The Politics Of Dick Pics

Not everyone appreciates this modern art-form.

An unsolicited Dick pic.

I was 22 when I received my first dick pic, before I even knew it was a thing. It was sent to me by a married man I was seeing back then (yes, do judge me on this one — he was a total jerk and my standards have improved tenfold since then), and I wasn't sure what to think at the time. It was sort of sexy, and secret, and a prelude to the bedroom activities we had planned for later in the week. He was hiding in the garden shed when he sent it, while his wife was in the kitchen doing housework. I wish I'd been able to see how skeevy and weird it was at the time, but in my naivety, I thought it was romantic and edgy. But with time, I learned for myself what type of man he was, and it sits neatly alongside the dim view I have of men who randomly broadcast photos of their willies to unsuspecting recipients.

As a teenager, I often heard it said that a man with a much more attractive girlfriend “must have a really big dick” — and I used to joke that that couldn't be true because it's not like people present their genitals for inspection in the restaurant / pub / wherever on a first date... well, apparently these days we send an illustrated CV in advance. Or at least, it seems to be a common occurrence on dating sites. I have a friend who conducted a Twitter poll on what to do with the plentiful portfolio of penis pictures she had amassed on OKCupid. The winning option was to create an online photo montage of all the cock pics she'd received, but she never published it as someone else had already done it via a contest for the “best” dick pic. Someone else had even created an entire gallery of gherkins, they'd been sent so many.

So what's the deal with dick pics — legally and ethically? Well, in the UK there's no specific law against sending jpegs of your junk, but there are a couple of laws that it could fall under, tenuously and tangentially. The trouble with there being no specific offence for launching a pre-emptive sausage strike is that it's difficult to successfully and appropriately convict under the existing laws. It's the online equivalent of flashing, and the police aren't going to press charges unless they can prove at least one of the following:

Harassment — it seems obvious, but there would need to be proof that it is unwanted, and one instance of cock-based communication usually isn't enough — there needs to be a pattern. It's not yet been tested in court if there is a legal difference between 1,000 cocks sent to one person, or one cock sent to 1,000 lucky ladies.

It is deemed a “grossly offensive communication” — OK, this might seem obvious, but this has a specific meaning in UK law — under the Malicious Communications Act 1988, and the Communications Act 2003. How we define “grossly offensive” is subject to interpretation. It also needs to have been sent with the aim of causing harm, distress or anxiety to the recipient, but I'm sure a decent defence barrister could argue their way out of that one.

It breaches copyright law — no, I'm not making this one up. The creator of said mucky masterpiece owns the copyright. If you forward the image, they can sue you (I can't wait for the test case).

The dick in question is aged under 18 years (by “dick”, I mean the penis, not the sender), even if it's a photo of your own penis — there have been a number of arrests and convictions of minors in the UK for creating and distributing child pornography through sexting.

The photo is deemed “extreme pornography” — this is pretty specific. In the UK, there are a number of sex acts that it is forbidden to photograph or video, even though it's legal to partake in them. So if you have some, ahem, “niche” dick pics, think twice before hitting send.

Although it's difficult to secure a conviction, the police have investigated some cases, so watch out, boner artists. As with other crimes against women, the law is slowly dragging itself out of the 1970s, and there could be a change in the law to crack down on specific types of harassment. There are already new laws on revenge porn, and a bill is being discussed in Parliament to outlaw “upskirting”.

Aside from the legal position, there's the obvious question of “why the fuck would you do that?” I'm guessing that it's not the most effective mating call. I can't imagine many love stories along these lines:

“Felicity wasn't sure about Dan at first; his Tinder profile said he was into dog fighting and small-scale arson, and there was more Burberry in his profile pic than Aintree racecourse. But everything changed when he sent her 40 different images of his schlong. The composition and lighting were perfect. His mastery with the camera revealed his tender and mysterious side — she knew right then that he was the one for her.”

Hmmm, obviously I can actually imagine it. And now I'm tempted to write the whole story. It will never, ever, be as good as this piece of real life drama, but now that I have the idea, I must share it with the world. Entirely unsolicited, I know.

OK, back to the matter in hand (tee hee). What is the purpose of the dick pic? Even if the intention of both parties is to have a simple one-night stand, it's not a very good piece of promotional literature. It lacks the subtlety and magic I seek when choosing a sexual partner. It's clumsy and blunt, appearing out of nowhere, jumping straight to the main event. But that's not really the point. Solicited dick pics are fine, and often rather enjoyable to behold. But random chopper out of nowhere is designed to elicit a different sort of feeling. It's saying “I own this space. Me and my cock, and you'd better like it or you can fuck off.” It is not an act from the heart, it is supposed to intimidate and domineer. Men who send never-ending torrents of todger want to shock and offend, although they claim a variety of reasons for their behaviour. I just can't imagine behaving in such an obviously inappropriate manner — it must take balls, I will give them that (ha ha). But if you're a dude, and you think that this is a normal pursuit / your God-given right as a man, take a few moments to consider how it makes you look. We know you're not doing it as a serious dating technique. You look sad, lonely, maladjusted, and not worthy of our time. You might have got right in our faces, but we'll brush you aside like idiots who yell at us out of car windows.  And then you'll only end up hating us more than the existing misogyny that rationalises your show-and-tell moments.

So what should we do about the downstairs selfie trend? There is some good news. An app has been created that tracks the location of the amorous artwork from the file's metadata. What you do with the information is up to you. If you receive dick pics on public transport (yes, we can't even get on the bus these days without being bombarded with pictures of cocks) you can report it to British Transport Police by texting 61016. Or you could send it in to one of those collaborative art projects mentioned above. Men, you have been warned.


Katy Preen
Katy Preen

Research scientist, author & artist based in Manchester, UK.  Strident feminist, proudly working-class.  No, I won't be quiet.

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The Politics Of Dick Pics