We Found the Guy Whose Penis Is on the Wikipedia Penis Page

Arts, entertainment, and more.
Jan. 8 2014 6:22 PM

On Loins

The incredibly popular, highly contentious Wikipedia pages for penis and vagina. Plus: Meet a guy who uploaded one of the penis photos.

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has described his vision for the free encyclopedia as "the sum of all human knowledge." It's a noble goal, but it turns out that many Wikipedia users—readers and editors alike—are less interested in the sum than the parts. Two parts, in particular: the human penis and vagina.

Wikipedia keeps detailed records of page views and edit history so it’s easy to measure how often readers visit each article and how much work editors have put into each page. You might guess the entries for brain and human brain would be the most popular anatomy pages, given the brain’s importance and complexity. But together they average a total of only 215,000 views a month—considerably less than one-half the monthly page views either the penis or vagina page receive. The penis page is so popular it receives four times as many views as head, shoulders, knees, and toes—combined.

Here’s a graphic that shows the popularity of different anatomy related pages on Wikipedia.

140108_CBOX_WikipediaGenitals
Advertisement

Of course, it's not entirely surprising that people aren't spending their free time reading encyclopedia articles on the human ankle. But in the past five years, we have searched for the penis and vagina pages 66 million times. Some fraction of these searches are surely the result of a juvenile impulse—searching Wikipedia for penis is the 21st-century equivalent of looking up swear words in the dictionary. Some other fraction of the searches likely spring from a perfectly natural adolescent impulse: A desire to understand how your body works, and how the body of the opposite sex works, too.

The pages, and their histories, also offer a glimpse into Wikipedia’s awkward adolescence, and into the issues the encyclopedia continues to struggle with as something of an Internet young adult. As you might imagine, these sensitive regions of the body have inspired heated editorial debates, debates that point up the imperfections in Wikipedia’s crowd-sourced model—specifically the degree to which men outnumber women in the Wiki-editing ranks.

These debates play out in Wikipedia’s talk pages, where editors discuss changes and identify possible improvements to each entry. Since the conception of the vagina page, there have been 119 discussions threads in its talk page. The penis page, in the same timeframe, has had twice as many topics posted, with 255.

Of the 255 discussion topics on the penis page, a fair number relate to the controversial circumcision debate. But an even larger portion are focused on whether or not there should be a photo of a penis on the penis page, how many photos is enough, and whose photo should be chosen. The exchanges are sometimes clinical and sometimes off-color. Below is a timeline of the more noteworthy edits and discussions on the “Penis” page:

Nov. 8, 2001: Penis page created by an anonymous user.
Jan. 8, 2002: User Dmerrill, one of the first 200 Wikipedia editors, adds an “Erection” and “Circumcision =” section.
March 26, 2002: After more than two months of going unnoticed, the section titled “Circumcision =” is finally renamed “Circumcision.”
Jan. 30, 2003: The first diagram of a penis is uploaded when user GrandVoivodOfErdely adds "== 8====D ==    illustration 1.0: a penis" to the page.
July 13, 2003: The first photograph of a penis is added to the page. The image comes from “LuckyMojo.com,” a Hoodoo (similar but different than Voodoo) based website dedicated to spell kits, occult books, and tantric sex.
July 1, 2004: Users begin to debate if displaying a picture of a penis is profane or not. The fourth contribution to the debate, from user Karada reads, "If we are going to show an erect penis, we should show one that is fully erect, rather than semi-erect." Debate continues.
Nov. 21, 2004: User Clawed writes "I have taken pictures...colour photo with a black background, fully erect in second photo." He simultaneously uploads the picture to Wikipedia.
Mid-February 2006: The number of pictures continues to grow with one diagram, three separate sets of photos that feature both an erect and flaccid penis, and a photo of an elephant penis.
Aug. 24, 2006: After a user uploads another set of flaccid/erect penis photos and states, "I can assure you that they are both of the same penis," the pictures are removed by another editor, who notes, "I don't particularly like the oversaturated colors over the black background in this one."
March 16, 2008: Photos of a penis, showing “teenage development” from the ages 12 to 16 are removed. User Mike Segal argues they should have stayed: "It is NOT automatically illegal in the United States to show photographs of minors just because they aren't wearing clothes."
June 2, 2008: User Ranchoahn says, "I have read through this talk page extensively and have seen a lot of bickering over the images. Perhaps the community would like to see the image I have created." User OhNoitsJamie responds, “We have plenty of penis photos. We don't need anymore. Please don't bother." Ranchoahn: "Awwwww."
Dec. 8, 2010: A separate human penis page is created. The editing of the penis pages mostly comes to an end as both articles are set to have limited editing privileges. This makes it impossible for users who are not editors of a set rank to make changes to the page. 

The evolution of the vagina page has similarities and differences with that of the penis page. Although determining the gender breakdown on any particular article is not possible, it is estimated that only 10 percent of all Wikipedia editors are female, and the talk page for vagina has many comments you might expect from a male-dominated site. “That picture of the vagina is nasty...,” writes one user. “YAY the vagina is back!! this one isn't spread open though like the old one...oh well,” writes another.

While the contributions of the most boorish editors have thankfully been relegated to the talk section, it’s possible that the lack of female editors has resulted in significant differences in the quality and utility of the vagina page compared to the penis page. I asked Naomi Wolf, author of the recent book Vagina, to read through the vagina page, to see it through the eyes of a thinker with a feminist cast of mind.

Wolf’s book focuses, in part, on the vagina’s role in sexual pleasure, so perhaps unsurprisingly she found the Wikipedia lacking in its attention to this subject. (She noted, for example, that “sexual pleasure” is not mentioned in the article’s initial description of the vagina.) Wolf was also concerned by the image choice for the article. She pointed out that there is only one picture of a vagina on the page. “Why is there only one image? This doesn’t show the variability. I bet the penis page has much more on what is considered normal in terms of size.” Her hunch was correct: the human penis page has pictures of four different male genitals (some from six different angles) and, unlike the vagina page, has a paragraph on size variability in the article’s header as well as an entire “Size” section further down the page.

Wolf worried that if a young woman were to come to this page hoping to learn about her body, the lack of multiple images would be misleading, and could be harmful. “I’ve never seen a labia like that. Not outside of porn. It’s not showing a true range,” she said. Wolf believes that not accurately portraying the variability found in nature can be damaging to both women and men. In her book, she argues the common depiction of the vagina in pornography is “rewiring the male brain” and writes of women who seek labiaplasty for cosmetic reasons.

For another, more clinical take on the vagina page, I talked to Ann Davis, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. I asked her what she thought about the page’s lone image. She reached a similar conclusion to Wolf’s, noting the small labia minora (and the shaved pubic region). Davis says she often has young women come to her wanting their labia minora to be reduced in size, even when they are in a normal range.

It should be noted that, while the vagina page does not have much information on variability, other, related pages do: Both the pages for vulva and labia minora have many more pictures and discussions of size. Some Wikipedia users may find their way to these pages, but traffic numbers reveal that they are visited far less frequently than the vagina page: The vagina page gets more than 10 times as many views as the labia minora page and more than twice as many views as the vulva page. Davis notes that in her experience, patients are not always well-versed in gynecological terminology: Many patients “say vagina when they mean the entire genital area which includes the clitoris and labias,” she said. It stands to reason that many people looking for information never make it past the vagina page.

Unlike the vagina page, the penis page is replete with images—a legacy, perhaps, of its male-dominated and not always scholarly past. In order to find out more about who posted the images and why they did so, I tried finding one of the users whose penis is featured in the human penis article.

Most of the images on the human penis page are not attributed to other sources, meaning they were created and uploaded by a Wikipedia user. Using Wikipedia’s messaging system to contact self-posters proved unsuccessful, as most of the accounts used to upload the pictures on the human penis page have not been active for years. So I began systematically searching the usernames of anyone who uploaded a penis to Wikipedia Commons at any point in time to see if I could contact the owner of a Wikipedia penis by other means. I hunted the Web for people who shared usernames with the uploaders of penis photos, and turned up several matches on gaming forums and social networks, as well as amateur porn sites. Though most of my messages went unreturned, I finally received a message from a user who maintains a Tumblr with a title identical to his somewhat unique Wikipedia username: Delapika. The Tumblr is dedicated to naked pictures of himself.

Delapika says he is a 25-year-old sales manager living in Germany. He first uploaded a picture of his genitals to Wikipedia in 2007, when he was 18 years old. Since then, Delapika says, “I uploaded 30-40 pictures of my penis in different angles and forms (flaccid, erected, while ejaculating…) and a video too.”

Wikipedia editors took down his initial submissions to the penis page, Delapika says, so he created three additional usernames to upload pictures. One set of pictures that Delapika takes ownership of finally stayed on the page, and remain on the human penis page now. Based both on Delapika’s thorough understanding of Wikipedia and a visual comparison between Delapika’s Tumblr and the Wikipedia images, Delapika’s claim that his penis is featured on the human penis page seems credible.

Delapika told me he believes uploading the pictures serves an educational function, one he is proud to fulfill. “I think my pictures are helpful for the wikipedia community,” he wrote. “They may read that there is a wide variety of ‘normality,’ but they won't really believe it or still feel unhappy and unsecure about themselves—so a high number of pictures may help to comfort them.” He admits, however, that his primary motivation for the uploads is his own sexual gratification. In addition to Wikipedia, Delapika has also uploaded images of his genitals to Twitter, Pornhub, Flickr, DeviantArt, Imgur, and “different amateur porn forums.”* “I’m very excited of the possibility to show my penis everywhere in the world, everyone can see it. … My penis is the fourth when you search penis on google images.”

Though he is an exhibitionist online, Delapika has never told anyone he knows in person that his penis is on Wikipedia. He says he sometimes “wonders how many person I met in everyday life who already seen my penis.” It may well be a very large number.

Correction, Jan. 8, 2014: This article originally misspelled DeviantArt, an online art forum. (Return.)

Ben Blatt is a Slate staff writer and co-author of I Don't Care if We Never Get Back. Follow him on Twitter. Email him at ben.blatt@slate.com.