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Unsolicited dick pics are widely reviled, with most female recipients finding them stupid and gross. And yet men continue to send them. Why? Perhaps evolution holds the answer.
Flora Oswald and a group of researchers set out to investigate this possibility, carrying out the first empirical study on why straight men send unsolicited dick pics to women1.
Why suggest a link between evolution and dick pics?
There is some precedent for this hypothesis. Previous research has found that people have evolved to be quite strategic about relationships (albeit often subconsciously).
As such, the low risk, high reward nature of shaft shots might appeal to this strategic mindset. It essentially becomes a numbers game, as you can easily send off a whole bunch with little risk to yourself. This scattershot approach increases the chance of a positive response, making it all worthwhile1.
Of course, there is the possibility that there’s no logic behind dick pics (no matter how deeply hidden in the subconscious it is). So as well as exploring a possible evolutionary root, Oswald et al. also looked at a few other possibilities1.
For instance, what if the senders get off on this sort of exhibitionism? Or are raging narcissists and massively proud of their dick? Perhaps they’re a controlling misogynist1?
Or my personal favourite: laziness. The guy could go through the whole process of flirting, explaining the sort of relationship they’re looking for etc. Or just send a dick pic and cut to the chase, one way or the other1.
Studying dick pics
In order to explore these possibilities, Oswald et al. surveyed more than 1,000 straight men1. Crucially, this survey was conducted online, so wasn’t just carried out on university students like a scary amount of psychology research is.
As well as asking about their experience with dick pics, this survey also explored the personality, attitude towards women, and more, in an effort to better understand their motivations.
Overall, Oswald et al. found that about half of their sample had sent an unsolicited dick pic. Most of the time (~80%), these senders said they were doing it in the hopes of increasing the sexual interest of the recipient; often hoping to get a dirty pic back1.
This fits in with a possible evolutionary link, appealing to that subconscious scheming of trying to maximise sexual success1. Men, in particular, may be susceptible to this line of reasoning as they appear to overestimate the sexual interest of women. Perhaps for evolutionary reasons: better than underestimating it and missing out on a mating chance2.
Of course, there are a lot of ifs and maybes here. More work is needed on larger samples to explore this evolutionary narrative. At the moment it’s just a nice story.
But it’s a start.
Obviously, there was some variety in why people sent dick pics.
Some, for instance, reported misogynistic motivations. Around 6% said they sent these pics to deliberately disgust or exert some sort of control over women (e.g. put them in their place)1.
A hefty chunk (~20%) said they also did it for their own sexual satisfaction, getting a kick out of it. Interestingly, these people didn’t have a different sexual appetite to men who didn’t send pics. So it’s not like they were especially uninhibited or sexually uncontrollable1.
Rather, the key difference across most motivations was narcissism; with senders scoring ~20% higher on the narcissism scale than those who kept it in their pants. No wonder nearly a quarter of people asked endorsed the statement “I’m proud of the way my penis looks and want to share it with others1“.
So it seems that a good chunk of people sending dick pics are themselves dicks.
- Oswald, F., Lopes, A., Skoda, K., Hesse, C.L. and Pedersen, C.L., 2019. I’ll Show You Mine so You’ll Show Me Yours: Motivations and Personality Variables in Photographic Exhibitionism. The Journal of Sex Research, pp.1-13.
- Waling, A. and Pym, T., 2019. ‘C’mon, No One Wants a Dick Pic’: exploring the cultural framings of the ‘Dick Pic’in contemporary online publics. Journal of Gender Studies, 28(1), pp.70-85.