Dear Yana, I’ve been texting with this guy during quarantine and it’s been very fun and hot. I boss him around and give him writing assignments in exchange for photos of myself which he is suitably grateful for.
However, recently he sent me an unsolicited dick pic. Sir! I was shocked. This hadn’t been part of our game, a) because I am in charge of the dynamic and b) because I haven’t requested dick pics at any point. It totally turned me off (not the dick itself, just the unsolicited nature of it).
So the question is — do I have the right to be upset about this, given all the sexting? And also, how do I respond if at all?
Put Your Dick Away
Dear Dick Away,
“Suitably grateful for,” you say? Sounds very fun and hot, indeed! So sad that he felt the need to cool things off real quick with an unsolicited snap of the dick.
My short answer is that, of course! You can feel however you want to feel about an unsolicited dick pic whether it’s from a stranger, a q’tine fling, or even your IRL, LTR partner. Consent is a big deal and it’s also a wide-reaching deal. The latter point is one that can be forgotten in established or becoming-established relationships (whether it’s a fling or forever) — just because we have a history of some kind doesn’t mean we should be assuming next steps, especially if those next steps, as you say, haven’t been part of your previous interactions.
Reactions to unsolicited dick pics can range from acceptance, to annoyance, to betrayal, to anger, to being rightfully triggered as unwelcome, invasive, and non-permission-seeking phalluses in our communities have often been used for violence, non-consensual domination, and control. Summoning this through a photo, especially without any kind of asking or warning, is way-more-often-than-not simply not OK so, any reaction you’re having to it is totally valid.
Now, you have a few ways you can respond. It sounds like you have a bit of a kinky or power-playful dynamic with this dick pic photographer. If you choose to continue this sexting-based q’tine fling with him after this, you might want to clarify this dynamic (like you say above, “I am in charge.”) For some people, reasserting boundaries through the structure of kink can provide them with easier access to the confidence, language, and permission it can take to state boundaries clearly. Remind him that you are in charge, that unsolicited dick pics are never OK, and perhaps assign him a writing assignment “punishment” about why unsolicited dick pics are harmful as is in-line with your consensually kinky dynamic.
Or, you can take this boundaries talk out of your kink dynamic entirely and into “real life mode” and have a nice, serious chat about what receiving this dick pic was like for you, how it made you feel, and use this conversation as an opportunity to both clarify the boundaries moving forward and let him know that regardless of his fun-and-flirty intent, the impact of this dick pic was quite the opposite of fun-and-flirty to you.
Thirdly, if your trust and sense of safety has been irreparably harmed, that’s totally legitimate, too and you can end the dynamic and the relationship entirely. I think often it can be easy for people to self-gaslight in these scenarios, wondering to themselves, “Am I really going to end this whole thing because of a dick pic?”. And I say, yes, maybe you are.
Like I said above, a dick pic is not just a picture of a body part. It’s a larger culture of sexual domination, entitlement, and violation all wrapped up into one, easily-photographable object. If a partner doesn’t know how to responsibly and consensually wield and/or play with that power, it can easily feel dangerous at worst and, at best, probably doesn’t speak highly of his capacity to bring your kink dynamic much further than this, anyway.
Good luck in making your decision and remember that whichever is right for you is right!
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.