Last week, 2.6 million women sacrificed their makeup, raised their tired arms in the air, pouted, and took a #nomakeupselfie to raise awareness for breast cancer. This week, boys have found their own inane counterpart: the #cockinasock.
The cock-in-a-sock concept, though probably as old as socks themselves, was most memorably championed by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and since then it has gone from strength to strength, appearing in American Pie and bringing the homoerotic LOLs far and wide, from boarding school dorms to stinking holiday flats in Tenerife. That is, until now, when it's become the latest weapon in the fight against ball cancer.
If you’re wondering what putting a sock on your dick and posting a picture of it on the internet has to do with raising money for charity, the mechanism is the same as the #nomakeupselfie. Take your picture, text the word "BEAT" to 70099 to donate three bucks to fighting cancer, and then encourage the giggling co-workers on your Facebook page to do the same. It’s the kind of viral campaign that gacky brand marketers strive a lifetime to come up with.
Even though a bunch of the people who did a #nomakeupselfie texted the wrong number (which may or may not have anything to do with their interest in the fundraising aspect), it raised more than $13 million in a week for Cancer Research UK. According to the charity’s website, this money will tangibly pay for ten clinical trials, which is obviously fucking great.
Nonetheless, the web has been awash for the last week with rants about how such campaigns vindicate “clicktivism,” which is basically the idea that internet activism is lazy and things like online petitions and charity-marketing campaigns are taking the soul out of activism. Obviously there's some truth to this idea, but I think these lefty evangelists are going to feel pretty fucking stupid if that sweet 13 mill cures a form of cancer.
What I will make a call on is that #cockinasock seems to have significantly less to do with its charitable cause than the #nomakeupselfie. How do I know this? Because most of the people who've posted a picture of their cock to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram haven’t bothered to include the charity text number, let alone any reference to cancer prevention (have a look for yourself). The only thing these cocks in socks seems to be raising are the eyebrows of bored middle-aged women on their lunch breaks and the erections of gay bloggers reveling in the explosion of this phenomenon. Also, almost without exception, everyone who's doing it is a douchebag.
I like to think that #cockinasock is a parody—cynical boys mocking the #nomakeupselfie’s ironic disjunction between vulnerability and vanity, or its implication that 3 inches of makeup should be the norm for girls and anything less a novelty. But while #titsinmits, the latest hashtag to emerge, is obviously commenting on how absurd it is to stick a body part in a bit of material and post it for everyone from your teacher to your children to see (I’m waiting for #twatsinhats), #cockinasock seems to be little more than poker-faced vanity. Calum Best did one, for fuck’s sake.
A hashtag is, in its essence, a call for attention—the whole point is searchability, visibility. Hashtagging a picture of yourself, let alone your cock, basically means that you want as many people to see it as possible. I do like to imagine the clinical process of taking this unashamedly vain photo, an experience that must feel a bit like filming a Big Brother application video (and describing yourself as “really outgoing”). When you consider that these boys could always donate the three bucks sans naked selfie, you realize that the cock in a sock really is the domain of the douchebag. And not even in the traditional sense of the sock.
The #cockinasock trend is to pumped up bros what Movember is to hipsters. As the #nomakeupselfie is favored by fake tan girls with tattooed eyebrows, so the #cockinasock phenomenon is the refuge of “ripped” boys with “sick" tribal tattoos, the kind of pseudo-macho losers Clive Martin wrote about in his recent dissection of British lad culture. I suppose that if you’re going to take creatine to pump your body up like a lilo, it’s just the laws of geometry that your cock is going to look comparatively smaller, and that’s without steroids. A legitimized opportunity to photograph your ripped body and cover your tiny cock in a deceptively large appendage must be like Christmas come early. Of course #cockinasock was going to catch on.
I’m glad that most of the boys who've posted a #cockinasock photo seem to have benefited physically from their overwhelming arrogance, 'cause if naked selfies are going to clog my Twitter feed I’d admittedly rather look at six packs than beer bellies. But what really annoys me is the arrogant assumption that anyone actually cares. I don’t have a cock, but I can imagine it’s a lot more gratifying for people to see it when they’ve actually asked.