Debrief Staff | Contributing Writer | Tuesday, 23 February 2016

We Asked An Expert: Why Do Guys Send Unsolicited Dick pics?

We Asked An Expert: Why Do Guys Send Unsolicited Dick pics?

The Debrief: When a guy sends you an unsolicited dick pic, what's he thinking? Does he want a picture back? A thank you? We ask some regular dick-pic posters to find out...

Illustration by Hailey Hamilton

Dick pics are everywhere - Snapchatted, pinged to Tinder, poking into Twitter DMs. If you're a woman with profiles on the right sites, you could easily collect enough dick pics to wallpaper your bedroom.

What drives people to send these pictures? Not mutually agreeable sexting exchanges - I mean the unsolicited ones: out-of-the-blue requests to 'rate me?' or dating site chats that go from 'hi' to 'here's my penis' before you can blink.I asked an expert – and a few of the guys who send them.

The expert view: why do guys send unsolicited dick pics?

Dr David Ley is a clinical psychologist, author of The Myth of Sex Addiction, and a forthcoming book about responsible use of pornography. I asked him what he thinks drives people to send unsolicited pictures:

'There really aren't any research studies looking at this question, and so all we can do right now is speculate, though with some informed wisdom. It is most likely that this behaviour represents an aspect of men's misperception of female sexual interest. Men love the idea of receiving such pictures from strangers, and they assume women do too. Men notoriously misperceive women's sexual interest in them, and project their own sexual interests and desires onto women.

'It's probable that some of this connects to the fact that in an anonymous environment, people, and especially men, are likely to engage in more sexualised behaviours. Male mating strategies have always included an element of "boldness," where men who are bold and brash sometimes garner female attention they wouldn't otherwise receive if they were nice and polite. This is a key tenet behind the Pick-Up Artist strategies. So, the "shock value" is a way for men to get attention. And negative attention is better than no attention at all.

'It's probable that at least some of these men receive a sexual thrill at the idea of an unknown woman seeing their genitalia. It may be an aspect of exhibitionism, and some of these men probably masturbate as a part of the act, imagining that woman seeing the picture they sent. The fact that a woman rejects them for it is not salient, because for many such men, it is the woman's disgust and rejection which is actually part of the turn-on.'

The men who send dick pics

Meet @bigdavid7758. He regularly tweets the same one or two pictures of himself, standing naked in the bathroom, directly to women on Twitter. If they retweet, he asks them to take the picture down. I've come across him before, and although his most recent account has been suspended, I got a couple of questions in before he got banned:

Him: [sends naked picture to me and one other woman] did u get my pic?

Me: I'm intrigued as to why you do this. Email me.

Him: I like knowing women have see (sic) how big I am and they have control of my pics

Me: So then why beg them to take it down when they repost it?

Him: To get them to repost it more. Rate?

Me: How do you think the women feel about you sending them your pic?

Him: Most play along. How did u feel about it?

Me: What if you sent your picture to someone who found it upsetting? Or someone under 18?

Him: I try not to. Did it upset u?

It's ironic that he wants women to have control over his pictures, given that they had no control over whether to receive them. But he wasn't the only one who mentioned this 'control' aspect. Tim, who regularly sends pictures, told me:

'I think that my somewhat submissive nature had something to do with this. I 'gave' myself to them … Also I had no control in how they would respond or what response I would get.' But he also had higher hopes. 'Just a response was good enough … But since I always looked for people close by home, I think the ultimate goal was to get them so aroused that they would want me to come over, or them to come over and have the hottest night of pure desire and lust we ever had.'

Did it work?

'Unfortunately I never got the 'jackpot''

Tim was keen to point out that he took nice pictures, was '30 years old and athletic' and that he did often get positive responses. “Most reactions are just simple compliments, e.g. 'you look good'. Also I sometimes get reactions from people that they get slightly aroused, these are usually in the form of 'wow, it would be nice to have you here right now' or something like that.”

However, while it's easy to find men who have sent unsolicited dick pics, it's much harder to find women who've been genuinely pleased to receive them. There are some websites – such as the Critique My Dick Pic Tumblr – which encourage dick pictures, but the overwhelming message from women online is: don't. As a sex blogger, I used to be up for receiving pictures myself, but the sheer volume was overwhelming, and eventually the demands: 'rate me!' 'reply!' 'what do you think of my dick?' became a little terrifying too. Now I have to actively discourage people from sending them, and even then some still slip through the net. Often the senders simultaneously acknowledge the imposition, yet impose anyway: “I know you don't like this sort of thing, but I just wondered if you'd have a look?”

One of the most common explanations from guys I spoke to was that, although the pictures were not specifically requested, they still felt that they were appropriate. @timmytuttlestold me:

'I only ever send dick pics if it 'seems appropriate' in the context although I have sent them without a specific request to do so … Anyway I have OKCupid and Tinder profiles that basically advertise my availability for kinky sex, so when I'm talking to people that have contacted me through these profiles I feel there's an established context of sexual openness. Of course just because some one's talking to me doesn't mean I have a right to gross them out, but I feel more empowered to be transgressive. For example I might send someone a picture of my pile of sex toys if I feel the conversation needs spicing up a bit.'

While I don't want to cast aspersions on any individual, it's clear that 'decide based on context' isn't a great answer. It would be grossly unfair to conclude that women on sex or dating-related websites should expect unsolicited cock pics as 'par for the course' – there have to be better ways to allow for sexual exploration, without the unwanted junk.

Can we stop people sending dick pics?

I asked Dr David Ley:

'A tenet of psychology is that negative reinforcement is still reinforcement. The more uproar, outrage and disgust that such pics get, the more powerful such men feel. They feel some pride that their penis generated this strong reaction. So, shaming, banning, flaming strategies are unlikely to be successful. A better strategy is to ignore it. I know that probably feels unsatisfying. But if we remove as much of the reinforcement, including negative attention, many of these men might view this behaviour as ultimately unrewarding.'

I agree that 'ignore it' feels deeply unsatisfying – particularly if you've been on the receiving end of lots of unrequested nudes. Is there anything that websites can do to help combat the issue? Maybe.

Mistress Ruby runs One Submissive Act – a website designed to enable consensual sexy photo sharing. The product team is made up mostly of women, and their user base is only 50% men (unusual for an explicit site of the kind they're running). The site allows you toswap sexy challenges, including things like picture-sharing,with other interested parties.

Mistress Ruby explains that consent is put at the heart of their product – users specify exactly the kind of interaction they want, and who can respond. What's more, the site owners respond swiftly and decisively to users who do not respect boundaries.

“When unwanted connections do occur it's really important that the administrators of that site support the concept of consent in a fundamental way. This is where Twitter and similar platforms have really let users down - they allow a free-for-all and don't step in when it's clear consent is being violated.

“In addition to the fundamental design features of One Submissive Act that make it much harder to send unsolicited pictures, our users know we're responsive and will act to boot/ban anyone who's making a nuisance of themselves. All our users know this - the ones who feel reassured by that support and the ones who might be tempted to misbehave otherwise.”

I like the One Submissive Act solution – a combination of technology and human reinforcement to create a culture based on consent.

Additionally, Dr Ley highlighted the importance of communication:

'I think that perhaps greater dialogue with men and women, over what they actually want, might reach some of these men, those who are genuinely not understanding some sexual differences. But, this requires women to actually have the safety to be honest about their sexual interests. For instance, could women say, "Look, I probably WOULD like to see your dick pic, but I'd like to be able to ASK for it..."'

The importance of this communication can't be underestimated – most men I've interviewed thought their nudes were welcome. @timmytuttles told me about a time when a girl had asked for 'pictures', and he'd assumed explicit ones – he was genuinely surprised to discover she wasn't after that kind of pic. Another guy, Jon, had a similar problem – when the chat turned sexy, and his potential date asked for 'a picture' he fired off a cock pic, only to be met with 'deafening silence.' He told me: 'I was mortified. I had been totally lost in the moment and completely misread the situation. I actually felt really pervy.'

There's clearly work to be done by platforms like Twitter and Tinder to make sure that harassment from users like @bigdavid7758 is quickly stamped out. There's also clearly a need for education on consent: not guessing or assuming or having to deal with certain things just because stuff is turning steamy or 'that's what happens on Tinder.' In the meantime, and with respect to the men who kindly answered my questions, I'll end with a handy rule of thumb: no matter how keen you are to get it on, or how appropriate you might think it is, always ask before you send a dick.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

Why Is The Internet Basically Covered In Dick Pics Right Now?

The Police Apparently Want To Take Dick Shots Of A Boy Caught Sexting

Snapchat Sexting 101: Everything You Need To Know

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