Dick pics. You know them, you love or hate them, and there is a significant chance you have received or sent one in your lifetime. Since the advent of digital cameras being added to our phones, pictures of penises have been sent at an ever-increasing rate. According to YouGov’s survey of 1,156 women 53% of millennial women reported receiving a dick pic. While this is a largely millennial phenomenon, 8% of the women who have received these pictures are over 55, meaning this is now an inter-generational experience.

As a sexologist and consent educator I am fascinated by how popular dick pics are. There's even a Tumblr site, “Critique My Dick Pic,” where users can get tips on taking better genital shots. Taking a picture of your penis has gone from purely sketchy to relatively culturally accepted and normalized. And fortunately, there has been an increase in the conversation about assuring that these shots are shared consensually, and that the rights of all parties to opt in or out of giving, receiving, and sharing such sensitive information is respected and discussed.

Recently, I was asked a very interesting question about dick pics from a gay, gender-queer friend. They asked me, “Do cis-women, gay or straight, share pictures of their genitals?”

I have asked this question myself and was interested to see someone else bring it up. I said the honest answer was no. As someone who dates people of all genders, I have never asked or received a picture of another woman’s vulva. Even with men asking for ‘nudes’ this rarely, if ever, includes up close shots of the female partner’s genitals. But why? I asked some fellow sexologists their thoughts, and this is what they said.

Why aren't there pussy pics?

Paula Leech, a certified sex therapist working primarily around issues pertaining to relationships, intimacy, and sexuality said:

“Speaking in very heteronormative terms, cis-men tend to be very visual in how they engage with and activate their arousal. Women tend to like a narrative, thus explaining the popularity of romance novels and books such as 'Fifty Shades of Grey.' Often what we find is that women will put a great deal of effort into creating an erotic scene, where the lingerie tells a story, and she puts thought into how she poses and what she chooses to show as a result of that story. It may not be obvious, nor overly complicated, but it is often part of the excitement when taking “sexy” pics to send to a partner or partners.

Part of the larger, terribly misguided and harmful story about what it means to have a penis, is that your worth or masculinity is defined by how large or girthy your penis is. It has been held up as the ultimate pleasure source in partnered sex with a penis owner, which is why I see so many people incredibly distressed by erectile dysfunction or rapid ejaculation. We treat the penis as if it is the main route to pleasure in partnered sex; therefore, if something goes awry and the penis doesn’t 'perform' as expected, it often causes a great deal of distress for the individual, and frequently, the couple.

The penis has also been symbolic in our culture throughout history. Power, domination, sexual prowess and manhood are a few of the common associations. Dick pics, therefore, not only reflect the more visual nature of men’s sexuality but can also be a form of peacocking – proudly displaying one’s manhood in an attempt to impress the object of one’s desire. “

Ashley N. Grinonneau-Denton, another certified sex therapist, added:

“To me, this phenomenon has much to do with how negatively stigmatized the vulva has been. Historically, up until relatively recently, the discourse regarding sexuality has been based on a very masculine model of sex, which is obscenely far from representative of a one-size-fits-all approach. While men, from a very young age, tend to marvel at their erections, women are not afforded the same visual convenience of looking at their genitals, and often end up feeling like it should remain tucked away, even from themselves. The grand majority of women I work with come into therapy never having had the experience of looking at their own vulva. From that perspective, if a woman is apprehensive about looking at her own body, sharing a quick pic of her vulva to a [potential or current] partner runs odd somewhere in the range of slim-to-none.”

Neither touched on why this holds true for queer women couples as well, though. Perhaps it's because both have internalized this form of misogyny and do not feel it would be appropriate or rational to request this from each other?

Vulvas Are Amazing!

While men may marvel at their erections from early on, there is no reason why the vulva shouldn't get just as much admiration. Our clitorises do get erect and engorge; they are made of the same erectile tissue as the penis. Our bodies produce the most delicious fluids that bubble and drip in ways that can be beautifully captured on film. And, yes, media and culture have long taught us shame for the ways our vulvas look, but we live in an era where we do not need to stand for this any longer.

In 2003, photographer Nick Karras created the photo-book Petals, which depicted a wide variety of sepia toned vulvas from a myriad of ages, races and experiences. The pictures are beautiful and have been used in many of my sexual health classes. Appreciating the beauty of the vulva, vagina, clitoris and entire pubic region is important to our health and well-being. Vulvas are like snowflakes; no two are alike. Why don’t we take the time to appreciate this a little more?

If this discussion has got you thinking, I encourage you to take the time to appreciate the vulvas in your life. Look at your partner’s intimate body intently, slowly and with admiration. Then do this for yourself as well. Look at books of un-airbrushed pussies, like in the Petals book. Too often in porn, the images of vulvas are surgically and digitally altered, and thus unrealistic. If you feel comfortable with this take some pictures just for yourself. See what you can capture especially when you are turned on. Who knows, maybe pussy pics will catch on and the world will come to appreciate the power of the pussy better? Viva la vulva!