Sexting is one of those private matters that we don’t talk that explicitly about — perhaps because admitting we sext tips people off to the existence of digital nudes. Let’s unlock our phones and discuss textual stimulation out in the open.
First of all, sexting is totally normal. Maybe you don’t do it, but you’d be in the minority. In 2013, Scientific American wrote that 50 per cent of people “used their mobile device” to engage in intimate texts, emails, or photos.
In 2015, the LA Times claimed that 88 per cent of US residents had engaged in sexting and 96 per cent endorsed it. By now, I’m going to assume everyone has abandoned their qualms.
But what has inspired those qualms? Well, there’s a lot of panic about teen sexting on your local news channel; the teens deserve our protection, but according to CBS News, relatively few actually sext. Only about 15 per cent do, as compared 41 per cent of teens who are just having intercourse. The anxiety is a bit disproportional to the problem.
When I was a teenager smartphones weren't a thing, and neither was sexting. You aren't exactly going to take some tasteful nudes with a film camera and drop the roll off at your local pharmacy to get developed so you can pass them to your significant other between classes.Read more
There is also a lot of worry regarding your digital information getting away from you. “Revenge porn” can now be prosecuted by law in some Australian states, but that also means more people have heard of it. That’s not an unreasonable fear. You do you, but consensual sexting is not sinister and shouldn’t be conflated with someone sharing your photos without consent.
Finally, much has been written about the cursed unsolicited dick pic. This doesn’t seem to stop the folks who send them from doing it, but it makes anyone who cares about such things nervous. Is this dick pic welcome? If it’s solicited, it’s part of sexting. Enjoy!
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Did that help set your mind at ease? Good. Now to get to the other question many have about sexting: “Am I doing it right?” Here are some responses I got from a variety of friends, co-workers, and acquaintances about their sexting habits that will help you figure that out.
To Nude Or Not To Nude
Most people agree that they will not send a nude containing their face. The only man who has ever sent me nudes he could be easily identified from had also worked in porn, so his shit was alreadyÂ out there. Though people in close relationships might send nudes to each other, when it came to the more casual nude, several people said they’d be more likely to send it to a stranger than someone they know in real life.
I asked why and was told:
Eh I just feel like, what is some dude I slept or texted with casually gonna do with a pic that doesn’t have my face on it?
Whereas someone I know, idk, it could somehow be seen by mutual acquaintances where it’s less anonymous.
A woman friend who is transgender explained she has tiers for how many nudes go to strangers depending on that person’s gender identity:
No nude pics with my face unless it’s with a partner or another trans person (our bond is deep).
Only like one nude for a cis guy I’m trying to seduce because too much and they lose interest. (Read: they masturbate and wander off).
Never trust fast invitations for sexts from a cis lady on a dating app because it is 100% a cis dude who wants pics.
She says she’s more comfortable sexting with someone she’s dating, but is game to try it with anyone interested because “I like sending pictures of my boobs!”
Which brings me to:
What You Get Out Of It
There are lots of reasons why people sext. One woman told me she occasionally sends nudes to a friend she’s never engaged with sexually, because she says, “He just appreciates them and I like compliments.”
A guy told me that sexting is basically like choose your own adventure pornography.
“I enjoy it more than just like watching porn if I’m gonna be doing something sexual by myself, it’s more interactive which I enjoy rather than just passively consuming something.”
For people in long-term or long-distance relationships, it’s a way to keep the sex stuff exciting, though there is maybe more to work out when you’re doing it consistently. One person said, “My girlfriend uses her phone for work a lot, so we keep anything truly salacious to live (unrecorded) video chats.”
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Once you know where you stand on nudes, there aren’t too many rules to work out. The depth of a relationship seems to have almost no bearing on whether or not someone will sext, but it does change how long it will go on for.
“I used to have a couple of people I only sexted with, but I got bored fast,” someone told me.
But here are some things people were adamant about:
Consent before sending. And then the dirtiest shit imaginable.
I do have a no dick pic rule prior to seeing your dick in real life.
That was basically it. Consent is sexy, even via text.
If you’re on Tinder looking for a sext partner, directness about this is usually best. Something I’ve encountered on dating apps an embarrassing amount (for them, not me) are people who want to sext, but go through the whole show of chatting you up and asking you out, before saying, “So, what are you into?”
If you indulge this question, they will inevitably ghost before you ever meet up; or to quote my friend above, “They masturbate and wander off.”
I’m not disappointed to never meet a person who does this, but it is an annoying waste of time. If you just want to sext, it’s pretty obvious there are plenty of other people interested, so you can be more direct. If when you’ve actually met and are dating someone that things get trickier.
If you’ve not yet engaged in sexual contact, hold off. Someone who hasn’t even kissed you yet probably doesn’t want your first experience together to come via iPhone messenger. And if you have engaged in sexual contact, texting, “Blah blah was really hot last night” is an excellent opportunity to explore what else you both think is hot.
It’s still pretty easy to get in your head about what to say, so I’ll just share this block of incredible advice from a veteran sexter:
Get into it! Don’t feel embarrassed or silly or self-consciousness. Of course if you read them back the next morning in the harsh light of day it will sound absurd, but so does everything in the realm of sex if you scrutinise it outside the heat of the moment. Use blunt, varied language, describe situations/fantasies/thoughts/emotions, strike the right balance between erotica and the mechanics if what you wish you were physically doing.
Just Say No
I know I’ve been talking up sexting throughout this entire post, but it’s not for everyone. And that’s totally OK.
“I don’t know how and when I tell people I don’t know how they either lose interest or talk to me about regular stuff,” a friend told me. “I’ve never thought about learning and find text messaging in general to be a chore.”
Sexting shouldn’t feel like a chore and it shouldn’t make you uncomfortable. Remember, there’s still at least a small percentage of the population who will never, ever send you a sext no matter how hard you beg. Though that does sound sort of erotic…
Aimée Lutkin is a freelance writer who blogs a lot about dating. She is currently travelling the country and going on a date in every city she visits.
This article has been updated since its original publication.