Dicks (and their Dicks)
The last time I saw an unsolicited dick, I was in 10th grade.
It was after school and I was sitting in science class, making up a test I had missed a few days earlier. I hunched on a stool at one of the lab tables in the back of the room, my backpack at my feet and my teacher at her desk in the corner. It was the middle of the Fall semester and the room had been decorated for harvest time amidst it’s normal science-y fair: construction paper pumpkins over the posters of Jane Goodall; Happy Halloween letters strung over the chalkboard; and orange-and-black glitter sprinkling over the tile floor.
At the table behind me, one of the seniors scratched away at his own ScanTron. I didn’t know him, though I knew of him — he was average height for his age (which was taller than me at my age then) with short blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. He was stocky and muscular, like he wrestled. If I knew his name then, I have forgotten it by now. I don’t even remember where he sat in the classroom when we were in class.
Our teacher got up and announced she was going to the classroom across the hall to talk to another teacher for a minute. In retrospect, this was a dumb idea for two reasons. First, did she really trust her two students enough not to cheat? This was the late 90’s, and though we didn’t have smartphones or our TI-83s out, we could have just leaned over and whispered the answers to each other. I was certainly not a cheater and nor did I look like one, so she could have trusted me.
The second reason why leaving a classroom while two students are taking a test is because of what happened next.
As I flipped through my test and marked off my ScanTron, the boy behind me hissed, “Hey….hey!”
At first, I thought he was trying to get the answers off of me, and being an ethically upright 15-year-old girl, I ignored him at first. But he persisted in hissing at me to get my attention.
I put down my pencil, sighed, and straightened. Since the teacher’s minute-long excursion had turned into three, I decided to entertain the dude and get him to leave me alone.
“What?” I snapped, turning on my stool. “What do you –?”
Rather than working on the answers to a stupid science test, the dude was instead working on his dick, which he had pulled of his pants and into his hand.
Immediately, I spun back around in my seat and covered my eyes. “Ew! Gross!” I yelped, a hot blush rising over my whole body. “What the fuck?”
He laughed — laughed — and muttered something under his breath. I didn’t turn back around to confront him about it or ask him to repeat himself lest I see it again. A minute later, the teacher came back in and sat down at her desk like nothing happened. Because nothing did for her.
The minutes ticked by while I stared down at my test. The words jumbled up at me while my stomach turned. I couldn’t get the image of a real life penis out of my mind. A mix of horror and embarrassment and shame filled me. At that age, I had only just begun to find the male half of the species interesting, but this set everything back. I had hoped my first time seeing a dick would be in college, maybe after a study session with my friend from Brit Lit who liked Jane Austen as much as I did and just could not get enough of Paul Rudd as Mr. Knightley in Clueless. And I hoped it would be consensual.
But nah. Not this time, bruh.
Afterward, I tried to think about who I could tell. My friends? Oh Christ, who would fucking believe me? I was the only person that wasn’t sexually active yet in my social circle (and I was a theater kid!!) They made jokes about my frigidness, calling me “uptight” and a “goodie-goodie.” If I said this dude showed me his dick, they’d call me a liar and an attention-seeker. Should I tell a teacher? And then what — the dude would just deny it. Why would he should me his dick? Then we’d both get into trouble and the rest of the school would hear about it.
Who’s left? My parents? No, I had caused them enough stress up to that point. But that’s a story for a different day.
I decided not to tell anyone and just move past it. Besides, if I acted like it didn’t bother me, I’d seem cool, right?
Long before dicks were sliding into DMs, they were exposing themselves to women in classrooms, on the subway, on buses, or in the comfort of their own home. Fuck, dicks are even sliding out on accident now, even when they’re attached to men of good character. It’s like dicks just can’t wait to jump out and pounce on their prey.
(Incidentally: how does one accidentally post a dick pick?)
As women, we often ask the question: why? Why so many unsolicited dicks? Do dick-havers think we’ll take one glance at their dick and suddenly become melted puddles of ecstacy? Or, do they think we see so many dicks that one, Very Special Dick will rise above the rest and we’ll one day skip hand-and-dick through fields of flowers with said dick for the rest of our lives? Or, do they think we’re just excellent judges of dick character: This one is long and thin, ergo the person attached is of sound mind and dresses well? This one is short but girthy, ergo the dick-bearer is sensitive but cooks a mean gumbo?
The real answer is power, humiliation, and shame — just like that dick from my high school found out. I was meek and shy and he figured I wouldn’t do anything if he exposed himself to me. He was right. It’s a tiny rush of dopamine to make someone feel uncomfortable; it’s a tidal wave when they can’t fight back. It doesn’t matter the situation: it could be a teenage girl taking a test, a twenty-something woman on a dating app thinking about seeing a dick later, or a 70-year-old grandma sitting on a bus going home from church: the victimizer sees them and thinks, I bet showing her my dick will really fuck up her day and there’s nothing she can do to stop me. The dude in my class knew I wouldn’t tell anyone. On a dating app, the dude can reason, Well, she was looking to hook-up anyway, why wouldn’t she want to see my dick? Besides, I can just delete the app if she reports me. And the dude on the bus could just jump off at the next stop and flee, free to expose himself to the next person.
It’s always about control.