kind of accepted with an arch ambivalence.
It’s just ‘what you do’, right? It can be fun, sure, but it never really hits the spot, sexting wise. Maybe the dead bird/cat analogy was a bit strong, but most dick pics are at least a slightly mangled but still breathing mouse.
So, what have we established so far?
- The thought process behind the average dick pic is probably nothing more complex than “I really want to show this thing off, and to hell with cropping out the weird dirty bowl that’s taken centre stage next to my semi-erect dong”
- The thoughts of the average dick pic recipient is probably “meh”
- Senders often get more out of it than recipients
There’s obviously a lot of healthy fun going on, but there’s also a dark side to dick pics. When I wrote a tweet asking men to get in touch, I was, maybe predictably, bombarded with dick pics.
Some of these were ostensibly jokes (ha ha, look at this tiny penis, look at this man having sex with a pumpkin) and some were from men who seriously did want to show me their penis, but the pattern was the same: it was a sense of power.
I talked to one guy who operates one of those Twitter accounts that tirelessly sends pictures of dicks to random women on the Internet. “It’s not a sexual thing,” he told me, “it’s a sense of empowerment. I get a kick out of watching them be weirded out by it… it doesn’t get me off sexually, it’s more of a psychological thing”.
“It’s not a sexual thing, it’s a sense of empowerment. I get a kick out of watching them be weirded out by it… it doesn’t get me off sexually, it’s more of a psychological thing”.
This is a common trope that is often used to intimidate or silence women online – if you’re a woman on Twitter, Reddit or 4chan and you start to get out of line, you’re often subjected to sexually violent or aggressive language or images.
I’ve been bombarded with hardcore porn a few times after arguments with men about feminism, for example, and you only need to look at any high profile woman’s Twitter replies to get a glimpse of some of the horrific sexual language they have to trawl through on a daily basis.
Unsolicited dick pics, whether sent as a joke or in the form of an anonymous account, can be a reflection of this.
Not only is it a way of attempting to silence a woman, but it gives the sender a sense of power; power over the person they’re sending it to and the way they act online. They can be a weapon in the arsenal of the professional misogynist troll and, from personal experience, a fairly effective one.
An unsolicited dick pic from a boyfriend or someone you’re dating can be annoying and gross but at heart misguided and forgivable. A disembodied picture from a total stranger in response to your existing as a woman online? Sinister and violating.
So, did I unearth any profound truths about dick pics? Probably not. But I did learn a few things. At best, dick pics are an easy way to have fun with someone you’re banging or want to bang; at worst, they’re used as a way to intimidate, threaten or unnerve. Most of the time? They’re just kinda boring.
Up your game, guys. Up your game.