Sexual Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts of Dick Pics

Bananas at Wicked Grounds, SF’s kink-themed cafe.

If there’s one rule that should be taken to heart when you’re doing internet dating, it’s this: Don’t send pictures of your genitals to someone unless they’ve expressly asked you to.

This is a very good rule to know and live by no matter what kind of genitals you have, how you express your gender, or what your pronouns are. But in practical terms, the vast majority of this post is directed at my fellow cis men, especially the heterosexual ones. Virtually every woman or femme-presenting person I know has reams of stories about getting unsolicited penis pictures through their OKCupid or FetLife profiles. Those who have high profiles on social media or other parts of the internet get them by the virtual bucketload — dozens, hundreds, and even thousands. It’s practically a rite of passage for women on the internet, and it really needs to end.

I could say a lot of things about why it’s bad to send dick pics without asking, but most of them boil down to this: It’s a violation of consent. Whether you’re looking for a nice, sweet bout of vanilla intercourse with flowers and chocolates or a dungeon scene that turns the kink up to eleven, consent is the linchpin of sex that is pleasurable and healthy. So if no other argument makes you hesitate before shoving penis pictures across the internet at the first opportunity, ask yourself this: If you can’t go the extra step of waiting until someone asks to see pictures of your cock, why should they trust you to negotiate a bondage scene? Why would they trust you to respect their safeword? Why, if you can’t stop long enough to ask about this one thing, would they expect you to take the time to find out what makes them feel safe and pleasured in more intimate settings?

The importance of questions like that is only intensified by the fact that a lot of unsolicited dick pics are sent not as sexy come-ons, but as part of harassment or intimidation campaigns. Women are quite rightly on edge about getting shots of some random guy’s junk because they’re so often accompanied by threats of violence.

For this article, I’m assuming that the people reading mainly want to get some sexy funtimes. But the reality of widespread misogyny and harassment online means that much of the time, it’s likely that a woman’s first response to your dick pic is going to be either fear or a feeling of being grossed out. The unsolicited nature of the pictures alone is a huge turnoff, no matter how appealing the cock or how artful the photograph.

Stockroom’s Perforated Jock Strap

The even more likely response is sheer boredom. Dick pics are so common in profiles on swinger and poly dating websites that they seem downright banal. That’s a shame, because there is nothing banal about cocks. That so many dick pics are so boring says volumes about how cis men — especially heterosexual cis men — are taught to view our bodies and our sexualities. I think a lot of cis men not only view their dicks as the only erotic part of their bodies, but see them as kind of mechanical and generic, distinctive only in how big they are or how long they can stay erect.

But cocks are beautiful and intricate things, and far more unique than most people give them credit for. Any picture of your dick should evoke that individuality and imagination, not a simple utilitarian piece of flesh.

Like most women who are active online, sex writer A.V. Flox has gotten a LOT of dick pictures over the years, most of them mediocre at best. Anyone who’s going to start taking pictures of their dick to send around would be well-advised to listen to what she told me about how she’s felt about those pictures:

I have received two explicit photos that were appealing out of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands). Both were composed by cis men in the visual arts (one is, I believe, a director and the other a photographer). Besides careful attention to setting, mood and color, their photos told a story. Most importantly, it was a story that I was interested in: I had either requested the image or been asked whether I was interested in receiving it.
It was the care in composition that made these images special, rather than mere acts of waving a dick around. As I mentioned in a comment above: There’s a degree of care in visual representation that seems to correlate with a feeling of being seen in the recipient. No matter how much I want to see someone’s dick, if they send me an artless photo that seems like they just shoved their phone in their pants, I feel a sense of disappointment.

Probably the single best resource for anyone who wants to take pictures of their penis that are erotic, unique, and make potential partners want to see more is Madeline Holden’s Tumblr, “Critiquing your dick picks with love.” Holden has been reviewing countless dick pics for years, and although she’s relentlessly honest, she’s never cruel and gives constructive feedback on how to make your dick pic better. For $10, you can send your picture to her for a private review, and for $25 you can get a guaranteed review on the website.

Even the stranger pictures get respect from Holden. Of one picture of a dick dressed up with a red clown nose on the tip, framed by polka-dotted gloves, she writes:

“your clown gloves are adding a pop of colour and there’s comical effect being created by the bobble perched atop your member. were it not for the props it’d be a very ordinary dick pic, and so can’t receive top marks, but you deserve full credit for being a good sport ahead of your wedding.”

That one gets a C+ from her.

The dicks that Holden reviews don’t even have to be organic. Some of her reviews are of trans men or cis women trying out a new cock, and she approaches them with a critical eye combined with compassion and sensitivity.

The same ethics that apply to actual penises apply to pictures of them: Don’t bring them out unless you know that the viewers want you to. But once you’ve mastered that, there’s a lot of potential in them to explore our sexualities, genders, and bodies. It’s a shame that dick pics have gotten such a sleazy reputation, but with a little thought about basic etiquette combined with a little bit of artistic creativity, we may be able to change that.


Author Chris Hall is a writer from the East Bay Area who probably first became kinky by reading science fiction in his teens, but got serious about it when he discovered Usenet and BBS’s in the 1990s. Since then, he’s been passionate about exploring sexuality in all ways, including sexual health, ethics and personal exploration.

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