On August 23, a collective of women in Brooklyn, known as Future Femme, mounted a gallery of “photography” with a subject you probably wouldn’t expect. The exhibition (pun intended) is called Show Me More: A Collection of DickPix (read all about it here, in a great piece by a very smart friend of mine). To summarize, these women used more than 300 pictures of penises sent to them by men via text, e-mail, OKCupid, Grindr (more on this later…), etc. as a statement against the “affront” of unsolicited dick pics in their lives and the lives women as a whole. And, while I am all about supporting other women in their feminist movements, there are a few things about this project that make it impossible for me to support.
I wholeheartedly agree that unsolicited “dick pics” are offensive and rude, and the men who send them likely have a similar mindsets to that of flashers, public masturbaters, or even street harassers–essentially, that women are and should be pawns in the game of male sexual desire, and that every move made on the part of men should be welcomed and appreciated (think about men who react to complaints about street harassment with “it’s a compliment!”). Women do not live to fulfill your sexual fantasies, men who send unsolicited dick pics. We are not sitting at home just waiting for that text message *bing*, hoping it will bring us your next masterpiece of genital photographic genius.
Additionally, the desire to make women uncomfortable via sexuality and nudity is a common problem (again, with street harassers and flashers like this one); as psychologist Alex Yufik explains, the “desire to expose yourself, it is a kind of a crime of power… a person feels a sense of power over the opposite sex by shocking them, by exposing that kind of–by exposing their genitals.” Dr. Yufik is speaking specifically about flashers here, but I’m inclined to say that it applies to dick pics as well. Justin Garcia of the Kinsey Institute agrees, referring to the pictures as being “flashed in the digital era.” “With these pictures,” he says, “you’re removing a certain agency from women. I think there’s a larger method of disrespecting women with these photos than we even recognize.” I have to agree that an unsolicited dick pic is an assault (at least to the mind).
However, we get none of this from the exhibition, because, as explained in the article, these women solicited these photos. That’s right, they used OKCupid and other online methods to collect the photos, sometimes “just going right for the jugular and straight-up asking for a dick pic.” One artist actually posed as a gay man on Grindr, a gay/bi dating site, to collect the photos, which, to me, misses the mark completely as these men don’t even know they’re talking to a woman. How can we make a point about the treatment of women when the men we are using as a reference don’t even know they are SPEAKING TO A WOMAN?
Additionally, the project also assumes that every woman finds all dick pics, even those that may be solicited or are perhaps sent by a partner, to be offensive. “What girl finds that to be anything but ridiculous,” one artist says about sending penis selfies, and yet, another artist has “an admitted fascination with dicks.” Isn’t there a faction of women out there who enjoy (solicited) dick pics? (I’m not saying I am this woman, but sexual desires run the gamut in both genders!) Why should the men that were solicited assume that the photos would be deemed offensive, when the women were asking for them? Shouldn’t we be cutting some slack for the men that might have been thinking, “hey, I don’t normally do this, but she seems into it so I’ll give it a try?”
I could completely understand if this collective had used photos that were actually unsolicited, but I’m guessing that would take years of patiently waiting for offensive photos to show up in their inboxes (300 dick pics is a lot of dick pics!). However, as it stands, the show falls short of any message and comes across more as revenge porn than anything. I can’t help but think of this project as a form of entrapment. The women are “mounting their work alongside [photos] of [their] own genitals,” I’m guessing in an attempt to create more of an even playing field between themselves and their subjects, but if what they are attempting to decry is the offensiveness of unsolicited nudity, than presenting their own bodies to the public in the same way doesn’t make much sense.
Even the artists admit that their art could be considered problematic: “If a man was ever caught doing this,” says one artist, “he’d be publicly shamed and stoned.” Which is, of course, 100% true. In the spirit of true feminism, also known as gender equality, I’m going to go with this response: if it’s not okay for a man to do it, it’s not okay for a woman either. Our oppressed status does not allow us to become oppressors ourselves.
Alecia is a logophile and a library bandit wanted in several states. In addition to feminist rants, she also writes essays, short stories, bad poetry, recipes and very detailed to-do lists. She currently resides in a little blue cabin in Woodstock with one fiance, one Dachshund and one pleasantly plump cat. Find her tweeting @alecialynn.