Image courtesy of Dicks by Mail

‘Eat a Bag of Dicks’: An Origin Story

When did one dick become many dicks, placed into a single bag?

Telling people to eat a bag of dicks or suck a bag of dicks has become a popular jab in recent years. We told 2016 to eat a bag of dicks. We tell people who schedule the birthday parties of 4-year-olds at 5:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve to eat a bag of dicks. We’ve even told the Pope to eat a bag of dicks.

Search Google Trends for uses of the phrase as far back as 2004 and you’ll see some clear spikes in the last couple of years. That major peak in 2015 happened in March, when the expression had become common enough that a company called Dicks By Mail launched a service allowing anyone with an address and $15 to send an anonymous bag of gummy candy dicks to a friend, enemy, coworker, celebrity, or spouse. They sold 2,000 bags of dicks the first day, and now Dicks By Mail, and a similar company, Ship a Bag of Dicks, have since become sources for sending bags of dicks to hated regular folk, hated celebrities (Kanye), and hated politicians (Trump). Cut to now, and an HR person who recently received one such bag is actually suing the company to force it to reveal the sender, claiming harassment.

How did we get here? Deep-dive Twitter back to March of 2006 — where its search results begin — and for that year you’ll find zero mentions of “eat a bag of dicks.” But suddenly in 2007, it pops up. On May 24, user Mazzie threw down the gauntlet: “Dear today: eat a bag of dicks” is the first Tweet to mention the phrase.

“I don’t remember why I said it,” Mazzie told me of her tweet that day. “But it’s been a sentiment in my circle of friends since pre-Twitter days.” She quickly confirmed with her friends where and when they started saying it. Turns out, it was all the way back at Cornell University in the 1990s when they used to hang out at The State diner in Ithaca, New York, passing the time. “Okay, I got it from my friend George, who got it from his friend Carol, who got it from a ‘punk kid’ named Brian, who used to draw pictures of dicks on napkins,” she recalled.

But Mazzie’s is just the first tweet. Many people credit Louis CK with coining the phrase, though he really only popularized it. In a bit from his comedy hour Shameless, which debuted in January of 2007, he tells the story of cutting a guy off in traffic. The guy finally works his way up beside Louis and expresses his displeasure by telling Louis to “go suck a bag of dicks.” Louis frames the story as it being the first time he’s ever heard the phrase. “The other day a guy told me to suck a bag of dicks,” the bit begins. “That was interesting. I never heard that before! A total stranger told me to suck a bag of dicks. A whole bag of them!”

From there, he breaks down the thinking behind the insult. “That concept of just sucking a bag of dicks, it’s just weird,” he says. “First of all when you picture a bag of dicks, what do you see when you picture bag of dicks? Is it a plastic bag of and they’re all mushing together like chicken parts? Date written on it with Sharpie?” Later in the bit, he wonders more about the logistics of getting the job done.

“How do you suck a bag of dicks?” he asks. “What does he want me to do? Does he want me to take a bag of dicks and suck the side of the bag or open the bag and suck each dick individually and throw the used ones in a bowl like edamame shells? Do I have to make them all cum?”

After that 2007 bit, there are regular instances of “eat a bag of dicks” or “suck a bag of dicks” on Twitter and on the internet, but it still took years before it seemed to hit mainstream ubiquity, Dicks By Mail-style. In 2008, someone told the History Channel to eat a bag of dicks for shilling for Scientology. By 2014, officers in Oregon caused an uproar when it was discovered they were devotedly maintaining their own eat-a-bowl-of-dicks list on the job. Now there are crocheted bowls of dicks for sale, too, part of a larger cottage industry of crocheted dicks in general. Here is also a literal bowl of dicks.

They say necessity is the mother of invention; at some point, it’s obvious that we as a society simply realized that telling someone to suck or eat one dick was no longer an adequate insult. We needed to go bigger. To solve the problem, we did some simple math: If instructing someone to suck or eat one dick was a solid sick burn, then surely sucking or eating several dicks, presumably all at once, was even sicker. Problem was, dicks don’t bundle themselves, and a phrase was born.

In between 2007 and 2016 a few other things happened: We arguably went pro-dick as a society. The widespread rise of bromance style raunchy insults (see the Superbad dick-drawing obsession scene), the widespread availability of social media via which to talk about dicks, and of course the ever-growing availability of porn. Those might have combined in such a way that telling someone to suck or eat an extremely high dick count would be a much more satisfying, an of-its-time insult.

That said, gender experts say this type of sick burn is actually as old as time. “Sexualized insults are our go-to insults,” says Lisa Wade, a professor of sociology at Occidental College and author Gender, the best-selling sociology textbook of all time. “So much so that it goes under the radar. Even ‘you suck,’ which seems on its face to be purely abstract, isn’t. It’s a cousin to insults like cocksucker and suck my dick. It’s not sexually neutral. It’s a sexual insult. But the association of sex with humiliation, domination and power is in the fabric of our society.”

In other words, telling someone to suck your dick — or, less directly, to eat or suck a bag of dicks — is intended to tell someone to perform a service that gives you pleasure but degrades them. In Wade’s view, the popularity of “eat a bag of dicks” or “suck a bag of dicks” is not surprising at all, largely because the tensions in the phrase mimic the same tensions we demonstrate when we tell someone to fuck off.

“Think about the way we use the word ‘fuck’ in this country,” she says. “And in many countries. It means both to have sex and ‘fuck you’ or ‘fuck off’ is also one of the meanest things a person can say to another person.” While in theory dick-sucking can be pleasurable for both parties, it’s still figured as an act of submission, and as an insult. “Saying ‘you suck’ or ‘suck a bag of dicks’ or ‘eat a bag of dicks’ is a way, specifically for men, heterosexual men to claim a superior position over gay men and women,” Wade says.

“Suck a bag of dicks” has the bonus dig of burdening its recipient with promiscuity, she notes. “It has the added oomph of you don’t just suck dick, you suck all the dicks!” In other words, you’re also a whore, or a glutton. Eating a bag of dicks, then, takes it one crass, possibly violent, step further, which Wade says may align with more aggressive porn, where women don’t just suck dicks but have dicks forcibly shoved down their throats to visible gagging and discomfort, as if force-fed. “Maybe ‘eat a dick’ has a more violent connotation,” she said. “It’s certainly something to think about.”

If the bowls or bags of dicks are all dismembered, however, as logic seems to dictate, the suggestion to consume them becomes gross rather than violent — more juvenile than threatening. Wade acknowledges the insult can be playful and humorous, and that it’s used by not only straight men but also gay men and women. Still, she points out that such usage by everyone — even those who suck dicks, in other words — illustrates how women and gay men must effectively bargain with the power structures that oppress them by adopting the same language as their oppressors.

The idea that telling people to suck or eat dicks reinforces the marginalized status of the dick suckers (or eaters), i.e., gay men and women, is a point Louis CK gets very near in his bit from 2007. After wondering how one might suck a dick, he admits that he’s never actually sucked a dick, but pretty much everyone else in the world has — women, who are over half the population; gay men; and then all the straight men “who have been forced to suck a dick under various circumstances.”

“So there’s only like a thousand of us out there who never blew anyone,” he concludes. “Just a bunch of selfish assholes that are getting blown and not blowing back.”

That bit may have cemented CK’s status as the originator of the mainstream usage of the term, but that hasn’t stopped people from querying online to find out who really started this whole eat a bag of dicks business. About a year ago, a Redditor put the question to the forum, wondering if the term predates Louis CK or not. One user says there were “poorly drawn MSPaint pictures of bags of dicks circulating on early 2000s internet.” Another says he first came across it on EmoGame2 around 2003, where “two bad guys make you ‘eat a bag of dicks’ for getting a trivia question wrong.”

But someone else on Reddit claims he “knew a chick saying it in the 1990s all the time. Instead of suck my dick she would say eat a bag of dicks.”

Hey, Mazzie, I think someone’s looking for you.