Not too long ago, while texting a prospective Tinder date, she requested I send a picture of my bulge. “You mean my dick?” I asked inquisitively, surprised a dick pic was actually something she wanted to see. “No, your bulge,” she replied. “Like, through track pants or something.” She then offhandedly mentioned that if said pants were gray, the image would be even hotter. So, I did what any man in my situation would have done and obliged her request.

In my cotton gray track pants, I grabbed my dick and balls at the base, lifted them (for effect), and presented my veiled genitals to the smartphone lens. It was the first time a dirty image had been requested prior to a date, and the picture wasn’t even of my actual dick. This idea intrigued me.

What is it about a bulge that is sexy? Is it the mystery of what lies beneath? Is it more courteous, or less jarring? (Because, let’s be real: scrotums aren’t a man’s most attractive feature.)

According to Sunny Rodgers, sexologist and ambassador for the American Sexual Health Association, the reason women love a bulge is because it’s written in her DNA. She simply can’t help it. “By nature, women are automatically attracted biologically toward virile men,” she tells Playboy. “It’s innate to us because we as a species are programmed to survive and breed. Therefore, a woman’s body will automatically respond favorably to the site of a man’s bulge.”

Now that society itself has evolved, so too has the attraction. For instance, in anticipation for the winter Olympics, Cosmopolitan recently covered “The 23 Best Olympic Bulges of 2018.” Male objectification? Yes. A taste of our own medicine? Also, yes.

“Women are drawn to the appeal of the unknown,” Rodgers continues. “A bulge can signify whatever they want it to be—cut, uncut, large, small, thin, thick. A woman will automatically fulfill her expectations and desires just by viewing a bulge.” The mystery is part of the allure. A picture of an actual penis leaves little to the imagination and will therefore downplay the sexual response. It’s just…there.

In the case of my particular scenario with the track pants, Rodgers insists the image conveys more than the actual penis. She says it communicates things of a more metaphorical nature like: promise, playfulness, and a sexy hardness of what a man would look like while having sex. “Remember, with most women it’s all about foreplay and the promise of sexual fulfillment, and a man’s bulge is the titillating image of sex yet to come,” Rodgers adds.

“The word ‘bulge’ itself denotes a large bursting object, almost needing to be released. There is something both primal and bashful about a man’s bulge—sort of like the cleavage of women. Well-fit slightly snug jeans that contort to the male figure is delicious in both its sexiness and its inevitability,” Stephanie, 32, expresses.

Dana Hamilton, fellow sex writer and self-professed “dick pic connoisseur” tells me she thinks solicited bulge shots are preferable to traditional dick pics because it’s a tease. “I don’t get them nearly as often as dick pics, which is a shame, but when I do I’m like, ‘Okay, now you have my attention,” she says. “The best picture in my phone is an A+ dick print.” In order to take a top-notch dick pic, she explains, one must be hard or partially hard, and the image should be taken in boxer briefs, not boxers, due to visibility.

I then wondered why a woman’s “bulge”—the colloquially named “camel toe”—isn’t similarly regarded. Oftentimes, a camel toe (or “frontal wedgie”) is viewed as more humorous than sexy. I mentioned this juxtaposition to Rodgers, suggesting the discrepancy is yet another result of women being sexually repressed, whereas men are encouraged to showcase their virility.

“This is just some people’s judgment,” Rodgers tells Playboy. “Some men find women’s camel toes extremely sexy, and some women feel their sexiest when their camel toe is exposed. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If we all found the same thing attractive it would be a boring, one-sided world.” She insists the apprehension is a sign of the times. “If you look back through history and see how often sexual trends have changed from large breasts to small breasts, small butts to large butts, etc. You can see that perhaps for now female camel toes aren’t the norm for sexiness, but 20 years from now they could be the hottest thing ever.”

Conversely, the male bulge is all the rage in these times. NYC plastic surgeon Dr. David Shafer tells Playboy he’s seeing a stark increase in requests for bulge-enhancing penis enlargements (up 120 percent year-to-year) via temporary filler. A common reason for the surgery, he reveals, is men want to look bigger in their gym pants. It’s the second most popular treatment men are researching, second only to hair transplants. The cost of the procedure ranges from $4,500 to $7,000.

Regardless of its more affable appearance, unsolicited explicit images of any sort are still a no-no. But if you can accomplish more by showing less then, why not? In a way, showing a bulge is like modelling lingerie. Just a lot cheaper.