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This intimate picture exhibition isn’t art or a statement, it’s exploitation

Some men are in the habit of aggressively sending pictures of their junk to people. With politicians and professional athletes landing on Page Six for their enthusiasm for the crotch shot, the dick pic has officially gone mainstream. There’s even an art show opening up at Morgan Avenue Underground, a Brooklyn gallery that will feature a series of photos called “Show Me More: A Collection of Dick Pix.”

At first glance, the exhibition appears to be an interesting turning of the tables, exposing the harassment of a few crude guys by sharing their unwelcome advances with the broader world. But hold up. As Vice found out, these photos weren’t unsolicited at all. 

Members of Future Femme explained to Vice how they amassed their stash of explicit photos. “Most of the women have gone the straightforward route in collecting dick pics, using versions of their real OKCupid profiles and brief conversations—sometimes just going right for the jugular and straight-up asking for a dick pic, avoiding flirtation and conversation at all costs,” writes Talia Beth Ralph. “One of the artists, however, went a step further by posing as a gay man on Grindr and wound up with 150 photos.”

“This essentially is a revenge porn website in real life.”

The artist who received her pics by posing as a gay male said that she did not intend to mock or shame the men whose photos she is displaying, but if the intention is to examine the practice of sending this sort of picture in a neutral way, why not just be upfront about the project? If the artists had put out an open call for submissions, it’s hard to imagine they would have trouble finding men willing to share photos, especially if they are actually kept anonymous. Collecting the photos surreptitiously suggests that the artists knew they would have difficulty obtaining these photos without the pretense of a private exchange – after all, why risk the legal ramifications of sharing these pictures if they could’ve grown a collection of dick pics from willing participants?

Sharing explicitly sexual photos people take without their permission is wrong, no matter who is doing it. It’s wrong when revenge porn sites do it, it’s wrong when people in “Snapchat Leaked” communities do it, it’s wrong when the Redditors of r/creepshots did it, it’s wrong when anybody does it, even if they’re doing it at a well-lit art gallery and not a seedy online forum.

“I think there’s definitely an ethical issue here,” says Holly Jacobs, an activist and academic who runs a website called End Revenge Porn. Jacobs has firsthand experience with websites publishing explicit photos of her without her consent. “They went out and solicited these pictures without the men’s knowledge that they were going to use them and put them up in a gallery. Even though their faces aren’t attached, I still think these guys would take issue with the fact that pictures of their private parts are put up on display without their consent.”

“This essentially is a revenge porn website in real life.” 

“Taking pictures they collected under false pretenses and putting them on display for the world to see without the subject’s consent, it’s the same thing that’s happening on these websites,” Jacobs says. ”Guys were going on Plenty of Fish and Craigslist and meeting girls, kind of starting a false relationship online, eventually asking for nude photos and the girls would send them nude photos, and then the guys would put it up on these websites.” 

One small sliver of a silver lining: Jacobs’ lawyer, Patrick McGeehan, says that if the subjects of these photos live in New Jersey, they may have more legal recourse, since there is a law against revenge porn on the books there. “If the victim was in New Jersey, became a victim through the Internet, because it’s interstate commerce, it should be actionable in New Jersey under the criminal statute,” McGeehan says, although he noted that it’s up to the prosecutor to decide. So if any of the men on Grindr or Scruff were over in Hoboken, they may be able to take serious action. 
It’s disappointing to see a group of artists who have the ability to get their art up in galleries choosing to violate other people. Who wouldn’t be furious to see an intimate picture sent in a supposedly one-on-one conversation on public display in an art show?

Anyone whose dick pic ends up in the gallery is within their rights to feel duped and betrayed – and to threaten legal action. It’s especially irritating that people are getting up to this type of callous provocation under the auspices of interrogating gender norms. It’s cheap and exploitative, and it is neither a feminist statement nor art.

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