It took a pandemic for me to finally engage in social media. I joined Instagram last spring and instead of a neighbor coming by with a basket of muffins, here on Insta, I got welcomed by a dick pic. Thank you, kind sir.
While I was shocked, rattled even, I had been waiting for this, wishing for it to happen. I wanted someone to send me a dick pic so I could send them something very specific in return: a photo of a pile of poop. I read about a woman who did just this and when the guy responded, “WTF?” she said, “I thought we were in a competition of who could make the other more uncomfortable.” This was brilliant, in my view.
Unfortunately, I was on a man-fast and joked to a friend that I might have to start dating just so I would have the opportunity to apply this. Little did I know I could focus on business marketing and not miss out on a thing. We women are so privileged.
Some part of me already knew that IG had a dark underbelly. Still, I was caught off guard by what slid into my DMs. No matter how educated you are, there’s a wishful thinker within who wants to trust that people will conduct themselves respectfully. Because let’s face it: It’s one thing to wish for a dick pic in some oblique way, and another when you receive one from a virtual — pun intended — stranger.
Perhaps it was my weakness for dogs and hairy chests when “Paul Wilcox” wrote to me on IG. (All those years of watching “The Simpsons” should have left me better prepared. I mean, Wil Cocks?) Paul’s bio, “chasing enlightenment and sharing my journey” — coupled with an emoji of a man in lotus — threw off the scent of desperate dick. At least in retrospect.
I’d just finished asking Paul if he had been meditating to cope with COVID stress when the boner bomb arrived. Maybe he thought it was artistic? After all, it was in black and white.
In my mid-twenties, I worked at Good Vibrations in San Francisco, a worker-owned sex store known for its emphasis on education. Before healing from sexual abuse and gaining embodied boundaries, I made excuses for the assaults I experienced with customers. I was naïve and just wanted to help. Maybe his hand slipped, or he didn’t mean to brush my ass, I would tell myself.
It took an older colleague lecturing me about what was and was not okay for me to stop minimizing my experience. Combined with the somatic practices I was doing with my therapist, Good Vibrations was boundary boot camp; my sex dojo. I obtained ninja skills. I could anticipate a hand coming towards me and step out of the way and keep talking confidently about cock rings as if nothing untoward had passed my way.
Even with all that training, I froze when Paul’s pecker arrived. I was stunned by how, with a single image, a connection that started off as sweet and carefree drove off a cliff and exploded in smoke. Thing was? I wasn’t prepared, and we women in the digital age need to be ready. You wouldn’t go skydiving without a chute, or expect to be able to hike the PCT in your socks, right? So here’s how to prime yourself for photos of the membrum virile:
1. Be Prepared
Always have an equally offensive or intimidating image handy. Options to consider: rotting produce, something disturbing you spotted on a city sidewalk, or the aftermath of a NYE in pretty much any bar bathroom.
2. Embrace Your Inner Sass
This is no time to be a good girl. A tongue lashing is the required response. Call on your disowned dominatrix alter-ego, unless you’re familiar with the dick pic sender and know for a fact that being shamed is his kink. In which case, silence is the great punisher.
Paul Wilcox apologized repeatedly, sent crying emojis, and said, “I’m losing my mind from being sheltered in place.” To which I said, “Guess what, buddy, we’re all sheltered in place. If I can manage to not send images of my butthole to my Instacart guy, so can everyone else.” All my meditating must be really paying off. Look at my self-control!
3. Get a Job That Trains You to Think on Your Feet
Consider a job as a bartender or the like, any gig where you regularly deal with drunk asshats and need to shut that shit down quickly.
As a 21-year-old, I worked as a cigarette girl at clubs in San Francisco. I was often approached by a short, balding guy flanked by busty blondes. One night they were clustered in a booth and called me over. The wormy guy bought a few cigars and while lipping one of them, opened his mouth into a big O and asked me to do the same. “Why, when you do it so well?” I shot right back. Priceless.
4. Put on Your Teaching Cap — and No, That is Not a Euphemism
When I get a dick pic, I think of all the women that have come before me and all that will come after me. It’s hard not to consider them. It’s like six degrees of dick. I zoom out into the cosmos and look down at the dick pic matrix and think, “What might put a kink in the thread connecting us all? Can my actions or educational words make a difference?” While I can’t speak for all women, with dick pic in hand, you become the chosen representative for your people.
“Unless someone has already chosen to be naked with you, assume your dick is not welcome,” I told the most recent offender. “People are already stressed out enough. Be kind, do not assault people with your junk, your impulses, or your assumptions about what they want.” This made me think of my 7th grade history teacher, who often lectured, “Assumptions make an ass out of you and me.” Wasn’t I too old for this?
When I was internet dating, younger men asked if I wanted them to send me a dick pic. According to them, there were bevies of women who insisted on one, though of course this could have been a lie to get me to participate. Their follow-up expression of relief could have also been a lie.
But maybe men genuinely feel pressured to participate in crossing their own boundaries and do yearn to be appreciated for more than what’s between their legs. The way politicians engage in texting their cocks, willy nilly, models a cavalier sharing of dick that I have a hard time imagining our forefathers doing (then again, they didn’t have iPhones). Dick pics may be the new casual currency of flirting — the digital-age equivalent of offering a hanky.
All of this calls to mind “The Five Love Languages,” which proposes the idea that people give what they want to receive: If someone feels loved by physical contact, they give physical contact, or, if they feel loved when someone gives them gifts, they’ll give presents too.
But maybe there are actually six languages, and genital shots are to these guys what hanging shelves is to you. In that case, you’d imagine the dick pics would get sent five years into a marriage; after all, the traditional gift for year five is wood.
If you are a woman who loves efficiency and wants to view the wares in advance, I get it. Or maybe you think there’s something wrong with you and you should want it. There’s no “right” desire here. The point is consent, timing, and consideration of both parties, the dicker and dickee.
In the meantime, I’m confident that whatever verbal witchery and truth telling I engage in will not prevent the dick pics from finding the people who want to receive them. And yet, our standing up to pixelated pricks might make a man hesitate before sending one in the future, especially if he craves more than the momentary thrill of being seen. If he actually wants human handling, keeping his cock under wraps usually has a more exciting pay-off for everyone involved. I mean, whatever happened to the art of anticipation?
I’m not proselytizing unwrapping a dick in a box for the first time on your wedding night, but, while I have gone through phases where sex was casual, dicks never came before laughter. I believe the baring and sharing of parts can be a gift. So perhaps the next time a random guy writes to you and says something super compelling like, “Hey, so would you like…?” ask him, “Wouldn’t you rather I initiate that, I don’t know, in person?”