— Janani Balasubramanian, “How Many Licks”
What are we actually getting at when we talk about “sucking dick”?
What is a dick, who has one, and what does its sucking entail? Unpacking such questions is key to understanding the spectacle of the dick and the mouth. It is a sex act with an amended symmetry: two heads that become faceless by the nature of their encounter. They are differently faceless, differently consuming one another—one literally, through the mouth, and the other through the idea of a mouth. The cultural imaginary around dick sucking, almost more than other sex acts, has as much to do with what came before as it does with its physical presentness. It comes to us as stories, as histories, as gay-artist retrospectives, as breakfast. If there is something long, and an opening, look hard enough and eventually there is a dick and it has been sucked.
Sucking dick is imagined and reimagined as a particular set of power relations—something more extended and impactful than asskissing, perhaps. Roman poet Catullus actually usedirrumare (to force dick sucking) to describe a boss who treated others very poorly. The overquoted and over-orientalized Kama Sutra, meanwhile, has a chapter on the eight different types of “mouth congress” and then goes into a detailed account of who does and doesn’t approve of or practice the congress and its variations. There is an understanding that it’s not an act for those privileged by caste, class, and other markers of social standing. Dick sucking often gets marked as a submissive act, but a very much not passive one, and always with the impending threat of the bite. Outside of a penetration-centric framework, the mouth can actually be imagined as having a great deal of power, or at least a momentary hegemony through enclosure. The sites of giving and receiving are constantly under question. (Did I give or take head or dick or pleasure? Neither or both or all of the above?) One hears, “I want your dick in my mouth,” and also “I want you to suck me off.” A dirty mouth and a cleaned dick, the switch.
"So. Is it art, is it an ad, or is it porn—or is it a parody of porn? As Meyer writes, the image refuses to fit idly into either “a feminist critique of pornography or a pornographic critique of feminism.” Nor can it be reduced to either an artist’s critique of commerce or a commercial, cynical piss-take on contemporary art. To chalk up its iconicity to the picture’s original sin—its female-to-male transgressiveness—is tempting, but hasty and perhaps ahistorical."
Lynda Benglis’s portrait of herself scandalized not because it supplanted the phallus but because it ridiculed it.
In the December 1974 issue of Artforum, five editors published and co-signed a letter “publically disassociating” themselves from portions of the previous issue. The letter cites the “extreme vulgarity” and “brutalizing” effect of an advertisement placed in the November 1974 issue by and for a New York artist, a sculptor, appearing as herself in the image. New York artist, a sculptor, appearing as herself in the image. The editors condemn the uncouthness of the ad as a harmful mockery not only of their personal sensibilities but also of the larger (and conveniently undefined) “aims of [the women’s] movement.” Another grievance: As art writers and editors, these five felt professionally compromised by their forced complicity with the artist’s self-exploitation—or worse, self-promotion, “in the most debased sense of the term.”
Professional feminists agreed, with Cindy Nemster accusing the artist of “making a frantic bid for male attention.” Art historians were scandalized. School principals pulled their schools’ Artforum subscriptions. The magazine received more letters for a single issue than it had in its 13-year history. In Philadelphia, a man reportedly stormed into a museum, waving his copy of the issue, and toppled over one of the artist’s works. In a no less extreme reaction, the two women among those five editors—Rosalind Krauss and Annette Michelson—would soon quit the magazine to start October. Everyone knew their departure had begun with an advertisement.
Die slowly but then real quick all at once at the end part. Be a so-so person. Let people use you but wink ironically throughout so it’s clear you’re in on it. Never tell anyone they’re wrong about anything. Only help people get things you don’t actually want them to have. Don’t forget how pleasant it is to hug someone toward whom you feel quietly contemptuous. Don’t forget that in the grand scale your life only looks noble because you care so adorably much about it despite its comical insignificance. A good way to always be well-rested is to go to sleep before you do anything dumb and to also be pretty dumb. Dignity is often just a matter of keeping more still than your body cares to. Your best is not quite good enough so you might as well just try 80% of it. When in doubt underdress. When in doubt undress. When in, doubt.
Q: Check out those nude celebs?!?!
— Madeline Holden, “Dick Picky”
Critique My Dick Pic has convinced its proprietor that the female gaze is not homogeneous.
Traditionally functioning as little more than late-night infomercials, often with hilariously utilitarian demonstrations of size, dick pics have been shared en masse on dating sites and social apps for years. The dick-pic economy is thriving, replicating a whole host of our cultural malaises in miniature: Aggressively insecure men harass women whose disinterest is irrelevant to them, blithely sailing past boundaries to demand that their manhood be looked at and validated; scornful women pass them on to girlfriends with less-than-smiling emoji. Dick pics are routinely shared the first time without consent on the part of the recipient and are widely loathed for this reason. Yet they’re also intimate, amateur portraits of the genitals of men, sometimes very lonely men, which gives rise to a kind of dual nature: The dick pic is hostile yet pitiable, aggressive but also acutely pathetic. They’re also almost invariably ugly. Dick pics are, on the whole, dull and artless, inexpertly captured and painfully unerotic.
A year ago I started Critique My Dick Pic, a blog that is not safe for work unless your workplace is chill. The premise is simple: Men and other people with dicks send me photos thereof, and I critique the photos with love. I have a general policy of being gentle about people’s bodies, including their genitals (the blog’s motto is “100% ANON, NO SIZE SHAMING”), but I was also feeling particularly magnanimous toward dick pics the day that the blog was born. I’m often asked why I started CMDP, and the truth is that I woke up one morning to a dick pic so good that I felt inspired to change the others. That’s all it was—one excellent, well-planned pic from a person whose dick I explicitly wanted to see. I was jarred by how unnecessarily rare that move was and struck by the conviction that people with dicks could do better.