"To be clear, the picture was of me, and I sent it. I'm deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife, and our family, my constituents, my friends, my supporters and my staff."
So said Anthony Weiner in 2011. The US politician had just been caught sending an unwanted photo of his penis to a female college student via his public Twitter account. He'd actually exchanged "photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years", he later confessed. It was a "terrible mistake."
Except last week, the still-married New York mayoral candidate got caught making that Terrible Mistake again. Lewd photos, young woman in early 20s, same old story.
And so, as Weinergate continues, the crotch shot - that most banal channel of modern sexual "expression" - has sprung back up into the spotlight once again.
Of course, he's not the only man to feel the urge to have his pixelated appendage gazed upon. There was the Kayne West shlong shot episode; the truly unappetising pics of ruddy married footballer Brett Favre; and every other guy out there who's pretty sure that a snap of his little friend is what it takes to get the ladies' motors going.
Like Trevor, the deluded lad who sent an unwanted picture of his penis to Sarah, a woman he'd met on an internet dating site. Except then Sarah sent the picture to his mother, and his penis went viral, and now you can read the entire exchange online, here - much to the internet's delight.
Crotch shots. Yup, I've been sent them. And speaking from my own, personal hetero female perspective: Yawn/ew.
To be clear, there's nothing shocking about the image per se. And as for penises themselves, I'm a fan. But the total lack of context not only strips cock shots of any possible eroticism, it also makes them feel boring, and somewhat sad. Hovering with intent, that eager, disembodied member is rather like a small child whose father pushes him on stage for approval and applause: Look at him! Isn't he brilliant?!!!
Thing is, it's so stupidly easy to get it right. If you must send pictures to impress, send a nice one of you and your mother hanging out, so we know your head's screwed on right and not filled with mummy issues. Or a photo of you and your little niece playing together, so we have a little melt - but then totally deny it because we're feminists, goddammit, we have more on our minds than babies.
Or, I don't know, maybe just send WORDS? There are so many to choose from. They could even be about things that relate back to your penis! Just in a fractionally more enticing way.
The real question of course is why (some) men send crotch shots in the first place. Is it because straight men assume that women like the same sort of direct visual cues they do? A case of misguided mirroring? It's probably safe to say a large proportion of straight men would be chuffed to receive a similarly explicit, blatant invite from a woman. Turned on, probably - even if they were a bit taken aback. (There's a reason the 'split beaver' shot made Larry Flynt rich.)
But Erica Jong's zipless f**k aside, a lot of women need a wider context in order to feel: 1. comfortable, and 2. turned on. Hence the sexual chasm personified by this 21st century phenomena.
Maybe it's partly because there's not much else a man feels he can send, in terms of body parts, to titillate. Women, inversely, can - and do - send any number of things: Their breasts, their bottoms, the tops of their thighs; all in various states of dress or undress, lingerie included. Obviously, women are turned on massively by every part of the male physique, but society tells men the only really sexual part of themselves is their crotch. Hence they're going straight for the jugular.
(Which is no excuse. Consent applies equally to the virtual world, so in my opinion men should at least ASK first. Or announce its imminent arrival in your box, so to speak.)
Or perhaps it's simply a narcissistic display of perceived power, coupled with a lack of recognition that she might not find your dick as endlessly fascinating as you do. All underpinned by some sort of ancient evolutionary drive that crops up in the less socially sophisticated: Here is my penis, it works, it would work on you, let's get to it.
That said, there is a huge difference between unsolicited dick shots from someone you barely know, and one on request from your actual lover/love interest/partner. And as for Anthony Weiner, that man is quite clearly "suffering" from some kind of destructive compulsivity, with his crotch shots just a single part of his undoubtedly depressing story.
Also, it'd be remiss of me not to pay tribute to the women out there who do, in fact, appreciate a good cock shot, surprise or not. I'll help their personal cause by quoting a genius internet commenter I came across on my travels: "At least put something in the photo for scale. A penny, a Coke can, ANYTHING. Honestly."
Debate on this article is now closed.