Technology has made it all too simple for women to receive “unsolicited dick pics” virtually anywhere, despite the fact that most women really, really don't want them.
Whitney Bell was one of these women. Rather than delete or disregard these dick pics, she created an entire art show revealing the magnitude of the unsolicited dick pics women receive.
Her most recent installation, “I Didn’t Ask For This: A Lifetime of Dick Pics,” invites patrons to go down the deep, dark hole of patriarchal domination in a room filled with around 200 phallic photographs, hung inside a detailed recreation of the artist’s home. The main idea was to juxtapose the comfort and safety of home with the aggressive and unwelcome intrusion of toxic masculinity.
“I want you to feel as if [you’re] in someone's private safe space, like you've been welcomed in, but that even in this space you are unsafe. That even in this warm comfortable environment you’re still bombarded by male dominance and aggression. That there is no escaping the patriarchy.”
— Whitney Bell
According to the artist, the exhibition is not intended to shame men, penises, or men with penises. Instead, Bell wants “to expose the normalization of misogyny ― especially online,” to provide a forum where people who are both shocked by or numbed to the practice of sending dick pics can talk about everyday harassment.
“I love a good dick. I just don't love harassment."
— Whitney Bell
These dicks are also for a good cause! A portion of all proceeds from the event was donated to The Center for Reproductive Rights, who is fighting a Supreme Court Case to stop TRAP laws that are unlawfully closing abortion clinics around the country.
The installation also gave a platform to a sprinkling of sex-positive knick-knacks touting the virtues of oral sex and female sexual agency. Plus, patrons were invited to purchase the most drool-worthy selection of handmade feminist merchandise provided by over 40 local vendors.
I had a blast attending the “Penis Party” on Friday, October 6 at Think Tank Art Gallery in Los Angeles. Despite the dick pics and the messages that were posted alongside them, the exhibit’s setting actually created a comfortable atmosphere. The scene was mostly women and femmes talking to and hanging out with other women and femmes. Conversations ranged from dick pic critiques to stories about people’s personal experiences with violent men to heated discussions about whether or not dick pics are even a problem.
I spoke to one male patron, out of my own curiosity, and asked him how many photos he usually takes before finding, “the one.” He said confidentially answered, “a minimum of 7!” I found this information absolutely fascinating. As it turns out, a dick pic is a guy’s version of the selfie.
This friendly, friendly, fun, party environment that truly allowed patrons to drop their guard and turn their attention to the true message of feminism. Bell says she hopes that her work will encourage people to be more empathetic to sexual harassment— even if it’s not something they’ve experienced themselves — and how invasive and pervasive sexual harassment is and how it affects every part of a woman’s life.
As Whitney said, “It shouldn’t have to be happening to you in order for it to matter. We all need to be responsible for each other.”