There are lots of reasons why you shouldn’t share pictures of your own dick with people who haven’t expressly asked to see it. This subject has been covered so much now that I hope those who have dicks understand exactly how not to be a dick about nude selfies/dick pics etc. But today I’m not talking to these people: I’m talking to people who receive dick pics and share them publicly because they want to shame the person who sent them. Brace yourselves because this might be a little bit controversial, but I’m hoping by the end of it I can persuade one or two of you that publishing someone else’s dick pic – however good your intentions – is not a good idea.
Picture the scene, which many of you will be far too familiar with: you receive a dick pic from a total stranger. It is entirely unsolicited. Non-consensual. It pokes its way into your inbox without you having asked for it, assaulting your eyes and making you deeply uncomfortable. Let me make it clear that I think this is an appalling thing for someone to do. I used to be a fan of dick pics, but crucially only those that were sent with my consent. Sending one as a ‘surprise’ is wholly unacceptable, and I personally think that there should be tighter rules (and possibly laws) governing unsolicited sexual pictures, as there are laws around taking your cock out and waving it at someone in the street.
However. I’ve seen quite a few people who will take those dick pics and publish them publicly, with the person’s username/face/information. The idea – and I can totally understand where it comes from – is to shame the person sending it into not sending any more.
But I’d urge you to stop before you hit ‘publish’ on that dick pic. Depending on where you are you may well be dropping yourself in serious legal hot water, and on top of that there are ethical considerations which I think are at least worth considering.
Revenge porn laws
In the UK, we now have a law around ‘revenge porn.’ This law was created primarily to protect those who are victims of ‘revenge porn’ – where ex-partners/people with a grudge share nude images of the victim on the internet. Prior to the law (which came in around 2015), sharing these photos was a bit of a legal grey area, despite being entirely abhorrent. Now, though, the law clearly explains ‘revenge porn’ as:
“a broad term covering a range of activity usually involving an ex-partner, uploading intimate sexual images of the victim to the internet, to cause the victim humiliation or embarrassment. It is a criminal offence to re-tweet or forward without consent, a private sexual photograph or film, if the purpose was to cause distress to the individual depicted.”
I wasn’t sure if this would cover sharing of dick pics for ‘shaming’ purposes, so I called the Revenge Porn Hotline (who you can call too if you would like advice on anything revenge-porn-focused), and they confirmed that yes, this would absolutely fall under the law, and depending on the context it could also potentially fall under harassment/malicious communications laws too. So if you’re in the UK – do not publish that dick pic.
Even if you blur/obscure some of the image (or put a smiley face/cupcake/other snapchat sticker over the dick), it still counts. From the FAQs on the Revenge Porn Hub:
Does the offence cover digitally manipulated images?
Unfortunately, the UK law on revenge porn does not currently include images that have been photoshopped to look intimate and/or sexual. It would however include an image that had been edited in some way if the original image was intimate/sexual in nature to begin with.
If you’re not in the UK, other laws might apply in your territory. Regardless of whether a law applies, though, I still don’t think you should publish that dick pic.
The ethics of sharing a dick pic
Let’s think about the kind of person who sends a dick pic to your inbox without your consent. What do you know about this person? You know they’re a prick for sending you this, sure. But on top of that, what else do you know about them? Their background? Mental health status? Do you know where they are sending it from? There are some countries which have severe – and I’m talking ‘death penalty’ severe – punishments for things like adultery or homosexuality. Could your sharing of their picture ‘out’ them to the authorities? This is a thorny issue, because I’ve debated it with some people before around the time of the Ashley Madison hack – some people will say ‘well they knew what they were getting into/shouldn’t have done something wrong.’ If you’re one of those people this won’t be a consideration for you, but for me this absolutely would be a worthwhile factor to consider, so you might want to take it into consideration.
Above all else, though: do you know how old they are? If you unthinkingly hit ‘share’ or ‘publish’ on that unsolicited dick pic, how do you know the sender was over 18? If they aren’t, you are in some serious trouble. Even if you have taken the time to blur out or obscure some of the picture. Even if you thought they were over 18. Even if you’re a nice person who thought what they were doing was helpful to prevent others receiving dick pics. No matter what your reasons, if you don’t know how old the person in the image is, do not publish that image. Anywhere.
That includes forwarding the image to someone’s Mum or girlfriend…
Sending a dick pic to his mum/girlfriend/boss
This is another branch of the same trend, and it’s getting a little more common: arsehole men on the internet getting shamed by having their dick pic/misogynist comment forwarded to their mum/girlfriend/boss etc. If you’re sending on a comment, I’ve got little to say here, although the questions surrounding background and penalties for adultery (or homosexuality, if it’s a guy sending an unsolicited sexy message to another guy from a country where being gay is illegal) are still worth asking, I think.
But if you’re sending a dick pic they’ve sent you? Exactly the same issues apply. What you’re doing – still – is trying to “forward without consent, a private sexual photograph or film … to cause distress to the individual depicted.” That’s the key here: are you sharing this because you want to cause the individual distress? If yes, it’s illegal in the UK, and possibly in whatever territory you’re from as well. I also think it’s unethical, for the reasons listed above. No matter how abhorrent the act of sending an unsolicited dick pic is.
Dick pic shaming and collateral damage
Final point: when you share a dick pic, are you aware of the collateral damage that you might cause? A private message to someone’s girlfriend saying ‘your boyfriend sent me a dick pic, just thought you’d like to know’ is one thing, but screengrabbing the message and sharing it with all your Instagram followers is quite another.
Recently someone shared an unsolicited dick pic they’d received, along with messages they’d sent to the sender’s girlfriend which basically said ‘are you aware your boyfriend is doing this?’ His picture (with the dick partially obscured) and screenname were shared with this person’s entire feed. Personally, I wouldn’t do this, for all the reasons mentioned above. But there’s more: alongside his name and photo, this person also shared his girlfriend’s screenname, photograph, and the messages that she was sent telling her what her boyfriend had done.
Regardless of what you think of the guy who sent the picture, is it possible for us to agree that publicly dragging his girlfriend into it, exposing her name, face, and potential heartbreak to all your Twitter followers might not be a great idea? All the questions about him also apply to her: you don’t know her background, mental health status, whether she might face some awful consequences if it was discovered that she was ‘with’ this guy, don’t know what their relationship is. Don’t know how this will affect her/how old she is, etc. Is it really fair to potentially ruin her day/week/life because he’s done something shitty?
Again even if none of that bothers you, let’s bring this back to you and the risks associated with sharing a picture that might be of a minor or might fall under revenge porn laws: the more pissed off anyone is in this interaction (including girlfriends/mums/etc), the more likely they are to report you to the police.
Dick pic shaming, ethics and the law
I should say, again, that although I’m arguing against sharing an unsolicited dick pic, I fully understand why someone would want to do this: unsolicited dick pics aren’t just annoying, they are actively distressing. That there isn’t really a law that deals with this (yet) is ridiculous, and the person I spoke to at the Revenge Porn Hotline pointed out that it was a troubling gap. I’d argue that the fact so many people are doing this shows we’re in need of some actual help in dealing with the problem of unsolicited dick pics. Online vigilantes shaming those who send them are often doing so because they feel scared, vulnerable, and like there is nowhere for them to turn to stop this kind of harassment. We need to give them somewhere to turn: somewhere they can report the arseholes who send unsolicited dick pics in the first place.
I’m not here to tell you that you’re wrong to be angry if someone sends you an unsolicited dick pic (or ANY unsolicited sexual content – though dick pics are the most common example). If you’re one of the people who has shared an unsolicited picture publicly, then I suspect this blog post may read to you like a ‘subtweet’, because I haven’t specifically named names of the people I’ve seen doing it. But I’ve done that not so I can be passive-aggressive about it: it’s because I don’t want any individuals to get in trouble as a result of my post. And it’s not up to me what you do – I just want to make you aware of the risks, encourage you to think on these questions, and maybe pause before you publish.
Please don’t fuck up your life by sharing a dick pic that should never have popped into it in the first place.