The Question Is, Do Women Want Pictures of Penises Sent to Them?
Are y'all sick of hearing about Weiner's weiner yet? Because I really don't think I can get away with ignoring a sex related story that's been making news and generating all kinds of commentary for almost two weeks now. (Don't worry crazy bead lady, I'll get to you and your weird communication issues next week.) For now the oh-so-appropriately named politician and his not-quite-so-appropriate behavior are just too big to ignore (pun very much intended). I am sure you all know the details by now: New York Representative Anthony Weiner sent a photo of his man parts (tastefully concealed by a pair of gray underwear) to a young college student via twitter. That relatively innocuous photo has provided fodder for discussions ranging from whether women actually appreciate dick pics to what drives politicians and celebrities to do something so obviously stupid. The lovely Courtney already covered the latter, so I'm gonna address the former. Mostly because this idiotic Washington Post story, with its interviews of walking stereotypes made my want to gouge my own eyes out with a plastic spork. Somebody needs to counter the idea that women only find men hot when they're washing dishes.
The question everybody seems to want to know, in the wake of this particular dickroll, is: do women actually appreciate receiving pictures of mens' dicks. And the answer of course, is that it depends on the dick, and the woman. We are all titillated by different things, but it's understandable that men (who generally seem pretty fascinated with their own dicks) would assume that when they want to arouse a woman's sexual interested, an image of their own aroused member should do the trick nicely. Conventional wisdom (and that WaPo article), on the other hand, would have it that women would rather watch men fold laundry than look at their penises. Society tends to assume that women do not respond to visual sexual stimuli, while certain individual men sometimes assume the opposite (you only need to spend a few minutes browsing craigslist's casual encounters section to realize how many men think a simple cock shot will bring the ladies running).
The scientific data on this issue reveals that women are in fact quite visual when it comes to sex. Women's bodies have been shown to respond physiologically to all kinds of sexually explicit images, including images of apes having sex, even when the women report no subjective arousal. It's unclear whether this discrepancy is due to a disconnect between the physical and mental response, a reluctance on the part of some women to acknowledge arousal (many people will tell you what they think they should say rather than the absolute truth, even in the context of scientific interviews, and how many of us are really gonna admit we found to chimps boning erotic?), or some combination of those and other factors. Interestingly, eye tracking studies have shown that when presented with sexually explicit images, men spend the most time looking at female faces, while women who weren't on birth control looked first, and longest, at genitals. (Women on bc spent more time looking at the background or clothing. Maybe those women interviewed by the Post were all on reeeeeally high doses of the pill.) On the other hand, another study aimed at looking at sex differences in visual stimuli found that both men and women spent less time looking at pictures of close ups of genital and preferred sexual images which did not focus on genitals to the exclusion of all else. While all of these studies involve extremely small sample sizes, the combined results would seem to indicate that yes, many women do like looking at sexual images, but neither men nor women are as aroused by genitalia divorced from context as they are by more general images of sexuality.
Personally, I'd say that sums up my feelings on the matter. I love penises. I love having one inside of me and I even like looking at a well formed one. But I don't find a image of just a disembodied penis terribly arousing. A penis attached to a body with broad shoulders and slender hips? Hell yes. A penis by itself...eh. They're kinda floppy and funny looking. Even the prettiest ones can't escape the silliness factor. If the picture is coming from someone I'm in a sexual relationship with (or at least a very intense sexual flirtation), then I might find it somewhat exciting, but it's more the idea of the picture than the image itself that intrigues me. I find it hot to imagine how I would interact with a particular guys member, but usually my brain is busy filling in the rest of the guy's body because while the penis may be a focal point, it's not all I wanna see. Weiner's boxer pic starts to look a lot hotter when you mentally combine it with the chest pic he also thoughtfully (or rather, incredibly thoughtlessly) sent his internet acquaintance.
Unsolicited dick pictures sent to a woman who you've haven't established a sexual relationship with, however, are always a bad idea. There might be a very, very small number of women who will gasp in awe at the beauty of your penis and immediately decide "Yes! I will sleep with him!" but the vast majority will just permanently scratch you off their list of "Potential Partners and Uncreepy Friends." I suspect that despite the stereotypes (but in agreement with the above study) a lot of men prefer seeing more than just a genital pic too. Men might find an image of a vulva sexually stimulating (or penis, if they swing that way), but they'd probably prefer to see everything else as well (boobs, on the other hand, might be sufficient in and of themselves for many guys).
So gentlemen, next time you're trying to woo a lady over the phone or internet and would like to send her a pic to get her hot, don't go for the old standby shot of your penis. Try something that gives her a little context for that stiffy. Bonus points if you tailor the picture to her personal preferences. Some of us like chests, some like ass, some like a smiling face more than anything, although if her idea of hot involves domestic chores you might be barking up the wrong tree. And if you must dickroll, at least be creative about it. The usual images - from above resting in your hand or from the front taken with a webcam - aren't even good ways to showcase a nice member. Give us something we can at least laugh about with our girlfriends before we permantly block you on facebook.
Dr. Pisaster has a doctorate in biophysics, not actually anything sexy. She does however enjoy having sex, reading about sex, and talking about sex. Especially when she's had a little whiskey.
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