"I seem to have lost my pants :(," reads a headline on the Ladyboners Gone Wild subreddit, a moist corner of the internet where women who love dick pics go to adore random, digital penis.
I click on it and within microseconds, I'm staring straight into the wrinkled skin of some dude's nut sack. Towering atop it is a sizeable cock, glistening and triumphant in the blue, electronic glow of his laptop. You can tell from the angle he took the photo at that his dick's not as big as it appears, but its perfectly symmetrical curvature and acceptable girth makes up for it.
Most of the man's face is mercifully cropped out. That means this could be anyone I want it to be.
In fact, any one of the millions of cocks on the growing number of anonymous dick pic sharing websites and subreddits could belong to whoever I want them to, something that's offering up a whole new world of pleasure and entertainment for women like me who really love dick … when we control the circumstances under which we see it. It's all part of a fascinating new trend in dick pic sharing, one that utilizes the concept of consent to satisfy both parties involved: men with dicks who want them seen, and the women who want to see them, on their own terms, when they so please.
Let me explain.
The popularization online dating and photo-sharing platforms like Snapchat has meant that many penis owners have found a way to, well, put themselves out there. Ever since the advent of picture messaging and cell phone cameras, men have been using this technology to send unwanted photos of their cocks to a variety of people for a variety of reasons, a phenomenon which has inspired countless scientific studies, advice columns and other investigations into the people who take part in this baffling behavior. Even more than that, the negative reaction to dick pics has spawned new definitions of sexual harassment and how it should be handled in an increasingly digitized world.
Meanwhile, women are applauded for their strength and resilience when they "brilliantly shut down" dick pic senders, their responses racking up likes and views on viral listicles. The general consensus seems to be that most women react to dick pics with revulsion, incredulity and shock — they just don't like them, plain and simple.
Many researchers have sought to find out just what it is about an unwanted flesh tube photo that's so aggravating, but I think sex educator and therapist Aida Manduley, MSW says it best: "Unsolicited dick pics can be a lot like catcalls — ways to assert power, express entitled sexual interest, cut the receivers down to objects, center the sender's own ego and prowess, get some rise or reaction out of another person, punish someone due to their sexuality (especially when men send these to lesbians), gratify a sense of exhibitionism, or even try to force the receiver into sending a nude as well."
With that kind of intent behind them, it's not hard to see how dick pics would be about as warmly received as a small pox blanket.
Thing is, many women (and men) actually love dick pics … when they're given the option whether to see them or not. This is where anonymous dick pic sites come in (worst pun, sorry). Not only do they give some men an incentive to stop e-flashing women without permission or warning; they also provide a safe place where men's penises can be adored and women can feel empowerd and in-control as they're doing the adoring. That's a big step in a world where the most common reaction to dick pics is something like this.
"I absolutely love dick pics … when I'm under control of which ones I see," says Bianca*, one of the women who frequents Ladyboners Gone Wild. "I actually get off on them. I like scrolling through all the men and imagining what I'd do to them. It just has to feel consensual to me, like it wasn't sprung on me without my asking for it. I pick the dick. The dick doesn't pick me."
"When a penis is offered to you on a forum, it's like an item on a menu," adds Anna*, another dick pic forum rat from the r/dickpic subreddit. "You can chose it if you want, and there's no hard feelings if you don't. There's no entitlement there, no presumption about you. It's about what you want, not what someone else wants you to want."
Of course, the lack of consent is part of the appeal for many people who send unsolicited pictures of their flabby wangs. That's why experts like Manduley think these online forums will probably only really be helpful to guys who care about creating a positive response.
… Good thing there are a lot of those guys.
Many of them, like LadybonersGW user Superdude4agze, use dick pic sites as a healthy outlet to explore their exhibitionistic sides in front of an audience who specifically went there to see strange dick. Their sheer presence in that safe space for sack implies their consent, as well as a much more comfortable alternative to the "dick pics are sexual harassment" paradigm many people ascribe to.
Plus, many men are looking for affirmation. They want to be told be internet ladies that they are, indeed, hot.
"It's a lot more fun if people seek you out and like your pics," Robbie, a 34-year-old dick pic Tumblr user told Broadly.
Makes sense — dick pic forums can offer a huge boost in confidence for people like Robbie. They're typically sex-positive, body-welcoming environments where women with a wide range of tastes can find a dick and corresponding corpus to suit their tastes. Manduley notes that this welcoming environment may "help people normalize a variety of genitals."
The environment is such precisely because people are allowed to view the picture on their own terms.
"The majority of the reception is warm and inviting," said Superdude4agze. "I'd [say] 98 percent-plus of the comments are about how nice the poster's member is and what the commenter would like to do with it."
It's also a way for women to flip the script of objectification, something they're typically the unwanted recipient of. On sites like these, women are allowed to see men as walking penises, their bodies no more than a backdrop or a substrate for their fleshy wangs (although there are also many sites with people attached to the penises — LadyBonersGW has plenty of torso and face shots if you're into that kind of thing). This role reversal gives women the opportunity to explore their sexuality in a new light, in a way that acknowledges that women can actually be highly sexual and visual, two traits that are stereotypically associated with men.
When both sides of the dick pic enjoy the experience equally, dick pics can be a positive experience that leads to fulfillment and validation.
"It feels reclamatory or even feminist to [look at dick pics] when I feel like doing it, because it's an act of choice and agency, unlike when unsolicited dick pics are sent to me," says Kate, a connosseuir of online cock. "Dicks are fantastic when I've consented to interact with them."