If you’re a woman who has used an online dating site, there’s a good chance you’ve had to confront an unsolicited, cringe-inducing photo of a potential suitor’s junk. You know how it goes. You’re chatting with some guy on Tinder, wondering if things will progress to a real date, and then, bam, there it is: a random, disembodied picture of his penis. This happened to Kate, 26, a publicist in Boston who used Match.com, OkCupid, and Tinder for eight months before meeting her current boyfriend. She said she got dick pics she didn’t ask for on every single one of those sites.
Acording to a recent Match.com study, sexual photos from guys are the biggest turnoff for women. “I felt visually assaulted every time I checked my phone for updates,” Kate told me over drinks. “I just felt dirty after using my phone! That’s the same device I use to communicate with my parents and my cute little nephew. I couldn’t get off those dating platforms fast enough.” And, Kate is not alone: 45% of women have received R-rated photos from men online. Dating-site studies tend not to provide data about unsolicited versus solicited pictures, but anecdotally, it’s safe to say that a lot of those pics were unwelcome.
Just to be clear, I’m not the kind of girl who clutches my pearls in horror over the very idea of an R-rated pic. Many women love taking, sending, and receiving sexy pics — and that’s great. I’m talking about a very specific problem: the online equivalent of the subway flasher. This is someone who lobs a dick pic your way without ever having received any indication that this would be welcome. At its worst, this is sexual harassment. At its best, it’s a bummer — since it means you wasted your time chatting with a jerk.
To investigate the psychology of the dick pic, I spent weeks plumbing the depths of Craigslist and Reddit message boards like /r/sex and /r/okcupid, chatting with guys who have admitted to sending unsolicited dick pics out of the blue to women they’ve just met, either online or in person. Many were willing to engage in a candid, thoughtful discussion about their motivations. Read on to hear their side of the story.