There is absolutely nothing appealing about getting one of these images and in some cases it's downright creepy, writes Kate Iselin.
WARNING: SENSITIVE CONTENT.
The naked photo. The nudie shot. The d*ck pic.
Not since Michaelangelo unveiled David to the world outside the Palazzo Vecchio in 1504 has the humble pecker experienced such an artistic renaissance. Whether you're happily coupled and routinely shocked by your single friends' experiences navigating the world of online dating, now replete with nudie judies dujour; or single yourself and attempting to date while dodging junk mail (get it?), there's no denying that since the coupling of smartphones and erections, the world will never be the same.
For the completely uninitiated, a d*ck pic is just what it sounds like: a photo of someone's penis. If David Attenborough was to narrate the mating habits of humans, he'd probably describe it as a courtship ritual akin to a peacock fanning out its tail.
When they're sent to a consenting partner, naked photos can be fun and super sexy (more on that later).
But men who send unsolicited photos of their penis have become almost universally reviled, an angry punchline for a modern life lived so frequently online.
It's always been pretty commonly assumed that most men who send unsolicited nudes do so with the intent to shock or disgust the recipient. Anecdotally, the amount of my female friends who've received an unwanted penis photo from a guy after also having been abused or harassed by him online suggests that these kind of images can be another weapon in an internet troll's arsenal.
But a new study from the Orgasm Research Lab — yes, that's really their name — suggests there could be another motivation behind sending unsolicited nudes.
Maybe these poor, misguided fellas are just out there trying to get a date.
The study, which focused on 'motivations for photographic exhibitionism', surveyed a group of men about the reasons behind their sending of unsolicited naked photos.
The most common reason these men gave for why they sent the photos was because they were hoping to receive one in return; and Vice reported that the second most common reason given for sending unsolicited nudes was 'partner hunting'. Essentially, flirting. Men who sent these kind of photos weren't trying to enrage so much as they were hoping to engage.
My reaction to receiving an unsolicited nudie shot — and I've got many in my time — couldn't be further from wanting to reciprocate. At no point in the history of dating apps, social media, or text messaging have I ever received a completely unannounced and unrequested photo of someone's penis and thought to myself, "Oh, this is interesting. Unusual approach here, but my attention is certainly piqued. Maybe this person is a real quality gent."
My thoughts are usually a churning mix of repulsion, anger, and disgust; and, if I'm on public transport or sitting somewhere where my phone is visible to the person standing behind me, total regret and embarrassment.
It's no more acceptable to send one of these unsolicited photo to someone as it is to flash your genitalia to strangers in the street. (And there's no double standard here: I don't want to see unsolicited photos of someone's vulva, either.)
Despite what the men surveyed by the Orgasm Research Lab may think, I can say that I, personally, would not look at someone who opened a conversation with this kind of photo as someone I'd like to hook up with, let alone date. I would think that person had no concern for other people's comfort levels, probably wouldn't respect my boundaries in the bedroom, and most likely had weird, unresolved levels of sexual aggression that I would not want to put myself in the path of.
So, an unsolicited naked photo? Yuck. But a solicited naked photo, on the other hand …
I might be in the minority saying this, but I happen to love a good, old-fashioned sexting session with some nudie judies attached. As much as sending sexy texts and exchanging naked photos is a source of derision for many, I think it's a really nice way to create intimacy with a partner who you can't visit in person. And it's also a cute way to let someone know that you're thinking about having a really hot and sexy night with them when you're in the middle of your work day, or at home getting ready for a date.
But taking the perfect naked shot isn't easy. It requires time, effort, and sometimes — depending on how you might be feeling about your body that day — plenty of pre- and post-production work. So I put together a little guide to taking your own best nudes. Thank me later, but don't send me the final product.
You have no right sending a nude photo to someone who hasn't consented to receiving it. You don't need to get all official and ask for a signed document verifying their interest, but a quick, "Hey, I've been thinking about you and I took a photo I feel really sexy in. Would you like to see?" gives your partner the chance to respond in the affirmative, or let you know that they're out at dinner or in a meeting and now isn't the best time.
CLEAN YOUR ROOM
Or at the very least, be conscious of what's in the background of your photo. Nobody wants to see your glorious physical form posed alluringly in front of a basket of dirty laundry, a pile of filthy dishes, or your cat cleaning itself. It can be fun to take a photograph in front of the bathroom mirror, but make sure your toilet isn't sitting open in the background.
CONSIDER THE LIGHTING
You don't want to send someone a photo of a blurry, indecipherable appendage in a dark room, but flicking on your megawatt bathroom light and sending a photo of yourself that looks like it was taken in the frozen food isle of the supermarket isn't completely flattering either. Low, warm-toned light — like from a lamp — is nice, and candles can be good as well. Just don't, you know, bend over too close to one.
You don't go to the art gallery and put your face inches away from the Monet, right? Some things just look a bit nicer when viewed from further away, and sometimes what you don't show is just as sexy as what you do show. Your partner doesn't need to see every inch of your body in eye-wateringly close detail, at least not at first. Strategically cover a few inches of skin and let their imagination do the rest of the work.
DON'T FORWARD THEM ON
They're naked photos, not a chain letter. If someone has trusted you with the kind of photographs of themselves that they wouldn't want everyone to see, don't then go and be an idiot and let everyone see them. If Emily Post had been born 100 years later I'm sure she would advise that naked photos are a gift to be enjoyed by you and only you — oh, and also, if you take a naked photo of yourself, don't then re-use it on another partner. That's just bad manners.
Kate Iselin is a writer and sex worker.