Sexting—the bow chicka wow wow of texting. The electronic hickey. The one time it’s appropriate to use an eggplant emoji.
For our millennial generation, sexting is pretty common what with our high definition iPhone cameras and the sheer existence of Tinder. By now, it falls into the standard order of operations of texting back and forth with some cutie only to end up sending a picture of your digital boobs through thin air.
In all seriousness, while sexting is a great way to practice a safe form of sex, there are a lot of things about it that aren’t safe at all. Since casual sexting is about as common as the casual hook-up, it means that you won’t always be sexting with someone who you know that well. You quickly give your physical privacy and security into the hands of someone else, and that being said, there are some definite dos and don’ts in order to sext the right way—and the safe way.
Take your time
Just like foreplay, sexting is all about the buildup. The longer it takes, the better. The prolonged anticipation will keep both you and your partner wanting more, and the two of you can keep going at it until you’re satisfied (wink wink).
Taking your time sending messages also gives you a time buffer in which you can begin to trust your partner more. Like we’ve said, sexting is a vulnerable position to be in, and as you draw out the sexual buildup, you can also decipher the limits of just how far you feel comfortable going with the person.
“When I sext someone for the first time, especially if I don’t know them well, I always play it pretty safe at first just because I don’t know if they’re screenshotting everything I say,” says Hunter, a senior at the University of Louisville. “The more the conversation continues, I get a feel for if our sexual interests align and what kind of person they are. If they seem to check out, I immediately start to turn up the heat on my messages.”
Overall, your privacy is of the most utmost importance here, and you shouldn’t sext someone who would put that at risk. Take your time working up to a messaging climax so that you’re secure enough to let go and show your wild side in the messages.
Keep messages short and sweet
Try to find that sweet spot between a single sentence and a full paragraph. Writing “Ohhhhh” doesn’t really add anything to the conversation, but your partner having to endlessly scroll through your messages about all the dirty things you want to do to them is overwhelming. When sexts are too long, the details get lost and that might even be a turn off.
“I had this one girl text me what probably translated to a full page,” says Lorenzo, a junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It was mildly terrifying. I felt like I was reading a romance novel she had secretly been harboring in her soul but never got to write until she sexted me. Ladies! I encourage you to live your fantasy, but maybe just say it in two sentences.”
Remember that sexting should be a dialogue between two people. The perfect formula would be to acknowledge what your partner last said and also add something new to that each time by building on top of the idea or action that was offered to you.
Related: HC’s Guide to Safe Sexting
We don’t mean saying please and thank you, but keep in mind that you’re still talking to a real person with feelings. Sexting is definitely not a situation where you should ever mock someone or make them feel insecure about what they’re saying.
Department Chair of Psychology at Cal Poly and licensed psychologist Jasna Jovanovic studies the socialization of gender, and has found that males tend be just as insecure about sexual response as women are. “Nobody wants to feel bad about their self, but oftentimes males are cast as initiators and take the brunt of sexual criticism. In the case of sexual messaging, it’s easier for a female to be turned off and be vocal about the sexual fantasy the male has initiated as compared to a real life situation where she might be polite because of the in-person circumstance.”
Be respectful of their boundaries even if it’s not real sex. As the old saying goes, treat others the way you would like to be treated. Starting with kindness will lead to a more pleasurable experience for both of you.
Cover your tracks
No matter how badly you want to save last night’s kinky conversations, just trust us and delete those messages right away, girlfriend. We all have those snoopy friends (or moms) who occasionally scroll through our phones and invade our privacy, and it’s better to be safe rather than have your friend (or mom) take a peek at your recent texts only to find some sub-par porn. There’s also a kick-butt app available called Couple, which is a password protected messaging service that lets you send photos and won’t sync to clouds. It’s all about keeping your moments private, and is a fantastic alternative to deleting your late night sexts!
“I had a bunch of saved sexts between my boyfriend and I that I never deleted,” says Morgan, a junior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “Long story short, my phone synced to my friend’s cloud and she still tells everyone about what hilarious and racy things we were saying. Now I always delete my messages the next morning to save myself from further embarrassment.”
As we’ve seen from celebrity photo scandals and private messaging hacks, the digital world is a really dangerous place where your private life can be exposed before you even know what’s happening. Take precaution and always cover your tracks before your sexy time messages are on display for all to see.
Alcoholic sexting lubricant might not be such a great idea when you wake up in the morning and find out that you’ve been texting your partner like E.L. James all night. We already know the dangers of sending the drunk text, but imagine drunk sexting?! That’s a literal nightmare situation.
“I view drunk sexting the way I view having sex drunk,” says Leah, a junior at the University of Washington. “Alcohol increases your chance of making a mistake. When you’re drunk you would give consent to having sex with someone at a party without really meaning it, and the same goes for sexting. You’re not always in control enough to do what honors you.”
Psychologist Jasno Jovanovic heartily agrees. “A female under the influence is just as likely to be taken advantage of digitally as she may be in a physical social circumstance," she says. "The same rules of safety and consent should still apply to sexting.”
The danger of sexting drunk is that you lack complete control of yourself and aren’t present in the situation. In doing this, you risk sending something that you wouldn’t normally, which might risk your digital safety while also being completely embarrassing.
Show your face if you send any photos
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT—WE CAN’T EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH. Don’t do it, period. Ever. Unless you’re just begging to be blackmailed.
“Exchanging nude pictures is something I really enjoy doing in my relationships, especially if my boyfriend and I have to spend time apart,” says Naba, a senior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “It hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’m always terrified that one day I’ll see nude photos of my body on the internet or being passed around my group of friends. I never take pictures with my face in them specifically for that reason.”
While we generally want you to be able to trust people in this world, there are a few bad apples out there. By including your face in photos with your naked body, you give your sexting partner a dangerous power to potentially hold those photos over you. Women’s Health has great advice on what to do if you partner leaks your photos on the internet.
There’s also the risk that other people may be able to get into your partner’s phone, and the last thing you want a random stranger to find is a picture of your smiling face accompanied by your breasts. You want to be completely unidentifiable. Let this be rule number one of safe sexting.
This goes hand in hand with not including your face in any nude photos you send. Sexually FaceTiming your partner gives them the power to take screenshots without you being aware of the situation. This is a great time to stick with good old fashioned sexting and stay away from our advanced iPhone technology.
“My boyfriend and I were doing long distance, so we would FaceTime each other fairly often as opposed to sexting, just because then we could still see each other and it felt more real,” says Marley, a sophomore at New York University. “I had been with him for nearly two years so I completely trusted him, and it never even occurred to me that he would screenshot anything I was doing. One time he came to visit I was looking at the pictures on his phone and saw a bunch of graphic ones of me. I didn’t get mad because I had never explicitly not asked him to not take pictures, but I still felt like the privacy of my body had been violated. It was definitely an awakening to just how scary that situation can be, especially if don’t know your sexual partner very well—or at least can’t get your hands on their phone to delete pictures of you.”
We trust that you are all smart women who have a strong sense of self-preservation and are capable of making intelligent decisions, so just remember that nakedly FaceTiming bae is not a decision you should ever make.
Use emojis or weird anatomical language
This just isn’t tasteful. Nobody wants to see an eggplant with water droplets coming out of it. Enough said.
Also, calling certain body parts by their scientifically correct names makes them sound like a disease. Saying labia over pussy is completely fine–it’s whatever works for you. However, there is a fine line where maybe you should use slang terms, or consider not saying the anatomically correct name at all. If your partner starts to sound like a medical textbook and insists on using the words “fallopian tube,” please rethink your life choices.
Sext if you haven’t had sex
This is not the time or place to discover what sex is or how it happens. Some people say that the general rule of thumb should be not sext anything you haven’t done in real life. This may be limiting, especially if you wanted to explore something kinkier to sext about. So, let’s change the general rule to don’t talk about anything unless you’ve covered the sexual basics (penetrative sex, oral, etc.).
“There was this one time in my first year of college where I was trying to sext with some older guy and come off as really cool,” says Gabrielle, a senior at Northeastern University. “Jokes on me though because I was still a virgin, and so my sexting was a terrible mixture of being really vanilla, completely absurd or just flat out wrong.”
You have more of a chance to turn your partner off rather than on by making up a sexual fantasy if you haven’t had sex in real life. You have no idea what your partner is actually into or even what you’re into. Try not to skip the important first step of intercourse here.
“Digital sex is more often a method of sexual exploration for women than it is for sexual pleasure,” says psychologist Jasna Jovanovic. “This is a contained experience where you can openly entertain your fantasy, but it should not be used to explore what it would be like to have sex for the first time. In my opinion, it will take away from the authenticity of losing your virginity, and just like porn build up false expectations of what sex actually is.”
Oh, sexting. Our ancestors would be so appalled if they knew what we were using our advanced technology for. Regardless, sexting is a regularity now, and we hope that our official dos and don’ts can help you out the next time you want to engage in some textual flirtation.