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What I learned from getting dick pics

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened my email to find an unsolicited photo of a man’s penis. No, I’m not a “friend” of Anthony Weiner. I’m a journalist who delved into the everyday world of online sex in order to research the sex practices of average Americans – not the powerful or the rich or the famous. I’m talking the neighbors next door – Joe and Jane Schmo.

And if there’s one thing I discovered in nearly eight years of talking to people about their sex lives, it’s that a whole lot of Americans are taking pictures of their genitals and proudly posting them for others to see.

Within two days of beginning my research in 2004, I received an email from a man in his thirties whom I'll call Jim. Jim had answered my Craigslist casual encounters ad seeking men and women willing to tell me the intimate details of their sex lives.

Quickly Jim told me that he was a bit of an exhibitionist who fantasized about getting caught masturbating. Therefore, he masturbated when anticipating a hotel maid would walk in on him, which had happened. Jim also sent me photos of him, his wife, and their baby. They looked like the cliché perfect American couple – blonde, blue-eyed and athletic. That’s when I asked Jim why he was on Craigslist.

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