Whether the tweet that caused titters around the world is of U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s member or not, it raises the question:
What’s up with all these guys sending out pictures of their junk?
The Weiner weirdness is just the latest anecdote in a long saga of men who apparently think that texting or tweeting visual images of their genitals is an irresistible female aphrodesiac. Portland Trailblazer Greg Oden, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre and singer Kanye West have all endured agonizing public scrutiny after sexting pics of their private parts. Have they ever asked a woman about this courtship strategy?
“I had men who were trying to date me send me things like that,” model Tabia Wood, 24, recalled with a shudder. Wood (her real name, she said with a laugh) was so creeped out she refused any future contact with the offenders.
More amusingly, recalled the Canarsie resident, was receiving a pecker picture from an unfamiliar phone number. “Who is this?” she texted back.
“Aren’t you Sophia?” was the response.
“At least he apologized,” she recalled with a shrug.
Men advertising their genitals to strangers often feel inadequate and are looking for validation, theorized Wood. “They’re searching for acceptance. They want a response,” she said.
It’s not just adult men who bare enough to share: More than 20% of teens admit to having sent nude or semi-nude pics of themselves over their phones or the internet, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
As for adult men, “they like to show off more than women,” observed Jane Brown, professor of journalism and media studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Yet, they often fail to understand the repercussions of how body braggadocio because they are “new medium illiterate,” she explained. The transmission of body parts on the internet and by cell phone “is a new form of flashing,” said Brown.
Pornography’s powerful incursion into general culture is also a factor in the exhibitionism epidemic, said Brown. Courtship now, she said, is “more physical and more about anatomy than it’s ever been before” and technology is used to advertise one’s physical attributes as a way of appearing desirable. The catch? Quiet, sleek, seemingly impersonal devices give users “a false sense of intimacy and privacy that may cloud judgment.”
Too, some electronic exhibitionists are sex addicts looking for kicks (the novelty and risk is part of the thrill) or people who take career-killing risks as a result of drug or alcohol abuse.
The broadcasting of body parts is also a part of the “everybody wants to be famous” age, added Joanne Cantor, director of the Center for Communication Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“The digital environment allows exhibitionistic tendencies to flourish,” and amplifies any misstep that may have once gone unnoticed, she noted. But technology’s use in courtship is too often a replacement for truly satisfying intimacy, she noted. In the digital age, “we connect with more people but truly communicate with far fewer. We have less of an interpersonal relationship and more of a digital relationship.”
Wood’s boyfriend, Mic Christian, 27, also of Canarsie, agreed. Some people, shrugged the musician, prefer technology to flesh and blood communication, but he is not one of them.
“We’ve been together two years but have never sexted,” he said, gesturing to Wood. Christian is living proof that techies who prefer porn to people not always male. He had a previous girlfriend – quite shy in real life but “a wildcat behind the cell phone” – who texted him a request asking for a picture of his unwrapped package.
Christian obliged and received a smiley face response. His interest piqued, he asked for a picture in return, but she demurred.
The experience left him feeling less than satisfied. Instead, Christian said, “I felt used!”
And left wondering as to the disposition of the image. "I just hope she never sends it to my mom," said Christian.