getting it

The Unlikely Appeal of the Dick Video

Photo: Eadweard Muybridge/Library of Congress

My friends tend to have one of two reactions when I tell them that I’ve received a dick video. The first, of course, is abject horror. Ugh, like, who even wants to see that? — this is a widespread response to the topic of mere dick photos; conventional wisdom holds that women are largely uninterested in graphic sexual missives, except under very special circumstances.

And yet, there’s a second, less common but more enthusiastic reaction: excited demands to see that video, because dick videos are a precious gift from the heavens.

Let me say first that I do not mean the kind of aggressive and unsolicited jizz cannon that a harasser might send to an ex or a stranger online. “Mirrors should reflect before sending an image,” said Jean-Luc Godard, and I’m inclined to agree. He was talking about the cinema; I am talking about 15- to 30-second iPhone clips of men artfully jerking off to completion, accompanied by that adorably masculine sound men make when they orgasm. Such a video should be sent to me when we’re sexting, or if I’ve made an explicit commission for such a piece, and not unsolicited during, you know, church or something. To the kind of broad who is visually stimulated by seeing a dick she already really likes in action, these videos are fun and sexy. I, for one, am this kind of broad.

Whereas a dick pic can be taken and sent haphazardly from any old bar bathroom, a dick video is a performance, a sexual act, and a huge turn-on to far more women than conventional wisdom would have us believe. Britta is a veteran recipient of dick vids. They have varied in quality, but she is certain she prefers them to dick pics. “There’s something hot about actually watching a guy play with his cock versus the relative coldness of a still photograph,” she wrote in an email. My friend Eve is similarly unimpressed by still photos of dicks. “Oh look, a hard dick, cool,” she said. “I like videos because they provide context. Plus, I got a guy to make porn for me.” I share this sense of accomplishment, of having gotten a man to do something for me: In a romantic climate where it often seems men would rather surrender semi-vital organs than offer commitment, an intimate gift of any kind is a pleasant surprise.

A man named David, who is an avid fan of sending dick videos, more or less corroborated this feeling. “I get a sense that the effort I put into them is appreciated, beyond just the actual appreciation of the visuals,” he told me. He also provided me with detailed directions on how to capture the perfect dick video. Sample tips: vary speeds and motions, work the frenulum, basically do things that other people have done to your dick. (I’ll omit the rest so that he can monetize that gold himself.) He reported being both proud of his handiwork and aroused by it. “The digital part of it — sending your physical self to somewhere you are not, performing for an invisible viewer who is present — it makes me feel like I’m in an ‘80s Cronenberg film, which is hot,” he said.

The dick videos I’ve received have typically arrived in response to my enthusiastic requests (though many men flat-out refuse), or else to my own masturbation shots. “When a pretty lady is kind enough to send me a very personal video, I feel it’s only right to respond in kind,” said a man we’ll call Fred, who sent me my first dick video after I sent him one of my own motion pictures.

Both Britta and Eve reported enjoying this sense of reciprocity. “He’s presumably masturbating to the hot pics I just sent him. So that’s hot,” says Eve, though she does not masturbate often to dick videos she’s been sent. Britta, on the other hand, has masturbated to these little inbox treasures. “It takes the notion that the cock you’re looking at is hard because of you and makes it more real. I like that,” Britta said.

For me, receiving dick videos and (and praising them effusively) is as much about my ego as his. Sure, I want to know what the dick can do, but more important, what I can do for the dick. That I am causing someone to have an erection and then ejaculate all while also holding a smartphone and standing in flattering lighting is kind of thrilling.

And, beyond the vain thrill of making someone do scandalous stuff, the exchange of DIY porn can make a timid partner more comfortable with their own sexual self-expression. A friend I’ll call Laura is 38 and a newly converted champion of the dick video, most likely because she only recently got her first one. After sending a flurry of photos from his series “Still Images of Hard Wood,” the man she was seeing dropped a video into the mix that she enjoyed thoroughly, and more than once. “His pictures and videos are raw and honest and it makes me feel good about sharing pictures of myself because I feel he’s less judgmental than I am,” she wrote in an email. Though Laura had never sent any sexually explicit images, his openness warmed her up to the idea. Laura has since sent him a little bit of PG-13 action herself, along with erotica she’s written — arguably a more intimate share than photos or videos. “I prefer videos, to be honest, because there’s more variation. I get off on hearing his voice, his breathing,” she told me.

Frankly, a well-shot masturbation video can be a truly remarkable work of art. Sexted videos are to professional porn what low-budget short films are to Oscar contenders: It isn’t that one is better or worse; they’re just operating at different levels. One is meant to appeal to a massive audience and deliver a visually and narratively spectacular experience. The other is for a small audience but is carried by the passion of the creator and the willingness of the viewer to engage with its quiet, intimate value. If you’re thinking about a maiden voyage on the good ship Money Shot, as either a requester or sender, take heart and consider the wisdom of another famed film director, Alfred Hitchcock: “I have a feeling that inside you somewhere, there’s somebody nobody knows about.”