On any given week, between 50 and 100 dick pics will find their way into my inbox, and the wild thing is, I asked for them.
Several years ago now, I started Critique My Dick Pic (NSFW, and that goes for the links throughout this piece), a website with a simple, self-explanatory premise: I critique the penis pictures of anyone is who is inclined to send them to me; reviewing them on their photographic merits and awarding a bold letter grade. (“Thank you for your submission to Critique My Dick Pic. Your dick pic gets an A+.”)
The obvious question is, why? Well, like most other millennial women, I spend a significant portion of my life online, and being young and female with an internet connection often means being exposed to these DIY nudes. Whether you find them funny, repulsive or perfectly ordinary, dick pics are a cultural phenomenon, and they’re here to stay.
They’re usually unsolicited, which makes the experience of receiving them hostile and uncomfortable. But welcome or not, they’re almost always of dismal artistic quality.
In 2013, after viewing an unusually thoughtful dick pic, I was struck by the disconnect between how bad dick pics almost always are, and how easy it is to take a relatively good one. After joking with my friends about the need for some kind of public service for improving their quality — elevating the form and sparking discussion about consent, desire and nude-sharing etiquette — I decided in earnest to start one. That afternoon, Critique My Dick Pic was born.
I check the dedicated email account, criti[email protected], on a Saturday. When I open it, I’m typically greeted by dozens of new emails since the previous week, with subject lines like “Wet shower dick” and “Hard at work!!” and “Chubby black lesbian hung like a horse.”
I tackle them in chronological order, one by one, making a snap judgement on their overall appeal. Most of the submissions are low-quality, lazy efforts, but occasionally I receive one that’s MoMA-worthy. If the picture is excellent, or so bad I need to make an example of it, or otherwise worth discussing, I’ll open a draft post on Tumblr, where Critique My Dick Pic is hosted, and upload the image. Then I begin reviewing.
I always have an immediate sense of the grade I’m going to award each dick pic. I’ve been doing this job almost five years now, and I know an A+ dick pic from a B- or D effort instinctively. The more difficult task is articulating exactly why that is, for the feedback portion of the post.
I have found, over the years, that good dick pics tend to be characterized by three elevating factors. The first is that they’re zoomed out enough to include at least some of the torso and thighs, and sometimes the full body. The second is that the sender’s hands are included, which always adds warmth and intimacy to a dick pic. The third is that they’re subtle in tone, either because they’re dick prints (i.e., you can see the penis through boxers or jeans), or through the use of mood lighting, flattering angles and carefully chosen settings.
Bad dick pics, on the other hand, also follow a familiar format. I’ve dubbed the most common the “log shot”: a close-up dick pic taken from the sender’s point of view, with little to no surrounding detail or context. They’re dull and unerotic, and are unfortunately still the most common type of shot I receive, although including objects for scale is also a common blunder.
Of course, you should only send a dick pic to someone who wants to see one (and yours in particular), so make sure you’re sending it with express permission: perhaps in the context of swapping nudes back and forth with a long-distance partner, or because someone you’re newly dating has asked to see your package.
When I’m writing my reviews, I take into account factors like lighting, pose, tone, angle, framing and composition, but never a sender’s penis size — or, in fact, any details about their body. Critique My Dick Pic is an inclusive, body-positive project, and I steer clear of size shaming or criticizing weight, body hair, veins, noses, fingernails or any other bodily aspects.
My focus is strictly on the quality of the photograph ― a quirk of the website that frustrates men who just want to be told whether their penis is big or not, but which helps to make it a positive, welcoming space for everyone else. I like to think of Critique My Dick Pic as a refuge from the airbrushed, Facetuned, perfection-obsessed media culture that dominates the rest of the internet, so criticizing bodies will never be part of what I do.
I receive far more submissions than I can possibly hope to review, meaning that about 90 percent of the dick pics in my inbox won’t make it onto the site. Senders can guarantee that their picture will be selected (and help boost my morale) by paying $25 for a guaranteed review on the site; or for the more privacy-conscious penis photographers, a private, emailed review of their submission is available for the same price.
In this way, I make a modest income from Critique My Dick Pic, and even have a few repeat customers. Between writing about my experience, appearing on podcasts and radio shows, and charging for bespoke dick pic criticism, I’ve finessed the site into a modest yet healthy side hustle.
It might not always be the case that I can make money from Critique My Dick Pic, though. Tumblr’s recent switch to a default “Safe Mode” setting, meaning that users must manually opt in to seeing NSFW content, has caused my traffic to take a huge hit — I’m one of the many adult content creators who has been hurt by the policy change (this link is safe for work, by the way).
It’s a shame, because there’s nothing sordid or seedy about the site: Apart from the fact that it contains naked bodies, and lots of erect penises, the website has a dry, tongue-in-cheek tone, and displays a heartwarming range of diverse bodies. It features men and women; trans, genderqueer and cis people; fat, thin, old and young bodies; and penises, whether flesh or silicone, from all around the world, including Japan, Brazil, France, Indonesia, Italy, the USA and South Africa.
Ultimately, Critique My Dick Pic is an exercise in vulnerability, community and the possibility of a more inclusive, artistic and consensual nude-sharing culture. It seems to me that most men who send dick pics are seeking validation, but because of the critical messaging they receive about penis size, they focus narrowly on this aspect alone, to the detriment of all the other components of a dick pic that can make it erotic. (In their rush to be told their penis is OK, they also often bypass consent.)
One of the most important lessons these guys can learn is that anyone can take a good dick pic, regardless of penis size — transmasculine senders and cis women are constantly proving that you don’t even need a flesh-and-blood penis to take a great shot. It’s more important to consider the desires of your recipient, be generous and creative with your composition, and harness the power of subtlety.
I can’t lie, though: Sometimes it’s demoralizing to have to filter through endless subpar dick pics, the overall quality of which seems to improve at a glacial pace, if at all. I don’t receive dick pics in my personal life as often as I used to ― a partner once described it as the “meta-pressure” of sending me nudes ― and running the project for this long has drastically changed my response to these pictures: They barely have the capacity to shock, bother or excite me anymore, although I do still appreciate the most excellent efforts.
But as long as Critique My Dick Pic continues to be a fun, uplifting project — and as long as there’s still so much to be said about consent, body issues and the artistic disconnect of most dick pic senders — I’ll keep dishing out honest, constructive feedback to the people who ask for it.
It’s my accidental life calling, and I can’t stop now.
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