I Critique Dick Pics

Self-explanatory

Madeleine Holden
Dec 13, 2017 · 7 min read
Illustration by Amanda Suarez

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I check the dick pic email on a Saturday. When I open it, I’m typically greeted by between 50 and 100 new emails since the previous week, with subject lines like “Rate this German dick” and “Hard at work” and “Trans man’s albino penis.” I tackle them in chronological order, one by one.

I run a website called Critique My Dick Pic (if you choose to Google this, warning that the site is NSFW), where I’m paid to review dick pics based on their photographic merits, taking into account factors like lighting, tone, and the relative merits of various angles and poses, but never the state of a sender’s body or size of their penis — it’s meant to be a body-positive project. Critiquing dick pics began as a hobby, but these days it’s a job that makes up a significant portion of my income. The money comes from punters who want to guarantee a review on site ($25) or those who want a private, emailed review because they don’t want photographs of their penises floating around the public sphere ($10). I also write and speak about the various philosophical and practical implications of the dick pic, and sometimes I’m paid to do that too.

Like most regular jobs, the hardest part of the role is staying on top of emails: I receive hundreds of dick pics per month, and if Critique My Dick Pic has been featured on the radio or in a major publication, that number can sometimes spike into the thousands. Unlike most regular jobs, though, literally every email I open contains a graphic penile nude. This means I need to be careful where I decide to work — this isn’t a job for bustling cafés or trendy co-working spaces. For this reason, the bulk of my work takes place at home.

Most of the submissions I receive won’t result in a review on site because I receive a greater number of dick pics than I could ever hope to evaluate — I reject between 250 and 500 submissions a month. Submissions are usually axed because they’re poor quality in a pedestrian sort of way, which makes for a boring review, although sometimes decent submissions won’t make the site because I simply have too many to choose from. The job, then, involves a strong degree of curation. I review about 20 shots on the site each month, give or take the odd lazy patch. All of the paid submissions are reviewed, and the occasional unpaid submission will make it to the site if it’s an especially good effort or if I need to make an example of a really, really bad one. The vast majority of the dick pics I receive are in the latter category: underwhelming efforts that look identical to all the others; lackluster logs with subpar production values and little differentiating detail. After considering the picture fairly and reading any commentary provided by the sender, nine times out of 10 I type up a polite courtesy email to let them know their picture has not been selected to be reviewed on site.

A select few submissions will fare better: About five among all the unpaid dick pics I receive in a week will be set aside to be reviewed on site. Excellent submissions always make the cut — thoughtful, superbly lit dick prints that result from meticulously staged photo shoots, for example — and I also tend to select one really terrible shot and a C-grade in-betweeny to maintain an interesting variety of grades and show readers the whole gamut of the dick pic spectrum. I then draft the reviews using a rough variation on the following template:

  • A single line broadly assessing the quality of the picture (“This is a vibrant, fun dick pic, Sender, which stands out from the rest.”)
  • A couple more sentences describing what exactly has been done well or poorly, taking into account factors like the framing, lighting, and overall tone (“Your dick pic is novel in at least three ways: the pose, which is cheeky and amusing; the panel effect, which is visually appealing; and the color palette, which is harmonious and carefully considered. You’ve created an unusually light tone to your dick pic, Sender, and it’s always refreshing to receive a submission like this.”)
  • A quick summing up, thanking the reader for their submission and awarding a letter grade in bold (“Thank you for submitting to Critique My Dick Pic. Your dick pic gets an A–”).

I then schedule the reviews to appear on subsequent days, close all my tabs, and don’t look at or think about dick pics for the remainder of the week. This ability to compartmentalize comes easily to me: After seeing and thinking critically about so many dick pics in one sitting, it’s a relief to be occupied by less fleshy matters.

I’m sure I could earn at least double if I were open to critiquing the penis itself, rather than just its photographic representation. A reliable supply of men ask me to provide brutal feedback about their nether regions, and they’re often willing to pay me for my trouble. Usually they want to know how big their penises look, but also whether the rest of their bodies are attractive or if a particular flaw they’re hung up about is as disgusting as they imagine. I’ve made a specific point of never criticizing senders’ bodies, and I want to maintain the site’s tongue-in-cheek art criticism tone, so I’m not interested in expanding into this market, but there is definitely money to be made in this area.

I am almost entirely inured to dick pics these days, and I rarely come across submissions that raise my pulse. The most unusual submissions still stand out in my memory. One particularly standout effort arrived early in the life of the project: a shot from a trans woman featuring scattered bone fragments across her torso (she also informed me they were lodged in her mouth and anus). It had never even occurred to me that bone fragments might be used as a sexual prop, but I’m not so naive now. This role is like a direct portal into people’s most private fantasies and unusual sexual habits. I’ve seen furries, clowns, and all sorts of convoluted contraptions; cis men in women’s underwear and trans men with packers; snow-themed dick pics, food-themed dick pics, and art history–themed dick pics. The breadth and range is impressive, and heartwarming.

When I feel like this job is futile or frivolous, I like to remember a particularly encouraging submission I received in September last year. I immediately sized it up as being “very, very good,” saying, “The lighting is ideal, and you’ve included a whole swath of your torso and thighs. The background is uncluttered, and your picture has a confident, minimalist air. It is, in short, a really hot dick pic.”

Receiving a dick pic of such high quality is a rare occurrence at the best of times, but what made this one in particular so special is the fact that, just the day before, the sender had submitted a much more ordinary effort. (“It suffers from being too zoomed in and focused narrowly on your dick itself,” I’d said. “The background is busy and the picture is slightly blurred.”) Apparently taking on board everything I said with an earnest desire to improve, he went back to the drawing board, and the very next day he sent in an A-grade submission.

Improving the general quality of dick pics can feel like a Sisyphean task. Even though most could be improved with a few very simple tweaks — usually simply zooming out farther to include the rest of the body, plus tidying up any visible background clutter — the bulk of the shots occupying my inbox are uninspired and repetitive. I notice a constant tension between what most straight men think women want to see (straightforward evidence of a huge dick, basically) and what most women tell me actually turns them on (seeing non-dick body parts, such as thighs, torsos and arms; clean, inviting settings; and some visible consideration of factors like the lighting, framing, and tone). In short, a thoughtfully constructed nude.

I often feel like I’m screaming into a void when men who receive poor marks continue to send me variations on the same uninspired shot, piling my inbox with subjects lines like “third try” and “giving this another go,” while failing to grasp what is so boring about their pictures. So, when a sender does actually listen and improve — like my guy above — the whole job feels worthwhile. It might be occurring at an almost imperceptibly glacial pace, but it’s encouraging to feel like my work is helping to improve the quality of penis pictures worldwide. To recipients of dick pics everywhere: I do this for you.

Madeleine Holden

Written by

A fan of women and a critic of dick pics

Strange Work
Strange Work
Strange Work

About this Collection

Strange Work

Everyone who works has a job, and most everyone wants a different, better, cooler, other job somewhere else. We envy those in weird, cool, strange, fun-seeming jobs driving an ice cream truck , or reviewing theme parks, or nursing baby zoo animals, or digging graves. At least it would be different, right? Maybe not so different as we’d like to think.

Everyone who works has a job, and most everyone wants a different, better, cooler, other job somewhere else. We envy those in weird, cool, strange, fun-seeming jobs driving an ice cream truck , or reviewing theme parks, or nursing baby zoo animals, or digging graves. At least it would be different, right? Maybe not so different as we’d like to think.

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