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Hypothesis: The Purpose Of The Cockshot Is To Test Boundaries

June 10, 2013

I told my niece one time, and I stole it from I don’t remember where, “if a guy offers to buy you a drink and you say no, and he pesters you until you say okay, what he wants for his money is to find out if you can be talked out of no.” 

I don’t get pictures of strangers’ genitals in my inbox, but lots of women I know do.  It’s common in some dating sites and apps, and the ubiquity of the cockshot on Fetlife spawns its own breeds and strains of jokes.  And the joke is that they are famously NOT HOT.  I’m not talking about people trading pictures when they know each other, or are in the process of getting to know each other.  I’m talking about the unsolicited stranger cockshot.  If it is so famously not going to arouse the recipient (I know zero women who have ever said they were aroused by an unsolicited stranger’s cock pic), then how in the world would it be a good strategy?  Why do it?

Here’s my hypothesis:  What this guy [Edited: versions of this keep popping up and then going 404.  Try this.]  was trying to do was not to arouse the recipient or get her to react to his attractiveness.  It was to see how she would react to a boundary violation.

Suppose he was just trying to show her how hot he was.  Well, then, he could have asked.  If he really wanted to know if she wanted to see a picture of him full-frontal nude, he could have just said, “Hi, I like your profile and you’re really hot. I have nude pics available. Not to brag, but I’m a pretty athletic guy and I think I have a nice cock. Want to see?” And if she said yes, it’s pretty likely that it’s because she actually wanted to see him naked. In addition, this approach would have the salutary effects of showing an awareness of boundaries and allowing her some say in the way the interaction unfolded.  If he starts with the idea that she might be taken with his physical offering and want to have sex with him, that’s sort of an obviously superior strategy.

So why didn’t he do that? Possibly because it would not have answered the question he wanted the answer to.  I think the question he wanted an answer to was “if I’m wildly inappropriate, how will you respond?”

The unsolicited cockshot is coercive from the start.  By the time she thinks, “I really didn’t want to see that,” she’s already seen it.  She can then:

(1) just ignore him;

(2) call him on his inappropriateness;

(3) play along and humor him.

This woman went with #2, in spectacular fashion, which didn’t go well for him.  But there’s social pressure, basically from birth, to caretake men’s feelings and not make a fuss or be aggressive.  I think overtly assertive responses are rare and some sort of noncommittal response to these pics are pretty common.

Note what he does after she tells him it’s unwanted.  If the purpose were to show off his physical assets in the hope that she’d be interested, one would expect his reply to her reaction to be some sort of apology.  But that’s not how he reacts.  Instead, he tries four times to talk her out of her stated boundaries.  He asks if it’s too big.  He tells her to “relax.”  Then he calls her “prude.”  These are sort of the classic tropes used to attack women for expressing boundaries or calling out sexism: Frigid, uptight, humorless, prudish.

Now, at this point, he can’t possibly believe she’s typing one-handed.  He is conscious of the rejection.  Instead of going away, he tried to bully her out of it, and see if he could still pressure her into playing along.  In fact, that’s what he kept trying to do, until she followed his profile to his Facebook profile, then to his mother’s profile, and threatened to expose his conduct to his mother.  She was being very clear that she wanted him to go away and have no further contact with her, and he kept messenging her until she had an effective threat in hand.

(There’s an aside here about his mother and how he treats women.  I tend to think there’s a difference between shame and embarrassment; I can understand being embarrassed about your mother finding out details about your sex life.  But it’s clear to me that this guy would be ashamed.  In other words, he knows it’s wrong, but he does it because he’s okay with doing things that are wrong and invasive and abusive to women, as long as they’re not his mom or his sister.)

What’s the purpose of this kind of deliberate boundary-testing?  To find out if she can be talked out of no.  That’s how the Creepy Dom picks targets.  That’s how many predators pick targets.  In matters of sexual assault, and also intimate partner violence (which overlap a great deal), the boundary violations start relatively small — the inappropriate picture, the “courtesy” expressed as mandate.

They don’t stay small.  They escalate, slowly but surely.

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44 Comments leave one →
  1. Lucky permalink
    June 10, 2013 5:39 pm

    The tumblr behind the “this guy” link is now 404.

  2. June 10, 2013 9:39 pm

    Great stuff. Alas, the blog post that inspired this appears to be missing. Could you perhaps summarize a little bit more?

  3. June 11, 2013 5:37 am

    Eeeeexcellent. So concisely put! I saw this blazing its way across tumblr and this is exactly right. Scary stuff.

  4. June 11, 2013 7:26 am

    Sometimes. But sometimes, I think, the boundary violation is the point of it. I mean, yeah, it links up nicely with testing boundaries. But some of the time, it’s just about getting off on crossing a boundary. I’ve written before:

    For some men, it’s not that the way they flirt makes women uncomfortable (although they do make women uncomfortable). It’s not even that they flirt in order to make women uncomfortable. It’s that, for them, making women uncomfortable isn’t “flirting” in the sense of some prelude to an act: it is the act itself. Insofar as sex, for them, is the act of male dominance and female submission, making women uncomfortable is the sex act. They deliberately cause women’s discomfort and get off on it. It is sexual for them.

    • June 11, 2013 9:20 am

      Yes. I agree. But I’d say there’s probably a lot of overlap. (1) guy who gets off on the discomfort the target experiences from the violation and (2) guy who commits the violation to test the waters for further violation are the same guy … is it 60%, or 90%? I don’t know, but often. I think most of the guys who get off on the reaction will push further violations as far as they think they can without serious consequences most of the time. I can’t prove that, but it’s what I think.

    • Marie permalink
      July 19, 2013 10:52 am

      ”Any violation of a woman’s body can become sex for men” – Andrea Dworkin

      Yes, I do think it’s the violation itself which is sexually exciting for them. And a test, how much he can violate.

  5. colorlessblue permalink
    June 11, 2013 8:38 am

    I think this is spot-on, but also think in some cases the purpose isn’t so much test boundaries, but violate them already. Like street flashers, these guys get off on knowing they forced someone to see what they didn’t want to.

    • Mary permalink
      June 11, 2013 8:55 am

      Yeah, that was my thought too. There’s a guy on OKC who has asked every female friend I know who’s used it if they’ll fart in his face. I don’t think he’s looking for the one woman who’ll say yes: it’s the act of asking a stranger such an intimate and weird question that does it for him.

      I think the cock-photos thing is probably coming from both kind of guys – the ones who get off on the act of exposing themselves non-consensually and don’t actually want any more than that, and the ones who are using it to find good targets for further abusive and non-consensual activities.

  6. work/time permalink
    June 11, 2013 11:01 am

    This is so right on.

  7. June 11, 2013 11:08 am

    Reblogged this on tambrosia.

  8. makalove permalink
    June 11, 2013 1:13 pm

    The photos keep disappearing from Tumblrs so I screencapped and saved them here: http://bit.ly/169Evzk

    Feel free to use/share this link.

  9. June 11, 2013 3:27 pm

    Who says there’s a conscious purpose? Most of what people do is based only vaguely on any sort of intelligible reasoning, and is motivated more by instinct.

    • donna permalink
      June 13, 2013 12:30 am

      Oh my gosh, i knew when i read this comment, in my email, that it must have been written by a male. We DONT CARE if there’s a *conscious* purpose or not! You people should get that.

    • June 14, 2013 10:47 am

      Oh. You’re the sort who thinks that all men are the same and addresses women as “ladies.”

  10. June 11, 2013 5:34 pm

    Oh My, Men eh? well i think be wary yes very wary and i’m now 37 so no nothing intellectual to say but what a shame… ill be keeping an eye on my daughter and Disney please update your fantasies x

  11. donna permalink
    June 11, 2013 10:06 pm

    Yeah, i have often wondered why someone would lie about something really inconsequential, or *say* that he lied about something like that. If he’s already invested in the relationship or its potential, it can be an easy way to abuse her, and get her accustomed to it as he increases her tolerance for it. In an initial email, something such as a picture of him. or inappropriate language, is likely to be his end game of abuse. He doesnt have the courage to meet; the last thing he wants is to be invited to go further.

    I’d love to know if there’s a way to find someone on facebook, without his full name. Craigslist recently changed their procedures so that email addresses are hidden when responding to a personal ad, which sucks, because i “exposed” many many males to their employers and their spouses for cheating on both of them, as their real names &/or employers’ email addresses were very clearly provided. Ah, the good old days…..

  12. donna permalink
    June 11, 2013 10:06 pm

    x

  13. donna permalink
    June 11, 2013 10:16 pm

    By the way, i agree completely with what you wrote about the tropes that males use toward women, and also with: “But there’s social pressure, basically from birth, to caretake men’s feelings and not make a fuss or be aggressive. I think overtly assertive responses are rare and some sort of noncommittal response to these pics are pretty common.” It can be very tough to make an overtly assertive — or agressive — response, but it is my pride and joy when i do it or see someone do it.

  14. June 12, 2013 5:02 pm

    I can’t help but recall the Anthony Weiner scandal. Everyone was shocked–shocked!–at the infidelity (which, frankly, I couldn’t be assed to care about), but almost no one bothered to comment on the fact that he sent the pic unsolicited in the middle of a non-personal conversation. When I finally found that out (I had to dig to get that detail confirmed, just because so few media outlets mentioned it), I switched from supporter to detractor in a heartbeat.

    • June 13, 2013 11:14 am

      Agree. Trading pics with willing partners is a matter of his relationship boundaries, but unsolicited nudes are intrusive and improper. Surely he could find willing partners to trade pics with; that he instead pushed it on people without a prior indication of interest tells us a lot about him, and it isn’t good.

  15. Thanh Tran permalink
    June 12, 2013 7:21 pm

    being a man myself, i hate how other men do such vulgar things. its unwanted and quite disturbing. however im all for it if a woman is interested but if not oh well

  16. Bi Jaime permalink
    June 15, 2013 1:34 am

    Unsolicited nude pictures, stupid and horrible as they may be, are not only sent by straight men to straight women. As a bi guy I get them very regularly from other men. I’m not into cock shots, though if you look on certain adult sites sometimes men and women alike request them.in my opinion there has been some bleed across from men who think that women generally want to see men’s bodies or their cocks. Also there’s the anonymity factor – sometimes guys think that being well endowed will impress, without having to reveal anything about themselves. “No cock shots” has been a mantra on profiles on adult sites for a decade, and not just from women. It’s not a practice I support but I think your characterisation of the reasons behind it is a little more elaborate than the daft and shallow reality.

    • donna permalink
      June 20, 2013 11:55 am

      Jaime, And when you receive one do you feel disgusted and like someone has just violated a boundary, or do you just feel that you are not interested in the picture? There is a difference between sending such a picture to a man and to a woman, just as there is a difference between a white person calling a black person a ” n” (see, i cant even use the word without fearing censorship), and a black person calling another black person that word.

    • Marie permalink
      July 19, 2013 9:38 am

      How I hate it when bisexual and/or homosexual men are coming into anti rape culture spaces and saying, no, this isn’t sexual harassment, this happens in our community as well and it’s celebrated and welcomed.
      Fine, but men are using their penises as weapons against women. They are using their penises as a symbol for the degradation and subjugation against women. And using their penises that way, makes them horny, it is a source of sexual arousal, it makes them more horny than the appearance of a woman.
      So it’s completely different when men are doing this to themselves!
      Also it’s not bi or homosexual men who identify what is sexual harassment and what it’s not! It’s women who are identifying sexual harassment! It’s women who are identifying their own boundaries and spaces and men have no say how a woman defines her boundaries. It’s not a question of negotiation.

    • bananacat permalink
      July 21, 2013 3:08 pm

      I think you’re missing the point about this being an unsolicited picture. Nude pictures of all sorts are find and dandy, as long as everyone involved actually wants them. Sending pictures like this when someone does not want them is an aggressive act.

    • Wordy Librarian permalink
      October 26, 2013 8:00 am

      Late to the party. I really hope that, as a bisexual man, you’re aware that it’s NOT just women being violated by these people. Men experience rape too. In fact, I think that while the physical intimidation factor may be smaller, the fact that predators target people they feel least likely to speak out and be believed paints some particularly terrifying pictures for gay and bisexual men. We know that men are FAR less likely to speak up about being raped, and have their own version of the blame and disbelief gauntlet women face when reporting. Knowing that most rapists do not spring from the bushes but actually target people they know, deliberately using alcohol and manipulation to see how far they can push boundaries actually means that bisexual and gay men are at a greater risk than heterosexual men simply because pushing someone past their identified orientation boundaries is a bit harder than most boundaries they face. I’d also like to point out that research shows that, whatever the division of genders among rape victims, rapists are almost overwhelmingly men. This is not to say that women don’t pull this heinous crap too. They do. I would imagine, from my limited knowledge, that they would operate similarly to most acquaintance-rapists using manipulation instead of overt force and getting off on the violation more than the sexual activity. However, statistically, this is a crime perpetrated by men.

      Just because you, personally and at that moment, are not offended by an unsolicited dick picture doesn’t mean it isn’t still a HUGE violation of boundaries. I can tell you from personal experience that putting “NO DICK PICS” does not prevent the flood of unwanted dicks. The excuse is usually that they didn’t check your profile first. Sometimes they’ll even reference something from your profile beforehand, proving that they’re not only lying but lying poorly.

      The truth is that unsolicited nude pictures sent to someone you’ve never met is NOT a social norm in our culture. The more people make excuses for these people, the harder it is for the targets to loudly and resoundingly tell these people to fuck right the hell off. I have absolutely nothing against nude pictures. I insist that at least something as simple as, “wanna see my wang?” is not an unreasonable expectation as far as seeking permission before visually SHOVING YOUR COCK IN SOMEONE’S FACE. I am all for sexual expression, but unsolicited dick pics do NOT get to be treated as a social norm. That just makes it that much harder to spot the predators.

      I’d also like to add that, having been subject to many of these violations, I cheered when I read about this woman sending screencaps to the guy’s mother. I also was surprised by his behavior before she made her threat. Frankly, I’m shocked he managed as much politeness as he did. Maybe he’s new at attempting boundary violations, not so sure of himself yet. I can assure you that “prude” is the NICEST thing I have been called by these creeps. Also, the messages are more likely to begin with “nice tits” or something similar. Also FAMOUSLY known for not being successful at attracting women. Seriously, my reaction was “wow, what a polite skeezy creeper.” Not that anything he said is actually polite in any universe but a misogynist’s wet dreams, but comparatively speaking his outrage at being told no is incredibly mild based on my experience.

  17. SRKFAN permalink
    June 20, 2013 6:47 am

    Hello,

    Is it okay if I share this article in its entirety? I have a blog on an adult dating site and this is a perfect topic for the dreck of men found on there. Thanks in advance.

  18. Stan Lee permalink
    November 16, 2013 12:22 am

    “if a guy offers to buy you a drink and you say no, and he pesters you until you say okay, what he wants for his money is to find out if you can be talked out of no.”

    The Gift of Fear? The author uses this as an example of boundary-testing and refusal to hear “no”.

  19. badfrog permalink
    December 26, 2013 12:29 am

    As a guy, it just struck me that this is bullying behavior: I can do something to you that you don’t like and you can’t stop me. Pretty classic. It also may or may not have something to do with those men who expose themselves in public to shock or frighten their victims.

    Haven’t had time to think about this yet, but feel it is important to the mix. Assuming anyone is still reading this.

    Great blog, definitely going to be regular viewing. Came here from Snowflake Roasting.

  20. April 8, 2014 9:31 am

    Reblogged this on All The Anomalous Bits.

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