Receiving unsolicited genital pictures from men appears to be a largely negative experience for most women, according to a new study published in The Journal of Sex Research. But gay and bisexual men appear to be significant more receptive to receiving such images without warning.
“My work, broadly, explores the intersections between digital communication technologies (mostly online dating sites/applications, Internet-based sex work sites, and social media platforms), sexuality, and intimacy. I am also interested in how people navigate digital consent communication,” said study author Alexandra Marcotte, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Kinsey Institute.
“I was interested in this particular project because the practice of sending dick pics has become so common and is discussed so much, but there is very little research on the topic, especially when it comes to gay and bisexual men. As someone who studies both consent and digital sexual practices, it made sense to tackle this project.”
For their study, the researchers examined data from the Singles in America (SIA) study, an annual survey on the attitudes and behaviors of single adults in the United States. In particular, they examined responses from 2,045 women of all sexual identities and 298 gay or bisexual men who consented to the sexuality module of the survey.
The researchers found 80 percent of the men and almost 50 percent of the women reported receiving a “dick pic.” Among those who had ever received such a photo, 90 percent had received one without asking for it. “This includes 90.7% of women — 90.7% of heterosexual, 91.3% of lesbian, and 90.8% of bisexual women — and 87.1% of men — 88.1% of gay men and 82.1% of bisexual men,” the authors of the study wrote.
Though some men have malicious motives, according to previous research, heterosexual men primarily send unsolicited images of their genitals to women in the hopes of receiving either similar images or sexual interactions in return.
But the new findings suggest that such images rarely provoke the intended response.
Women of all sexual identities reported predominantly negative reactions. The researchers found that 50% of women who received unsolicited genital images reported feeling “grossed out” and 46% felt “disrespected.” Only 26% of women reported having a positive reaction.
In contrast, men tended to view receiving genital images more positively than women. About 44% of men reported being “entertained” and 41% reported feeling “curious” after receiving a dick pic. One fourth of the men reported having a negative reaction.
“I think the main takeaway is that consent and communication matter. Though gay and bisexual men were much more likely to report positive reactions to receiving unsolicited genital images than women, some men reported ambivalent and even negative reactions,” Marcotte told PsyPost.
“And this doesn’t include how queer folks might respond, or those who are questioning their sexualities. Or what about men who identify as straight but don’t behave that way? Because we are all individuals and our reactions vary from person to person, situation to situation, it’s important to talk with each other about what is okay and what isn’t.”
The study — like all research — includes some caveats.
“I would love to see research about how straight-identified men react to receiving unsolicited dick pics. A technical issue in our survey prevented us from collecting this data, but I think it could add to our understanding of the practice of sending and receiving these images,” Marcotte said.
“We found that 7.5% of heterosexual women and 12% of bisexual women reported feeling aroused by at least one unsolicited dick pic they received. While the majority of women did not report feeling aroused, it’s important to not overlook the variation in responses.”
The study, “Women’s and Men’s Reactions to Receiving Unsolicited Genital Images from Men“, was authored by Alexandra S. Marcotte, Amanda N. Gesselman, Helen E. Fisher, and Justin R. Garcia.