Rachel Sanoff
Updated Nov 27, 2019 @ 11:39 pm
Whitney Bell
Credit: Courtesy of Whitney Bell

Do you use dating apps or social media (aka are you alive in this time period)? Has a man ever had your phone number? If so, then you may have received the invasive, disgusting, woefully common message that we’ve come to call, “the unsolicited dick pic.” If you are someone who has been subjected to this kind of cyber harassment, artist Whitney Bell wants you to know that (a) it’s not okay and (b) you’re not alone.

This Friday and Saturday, October 6th and 7th, Bell’s traveling anti-harassment gallery show, “I Didn’t Ask For This: A Lifetime of Dick Pics,” is coming to Los Angeles.

Now having its third installation at Think Tank Gallery in Downtown LA, the art event has been attended by 4,500 people and has raised more than $5,000 for Happy Period and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Credit: Courtesy of Whitney Bell

When you set foot inside the gallery, you’ll immediately feel at home — because Bell has transformed the gallery into a literal recreation of her home. The only difference? There are 150+ unsolicited dick pics adorning the walls.

Bell explains the symbolic intent behind the juxtaposition of her “home” with the unsolicited pictures in a press release:

“The viewer becomes aggressively aware of how invasive this kind of harassment is. This behavior is so commonplace we have all just accepted it as the norm. I want to show that this isn’t normal at all. When you put hundreds of dicks and the aggressive comments that accompany them up on display like this, the absurdity of it almost becomes comical. I was fed up with the harassment and the threats, fed up with feeling unsafe. I was done quietly accepting harassment as my reality.”

Credit: Courtesy of Whitney Bell

But dick pics aren’t the only ways that women experience harassment in digital spaces. Are you familiar with the incredibly popular Instagram account, @byefelipe? Ran by Alexandra Tweten, @byefelipe curates awful real-life messages from “dudes who turn hostile when rejected or ignored.” Tweten has provided the gallery with numerous @byefelipe submissions that will be displayed alongside the artwork. Says Bell, “I want to…explain that sending an unsolicited photo of your dick isn’t the only way you can harass someone on the internet.”

While calling out this type of cyber harassment is certainly a major part of the event, Bell’s exhibit delves into numerous facets of a woman’s lived experience. More than 30 independent artists are exhibiting feminist work that not only takes on “the problematic Dick Pic,” says Bell, “but…the topics of harassment, modern dating,” and womanhood.

Despite the exhibit’s serious exploration of harassment, Bell still wants you to have fun. She says, “It is important to emphasize the sex positivity of the event, clearly showing that sex and harassment are two very different things.”

The show has partnered with Doc Johnson (the largest sex toy manufacturer in North America), and the night’s festivities include oral sex workshops and a vibrator vending machine. A DJ is performing on Friday night, and eight local tattoo artists will be present in order to fulfill gallery-goers’ feminist body ink needs.

Informative panels focused on education for male allies, digital harassment, and feminist porn will also be taking place during the exhibit. The talks will feature badass speakers including Shirley Manson, front woman of legendary rock band Garbage, Anna del Gaizo, senior editor of Playboy, Lenora Claire, victim rights advocate and author, Tristan Taormino, feminist pornographer, Carmen Rios, editorial director at Ms. Magazine, Gabi Fresh, body positive blogger, Ashlee Marie Preston, editor-in-chief at Wear Your Voice, and more.

See “I Didn’t Ask For This: A Lifetime of Dick Pics” at Think Tank Gallery in Downtown Los Angeles on October 6th from 8 p.m.-1 a.m. and October 7th from 12 p.m.-6 p.m. For tickets, go here. For more info, go here.