Ever been sitting there minding your own business and you get a notification and all of a sudden, bam! There is a dick on your phone. With the continued rise of social media more and more the man standing on the street with a trench coat is being replaced by random fellas saying hello with their meat and two veg rather than with their mouth. People are cyberflashing strangers.
Cyberflashing: the act of sending unsolicited nudes (usually penises) to someone’s digital device knowing they will unwittingly open it.
With all these naked bodies flying around the internet, it is important to distinguish between sending nudes and unsolicited dick or clit pics. Nudes are usually requested and, in my humble opinion, are usually of better quality because people have taken time to finesse a good pic.
Dick pics often look like someone turned the camera to front facing and hit the “take picture” button, and we all know the initial image is never pretty. No filter, no lighting, barely a wipe down of a possibly gunky, funky meat member. Simply a snap and send.
Even though the WorldWideWeb makes sending our exposed self any man’s game, experts have found that it is precisely that, a man’s game. The sending of unsolicited pictures of one’s genitalia is very gendered, with cis het men being far more likely to do it than women/femmes. Psychologists have chalked this down to various sociohistorical reasons, but the one that jumps out the most is the notion of slut shaming: women and femmes will often be shamed for being aggressive about their sexual pursuits. Men on the other hand have historically been lauded for not taking no for an answer.
Another reason for sending dick pics is the law of reciprocity — show me yours ’cause you are so delighted I showed you mine. Psychologists argue that men think that their recipients will want to see this, because this is the sort of picture that they would like to see, which shows an outstanding inability to read a room.
The thing about dick pics is that it is not often your partner or crush sending them, but anonymous John Does who think you’re hot and have spent the last three hours liking your selfies from 2012 on Instagram. They are convinced that if they send this dick pic then you will magically fall in love with them and, in turn, like their photos.
One study published in The Journal of Sex Research, called I’ll Show You Mine So You’ll Show Me Yours: Motivations and Personality Variables in Photographic Exhibitionism, surveyed 1 307 hetersexual men about their dick pic activities and “included a questionnaire measuring personality attributes like levels of narcissism and sexism”. About half of the respondents were said to have sent dick pics. What they found was that men who sent their junk over the internet rated higher than the men who didn’t on measures of “narcissism, benevolent sexism and hostile sexism”.
Lead researcher Cory Pedersen, of Kwantlen Polytechnic University and founder of the ORGASM Research Lab, stated: “We were interested in this topic because, until now, there had not been any empirical research into the motives men have for sending unsolicited pictures of their genitals. There were plenty of hypotheses, theoretical musings, and anecdotal postulations, but no actual scientific investigation.”
The reasons given by respondents for sending dick pics? Hoping to get one in return (a transactional mindset) and “partner hunting” — essentially using the pic as bait.
All confusing hilarity aside, unsolicited dick pics can be seen as a form of sexual harassment. The problem is it happens so often and in so many spaces that we simply laugh it off or feign mock outrage. But if this was a penis being flashed in the streets we would probably have a different reaction. It comes down to consent and how people feel and rarely do we enjoy those pics we receive.
Often the unasked for dick pic is met with disgust and contempt and recipients do everything from blocking the user and publicly shaming them to making the dick pics into an artistic statement. One woman created her own dick pic filter, which recognises and removes penis photos.
Very few dick pics, if any, have the person on the other end hot and bothered in a good way and stuff like this should be informed by consent. You wouldn’t go and rub your naked genitals on a person’s face, so respect their phone. It is something that should bear harsher consequences than a simple “ewww” because, as one artist says, “I didn’t ask for this.”
Tiffany Kagure Mugo is curator of HOLAAfrica and host of radio show Between The Sheets on Transafrica Radio