Your favourite travelling dick pic show returns, this time featuring Shirley Manson and conversations on sex positivity, intersectionality and pornography
“I love a good dick okay, I just don’t want to be forced to look at it”, reads a plaque from Whitney Bell’s I Didn't Ask For This: A Lifetime of Dick Pics travelling gallery. After the success of the first show last year, the world’s favourite dick pick exhibition is back, this time transformed into a fully-fledged feminist educational weekend.
I Didn't Ask For This: A Lifetime of Dick Pics is happening over October 6-7 at Think Tank gallery in LA, and includes work from over 40 artists, live feminist tattooing, a full day of educational feminist panels (one featuring Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson), and even pussy eating and blow-job classes. The expansion of I Didn't Ask For This excels the first show's rhetoric and takes discussions around sex positivity, sexual harassment, intersectional feminism and pornography to critical ends. 150 unsolicited dick pics will adorn the walls alongside a 2ft mother of pearl stained glass Saint Dick by Sara Strickler and an illustration tracing the evolution of dick by Porous Walker – and this is just the beginning.
Below we spoke to Whitney Bell about what’s new for the second show and the importance of progressing the rhetoric around unsolicited dick picks.
How has your show evolved since the first one last year?
Whitney Bell: The first show in April 2016 far surpassed anything I could have ever imagined. I knew people would be interested, but I had no idea it would have the impact that it did. Over 1,000 people attended our opening night. We got an overwhelming amount of press coverage – everyone from Playboy to Ms. Magazine. I was even on the BBC, where I embarrassingly had to define ‘taint’ on air. The first show consisted of hundreds of dick pics in a pop-up shop and artwork from 30+ independent artists. While the success of that show of was incredible, I knew I wanted it to be more: I knew it deserved to be more.
Since then we have taken the show to San Francisco for our first two-day event and for this new edition we have really flushed out every aspect of the show, partnered with dozens of new artists and created multiple new installations. For example, in addition to the 150 Unsolicited (uncensored) Dick Pics set up, we have partnered with @ByeFelipe the massively popular Instagram account that calls out men who turn hostile when rejected/ignored. They have generously donated dozens of submissions of the horrifying text/dating app messages that women and femmes regularly receive. We selected convos spanning everything from dudes calling someone a "fat whore” for simply turning down a date, to men texting “rape is frat.” Or my personal favourite - “choke on my cock you dumb bitch #makeamericagreatagain” - which is jarring but let’s not pretend that that demographic is not already predisposed to the normalization of harassment.
”...This show is NOT about dick pics, or the men who send them. This show is about giving femmes the agency to stand up to their harassers, to show them that they aren’t alone, and to empower them to regain some control in a world that tells them their consent doesn’t matter” – Whitney Bell
What else in the show is new?
Whitney Bell: We have a full roster of entertainment, with DJs – Madame Gandhi, Holychild + Anna Bulbrook. This year, the pop-up shop is carrying goods from 40 independent artists and we have partnered with local and national charities to create unapologetically empowering pieces that also benefit the community. It’s been amazing to turn what was once a tiny pop up into a fully thriving and charitable business.
Because of the popularity of the first show we now have dozens of amazing artists from all over the world making insane custom works for us. For example, Sara Strickler created a 2ft mother of pearl stained glass Saint Dick, Suzanna Scott has donated these stunning and diverse vaginas made from inverted coin purses and Porous Walker, the unequivocal King of the Dick drawings, custom made an incredible illustration showcasing the penis’s evolution, beginning with a monkey and ending with a giant dick taking a selfie.
We are also proud to announce the Doc Johnson Sex Positive Penis Parlor – live feminist tattooing from eight independent artists and the debut showing of Doc J’s Vibrator Vending Machine! And to top it off, a custom-made 200 Dildo Photo Booth! On day two of the event, we have oral sex workshops from Anne Hodder, and a full day of educational panels.
Can you tell me a bit about the controversy that arose after your first show?
Whitney Bell: There was an attempt to get the SF show shut down – with people claiming ‘revenge porn.’ Much like the All Lives Matter ‘activists’ who crash Black Lives Matter protests, these people don’t really care about what they claim. If you were really concerned about All Lives, or about harassment, you wouldn’t only bring it up as a response to a marginalized group’s plea for visibility. Do you really think your time is best-spent defending men who use their genitalia to harass and intimidate women online? Do you really unsolicited that harassing the harassed for calling out harassment is beneficial to anyone? I implore you to pick a better battle.
We had to get our lawyers involved and refute these claims to not only the gallery, but also the city attorney and the San Francisco Arts Commission; it took about a week and a lot of billable hours for our lawyer but all parties involved confirmed what we already knew – that this is in no way revenge porn.
Have you noticed any progression in the discourse around dick pics since your first show?
Whitney Bell: I can’t personally speak to whether the over-arching problem of dick pics has gotten better or worse since our show – however, I do know that we are empowering women and femmes to speak up when something does happen. And I’m not just talking about the dick pics they receive, but the sexual harassment that they face every day. Because this show is NOT about dick pics, or the men who send them. This show is about giving femmes the agency to stand up to their harassers, to show them that they aren’t alone, and to empower them to regain some control in a world that tells them their consent doesn’t matter.
I'm also particularly interested in mens’ reactions to the show. “Are people REALLY sending you pictures like this?” they ask, horrified. Obviously #NotAllMen are chauvinistic pigs, harassing women with unsolicited photos of their cocks, but enough men are. Enough men that almost every single woman I know has received one. Enough men that every woman has been made to feel unsafe, like her body is not her own. I encouraged these shocked men to talk to the women in their lives and ask them not just about the dick pics that they receive, but the sexual harassment that they face everyday.
How is the event a fully fledged feminist educational weekend?
Whitney Bell: We are extremely excited to have brought on an amazing roster of women, femmes + allies for our full day of Feminist Educational Panels. We have senior editors at Playboy + Ms. Magazine, authors, journalists, sex educators, victim’s rights advocates, activists, and feminist pornographers. The second day of the show will be focused on the following topics: Feminism 101 For Men, Harassment in the Digital Era, + The Intersection of Feminism and Pornography. It is truly a powerhouse line-up. I’ve included quotes and details about our panelists below.
Your weekend event is powerful in its sex positivity, such as your pussy eating and blow-job class. Why is sex positivity important to the show?
Whitney Bell: I wanted to make it very clear that we are extremely sex positive because I love dick, and I love sex – what I don’t love is harassment and violence.
So often people equate sexual violence and harassment with sex, but harassment isn’t about sex – it is about power. Sexual harassment is a tool used to silence someone, especially women. When a dude sends you an unsolicited pic of his balls being sucked up by a vacuum (true story btw) it is quite clear that the photo was not sent not to flirt or to entice. It is 100% about him and his pleasure.
No guy thinks that using a picture of his taint as a “hey what’s up hello” on Tinder is going to get him a date. Much like a subway flasher, they get off forcing someone else to see their cock. Making someone else uncomfortable turns them on, the violation is the goal.
By stripping ourselves of our shame and calling out our harassers more publicly than ever before, we are finding our power. This is my small contribution to that movement. I feel that empowerment is much like race or socio-economic status, it’s a privilege and must be treated as such. Not everyone has the ability or strength or upbringing to be able to harness that on their own. To shed their shame, to have the agency to call out to their harassers, and to inspire others to do the same. I am privileged in many ways, and being empowered is one of them – so it is my duty to stand up for those who perhaps don’t share that privilege.
How did Shirley Manson get involved and what can we expect from her contribution?
Whitney Bell: Shirley had been following me on Instagram for a while, and I had NO IDEA, until she reposted an article I had written about rape culture. I was floored that my childhood hero not only knew I existed but that my work resonated with her. I DM’d her to say thank you and we just became internet friends. This show will actually be the first time we meet IRL and I’m so honoured that she is going to be on Intersectional Feminism 101 For Men at 1pm on Saturday.
Shirley has said about the show: “I’m participating in this show for multiple reasons, but primarily because I have a 7-year-old niece who I want to ensure has a more liberated upbringing than my own. Ever since she was born I decided that my duty as her aunt was to look out for her and to fight for her if I saw a threat to her well being. I have slowly watched the global culture change and shift towards a more ‘populist’ agenda which I personally believe to be a threat to women across our globe. Therefore I want to speak up where I see an issue because I believe that if we let things simply ‘be’ we will continue to lose ground."
Didn't Ask For This: A Lifetime of Dick Pics ft Shirley Manson, October 6-7 at Think Tank Gallery, Los Angeles. You can buy tickets here