What Does Your Dick Pic Say About You?

Researchers asked people to judge strangers, just by photos of their penises.
Someone using a phone in bed. Getty Images

Swiping through piles of matches on a dating app requires making snap judgements about people based on their faces. Does this person seem nice? Conscientious? Neurotic? Psychology professors recently asked people to consider another question: What if we were asked to make snap judgments about a person instead by looking at their dick pics?

Researchers at Thomas Brooks at New Mexico Highlands University and Stephen Reysen at Texas A&M University studied what people’s perceptions of others might be, based solely on pictures of their penises. Their study was published this month in the journal Sexuality & Culture.


Reysen and Brooks showed 106 participants (mostly heterosexual women) 24 photos of strangers’ dicks sourced from public Reddit forums, and asked them to rate the penises in terms of attractiveness, how often they thought that person has sex, how they performed in bed (specifically, whether they were a “Pillow Princess” or “Pleaser”) and how many sexual partners they perceived the target might have had, as well as on scale of the “big five” personality characteristics: extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. They were also asked whether the penis was “prototypical,” or whether they represented the average penis.

The researchers started with several hypotheses about what participants would see in these dicks. They guessed that “prototypical” penises would reflect positively on the person, and that long, girthy penises would be considered more prototypical than short, thin ones. They also guessed that trimmed pubes would give an impression of conscientiousness. 

These guesses were spot-on. “Penises which were wider, longer, and moderately hairy were perceived more positively in terms of personality and sexual appeal,” the researchers wrote. “Shorter and narrower penises were perceived as more neurotic.” 

The longest penises in the sample were seen as belonging to someone assumed to be extraverted, conscientious, and open to new experiences. And people felt strongly about grooming: Dicks surrounded by a lot of long public hair were associated with lower extraversion and agreeableness, and not having as many sexual partners.

“This research demonstrates that genital appearance may contribute to socially shared implicit theories about people, regardless if these impressions reflect the true personality of the person being assess[ed],” the researchers wrote. They mention that past studies have suggested that people can detect “dark triad,” or psychopathic, personality traits in others’ faces (a finding that’s been debated and challenged in follow-up studies), and suggest that people might try to form similar impressions of others based on dick pics. “While there was no comparison made between the shared impressions from the participants, and the actual personality characteristics of the people whose penises were used as stimuli, it can be reasonably inferred that a similar process of impression formation is engaged between faces and penises,” the researchers wrote.

This study, of course, is all about perception, and perception is influenced by social norms and expectations. Having a big, trimmed dick doesn’t actually make someone a contentious or agreeable person. The study also doesn’t factor what getting an unsolicited dick pic tells the recipient about the person behind the camera. But the researchers do note that in most cases of online dating, where both people are getting consent before firing off a bathroom selfie, the dick is only one small part of a whole impression of a person—digital or not.