This article has been updated, see below.
Receiving explicit images of strangers' private parts is an ugly, unacceptable reality for many online – but for others, it's called field work.
A researcher in Missouri is right now encouraging literally thousands of men to send her these usually unsolicited nude photos – let's just call them dick pics for short – to gather data for a study on penis size.
But sociologist Alicia Walker from Missouri State University isn't conducting a purely biological analysis to chart men's penile length, girth, and other physical characteristics.
She's collecting dick pics to see how the measurements correspond to men's experiences, feelings, and perceptions over things like self-esteem, sexual competence, and anxiety over sexual performance.
"These are not sexy pictures," Walker told the Springfield News-Leader.
"These are clinical pictures… A lot of men carry secret anxiety because of their penis size."
So far, Walker says she's received a few hundred photos of male genitalia since launching the project earlier in the month, but she ultimately hopes at least 3,600 men will take part and submit their privates – giving her a wide sample of data to draw from.
In addition to sending in their dick pics, participants are required to complete an interview and/or a survey, as well as measuring their penis length and girth – both flaccid and erect – using outlined procedures.
"The purpose is to investigate how men feel about their bodies in a culture where we place emphasis on size, including size of penises," Walker told The College Fix.
"And to further look at how that impacts their tendency toward safe sex, relationships, and more."
To take part, men need to be 22 years old or older, and live outside the Ozarks region where the data will be analysed. Apart from that, there are no limitations, with the researchers eager to get as wide a pool of junk shots as possible, provided it's not from people they know, given the unusual, sensitive nature of their research subject.
"We are not recruiting locally. I don't want there to be anything dicey," Walker told the Springfield News-Leader.
"You don't want there to be anything awkward."
If all goes well – and given the inevitable publicity their study is attracting online, it probably will – the team will end up with a treasure trove of dick pics for their analysis.
And that's a really good thing, because while it might be funny to see someone actually soliciting dick pics for once, there's nothing humorous about the feelings of inadequacy, isolation, and depression some men feel over the size of their appendage.
"It really is incredibly damaging. They can't admit that they feel this. Imagine carrying around all this anxiety about your body and then imagine you can't even tell your friends?"
To take part in the study, see here.
Update (3 July 2018): For reasons that aren't specifically clear, but seemingly arising from the amount of attention their study received in the media, the researchers have unfortunately decided to call off their project, citing the "public reaction" to the survey.
"I made this decision voluntarily," Walker explains in statement.
"I continue to believe the relationship between penis size and self-esteem is an important site of scientific inquiry, but the public reaction to the project threatens the reliability of the survey responses. The reliability of the study as a whole has been compromised."
The researchers explain that the survey is now closed, and all exisiting submissions have been destroyed.