Dicks have always been big in skateboarding. Magazine ads, Animal wang graphics, dudes drinking pee, Ed Templeton’s legendary balls, Freddy Gall tucking his twig, and Jason Dill hanging everything out. Male skateboarders may say they’re only focused on landing tricks and pulling chicks, but in the skate world, his cup overfloweth with penis.
Slapstik Skateboards, a brand out of Philadelphia, recently released a dick-heavy graphic series that surprisingly had skate shop owners hesistant. In the 20 years they’ve been in business, Slapstik has churned out some doozies, but only now have their boards been shunned by certain shops. The offending deck shows a woman imitating Johnny Layton’s inadvertently iconic dick pic. Since Mr. Layton is still a known figure in the Skateboard Industry ®, shops who normally stock Slapstik may have been cautious to pick at old scabs. But given skateboarding’s crude history of ridiculing racism, child murder, and rape, the boycott against Slapstik’s pseudo dick seems hypocritical.
The board belongs to a larger series titled “Casual Encounters” by artists Ivette Spradlin and Lenore Thomas. In the series, female models imitate actual dick pics by posing with all sorts of funny stand-in phalluses. I reached out to Spradlin and Thomas to discuss (straight) women’s attitudes toward dick pics, dick pic do’s and don’ts (mostly don’ts), and how skateboarding can see beyond its own weiner.
Collaborator on the “Casual Encounters” deck + photo series
What got you interested in doing a project with photos of dicks?
The project started with the question: “How can we get a woman to like a dick pic?” I suggested the use of women holding phallic objects in photographs. We then decided to use the imagery/photos readily available to the public on Craigslist to focus on a different aspect of the conversation. We started to talk about how technology has essentially made dick pics possible—at least the way we have come to know them. Then a bigger conversation started to happen—ideas about the composition of the pictures and ideas about desire in regard to both women and men.
Do you feel men put effort into dick pics or are they all shit? No dude is really trying to be Mapplethorpe when he’s snapping a flick of his junk, right?
We were finding so many images that were just bad—bad composition, bad lighting, not considering the setting, etc. We weren’t even discussing the actual penis because we were so distracted by the fact that the guy is sitting on the toilet or his room is a mess or the picture is blurry or cropped oddly. We have no problem with people sending consensual photos of themselves. Sexuality and desire are personal but it is the word consensual that is important in that statement.
What did the models have to say about the project? How did they pick which dick pic to emulate?
After our first photo shoot we realized the best dick pics were in a setting (the bathroom, the bedroom, the porch), so then we only collected dick pics that had more of a setting. We had our models choose the image they wanted to work from. When we met them at their homes, they would scroll through the pics on my phone and choose one that resonated with them. It may be because the setting is similar to something in their house or some other reason, but we didn’t choose for them unless they asked us to. I would bring a bag of dick stand-ins but we would also go around their houses and look for things to use.
Working with the models was so great. They shared stories if they wanted to. We have to get very personal very quickly with these women. Ivette has to take photos from vantage points that look like selfies, which means she is very close to the models and I am placing and positioning the phallic objects. Our models are all incredible, strong women who volunteered their time to us and we are so grateful to them.
Do you think this is a way to make skateboarding more inclusive? What else can be done?
Having more women and LGBTQ people participate in the creation of boards, photographs, videos, and publications is desperately needed in the skateboarding industry. Is this a strong way to make it more inclusive? It is a good start. Publishing this article is also another step in the right direction. It is starting a conversation.
I grew up in the punk scene in Milwaukee and my boyfriend was a big skateboarder. One of my lifelong dreams was to have my artwork on a skate deck, so this was more of an opportunity to put our art out there in a different format. Skateboarding for so long has looked at boundaries and pushed passed them. It has always caused controversy. The boundaries left to begin to challenge are the ones within. Within the community, the industry, within ourselves.
Collaborator on the “Casual Encounters” deck + photo series
What are your thoughts on dick pics thing? There’s a trend now of guys sending dick pics on the subway via AirDrop…
Yikes, that AirDrop thing is scary and horrible. It does all come down to consent. What they are doing is modern day flashing and there are indecent exposure laws surrounding that.
Lenore and I don’t think penises are bad, we don’t think images of them are wrong either. We are all for loving your body, exploring it, being proud of it, showing it off in the right context. If someone asks you to send a dick pic and you’re cool with that then by all means, send away. Forcing someone to do anything they don’t want to do is a problem though. Especially when it can be so connected to violence. And unfortunately, in a certain context, even an image of a penis, can seem violent. I would urge men to consider the fear they might feel if a much larger man started to bombard them with a sexually aggressive act. Also, just the thought of someone AirDropping in a dick on your phone… Even if you’re not fearful, there’s a good chance you’re grossed out.
In your photography series, was the idea to categorize different types of dick pics? Are there any you’ve seen that have been too strange to tackle?
[Laughs] The ever watchful pet in the background can be disturbing, and humorous. We had one come into one of the images we took which definitely gave it a different energy. Lenore and I joke that we are currently dick pic experts (sorry Dad!). There certainly are categories and we have titled the photos to imply that categories exist. We are both Professors of Art and we can’t help to study an image. That’s a big part of this project for us, which gets answered in the recreation of it, as we break down all the different aspects of it, like composition, lighting, pose, and camera position. Most of the men have one goal: show an erect penis, somewhere, anywhere in the frame. Judging by the images, not much else is considered, although every now and then we come across a truly beautiful, thoughtful dick pic.
I know the concept was based on Craigslist dick pics, but you chose to emulate the infamous Johnny Layton photo. Why’d you sneak that one in? Have people “gotten” the reference?
Johnny Layton, who? What? I don’t know what you’re talking about… Any resemblance is just a coincidence. The shower dick pic is another regular occurrence in the dick pic collection, especially now that more phones are becoming waterproof. Get ready for the underwater nudie pics! Also, that format of an image, long and skinny, lends itself nicely to a skateboard deck.
Do you find it funny that some guys are comfortable sending their dick pics to total strangers, but they’re offended by seeing an altered dick pic on a skateboard?
Absolutely! It’s hilarious. We saw a post from a woman who was sent a dick pic and she started sending the guy back dick pics. The guy got super offended and said he didn’t want to see that. That says a lot.
If you break our image on the board down, it is gentle and relatively reserved. It’s mostly her face and she is in a very vulnerable stance looking up at the viewer with her arms open. When you finally go down you see a pink feather. She is covered in soap suds, there isn’t even nudity there. It couldn’t be a softer image, but this resistance from shops makes the board seem threatening. Which brings us back to, it must be the words, the ideas presented, or maybe that women made it, or that a woman did something like a man. As artists, we have experienced that just the act of creating and exhibiting becomes a feminist expression. Like, just existing and taking up space and having a voice is still a big deal and shakes some men (and women) up.
Skate graphics have always been the most vulgar, anything goes part of skating. Why do you think some shop owners are resisting carrying these decks?
I haven’t reached out to the shop owners to ask why they are refusing to carry these decks. I’ve been told it is because the shops are “family friendly” and this isn’t appropriate. Something to do with the fact that it is a photograph and not an illustration. I find that hard to believe. I wonder if our artist statement wasn’t on the board and there was just a cute girl all sudsed up with a pink feather between her legs, would they carry it? Is it the mention of “dick pics” that offends them? I mainly hung out with skaters in the Big Brother days. It blows my mind to think something I’ve created is taken as offensive.
I do think that the female audience isn’t really being considered. I think they’ve been ignored for a long time in the skateboarding industry. In a way, I liked that the board would go into this very male-dominated space. I don’t need to tell women how lack of consent sucks. Some men really need to hear it. I will say many men like this project and have supported it.