Sexting has become a mainstay of intimate relationships, both new and established, both up-close and at a distance. And although it first became mainstream with the widespread adoption of smartphones (for the older, sexually liberated contingent, remember trying to sext on a number pad?) it’s actually not unlike exchanging erotic letters – a practice as old as writing itself.
Bringing novelty to new and long-term relationships is an essential way of relating, and sexting is a great way to spark that desire. It stokes the fires of connection and longing, and can also be a wonderful form of foreplay.
But even if you like the idea of sexting, it’s easy to feel like you’re not very good at it. Not everyone expresses themselves easily in writing, and revealing our most intimate parts – even if they’re parts of our minds – can be intimidating and even scary. Fortunately, there are many ways to lay the groundwork for some serious sexting skills. Like learning anything new, it helps to have the basics down before you pick up the phone and send that “hey… what you up to? 😉”
Establish expectations and consent.
First of all, sexting should be fun and pleasurable. Nobody should ever feel pressured into a sexting sesh. If someone is leaning on you too hard, wave the red flag and put on the brakes; coercion and manipulation aren’t sexy at all (unless freely consented to).
Beyond that, there are a few important things the two of you should establish before you start steaming up the screens.
Language. Some people crave really dirty talk, with rough slang, a lot of physical detail, and narratives that even Penthouse Letters might balk at. Others may prefer a softer approach, with more of a tease, more emotional content, and gentler, euphemistic language. It’s important to know what you and your partner both like, and figure out how to split the difference if there’s a discrepancy – so nobody gets bored, overwhelmed, and nobody is turned off by the appearance of the Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television (RIP George Carlin). Getting clear on the words you feel comfortable with using to refer to each of your genitals is important too. Saying “I love when you talk about my (ex: pussy, or cock)” can be an easy entry point for many, and you might just learn something new about each other.
Setting. Many people love being caught by an unexpected sext when they’re in a work meeting, or even having dinner with the family. This can represent a safe form of exhibitionism – a real turn-on for some. Others can’t really relax and enjoy a good sext unless they’re alone, with uninterrupted attention to spare. Consider establishing a “code text” – like “did the mail get there? 😘” where a “no” or “yes” means “no sexting right now” or “hot, bring it on.”
Content warning! Sexting can make us bold, and willing to “try things” that we never would IRL. That can be delicious – but there’s also a risk of running up against your partner’s limits regarding what does and doesn’t feel safe to them. Generally speaking, if they’re not cool with it in bed, they probably won’t be over sext either – but ask them and find out.
As always when it comes to sexual intimacy, communication is key. And a conversation about setting, language, and consent can even get very sexy all on its own!
So where do I start?
Sexting is almost like an improv theater exercise, except hotter – a collaboration that’s all about the interplay between your thoughts and your partner’s. And the first rule of improv theater is to take what your scene partner gives you and build on it before volleying it back – the “yes, and” principle. But how to get to that first “yes”? “What are you wearing?” is a classic, but there are a few other basic frames you can use to stoke the fire into a blazing inferno.
Memories. These can be about a hot time you’ve had with your partner – or a hot time you’ve had by yourself. Sharing masturbation fantasies – or soliciting them, like asking “what did you think about the last time you touched yourself?” – can be an inspiring jump-off point.
Questions. It can be easier to share our innermost desires over text than in person! Ask them about the last thing they read or watched that turned them on, ask them about something they’ve always wanted to try in bed and never have, and so forth. If you’re curious about who your partner is, gently encouraging them to share their erotic mind with you is a great way to get to know them better – and let them surprise you.
Compliments. Do they have a body part or a sex move you can’t stop thinking about? Do they turn you on in a way that nobody ever has? Do thoughts of them distract you from essential tasks? Tell them about it, and see what happens.
Plans. What do you want them to do to you the next time you see them? What do you want them to wear, or not wear? Is there a future setting where you daydream about getting intimate with them? Is there a toy you’re dying to try, or a favorite porn movie you’d love to watch with them? Chances are they’d love to know.
Now that you have the basic mechanics sorted out, consider the unique advantages of sexting as a form of sexual expression. Sexting is a dance between the two of you – and a place to potentially open up worlds of fantasy that have yet gone unexplored.
And delayed gratification – sexting from another room, during work, or while you’re out running errands – can be a phenomenal kind of mental foreplay, leading to the kind of spontaneous, fervent and lusty sex that many of us crave.
Since you can theoretically sext from anywhere, at any time, it’s a great way to explore a long, long buildup. Nicholson Baker’s classic erotic novel “Vox” is about a conversation over a phone sex chat line, not sexting per se, but the protagonists still spend an entire day exploring both the mundane and profound aspects of their secret erotic lives. Sometimes it’s funny and awkward, sometimes a little disturbing, and sometimes really hot – a great depiction of what can happen when honest erotic self-expression is explored without a particular goal.
The trick is to express yourself authentically, and respond to your partner in a way that allows your desires to come together in a leisurely braid. Take your time, pay attention to what surfaces – and don’t be afraid to pause or stop if you need to take a breath.
Using the senses: erotic visuals and sounds
Sharing sexy selfies can be an amazing exercise in self-expression and trust, that adds a whole new visual dimension to sexting.
You don’t need to take photos of your genitals unless that’s your thing, but a suggestive silhouette of a curve of your body, your underwear lying on the floor, a little video of your lips, or of you moving your hips can evoke a LOT of desire – and send a clear message about what kind of mood you’re in.
Don’t feel like every pic has to be Instagram-worthy. Getting hung up on ideal lighting and the perfect pose can take you right out of the moment – and there’s a reason why amateur porn, with its spontaneity and imperfection, can be so much hotter than the professional stuff.
But if you want to make sure those naughty pics are flawless, consider shooting a selection ahead of time and storing them in a secure app like Private Photo Vault – so your little niece or nephew doesn’t get an eyeful the next time they grab your phone.
On that note, unfortunately, exchanging dirty pics can get you in real trouble if your partner turns out to be less than ethical. The advice up top, that nobody should ever feel pressured into sexting, applies triple to anything involving images. Be cautious and be safe. It’s a good idea to keep your face out of any really compromising photos, and cover up or Photoshop tattoos. And consider using apps that allow for “disappearing” content – once they’re gone, they’re gone.
If you’re not comfortable sending pics of yourself at all, there’s a whole world of erotic images, videos and gifs that won’t get you fired if your partner isn’t on the up-and-up, but will definitely turn them on. Build a little library of your faves! And last, consider the power of sound. Your phone’s voice recording feature can create a sexy keepsake as potent as any image.
Don’t let perfection get in the way of a good time.
Lastly, sex and sexting are always best when approached with curiosity. Aiming for perfection will ultimately disappoint; what you’re looking for here is an authentic expression of your own desires, and the gift of knowing your partner’s own inner erotic world a little bit more – because for most people it is vast, much more so than we let on in daily life. And when we open up to this type of erotic sharing, it deepens intimacy, trust, and connection, helps us know ourselves better, and helps us know our lover better too.
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