Meet The Artist Turning Unsolicited Dick Pics Into An Exhibition
Whether it makes you laugh or cry, receiving an unsolicited dick pic (UDP) generates a mix of emotions - repulsion, amusement, pity - and is an inevitable byproduct of being a woman today. At worst it’s sexual harassment, at it’s best it’s a nuisance that will inevitably be screenshot and group-messaged to all your friends for the LOLs.
LA-based artist Whitney Bell knows this all too well. So much so that she’s collected hundreds of UDPs and turned them into an exhibition titled I Didn’t Ask For This: A Lifetime of Dick Pics. The idea for the show started as a joke, but soon turned into an experiment exploring the female condition and the constant harassment women face.
Most of the photos in the show were sent to Bell and other women she knew, but once word of the project spread, Bell says women from all over wanted to contribute. "I even put some blasts out to my followers who shared not only their photos but their stories, many of which were framed and shared alongside the dicks," she tells in an email interview for Konbini.
Despite the fact that women rarely want them, technology has made it all too easy for shlongs to appear on smartphone screens, and for some reason men are still compelled to wave their wangs about. It’s frustrating, disheartening and frankly not sexy at all - which is exactly the point Bell is trying to make with her exhibition.
Konbini: What made you want to start an exhibition about unsolicited dick pics?
Whitney Bell: It all began with a photo of a dick shadow a guy sent me. It was actually quite artistic and lovely. I sent it to a friend who said, "that dick is so beautiful, it should be in a museum." That's where the origin came from I guess.
However the project grew and grew from there. Everything else, all 30 artists, the 40+ vendors all came from people I already followed on Instagram. There were all of these amazing artists I wanted to work with but couldn't figure out the right opportunity. This, I realised, was it.
"I love men...and I love a good dick, I just don't love harassment"
The show itself was born from my anger with the constant harassment women face, sometimes it's so subtle it feels like it's just engrained in society. Sometimes though it's as aggressive as a dick pic while you are laying in bed with your dog. The way women are treated on the internet is horrific. It's like the second men have the shield of technology they feel invincible and I feel they need to be called out.
Why do you think men send UDPs?
Sending an unsolicited dick pic is sexual harassment and comes from the exact same psychological place as a subway flasher. Forcing a woman to see their dick gets these guys off in a small way. I talked to many, many guys over the last few months trying to gain some insight into why they do it.
Many simply like the thrill of forcing a woman to see their dick, it’s an exertion of power just like hollering at a woman on the street. They know you she’s not going to turn around and say “I really wanna go on a date with that guy who yelled ‘hey sexy, let me lick it’ from his pick up.”
"Like all harassment it’s about power not about sex. They do it because they can, because they know there aren’t repercussions and because in some small way it validates their position as the dominant"
I am trying to show them that there are repercussions, that this isn’t a victimless crime, that they should strive to be better. Many guys seemed to really not know why they did it though. I seems as if they had never really thought it through fully until I asked. Just following the patriarchal status quo of harassment as the norm.
What do you wish the takeaway of the exhibit to be?
The show is more than just dicks pics; really the dicks are just used as a way to show how completely pervasive harassment is in a woman’s life. I completely emptied out my home and set it up at the gallery. Literally all I had left was a pillow-less bed and a dresser. The viewer was welcomed into a walking tour of my home, but there was a steady river of dicks running throughout the house.
Just like in life, you cannot avoid harassment, it follows a woman wherever she goes. I wanted to open people's eyes to that and to start a dialogue. Women have been silenced and told to just accept this, I want to show that perhaps there is another option. That silence and hushing up harassment will only further perpetuate the cycle.
The profits from your show will go to the Centre for Reproductive Rights, could you expand on why that is?
Abortion cannot just be theoretically legal, it must be actually accessible and currently in many parts of the US that is simply not the case. Many Southern states have started to implement TRAP laws which are laws targeted specifically at abortion clinics working under the guise of "protecting women's health" when in reality all they do is impose unnecessary restrictions and qualifications on these clinics which ultimately force them to close to their doors. Abortion is a fact of life, women have always had them and they always will, we just need to decide if they will be able to have them safely or not.
"We've come too far to go back to alleyways and coat hangers"
An example, to show you how absurd these laws are: all abortion clinics in the south must now be outfitted as full Surgical Ambulatory Centres, even though an abortion is not a surgical procedure and requires zero ambulances. The hallways must now be 10 feet wide to accommodate 2 gurneys passing one another, even though no gurneys are used during abortions since it is a non-surgical procedure.
These clinics simply cannot keep up with the constantly changing laws, so 70% of southern abortion clinics have closed in the last 3 years alone. This means that women and girls have to travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, acquire overnight housing and pay thousands of dollars just to receive an abortion. For most, this is simply not feasible. We are dooming these women and girls to unwanted motherhood, or to unsafe back alley abortions.
Can you speak to the relationship between social media platforms like Snapchat and dick pics?
A man who would likely never expose himself to woman in public now feels like he can do so behind the guise of his phone or laptop. Even though that is actually far more linked to his actual person, technology gives us a false sense on anonymity.
"Is it really so shocking to expect a man to want to fuck you and respect you at the same time?"
It has become the norm, expected almost. Women are just supposed to take this harassment, say nothing. "Of course you'll get harassed on Tinder...what did you expect," people say.
Have you received more harassment since the show has opened? And by that I mean, have you been bombarded with even more dick pics than usual?
If a woman receives a UDP, what do you advise her to do?
Send back a picture of a better looking dick.
After a successful opening in LA, Whitney will be taking 'I Didn't Ask For This: A Lifetime Of Dick Pics' to NY, Austin, San Francisco and London. Stay tuned on her Instagram page to find out more.
The show has raised $4,000 for the Center Of Reproductive Rights so far. If you would like to donate, visit their website.
By Olivia Cassano, publish on 05/05/2016