Dick Pictures: A Lengthy, Hard-Hitting Analysis

February 19, 2015

By Anya Schultz via Backseat

Aziz Ansari is alone on stage.

“Want to see something amazing?” he asks the sold-out crowd. “Clap if you’re a woman in the audience.”

Loud applause.

“Okay, now clap if a dude has sent you a dick photo before.”

Similarly loud applause.

“Was there any difference in the applause??” Aziz shakes his head.

Aziz looks out at the crowd, baffled by the fact that so many low-res pixelated penises made their way onto so many mobile devices. This particular Philadelphia theater was filled to its 1,870 person capacity. Imagine half of the audience were women. Assuming there isn’t one dude in Philadelphia who has a serious dick picture sending problem, there are at least 935 dicks floating around up in the cloud. That’s a lot of dicks.

I am a 22-year-old female, and I’ve never received a dick picture. And no, this is not a request to all my penis-bearing friends to send me a hard one. But whether it’s the encroachment of technology on our sex lives, the emoji-ridden foreplay of the iMessage world, or the mere human desire to see someone else naked, I have taken it upon myself to investigate whether these pixelated penises carry a far greater meaning than Aziz might have thought.

I’ll have my eggs with a side of dick

Amy had just sat down with her mother to eat breakfast on their kitchen table.

She noticed a notification for a Snapchat from her old classmate, Adam. Curiously, she tapped her finger on the screen. At first she couldn’t figure out what it was, but suddenly she realized. “Oh my god,” she said to herself silently. Peeking out beneath a blanket was an erect penis.

Amy lifted her finger before her mother could see, but she felt personally violated. Amy and Adam hadn’t spoken in years, and they were never romantically involved.

“(An unsolicited dick picture) is like flashing someone in public,” Amy said in an interview. “It’s inappropriate.”

Although both men and women send naked photos, women are more likely to be the targets of unwarranted sexual encounters online. According to a Pew Research Center study on Internet harassment, 25 percent of women age 18 to 24 reported experiencing online sexual harassment, compared to 13 percent of men in the same age range.

An unwarranted dick can be crass and disturbing. But perhaps it’s the context — the consent, the lighting, the placement of the hand — that turns a frightful penis into a desirable masterpiece. Amy, who is 22, isn’t completely opposed to receiving one in the future.

“I have always thought it might be nice to get a dick picture with a nice scenic background,” she said.

Critiquing your dick pic with love

Madeleine Holden’s inbox is full of dicks. Every day dozens of men around the world email Holden pictures of their penises, hoping to land a review on her site, Critique My Dick Pic.

As the Internet’s resident dick picture expert, Holden analyzes the pictures and gives each one a grade. According to Holden, an A+ dick picture will not exclusively focus on the penis. The picture should have a nice composition, pleasant lighting, and a background free of clutter.

“Good dick pics almost always include hands,” Holden said in an email. “Something about their presence humanizes and elevates a dick pic.”

But Holden never comments on size.

“I get a lot of submissions from senders who tell me the exact measurements of their penis to the nearest half inch — both girth and length,” Holden said. “Insecurity about size always makes for the worst penis photos. Size is not an important ingredient for a good photo.”

To Holden, no matter the quality, a dick picture that is unwarranted is hostile and unsexy, especially when it’s so easy to gain consent. Her advice: Just ask, “Would you like to see a nude?”

Dick data

In order to learn more about how these elusive dicks appear on so many handheld devices, I conducted a completely unscientific, purely for amusement, anonymous survey that I let percolate through my mostly college-age friends’ newsfeeds.

More than 100 people responded. Clearly, this is not a random sample of the population, as those who seek to respond to a study on their own volition likely have actually received or sent a dick picture, therefore inflating the positive response rate. With that said, here are my findings.

Of the 28 males who reported they had sent a picture of their penis, 85 percent claimed the pictures were solicited. Often the solicited pictures were sent to significant others during the act of sexting. Many men said they sent dick pictures to their partner in hopes of receiving a nude picture in response. Those in long-distance relationships found sexting a helpful way to show their partner still turned them on. The most reported end goal in sending a dick picture: to masturbate.

Dick pictures, it appears, function as versatile tools. Some use them for attraction, others for surprise, and many as a bartering system for naked pictures in return. One man reported receiving emojis in response. (He didn’t state what emojis.)

Those on the receiving end had a different story to tell.

Out of the men who responded receiving dick pictures from other men, 52 percent reported receiving the pictures from strangers, compared to the 12 percent of the women who received dick pictures from strangers. This may be due to the popularity of apps like Grindr that help men meet up with strangers for hookups.

Of the 47 women who responded to my survey, 72 percent had received a dick picture. Sixty-one percent of the women said these pictures had been solicited. These women would generally respond positively, with either a photo or praise in return. One response: “Wow, zero to one hundred real quick.”

The majority of the responses to the unsolicited penises were of disgust or anger. Women also seemed to deploy humorous tactics to confronting the unwarranted penises that appear on their devices.

One woman responded, “Sorry my phone can’t receive pictures!” even though her phone can receive pictures. Another tends to point out something else in the picture, her example being, “I like that towel.”

Many women respond with an ambivalent “dicks are okay, I guess” attitude. One woman, who claims to receive dick pictures about once a month, described her average dick picture encounter: The male will ask, “Do you want to see my dick?” to which she will respond, “I guess.” He will then send her a photo of his penis, to which her usual response is “cool, thanks man.”

Why does he want her to see his dick so badly?

Biologically speaking, all species were put on this planet to reproduce. As our offspring mature and reach puberty, they begin to realize the importance of their genitalia in reproduction.

At this point, what Freud might call the phallic or the genital stage, some males begin to draw penises. On everything. In “Superbad,” the doctors called it a disease. Others might see it as a desire to conquer the world (or a crush’s middle school math homework) with one’s penis. But perhaps drawing a dick is not too different from texting one.

Kevin, a college senior and regular dick picture sender who prefers to use Snapchat as his method of delivery, used to draw dicks all the time. “I still draw dicks on everything,” he said in an interview. “I draw them jokingly on friends’ notebooks or on Snapchats of people’s faces.”

Kevin sends pictures of his penis to women he is sexually involved with. After sending a dick picture, Kevin looks forward to a photo in response, usually of boobs. In real life, he prides himself on his photography skills, but when sending a picture of his penis he puts no effort into composition. “The dick is the important part, not the light cascading in the background,” he said.

Is this art?

The image of an erect penis has a powerful history.

After the Egyptian god Osiris died, his wife, Isis, scoured the land to reassemble all of his lost body parts. In one version of the story, Isis was able to find every body part, except for the penis, as a fish had eaten it. She then recreated his penis with magic. A magical penis!

In ancient Rome, boys would wear statues of tiny erect penises around their necks to ward off evil spirits. In Greek mythology, the god Priapus is identified by his oversized penis.

Fast forward thousands of years to the microchip generation, and images of dicks seem to take on a new meaning. It took Michelangelo three years to construct David’s penis. Men today craft pictures of their penises in seconds (perhaps minutes if they apply a filter and compose the frame).

There’s something awfully jarring in exposing the inner workings of another human being. Sometimes it unleashes a sexual instinct and causes arousal of the body. Other times an unexpected glimpse of an unwarranted testical can be jarring and disturbing. But for few, the images can be a refreshing reminder that we are fundamentally flesh and bones and boners. We may be the only species to create civilization, but we are still a species at heart. Beneath the hoodies and flannels and power suits with price tags longer than penises themselves, there is the same junk.

Some names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Anya Schultz is the creative director and senior editor of the Backseat. Sometimes she seems excited in her tweets, but most likely her caps lock is broken. CHECK IT OUT @anyaviolet.

Photo: Eva Rinaldi