Gender, Sex Ed

How Many People Have Ever Received an Unsolicited Dick Pic, and How They Felt About It

July 24, 2020 by Justin Lehmiller

Man taking a dick pic

Survey studies have found that many men report having sent unsolicited photos of their penises (“dick pics”) to other people before—but how many people say they’ve ever received such a photo? And what were their reactions to those images like?

A new study published in the Journal of Sex Research offers some insight [1]. This study involved a large, demographically diverse sample of adults from across the United States, consisting of self-identified heterosexual, lesbian, and bisexual women, as well as self-identified gay and bisexual men.

In total, 2,343 participants reported on their experiences. Participants ranged in age from 18-90, and 38% of the sample consisted of racial minorities (roughly consistent with the percentage of racial minorities in the overall US population).

Just over half of the sample (53.5%) reported having ever received a dick pic of any type before—and among this group, 90% reported having received at least one unsolicited dick pic.

So regardless of gender and sexual orientation, the experience of receiving unsolicited dick pics was pretty common.

However, there were large gender differences in how these photos were perceived.

Among gay and bisexual men, the reactions tended to be more positive than negative. Specifically, 34% reported feeling aroused, 41% felt curious, 44% felt entertained, and 28% felt flattered. By contrast, 14% felt disrespected, 13% felt grossed out, 4% felt sad, and 3% felt violated. Some also reported neutral/ambivalent reactions, with 8% feeling bored and 14% feeling confused.

So it wasn’t the case that all gay and bisexual men responded the same way—some were happy to see the photos while others were offended. But there were more positive than negative reactions on average.

In looking at women’s responses, negative reactions were more common than positive reactions. Specifically, 46% felt disrespected, 49% felt grossed out, 6% felt sad, and 28% felt violated. By contrast, 8% felt aroused, 11% felt curious, 16% felt entertained, and 7% felt flattered. In addition, 8% said they were bored and 19% said they felt confused.

Women’s sexual orientation appeared to affect their reactions to these photos to some degree. For example, while 8% of heterosexual women and 13% of bisexual women said they felt aroused, 0% of the lesbians said the same. In general, lesbians were less likely to feel positive emotions and more likely to feel grossed out or violated. The one exception is that lesbians were twice as likely as heterosexual women to feel flattered.

So, as was the case with gay and bisexual men, not all women responded to these photos the same way—but their pattern of responses tended to be more negative than positive on average.

One limitation of this study is that heterosexual-identified men weren’t included, so it’s unclear how many of them have also received such photos and what their responses tend to be like.

That said, these findings tell us a few important things. First, the way people respond to unsolicited dick pics appears to depend, in part, on both their gender and sexual orientation, and women appear more likely to perceive these photos as a form of sexual harassment compared to sexual minority men.

Second, the fact that women are reporting more negative than positive reactions is important to contrast with men’s reasons for sending these photos in the first place—the most common motives reported by men are that they’re hoping for photos in return and/or hoping to start a sexual or romantic relationship. Women’s responses in this study would suggest that guys who send these photos are unlikely to get what they’re hoping for.

Put another way, the most common motivations behind these photos simply are not aligned with the most common reactions when these photos are transmitted between men and women.

This highlights the importance of seeking consent prior to sending sexual photos. This is not only likely to result in more favorable reactions (assuming consent is granted), but it’s also just the right thing to do. And that’s true regardless of who the recipient is. Even though gay and bisexual men tend to report more favorable reactions to these photos, a significant portion of them find such photos to be disrespectful and offensive.

Plus, asking for consent is easy and only requires a few words—for example, “Are you comfortable receiving nude photos?” or “Is it OK if I share some X-rated pics?” The question can be asked any number of ways depending on your communication style and comfort level, but it’s not like it’s an onerous thing.

To learn more about the psychology of dick pics, check out this article, in which I explore some of the psychological factors associated with sending these photos.

Want to learn more about Sex and Psychology? Click here for more from the blog or here to listen to the podcast. Follow Sex and Psychology on Facebook, Twitter (@JustinLehmiller), or Reddit to receive updates. You can also follow Dr. Lehmiller on YouTube and Instagram.

[1] Marcotte, A. S., Gesselman, A. N., Fisher, H. E., & Garcia, J. R. (2020). Women’s and Men’s Reactions to Receiving Unsolicited Genital Images from Men. The Journal of Sex Research.

Image Source: 123RF

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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