Sexting is ubiquitous these days, but it’s not that new of a form of communication. As long as there has been a means to write down feelings, people have used it for sexual purposes. Just take a look at the “love letters” sent by James Joyce, or the letters between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. Be forewarned: these letters are as NSFW and explicit as anything you can currently find elsewhere. You may need a cold shower if you go down the old-tyme erotica rabbit hole online.

That said, sexual correspondence has been changed by the development of cell phones, instant messenger, and all the other devices that make communication so very immediate. The gorgeous, poetic nature of old letters is in part because the English language was spoken differently, and also in part because the authors of these sext-y letters had days—if not weeks—to gather their most arousing thoughts and commit them to the page. No one was watching those three dots appear and waiting for an immediate response.

The speed at which we now communicate is both beneficial and detrimental to the art of sexting and the vastness of its consequences. So, let’s walk through some handy tips for sexting etiquette, so that you don’t run afoul of your recipient’s desires or your own best interests.

What Sexting Is

Sexting is the act of sending sexually-charged messages or images to someone else on a mobile device or computer. Sexting can take many forms—it can be writing, forwarding, or receiving something explicit, whether or not the message is used for sexual purposes like masturbation.

Sexting has become more normalized with each passing year. It’s being accepted because it’s fun! Sexting can be a healthy sexual behavior that keeps long-distance couples feeling close and sexually engaged, or it can be a casual habit between buddies who trust each other. The truth is, sexting is here to stay, so it’s vital that everyone navigate the waters carefully and respectfully.

How to Sext Appropriately

Follow a couple of tips to ensure that you are following all the best sexting etiquette.

  1. Ask for consent first. I mean, if it’s a sexual activity, rule number one is always going to be: ask for permission first. It’s a lot like fight club: the number one rule is so important, it could be listed twice. For brevity’s sake, we’ll just mention it once on this list. This goes for dating sites as well. A dick pic is not a conversation starter, nor is it a way to flirt. It is a sext, and as such, you need consent before it is sent.
  2. Don’t exaggerate. If you’ve never had sex with someone before and you’re listing a lot of adventurous things you want them to do to you in bed, make sure you’re game for those things. Or, if not, mention that you’re theoretically interested, but only in the fantasy sense.
  3. Don’t engage in sexting with someone you don’t trust. And you have to sincerely trust them because they may have naked photos of you that they could use for more than just masturbatory purposes; they could use them for blackmail. It’s a cynical way to view sexting, but it sadly happens all the time. Part of our cultural stigma that punishes sexual pleasure occurs because we can (and often do) punish people professionally for their sexual behavior—even if it didn’t interfere with their work, was consensual, and was in general nobody’s business. Exhibit A: the teacher who got fired because she was at one point a sex worker.
  4. Be polite. In this case, polite means slightly different than what it usually does. Be polite in the sense that you are checking in with your fellow sexter, making sure they are enjoying the conversation, and not getting lost in your world of fantasy, leaving them behind. Also, polite means never be critical. It’s not your job; it’s not anybody’s job! If you don’t like what you see or read, politely remove yourself from the conversation. It’s pretty simple.
  5. Be yourself. Bring in all of your best characteristics to make the sexting even more fun. Be creative and descriptive. Leave your nerves at the door, if you can!
  6. Check the background. No one wants a sext while you’re on the toilet (unless that’s your kink) or where there’s something terrifying in the photo’s periphery.

Risks That Sexting Can Pose, and How to Mitigate Them

Technology has a lot to offer the realm of sexual pleasure, but we have to wield it carefully and understand the risks it poses before we can safely use its full potential. Following the guidance above can help you steer clear of some of the dangers out there, but don’t forget to keep the following things in mind as well.

  1. People can screenshot your photos—even on SnapChat—so, think of everything you’re sending as permanent and somewhat public. If that makes you feel uncomfortable, then scale back what you’re sending.
  2. Keep a clear head. If you’re in a relationship, either talk about opening up or understand that any form of sexting—depending on the level of monogamy you share—could be relationship ending.
  3. Double-check that name and number. No one wants to send something tantalizing to their mom accidentally.
  4. If it becomes one-sided, stop. Whether you’re uninterested or the other party loses interest, never feel like you’re under obligation to sext or respond to a sext. Don’t respond to pressure; and if you feel pressure, let someone know that it makes you uncomfortable.
  5. Keep things private. Get a password and lock screen for your phone at a minimum. Even if you make a habit of deleting everything after your tryst, you may be forgetful at some point in that post-orgasm haze. Also, don’t include your face in pictures you send unless you’ve reached that next-level, once in a lifetime type of trust.

Want Someone to Sext?

I love sending the occasional flirty photo to clients who have booked time with me. It’s a great way to amp up anticipation before our date. Send me an email at [email protected] to discuss what you’d like our date to look like, and I’ll get started planning!