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Women's Reactions to Dick Pics

Women's Experiences and Outcomes Associated with the Receipt of Unsolicited Genital Images - Flora Oswald, Amanda Champion, Kaylee Skoda, Shelby Hughes, & Cory L. Pedersen


Despite widespread popular attention to the phenomenon, few studies have explored the sending of unsolicited genital images, colloquially known as ‘dick pics’. One of the first empirical studies on straight men’s motivations for the practice found that most men held positive motivations, while the minority indicated misogynistic motivations (Oswald, Lopes, Skoda, Hesse, & Pedersen, 2019). Results revealed that most men hoped that by sending a dick pic: (a) the receiver would reciprocate by sending a sexually explicit image in return, (b) the receiver would engage in a sexual interaction with the sender, or (c) the receiver would feel attractive by receiving the explicit image. Despite these novel findings, equally very little is known regarding whether the sender’s intended motivations derive the results they anticipate. The current investigation assessed women’s experiences with receiving unsolicited genital images using a mixed methods approach.

The first study interviewed 10 women to gather an in-depth qualitative understanding of the emotional experiences and psychological impact of receiving an unsolicited genital image. Interviews were transcribed and coded for major impact themes. Guided by grounded theory, the major themes that emerged from the interviewees’ data included: lowered self-esteem, feeling devalued, finding the content amusing, and/or sexually aggressive and harassing; these experiences provide insight into the lived experiences and impacts of this phenomenon. These themes guided the measurement design of a questionnaire implemented in study 2, which assessed prevalence rates with regard to the receipt of unsolicited imagery, the relationships between senders and receivers, women’s perceptions of men’s motivations for sending such images, and the platforms through which such images are sent. We also assessed differences among participants in measures of feminism, personality, and sexual openness. 

Preliminary results suggest that 59% of our participants had received an unsolicited genital image, and 69% believe that receiving one is form of sexual harassment/aggression. Although participants reported many negative reactions to the receipt of such images (including disgust, shock, and anger), some participants experienced positive reactions (humour, feelings of sexual desirability) and reported responding to the sender in a positive fashion.  Although the receipt of unsolicited genital images is an oft discussed topic in popular culture, with emphasis on women’s distaste for the practice, to date there is no empirical study on the issue. This research unveils information that was previously only speculative, while offering insight into differences in the personalities and beliefs of women who receive unsolicited genital imagery.

Oral presentation delivered at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Virtual Conference, 2020.

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