You've heard all the jokes by now: Weiner took a picture of his wiener.
The latest scandal embroiling a public figure accused of flashing his privates via the internet involves New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. The liberal firebrand, who is married, is being accused of sending a photo of his crotch to a young female college student via Twitter. While Weiner says he believes someone hacked into his Twitter account, he also acknowledges that he can't say with certainty it's not his crotch in the photo. Once you get past all the obvious jokes, you have to ask, "What the hell was he thinking?"
The Weiner brouhaha is the latest in a recent spate of celebrity penis pics—Kanye West, Brett Favre, Chris Brown—each of which has mostly resulted in a lot of blog posts and a little embarrassment for the men in the pictures. Still, male celebrities and laymen could all avoid that shame if they just got one thing through their head: Women don't want to see cellphone shots of your penis.
The anecdotal evidence for my case is solid. "The penis isn't pretty," said my friend Maria when I asked her if she'd enjoy receiving photos of a man's privates. "It's useful and it serves a purpose, but it's not aesthetically pleasing. It's like a corkscrew in that way."
Late last year, when Kanye's penic pics leaked after he allegedly sent them to women on MySpace, Jezebel Editor-in-Chief Jessica Coen said that the photos just made her sad. "I'm not going to bother with a verdict on whether or not the penis in question is indeed Kanye's, or if the image is even real," she wrote. "But my heart sank a little bit when I looked at the picture."
In the comments below Coen's post, other women chimed in with their own feelings on penis pics. The general consensus was decidedly against. "If I received such a thing I'd just be going...um, OK, what the hell am I supposed to do with that?" said one woman. Added another, "I'm a hetero lady but honestly, dudes are not super fun to look at naked."
Of course, if you don't trust the masses, there's plenty of science that says women don't want to see your grainy nudes, either.
I'm not saying that women don't respond to porn. In fact, a 2006 McGill study showed that women get aroused by pornography as quickly as men. However, what that study's author, Irv Binik, was careful to note was that he hadn't proved women like pornography, just that they had a physical reaction to it. There's a big difference between those two things. "In women, you get a lot of disagreement between what the body is saying and what the mind is saying," Binik told the Seattle Times.
In a recent study at Canada's Queen's University, women were shown pornography and attached to a device that measured their arousal. They were also given a button to indicate to what degree they were turned on. The results were fascinating:
During shots of lesbian coupling, heterosexual women reported less excitement than their vaginas indicated; watching gay men, they reported a great deal less; and viewing heterosexual intercourse, they reported much more. Among the lesbian volunteers, the two readings converged when women appeared on the screen. But when the films featured only men, the lesbians reported less engagement than the plethysmograph recorded.
For their part, the men in the study were easy—their minds and penises were mostly in agreement. "There is a great diversity in what women find arousing," Marta Meana, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas psychologist told The Washington Post last week. "But if you look at the empirical literature, it does indicate that the majority of women are not as aroused by pictures of [penises]."
What it comes down to is that men are far more visual beings. We get turned on by looking at nudity and we know that. And some men are pompous enough to believe that what turns them on should also be a turn-on to women. But that's wrong; sexuality isn't rigid.
"The male sexual brain is like a single toggle switch, whereas the female sexual brain is like the cockpit of an F1 fighter jet," neuroscientist Sai Gaddam said last month after studying female and male sexual cues. "There are tons of dials and instruments, and there's sophisticated calibration going on."
That fluidity in mind, I'd be a fool to say that there aren't women out there who are dying to get poorly lit iPhone pics of your junk texted to them in the middle of the night. But, as with every aspect of sex, you should probably ask first.