Dick pics, that most juvenile of sexual trends, really gained popularity amid the glorious phenomenon known as sexting. It's one thing if the photos are asked for, of course, but unwanted dick pics hold a special place in the pantheon of lewdness.
Enter comedian Janet Silverman. Silverman had never been privy to the glory of receiving a dick pic, so her friends thought they'd do her a solid and put together a slide show of 89 pics they'd received of dicks — large and small, hard and flaccid — from around the globe. The friends then recorded Silverman's reactions to the slide show in a hilarious clip, "Janet Looks at 89 Dicks:"
"Janet's response is pretty much what you'd expect," notes Jezebel's Mark Shrayber. "She [was] alternately frightened and strangely delighted by the absurdity of a penis just staring at you from your computer screen, its one eye boring deep into yours daring you to look away. And, of course, after seeing about 40 penises in a row, she pretty much forgets what a penis or a male body even looks like."
While hilarious, the video highlights a number of cultural truths about the "penis in the digital age."
First and foremost, Silverman's feigned lament of never receiving a dick pic is meant to parody the fact that most dick pics received are not solicited. These pics, like many kinds of text and instant messages that just arrive unwanted in our inboxes, are a form of subtle yet aggressive sexual harassment. Yes, they are a form of sexting, but they are not always consensual.
In the age of virtual communication, we have yet to solve the problem of consent. This is something not resigned to the dick pic, of course, spilling over into other arenas of modern life like online dating.
"Maybe this makes me naive, but I was pretty surprised to discover that under the protective veil of the Internet, sleazy pick-up lines that in the past were really only acceptable to utter to well, maybe to paid sex workers, but more or less never, had become somehow acceptable to utter to real, live human beings," Tinder dating app user Anna Gensler told Mic earlier this year after being shocked by the number of objectifying, crude messages that flooded her account.
Image Credit: YouTube
The second, less-pornographic cultural phenomenon this video addresses is the place of the penis in popular culture — where is it? The history of art and visual culture in the West has erased the male nude; in art museums today, there are more female nudes lining the walls than there are female artists represented in those museums. The consequence has been the fetishization of the naked female body, while the penis has become taboo.
Silverman's video lends a humanity to the penis, making it seem more fallible in all its flaccid, curved states rather than imbuing it with some omnipotent, mythical power. At the end of the day, however, the practical message of the video is clear: Sorry guys, when it comes to the average woman, it's probably wise to just keep it in your pants.