Sex researchers explain the creepy behavior.
Ladies, do not expect any romantic gestures, roses and dinner invitations from Tinder or Insta Boys. Apparently nowadays most guys see sending pictures of their junk as the genuine form of flirtation and courting. The old Hamlet’s question “to be or not to be?” turned into “to send, or not to send a dick pic?” – and a surprisingly large number of men prefer to hit send. According to the 2016 Singles in America Survey with over 5,500 participants, nearly half of the men (47%) admitted to having sent at least one dick pic. And some of them do it regularly.
As published by the 2018 YouGov poll (https://today.yougov.com/) shockingly, 4 in 10 women aged between 18 and 36 have reported being sent unsolicited explicit images of a penis without having asked for one. That’s 40% of adult females!
But why, WHY? What makes some men send photographs of their genitals (colloquially known as an unsolicited “dick pic”) to unsuspecting women? How did we, a modern, sophisticated civilisation, get to a point where “cyberflashing” became totally normal?
Some say the technology is to blame, because it makes the senders of such graphic images more or less anonymous. To look back at history is to see that the dick pic is not a new phenomenon. In the past, the brazen drawing of an often exaggerated dick was seen in ancient Roman graffiti and later became the go-to scribble for school kids, defacing their desks, textbooks or school lockers with some “funny things”. But while these depictions of the “dick” relied on pen and pencil, modern technology allows males to share their real-life junk from the neck down and spread the image to a wider audience in the hope of eliciting a sexual response to those in their inbox. The technological revolution affords great anonymity, a condition which increases the likelihood of engagement in sexualised behavior.
Laura Thompson, a researcher at City, University of London, whose work examines harassment over dating apps, says the issue has until now been trivialized. According to her, the law tends to regard ‘cyberflashing’ as an annoying internet phenomenon as opposed to ‘real’ flashing.
Personally I have received so many pics of penises in my life that I could decorate a whole wall with them. And trust me, my social media profiles do not encourage that at all!! What makes men on the internet think I would enjoy seeing their willis?
Some of the penises I have been “provided” with were big, some small, some bent to the left and others… Well, you get the point. What I have been wondering about was the reaction that the senders were expecting. Like honestly: what is a girl supposed to write back? “Boy, you need to shave”? “Thanks, but a simple HELLO would be better”?
Why did these guys send unsolicited dick pics anyway? What were they hoping to get out of it?
Curious about men’s goals, I have turned to psychology (being a psychologist myself) and surveys. And after a lot of research on why guys get their cucumbers out so often on camera, this is what I’ve discovered:
Until now, there were plenty of hypotheses, theoretical musings, and anecdotal postulations, but little to no actual scientific investigation. One empirical research into the motives men have for sending unsolicited pictures of their genitals is the study “I’ll Show You Mine so You’ll Show Me Yours: Motivations and Personality Variables in Photographic Exhibitionism“, authored by Oswald, Lopes, Skoda, Hesse, and Pedersen. This team of Canadian researchers analyzed answers from 1,087 heterosexual men (reported having sex exclusively with women), aged 16-92, who completed an online survey to assess demographic information, sexual behavior, narcissism, sexism, the motivations behind sending genital pictures and the reactions they hoped to elicit from recipients. About half of the men reported sending unsolicited dick pics, while the other half pleaded “not guilty”.
The survey shows that men who send unsolicited images tend to be younger and less likely to be married. They are also more narcissistic, with an inflated sense of self-worth and a huge need to be admired. And finally, they tend to be more sexist and hostile towards women.
So what has this Canadian study revealed? What are the main motives behind sending unsolicited intimate photos?
1. Reason for sending ‘Dick Pics’: Shock and anger
People often believe that the primary reason gays send unsolicited dick pics is because they are sexist pigs who dislike women and wish to annoy, humiliate, shock, anger, shame, or otherwise express their hostility toward ladies. But actually fewer than 1 in 10 guys admitted sending these photos as a way of exerting power or wanting to make the recipient angry. That’s less than 10% agreeing with the statement “Sending dick pics gives me a feeling of control over the person that I have sent it to”. Similarly, 6% reported misogynistic motivations or general dislike for women.
To sum up: yes, the results do indicate that a significant minority of men send dick pics with the intention of eliciting negative emotions like shock, fear, and disgust but it is NOT the primary motivation. It seems that against popular beliefs, the reactions that men most wish for from the ladies are positive (attraction, desire, willingness to hook up), not negative.
2. Reason for sending ‘Dick Pics’: Transactional mindset
The most common motivation for providing images of male genitals is hoping for reciprocity.
Men who send unsolicited images of their private parts primarily do so with the hopes of receiving either similar images or sexual interactions in return, according to a new study published in the Journal of Sex Research.
So in short: ‘I’ll show you mine and you show me yours.’ Here comes the transactional mindset, ladies and gentlemen! Basically, the male hope is that by sending someone a shot of their junk, the guy will then get a reply with a sexy nude selfie. This is coupled with the hope to generate sexual excitement in recipients, hopefully leading to some sexting and you know, naughty stuff being exchanged over the phone lines. Sweet preludium to cyber sex.
3. Reason for sending ‘Dick Pics’: A numbers game
For others, it is “a numbers game”. While most unsolicited pictures are ignored or rebuffed by the receivers, there is the occasional woman who responds in kind, and if one picture “works”, it is worth it. One of the survey participants said: “I realize it’s a turn off to many – but to some it is a quick and easy way to gauge interest.”
When you consider that a majority of men will send dick pics to multiple ladies, researchers believe this to be a strategic motivation in the sense that with a wider pool of recipients, the chances of someone responding favorably increases. And of course, the investment from the male is minimal at best.
4. Reason for sending ‘Dick Pics’: Showing off
Having a big penis sure is wonderful and cool, but it’s probably more fun if multiple ladies know about it, right? As one of the participants of the study put it “having a big dong sucks if nobody gets to see it.”
Letting people see how well equipped you are might work to your advantage.
5. Reason for sending ‘Dick Pics’: Boosting low self-esteem
Some who shared their experiences anonymously wrote about not feeling confident with their bodies, and wanting praise. One of the participants reported that he used to send intimate pictures all the time. “I largely had poor self-esteem and desired to be wanted sexually.” Another one said “When they were well-received, I felt good about it, from the boost to my self-image.” Yet another responded: “I’ve done it a few times in the past. Sending the pic around made me feel good about myself. But really I just kinda wanted someone to find me attractive. I think it’s mostly about validation.”
Although most men will never admit it, they are often very insecure about their bodies, especially down there. So, unconsciously, they just want someone to say they look nice, or that they are attractive.
OK, sending an unsolicited dick pic is really not the best way to receive validation, but still: that’s the real driver. Men are just desperate for someone to tell them they are OK, “enough”, that they are wanted.
Yet, what many ‘dic-pic-senders’ do discover, is that the validation they are getting from it is shallow and not worth everything attached to it. It is more of a misguided replacement for trying to make actual meaningful connections with real people as opposed to anonymous strangers on the internet.
6. Reason for sending ‘Dick Pics’: turning women on
Only about 18% of men reported sending unsolicited images for their own satisfaction. Most guys send dick pics with the intention to turn women on. They hope to make the person who receives the image feel excited or attractive.
Scholars have argued that men are conditioned to see their penis as central to any experience of pleasure, and that penetrative sex is the ideal to achieve. They believe that’s what women are mainly interested in. The dick pic is an extension of this thinking. It isn’t surprising considering that mainstream, heterosexual pornography is so focused on the penis and penetrative vaginal sex that some men might actually believe that’s what their female partners really want.
The verdict on dick pics:
The Canadian study on motivation behind sending dick pics authored by Oswald, Lopes, Skoda, Hesse, and Pedersen, revealed that the main reasons are the hope for a transaction (‘I’ll show you mine and you show me yours’) or partner hunting (‘you’ve seen my dick, let’s hook-up’). The most commonly reported motivation was that they were hoping to receive a photo in return (44% reported this), followed by finding a sexual or romantic partner (33%). In other words, most senders seemed to hope that the recipient would be turned on and willing to reciprocate, or perhaps to go on a date.
These findings challenge a popular theory about why guys send unsolicited dick pics, which is that they’re primarily interested in shocking the recipient.
Only 18% reported sending dick pics for personal gratification. This included getting a sexual thrill out of sending such photos, wanting to receive positive feedback about one’s penis, as well as masochistic motivations, like wanting to be humiliated or receive insults about their penis.
Lastly, another 6% reported sending dick pics for reasons revolving around an unresolved childhood conflict, such as being shamed by one’s parents about nudity at a young age and sending dick pics as a way of compensating for that. This suggests that there may be Freudian factors behind this behavior for at least a few guys.
If you’re a guy who has sent or considered sending an unsolicited dick pic, what should you take away from all of this?
Our advice? Know your audience.
If you’re doing it to exert dominance or control over someone, because you dislike women, or because it’s purely for your own gratification without regard for others’ feelings, please don’t. Just STOP. Take a break from your phone and get some help working through those issues.
If you’re doing it because you see trading sexy photos as a form of flirting and you want to turn your partner on, then ask if it’s okay to send the dick photo first.
Men tend to overestimate women’s interest in receiving nude imagery based on their own receptivity in reversed roles. That means dick pics are basically YOU projecting your own desires on those to whom you send the nudes. Women generally DO NOT WANT unsolicited dick pics and actually see them as a form of sexual harassment and abuse. As a woman I find unsolicited dick pics to be offensive, harassing, and a massive turn-off. Knowing that should be enough to make that dick go limp at the flash of a camera or phone. If making the recipient feel uncomfortable instead of aroused is not exactly your goal, then be careful here, ok? Think before you hit that “send” button.
Some men said they had stopped sending unsolicited photographs after a negative response: women have either replied with “WTF???” or simply blocked the unfortunate suitors. Rightly so.
By the way: how many women do you know who send photos of their vaginas to men they’ve only just met on Tinder?
If a woman wants dick pics, she will ask for them. Or as a man you can ask your date if she would like to receive one. Start slowly, and make sure the dick pic is truly wanted and consensual. Sending unsolicited images is just like pulling your dick out in front of someone by surprise. Sure, loads of people are into that, but not everyone.
Obtaining consent isn’t just likely to result in a more favorable response, though — it is also just the right thing to do for any sexual behavior. Amen.