image from Tumblr
The other day, I got my first unsolicited dick pic. Of all the places it could’ve landed, I found it in a place I didn’t expect—my work inbox. The place where I check in with and send heartfelt letters to my clients. The place I go to schedule all of my appointments. The place where my tribe gets ahold of me.
I’d say about 98% of the emails and messages I receive in a given week come from people who identify as women. Although not so much lately, it’s usually very, very rare that I receive an email from a dude that isn’t spam. And that’s not surprising—men aren’t my target audience. But on that particular morning a few weeks back, when opening my email for the first time that day, rarity paid me a little visit.
And there it was: A random photograph of some random guy’s erect penis.
No explanation. No clear reason.
My first reaction to this was shock (Is this really happening?), then quiet amusement (Haha, really?!), and then my feelings about it began to unfurl into a surprising, unabashed guffaw. I started laughing. Did this guy really think I’d get aroused by seeing that ugly thing? I laughed at the ridiculousness of it, at this guy’s complete and utter disregard of my feelings and eyeballs.
And with my cheeks still burning from my giggle fit, I texted my girl posse with something like, “Welp. I got my first dick pic today! GOOD MORNING TO ME”, also adding, “I can’t believe how ugly it is”—mostly to let them know without saying it outright that I was OK and not feeling too violated.
But as minutes ticked by, and with the help of the sparks of rage within the fiery comments of my friends, violation began to creep up from underneath the humor. I started to feel angry, disturbed, disgusted.
And then I started to get scared—Is this someone I know?How did he find me? What if this guy knows where I live?
The unsolicited dick pic went from hilarious to frightening in less than ten minutes.
I’m not going to pretend that this incident was specific to me. Men do this, indiscriminately, all the time to unsuspecting women, and if it’s not a dick pic, then it’s the honk of a horn on a passing car, or a leer while walking the dog, or the suggestive tone in a ripe “How you doin’?”. It’s alarming, it’s gross, and. . . it happens.
But I do recognize that the work I do seems to give men even more of an incentive to send me sexually explicit messages and images. Because when I unashamedly declare my love for sex and orgasm and pleasure, they use it as a focal point for their own pleasure.
Because when I choose to express myself as a sexually liberated woman, they see that as an invitation to take up space in my sexual expression.
Men are taught to feel a sense of entitlement to my female sexuality. They’ve been encouraged to view and treat my breasts, my thighs, the curve of my ass, the sway of my hips as the root of their sexuality, as the birth place of their erotic desires, so that without my control who I am becomes a tool for their pleasure.
Men like the guy who sent me that unsolicited dick pic think it’s OK for them to force their own sexuality onto an erotically empowered woman, because she was asking for it, waiting for it.
My sexual liberation is not for male consumption. I’m not doing this for you. I’m not doing this for your gaze or for your pleasure.
This is not for you.
You are not authorized to claim any of the space I take up in my sexual expression. You are not invited to use my erotic empowerment as a headquarters for your arousal. You are not allowed in my sexual liberation; you are not the basis for it, you are not the inspiration for it, you can have no part of it.
Just because I speak about enjoying orgasm does not mean I want you to give me one, and just because I show desire for sex does not mean I want you to fuck me.
I did not call you, I did not ask for you. This is not for you.
I want you to know the kind of damage you do when you take up space in women’s sexuality, the kind of derailment that takes place inside of us when you foist yourself into places, experiences, bodies, that are not yours.
It causes us to close ourselves up to our erotic nature. It causes us to question whether we should take up space with our sexual energy. It causes us to dampen our desires because you make us feel unsafe to express them.
We stand smaller, we move rigidly, all while feeling a dangerous combination inside of our bodies, a numbing fear and a white-hot rage, because we are not free to be without your gaze or commentary.
This is not about you. This is not your platform. Our sexual liberation has nothing to do with you.
I know that this writing will not stop me from getting explicit and harassing messages. But I see it as a gesture in my own space-taking.
And know this: I will not allow you to shrink me or my sexual expression because of your sexual dominance. I will not choose flowery words or euphemisms so that my proclamations won’t flag your interest. I will not talk quieter. I will not second-guess myself.
I will speak openly and freely about my sexual expression, my desires, what brings me pleasure, and I will do it to spite you because men like you hate knowing that you’re not the center of a woman’s erotic impulses, that she can conjure up sexual energy without the help of you.
But I’ll do it especially for the thousands of women out there, afraid to fully let themselves go as sexual beings because they see it as a danger to their lives (and in many ways, it is). I’ll do it for them, to give them courage, to give them strength, and to give them fuel for the erotic fires they will use to singe shame.
Not in my house, asshole.