By Chris Heide
Is a dick pic just a dick pic? A recent conversation with a friend sparked the possibility that, sometimes, sending or receiving a dick pic is about more than simple sexual gratification, it’s also about a need to feel validated.
There is nothing inherently wrong with sending nudes. For many people, it is a healthy expression of a sexual identity; one that may have been repressed or denied due to social or cultural circumstances. For far too long, sending nudes has been synonymous with a culture that perpetuates shame for embracing sexuality. It is an odd existence to live in a world where expression of sexuality is both simultaneously celebrated and ostracized.
I am an out, proud gay man. For some gay men, sending nudes is a part of gay culture. At times, it feels as if I have seen every single one of my gay friends naked, either in person or through photos. And to be honest, there is absolutely no shame in that. It is almost an unwritten expectation of being part of the LGBTQ culture. On the surface, this makes sense. We feel guilty about our sexuality, because society tells us that being gay is wrong. A great deal of LGBTQ millennials did not come out until late adolescence or young adulthood. The denial and delay of sexual expression tends to create a powerful rebound effect. Especially in gay men, a subcuture that seems hypersexulized at every turn. When you spend so many years denying your sexuality, you almost feel that it is your duty to embrace idealized sexuality the moment you come out. Hence a constant stream of hookups, “dating apps,” and dick pics.
Don’t get me wrong- embracing your sexual identity and the power in it is self-affirming and intoxicating. With every dick pic you receive, and every Grindr message, you also get a little bit of a dopamine rush that makes you feel great. However, as with highs, there is a comedown. The rush is fleeting cand can leave one with even more intensified feelings of emptiness and an even greater desire to chase that rush. Before long, your brain knows that the more you embrace those aspects of your sexuality, the better you feel. This inevitably sets off a chain reaction of seeking more sexual validation for the effects that it produces. And this behavior can extend far beyond sending a nude photo. Validation can be obtained thru varying types of messages; i.e, people get addicted to the attention they get from flattering messages, they get addicted to the anticipation of receiving a message from someone they have a crush on. Will this next attempt at seeking validation make me feel like I am enough?
But what happens when receiving or sending a dick pic becomes so much more than an expression of sexuality? What happens when it stems from a subconscious need for acceptance or validation? Left unchecked, however, the over reliance on sexual approval can become problematic.
I am someone who openly will admit to sending and receiving nudes. In 2019, taking a great dick pic is almost an art form. We all strive to take that jaw-dropping, conversation starting photo. I swear, some men take so much care in the production of their dick pics, that they it’s almost as if they see themselves as the Beyonce of dick pics.
I’ll also admit that sending and receiving (always with consent) can make me feel validated and wanted- something that I struggled to feel for a significant portion of my life. Sometimes, sending nudes appears to be harmless and feels like it connects me to my community. As someone who is sober, connecting to other gays at bars and nightclubs is not an option, so connecting through sex became an expected default.
As I have navigated the intricacies of my sexuality and living in “dick pic culture,” I began to notice something. There have been moments where sending or receiving a dick pic was about so much more than sexual gratification. It was about my inherent value as a human being. I began to notice that receiving made me feel validated and connected, which is eerily similar to the justification behind my substance addiction. Use to feel connected and good enough. Receive nudes to feel validated and good enough. If someone is willing to show me an intimate part of their body, it must mean that they trust me and care about me, right?
In that simple statement lies the disconnect. Sometimes sending a dick pic is just about sending a dick pic. But when that photo begins to represent something deeper, such as a symbol of connection, gratification, or approval, then a problem begins to exist. When thoughts of “it’s SO big” or “man, that lighting is amazing” are replaced with “I need to see another one RIGHT NOW,” then it’s time to take pause.
As I discussed the etymology and culture of dick pics with my friend, he made a simple statement that completely shifted my perspective:
“Doesn’t sharing my darkest secrets with someone show them I care, more than sending a picture of my sexual organ?”
SEXUAL. ORGAN. Such a simple, yet enlightening choice of words.
Those two words made all the difference in my perspective. Such a clinical, non-sexual phrase helps shed light on the futility of utilizing nude photos to achieve intimacy or trust. Using dick pics, while exciting, provides fleeting feelings of trust, connection, and validation. It connects to the idea that at the end of the day, stripped away of all external forms of gratification, will I still be able to validate myself?
Sending nudes can be extremely empowering and thrilling. However, without proper insight into my motivation for sending or receiving, that behavior can become a never-ending and never-achieved attempt to love myself. Especially if my actions do not align with my values or sense of self. In fact, it has the potential to increase feelings of emptiness. Of feeling lost.
Working to provide my own validation to myself, and embracing relationships that are supportive without the crutch or expectation of sending nudes, will allow me to better connect to myself and understand who I really am. Too much of an over-reliance on dick pic culture can start to make me empty and unsatisfied. There is a redemptive power in attaining this kind of self-awareness.
As my conversation with my friend wrapped up, he offered another simple idea:
“If there was literally no one else in the world, no expectations, no definition of beauty and perfection, would I like who I am?”
Is a dick pic sometimes more than just a dick pic? Undeniably so