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The Unsolicited Dick Pic and Why it Sucks for Everyone

April 6th, 2014 by

Once upon a time I was engaged in a correspondence on a certain dating site with a man who I’ll call…well, let’s call him Richard, shall we?

He sent me a one-line message. I don’t remember what it was, but in it, he essentially asked me to dominate him. I was bored and I was lonely, and he was submissive, so I replied. (I don’t meet submissive men on vanilla dating sites very often, so sometimes I’m willing to give a bit of leeway.) His profile was nothing but wank fodder, and his picture was a close-up of his nipple. My reply was prickly. In it, I told him that if he was interested, he would actually have to get to know me as a person, not as a fantasy. He responded with an enormous amount of enthusiasm and with a well thought-out, grammatically correct reply, bare of wank fodder. I was pleasantly surprised. He told me about himself and inquired about my life, my interests. I asked for a real picture. He offered clothed pictures or naked. I told him that, having only just made his acquaintance (and only online at that) I would prefer clothed. He sent me a number of pictures of himself, clothed, but then once again offered naked pictures. I declined again, but offered to meet him for coffee.

And so we met, and we drank coffee, and we talked about a number of things, for awhile. We talked about our jobs, our hobbies. We talked about kink. It was a fairly mundane first meeting. Richard was polite. He was not at all pushy about wanting to play or date. I told him it was nice to meet him, and it was. Later, I received another message from Richard:

Would you like some naked pictures of me now?

No thank you, I said.

We messaged back and forth a bit, and talked about tentative plans to meet up again, but never planned anything concrete. And then, once again, he asked it.

Are you sure I can’t send you any naked pictures of me?

There were a number of things which struck me about this. One was that he either didn’t listen well or had very poor short-term memory since I had explicitly told him I didn’t want naked pictures of him. Another was that he was awfully intent on sending them to me.

Why are you so set on sending me naked pictures of yourself? I asked.

Because I want you to like me, he said.

I know, I know. I keep coming back to Dug. It's just so apt sometimes.

I know, I know. I keep coming back to Dug. It just seems so apt sometimes.

Richard was not my first experience with unsolicited dick pics. As a female-identified user of social media, I have been bombarded with them, from men I don’t know on dating sites, to friends who get drunk, to guys who are trying to flirt with me.

What I think most men who send unwanted, unasked for dick pics don’t understand, is that to the receiver, it feels like assault. And it IS assault. If the act of sending unsolicited dick pics was translated to “meatspace”, it would look like this: the man in question and I would be having a pleasant conversation, and then suddenly, he whips out his dick, with no warning.

The cowardly anonymous quality of technology allows us to hide behind it, and consequently, do things we wouldn’t normally do otherwise, without fear of “IRL” consequences. It allows for the senders of these pictures to essentially, non-confrontationally flash others. And this is part of rape culture. As women, we are told that our desires don’t matter, that any desires we do have must revolve around men and their desires. Our whole lives, women are inundated with fear, and expectation of sexual assault. To us, the receiver of the non-consensual dick pic, it is just a confirmation that what we want should be subjugated to the wants of others.

And that sucks.

The sad thing about all of this is that I genuinely love a good dick pic. I like dicks. I like the way they feel inside me, I like the way they feel in my hands, I like the way they look. They’re pretty. They are nice to look at! But I have rarely had the occasion to be happy about a dick pic, because it has almost always been thrust upon me non-consensually.

But now, back to Richard. There was another thing he told me that struck me. His profile told me he was bisexual, but he told me otherwise. “This is kind of awful,” he said. “But I’m not attracted to men. I don’t really like it when they touch me…it’s just nice to be wanted.”

Fetlife, the great normalizer, the place where everyone’s kink is respected and everyone is equally represented </sarcasm> has no room for dick pics. All over Fetlife, people say “Don’t put a dick pic as your profile picture.” Some go even further and say not to have any dick pics in your profile at all. “Nobody wants to see that,” people say. Men say it. Women say it. Genderqueer folks say it. Nobody wants to see a penis. Nobody wants men. (I am going to leave off the fact that men are not the only ones who have cocks and that gender is more complicated than penis-havers and penis-not-havers. That is another post.) Men are not allowed to be objects of desire. And you know what?  That sucks too.

I just wanted you to like me, he said.

I just wanted. you. to like me.

I never saw Richard again. Besides the fact that I wasn’t sure that we had any chemistry, it was clear that it wouldn’t work out between us–he clearly couldn’t listen to my wants and needs. I told him that sending me things I specifically told him I didn’t want wouldn’t be a good way to get him to like me, and yet he persisted. I haven’t heard from him in well over a year now. But my thoughts keep coming back to him. His eagerness to send me dick pics was just a symptom of an overall need he had that wasn’t fulfilled: he just wanted to be wanted.

Richard’s desire to be wanted overpowered his ability to respect me when I said “No.” This is not something that should ever happen. But it doesn’t invalidate the fact that the desire to be desired is a real, legitimate desire, and something that, as a whole, men aren’t allowed to experience in our society. The prevalence of unsolicited dick pics are not only assaultive to people, but they make dick pics something that people don’t solicit. This just contributes to the overall problem of how, societally, we brand men as unwantable. We frame men as the pursuers and women as the pursued, and we don’t allow it any other way. We don’t allow men to be wanted. We don’t allow women to want. This post is not about which one of those is worse–it’s not a contest. This post is about the fact that they both suck. These things are not unrelated. We need to get to a place where everyone is allowed to be wanted, and everyone is allowed to want, and just as importantly, everyone is allowed to not want.

Until then, it’s just going to suck for everyone.

The Cost of Devaluing Male Submission: One Token

August 9th, 2011 by

The BDSM blogosphere has been all aflutter lately about the devaluation of male submission. And it’s about fucking time. Because the kink scene treats male subs as if they are unwanted, uninvited guests, not recognizing the fact that they are real people with feelings of their own, that their dominant partners cherish them. Every time I see a Fetlife profile that reads “I’m not attracted to submissive men” (frequently, in my experience, on the profiles of female switches and occasionally other female dominants), my stomach clenches. They don’t seem to realize that such an attitude is linked to another problem in the scene: the tokenization of female dominants.

The public BDSM scene has a predilection towards the maledom femalesub dynamic. If you are female, you are presumed to be submissive unless stated otherwise, and if you are male, you are presumed to be dominant unless stated otherwise. (And if you are non-gender-normative, if you don’t fit in a nice little ticky-box, then the scene may accept you but not really know what to do with you.) As much as we would like to believe that the scene is a problem-free sexual utopia, it still suffers from many of the problems that mainstream society does. Straight male sexuality is prioritized, and thus straight male doms are the prevailing players in the scene. Straight male doms have no use for male subs, yet they still like female doms—they like us because we bring a certain energy to the scene and are fun to talk to and be around and because they hope that maybe we’ll co-top their girls with them and that they might be able to get into our pants.

So my sexuality is something that people in the scene can appreciate and sort of see the value in from afar. But the object of that sexuality is not accepted in the scene. While male subs are not seen as potential objects of desire, female doms are seen only as objects of desire. That’s how I feel sometimes as a femme dom in the public scene: they see me, but not my desires.

I feel like Geordi.

[Image: African-American man in a yellow Starfleet uniform, his eyes obscured by a “VISOR”, a piece of technology that allows him to see. Image source: Memory Alpha]

In Star Trek: the Next Generation, the character Geordi LaForge never got laid (this is where I out myself as a nerd, if the pseudonym and the lab coat and the giant boner for science weren’t already a dead giveaway). They had to have a character who was black and disabled, to show how progressive and inclusive they were. But they weren’t progressive enough to give him a sex life. Hollywood had this ridiculous idea about the primal, savage nature of black men, especially in relation to their sexuality. And so the closest poor Geordi ever gets to having a sexual relationship is with a holographic character, and even that is unconsummated–he gets blue-balled by his own fantasies, because oh no, if we show a black man in a sexual situation then the viewers will have to be reminded of the fact that he has a penis. We all know that there’s nothing scarier to mainstream 90’s American culture than a black man’s penis–the popularity of racist porn stemming from the eroticization of this fear belies it. (Not to mention the fact that Geordi falls right into the trope of “disabled characters don’t have a sexuality.”)  Geordi and I are both welcomed in our respective communities, as long as we keep our sexual desires silent—closeted—and to ourselves.

When I meet het male doms, I always try to make it abundantly clear to them from the beginning of our association that I am not a switch, I am not interested in playing, I am not interested in co-topping girls with them, I am not interested in anything beyond friendship with them.

And often, they continue to be friendly. And I like that because I am also friendly and I like to have friends, of all orientations. And I think to myself, “you know, we’re different, we get off on different things, but maybe he can appreciate me for who I am even though I’m not submissive and he knows we can’t have that type of interaction.”

“Maybe he can still respect me and the dynamic that I enjoy.” But then I hear language that refers to male submission as if it is something disgusting or shameful.

And that’s what bothers me.

A few months ago, maymay was referred to as “such a fucking weak-ass male submissive that he makes male submission look bad” by a dominant man who is well-known in the local community.

This writing has since been deleted. But the harmful words still ring in my ears. Maymay is not making male submissives look bad. The author is the one who is making male submissives look bad, because he is using the words “male submissive” as an insult. Would he have said “a fucking weak-ass gay”? I think not, at least, not in the San Francisco scene—such words have a clear underlying implication of homophobia. But somehow, using someone’s D/s status as a slur is acceptable.

While I don’t enjoy the maledom-femsub dynamic myself, I think it is a completely valid sexuality. I would never presume to tell someone otherwise. These het-male-doms who make up the mainstream of the subculture that we inhabit? I think they like me and respect me and think I’m hot, but I don’t know if they think my sexuality is valid.

And so I feel tokenized. It’s not fair to me, because where would I, a femme dom, be without my masculine sub? We are two sides of a coin. Today I am not beating my queer drum; today I am borrowing maymay’s drum: You cannot truly respect me without respecting my submissive as well. If you value me, you must value him.

There is a lot of male submissive-shaming in the public scene.  You’ll hear it all the time.  “Male subs are creepy,” “male subs spoil the atmosphere, so we don’t want to encourage them.” And while I have indeed encountered many male submissives who have acted in inappropriate ways, I have one question to ask: why do you suppose that male subs like maymay who do respect boundaries don’t feel welcome in the scene? It’s not because they are making male submission look bad, it’s because you are equating male submission with badness.

And by doing this, you are hurting me.

This is the reason I go to sleep alone every night. It’s not because there’s something wrong with me as a potential romantic/sexual partner. It’s because there’s no one for me to date. Because everyone’s been telling all the male submissives that they’re unwanted for so long that they won’t come out to play. So I’m sitting here in my kinky sandbox with my toys all by myself.

And it hurts.

If you respect me, if you respect my identity as a female dominant, then recognize that when you devalue male submission, you are devaluing the objects of my desire, and by doing so, you. are. hurting. me. too.