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Why Do These Men Send Women Explicit, Unsought Photos?

Who sends unsolicited photos of their genitals, and why?

Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock
Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

Upon receipt of an unasked-for image of someone’s penis—colloquially known as a “dick pic”—the flurry of emotions women report feeling rarely includes gratitude. But in spite of their chilly reception, the images continue to proliferate, and a certain kind of person may be more likely to hit “send,” a recent study finds.

Researchers polled more than 1,000 men on whether they had ever sent an unsolicited photograph of their genitals. Those who had—approximately half—were asked to choose from 20 reasons for doing so, selecting all that applied. Participants also completed questionnaires measuring levels of narcissism and sexism.

Senders’ motivations fell into two main categories: transactional (hoping to receive images in return, for instance) and partner hunting (as a way of flirting). Rarely did they choose blatantly misogynistic motives, like “I feel a sense of dislike toward women and sending dick pics is satisfying.” Yet senders scored significantly higher on measures of sexism and narcissism than those who had never engaged in the practice.

Narcissists, who are high in self-importance, may “imagine that women would be interested in seeing their genitals, even when unsolicited,” says lead author Cory Pedersen of Canada’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University. But sending such pictures has been shown to trigger feelings of anger, objectification, or shame in the recipient, so it is far from “harmless” flirtation. She adds, “There may be a disconnect for some men about what sexism is.”

Facebook image: Roman Kosolapov/Shutterstock