Millennials are what I call “The Dick Pic Generation”.
We’re the Dick Pic Generation because we have the technology. If the Baby Boomers had the technology, they definitely would have tried.
Instead, Boomers vacuumed up the wealth and polluted the Earth so now the dubious honour of polluting the world with terabytes of our junk has fallen to us Millennials.
But make no mistake, it’s not because of our horned up culture that makes us do it, it’s nature. Older generations, if given the opportunity would have done the exact same thing.
My question is, seeing as how there is this compulsion for humans to be gross, should there really be such an outrage we share pictures of our naked bodies?
To be clear, I don’t mean sending out other people’s nudes, or sending/receiving them uninvited. I mean that people lose their jobs and get tarnished for doing something that yes, is primarily a private matter, but also a deeply human experience: being gross with other people and using what technology we have available to enable that.
There’s plenty of stories of people getting canned for what they put out on social media, and we all more or less understand when you mock a war widow or post a photo of you urinating on a plate of nachos that it’s not something your employer wants reflected on them.
“Teacher fired for bikini pics” came back with over 9 million results on Google. Progress against revenge porn is slow, but ongoing, thankfully. But the attitude is still largely, “well, you took the pictures in the first place, that makes you the idiot.”
Nudity has power because of its scarcity, and because there’s a deep shame forced on all of us to think of it as both precious and perverted. While there are terabytes of naked people floating around the world, and porn is a multi-billion dollar industry, and strip clubs bring in $7 billion in the US alone, there persists this bloody hypocrisy about the naked body or near-naked body.
Let’s understand why this isn’t working.
Sexuality often takes the brunt of cultural hypocrisy. I’m certainly guilty of it. I cringe anytime someone points out “what, we’re all naked under our clothes, we’re all sexual beings. It’s natural.”
Being a bit of a prude, I get it’s a true statement but still operate with the bias that it’s gross to point out. “Come on, it’s natural, it’s natural.”
Yuck. Stop that… Unless they’re hot.
But being open about it is punishable by ostracism not because it’s gross in the same way braiding armpit hair is (come on, it’s natural) but because there’s some deeply fucked up psychology that punishes sexuality. Especially as a woman, you’ll be called a whore in places if you express sexual agency and experience worse if men even suspect it.
It doesn’t change anything though. Our DNA is older than our belief systems. People are sexual, and people are gross. What we should try not to be however, is a hypocrite about it.
As a couple examples, they did a study that found sexting occurs mostly on weekdays between 10am and Noon. On Tuesday specifically.
A study by Drexel University found a majority of teens engaged in sexting without knowing it technically counts as child pornography.
In 2012 the Pentagon had to tell its employees to stop looking at pornography at work. The Pentagon, the monolithic symbol of American military might, had to ask its employees to stop using work computers for porn.
I know exactly what you’re thinking right now, “But Mark, why the penis which is objectively ugly?” Here’s my rule: All genitals are ugly until we want to put our mouths on them. We can’t escape that. We’re not Gods.
If you’re in an increasingly erotic chat with someone and it eventually gets to nude shots of their bum, tits, vaj or cock, it creates excitement and anticipation. It makes you cry out “O Joyous Occasion!” as you rub yourself through your sweatpants (be honest). You get into talking about what you’re into and it’s hot and titillating. That’s hormones and nature, not culture. Ask Weiner. But don’t text him.
But those interactions are about two people who are into it. What about one party who’s unwitting and unwilling about the whole thing?
A survey found 53% of Millennial women have received a dick pic. 24% of the men in that same survey admitted to sending a dick pic without being asked. The survey doesn’t head on address the question “but was it heavily implied it was okay or just totally out of the blue?”
This was my reaction, because dick pics can be contextual in the same way any nudes are. They can be tastefully and appropriately submitted into conversation, or like a ham-fisted joke can be just bad writing and timing.
Well, of the 53% of women who received a dick pic, three out of four say they received it unsolicited and unwanted.
Apparently God’s gift to man is man’s shockingly poor gift choice to women.
In another article on AlterNet, they surveyed seven types of reasons men sent dick pics. These reasons included an exhibition kink or thrill they experienced, or a swelling of pride, thinking it’s what women want to see, thinking it was a cheeky sexual invitation, or doing it for dominance and control, or for positive feedback, or simply because they can because hey it’s magical Internet and we’re anonymous.
Most of these reasons are just sad. Doing it for domination and to stress someone out is just a dick move. Doing it because you’ve been ignored by countless women and just want to get some kind of reaction is, well, sad. It’s sad that guys feel driven to this, and that their loneliness and alienation makes them bitter and resentful. I’m pretty sure this fuels a lot of the misogyny we see today in these Men’s Rights Groups.
Quick aside: In that earlier article linked to about revenge porn, a woman ended her relationship with her possessive boyfriend and he angrily accused her of sleeping with at least three male friends based on looking at her Facebook pictures. He threatened to sell her nudes online unless she was honest about how many guys she slept with.
On the more forgiving side of things, philosopher Alain de Botton says we guys share dick pics to share something vulnerable about ourselves as the genitals can be a source of disgust and shame. By sharing our bodies we are both vulnerable and connected, and because sex is a major fact of life there is something theoretically tantalizing about genital shots.
To artist Whitney Bell, who turned unsolicited dick pics into an art exhibit, sending dick pics is also an expression of power. She creatively robbed the power of those unwanted pictures by turning them into art (more “Piss Christ” art than the Sistine Chapel kind).
Bell believes it’s a way for men to terrorize women, like “screaming at a woman from a car. You’re just doing this because you can, and because the world has taught you that that’s OK.”
This Everyday Feminism article calls unwanted dick pics “sexual assault”.
Watch out! Patriarchy!
I frankly think this gives men too much credit. Men tend to be visually inclined, they respond to filth and think others, particularly women, do too. Have you ever looked at personal ads on Craigslist? It’s better than charades at parties. What you’ll find though is both earnest ads looking for monogamous love and depraved ads looking for sex, and both are accompanied by cock shots.
Because, for as many men that are terrible there are just as many that are kinda clueless. Never attribute to malice what you could attribute to lazy, horny, socially inept, one-handed texting.
Men are not smart enough to be cruel enough—most guys anyway. Maybe some men think that perhaps out of a hundred sent dick pics the one person that actually bites and wants to meet up to get some of that sweet dick is worth the ninety-nine who feel violated looking at impromptu genitals?
But what do I know? I’m one in a hundred.
Of course this doesn’t mean there aren’t assholes out there who know it can be distressing for a girl to receive a dick pic and do it anyway. They exist. The Internet exaggerates that capacity, empowering men to be more flagrant and direct with harassment at the same time being anonymous. And there certainly is a power dynamic when one sex has their genitals normalized enough they can send it willy-nilly and the other sex is so thoroughly demotivated they could never send pics of their vulvas or whatever they’re called. Vaginas.
So let’s make a distinction: There’s a dick pic, and there’s an unsolicited and unwanted dick pic. I have never received an unsolicited dick pic and thought “Ooh! Future husband!”
But never say never. I’m open to it, is what I’m saying.
Thousands of people have lost their jobs because their nude photos wound up on the Internet, and there’s an oppressive and stupid shame that perpetuate this arrangement. Here’s one such list article that basically repeats itself on items 2, 3, 4, and 5:
- It Can Ruin Your Career
- The Photos Can End Up On The Internet
- Or They Can Up In The Wrong Hands
- They Can Live On Forever
What articles like this say is that your naked body has negative power over you. But nude photos have only as much power as we give them, and they have been drastically inflated.
We kneecap people’s potentials for what they can do with their lives because there’s evidence they’re naked under their clothes. Nude bodies should not be leverage against their owners.
At least when we ostracize someone for pooping in public there’s actually a good many reasons to. But calling a girl a slut, or believing her unlovable because she has nude photos on Tumblr?
We got here because our sex education was terrible. We weren’t taught human nature properly as a kind of capacity for different beliefs and actions, sometimes at odds with each other. We weren’t taught about biology, upbringing, cultural imprinting and institutional enforcement.
But without that we are far likelier to be worse hypocrites. It’s how we’ve become hypocrites about something that, come on, is natural.
Lastly I have to ask, what is going to change first though, human nature or our attitude towards our nature?
What do we have power over? Humans are always going to be perverted apes on some level, but we don’t have to be hypocrites.
We have power over our education systems if we choose it, and that’s how we can be less hypocrites about such fundamentally human experiences.
Obviously it’s our attitudes that need to change, as it slowly has been.
In many parts of the world, women can show ankles. Praise God. Women can vote, hold public office, and even marry who they choose. That’s because our attitudes changed.
Cultural change is slow and nebulous, but it’s an aggregate of a thousand interactions and decisions by individuals trending toward sometimes vaguely outlined normatives. We can outline those normatives because we can control our attitudes.
Repeat that five times and send nudes.