Why People Send Dick Pics – And Why They Need to Stop

A person is looking at their phone, confused

Source: iStock

Editor’s Note: This article is written about the writer’s lived experience of being sent these photos by cisgender men. This is symptomatic of rape culture and the patriarchy in general, which privileges cis men. However, anyone of any gender can send unsolicited genital pictures, and not everyone who has a penis is a man, and vice versa.

Hey there, fella. I see you’re about to send a dick pic to a woman you’re interested in.

I’m going to stop you there real quick. I have a few things I want to sort out before you hit that “send” button.

1) Did she ask to see your genitalia?

2) If not, did you ask her if she would be interested in seeing a dick pic? And did she say “yes?”

If the answer is yes to either of these questions, go on right ahead. Hit that send button. I hope you get some excited emojis back! 

However, if the answer is no, I have to know: Why are you sending an unwanted dick pic?

I have received plenty of unwarranted dick pics. Whether it’s through dating apps or Facebook messages or texting, I’ve seen plenty of dicks in a variety of sizes, circumcisions, and erectile states.

And at this point, I’m pretty dick-pic jaded.

I shrug at most unwanted dick pics and will respond with some thumbs-down emoji or, better yet, the blocking feature through whichever way you contacted me.

But I’m also a curious person. Who knows? Maybe your picture of a pitched tent is an attempt to ask me out camping with you. I would be into that – if you communicated a little more clearly and directly.

What really gets my attention is when men ask for my consent.

Seriously. Nine out of ten times, if a person asks in a respectful and upfront manner to send me a nude photo, I will most likely accept that offer, and then give – ahem – appropriate feedback. But, here’s the catch: You have to be genuinely asking.

Which means you also need to accept “no” as an answer without feeling entitled to my attention or time.

Wanting to express your sexuality and sexual desires isn’t wrong, but without consent, the way you’re going about it is part of rape culture. I’ll expand upon this later, but keep this in mind as you think about your actions in this article.

There have been times where I declined nudes to create a clear and direct boundary around the fact that 1) I’m not interested solely in sex and 2) I don’t want to be pressured to return nude photos.

If you’re a man about to send an unwanted nude photo, I’d like to inform you how I feel receiving these pictures, and how to better communicate your desires in a consensual manner.

Why Do Men Send Unwanted Dick Pics?

When someone sends a dick pic randomly in the middle of a conversation or as a way to greet me, I ask myself, “Why?

I’m a smart girl with expertise in dating and sex. I’m also in school to be a psychologist and a domestic violence and sexual assault peer counselor. Both my professional work and personal life have exposed me to healthy and unhealthy behaviors within romantic and/or sexual relationships.

In short, I get it.

A dick pic is exciting. It’s a clear way of saying, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

It’s a way of showing just how much you want to have sex with someone. Depending on their reaction, it’s also a way to assess how much the other person is into you.

Inadvertently, sending a dick pic is asking, “Do you want to have sex with me?”

I think we all understand that.

We also live in a sexist society that says women’s bodies are open game for men’s consumption. This is why men often catcall us and/or sexually harass us in public and private places.

But by sending an unwanted dick picture, you are showing us that you feel entitled to a woman’s response to your ego and sexual wants.

You are reasserting the patriarchal status quo that we are supposed to be sexual servants always ready to accept your invitation to sex. Just because we have learned that these behaviors are normal and regular doesn’t make them right or acceptable.

When you send an unwanted dick pic, you are forcing someone into a sexual situation they did not consent to.

And you leave no room for women to talk about our boundaries, sexual desires, or wants. Instead, you’re expecting one of the following responses to your dick pic:

a) a sexual compliment
b) a nude photo
c) “When and where?”

This leaves absolutely no room for someone to decline or change topic without addressing an obvious elephant in the conversation.

Which leads to my next point..

Sexual Harassment Happens Online, Too

Whenever I receive a nude photo without being asked, I imagine someone coming up to me on the street and flashing their naked body at me. That’s essentially what’s happening.

Many people aren’t into unsuspectingly being flashed while they’re going about their day. Never mind the fact that this is grounds for sexual assault charges in most states.

Because dick pictures can be sent to someone’s computer or phone, it’s not as public as an actual physical body enacting this harassment and assault in front of you.

Nonetheless, it is sexual assault. 

Many companies are now including sexual text messages and photos between employees as part of their sexual harassment policies.

Though strides have been made legally, our social paradigm has sadly not yet caught up. Most women I’ve talked to about dick pics shrug the phenomenon off because they’re so frequently common.

Don’t misunderstand. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable – it just means that sexual assault is rampant enough that there is a level of desensitization to it.

We all need to learn to take this seriously. This is a newer example of how rape culture evolves with technological advancements to the point where it’s easier to sexually harass someone.

Imagine receiving a dick picture from an anonymous person. What can you do?

All you can do is ignore the message and block the person. But that does little to actually change the actions of the perpetrator or hold them accountable to their actions.

Now I’m not saying it’s the victim’s responsibility to change the perpetrator.

I’m stating the reality that there’s no repercussion for sending an anonymous dick picture – and that’s a problem.

We know why men send unwanted dick pictures, but now we need reasons for you not to. Apparently, needing consent isn’t obvious enough (though it absolutely should be).

Let’s get into how you can share your sexy bits in a manner that doesn’t perpetuate rape culture.

How to Respectfully Exchange Or Send Nudes

Again, first and foremost, consent! I’ve mentioned this several times, and it bears repeating because consent is a huge issue. Before you send your nude photo, you can ask directly if the other person is interested in a sexual conversation with you.

As I stated before, you must be genuinely asking and accepting of “no” as a complete and absolute response. That doesn’t mean asking again if the person wants to have sex a few messages or days later.

You must also accept no response as an answer as well. No one owes you their time, especially when you are sexually propositioning them anonymously or without having prior discussions about sex.

This article cannot cover every single situation you have with someone you want to send a dick pic to. The main point is to know what you want and to communicate that clearly and respectfully.

With that in mind, also note that women are often sought out solely for sexual purposes and may not take lightly to being asked sexual questions.

Until sexism and rape culture have changed to where women are respected and fully humanized, there’s no guarantee (and never will be) that you’ll get to have sex with whomever you want.

Until you do better by asking for consent, respecting boundaries, and not being a grossly entitled dude, you may not have many enthusiastic responses to your unwanted dick pics.

A Dick Pic Story

I’ll share with you some personal experience with this phenomenon.

There was a man I had sex with over a year ago who was visiting from out of town. Over that span of a year, we have kept in contact every few months to see if we’d be in the same city and state – the sex truly was that great.

Unfortunately, we haven’t. But the last conversation (and ironically, in the middle of writing this article), he sent me a dick pic randomly when we were talking about our careers and goals. 

When he did this, I immediately understood that he didn’t care about who I was as a person. It hurt my feelings and felt like he was communicating that my aspirations were meaningless small talk and he was rushing on to the actual meat and potatoes of our interaction – sex.

When he only shows interest in having sex with me, I feel like a sexual object. This does not make me want to have sex with him, or any other man feigning interest until he can get laid.

And unfortunately, this is something that happens quite often with someone I’ve either been on a date with or had sex with before.

Even though I had sex with a man, it doesn’t mean I am consenting to future sexual contact or photos.

Each time you want to initiate a sexual conversation, you need to treat it as a new situation requiring consent. You cannot assume every person is sexually available, even if you had a sexual experience with them before.

People’s feelings and desires change.

Perhaps the person was open to sexual contact a week ago, but now this person is dating someone else. Or perhaps they’re choosing not to date or have sex altogether.

The point is, you don’t know. And you wouldn’t know – unless you ask.

In this situation, I had been intentionally abstinent and celibate for most of this year. Though I’ve exchanged nudes with this man in the past, I didn’t this time because I didn’t want to engage with him sexually – and that includes looking at unwanted pictures of his dick.

***

It’s your responsibility to take into consideration how your actions perpetuate sexism and rape culture. Do not “surprise” someone with a nude photo; it’s always safer to ask than assume.

I implore you to spread this message to other men you know who send dick pics. Yeah, maybe you don’t normally talk about it openly, but you’d be surprised the variety of men in a myriad of professions, ages, and backgrounds that find it open ground to sext women at any time of day.

I’d like to live in a world where I don’t cringe at my e-mail inbox or cell phone while I’m grocery shopping because some dude found it the appropriate time to send me a nude photo.

Hopefully, you’ll be a bit more considerate the next time you send a dick pic. I’m sure women would be very much appreciative of it as well.

Luna Merbruja is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She’s the author of Trauma Queen, an intern at Biyuti Publishing, international sorceress of performance art, and co-coordinator of the 2014 International Trans Women of Color Network Gathering. She’s currently working towards her career as a sex and trauma therapist.