Everyone Is Sexting Right Now. A Sex Therapist Tells Us How It’s Done (Even If It’s Not Your Thing)
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In a time of quarantining and social distancing, common sense and New York City public health officials are telling us to avoid getting intimate with anyone we don’t live with already. So in case you didn't grab someone and make them your S.O. like it was cuffing season at Hampshire College, you might be having a lot of solo sex. Now that we're heading into week hundred-something of quarantine, you might be curious about switching things up and making sexting your new socially-distanced skill (or at least upping your game). We asked some experts for tips on how to sext the safest and most rewarding way. Think of this as best practices, dirty pictures edition. 

First of all, what defines sexting? Is it always naked pictures?

Sexting is any digital texting/messaging that involves sexual innuendo or sexually explicit language, photos, memes or videos. Usually it is intended for flirting or validation seeking, says Los Angeles psychologist Kate Balestrieri.

At what stage in a relationship do people sext?

“Sexting is used in all stages of courtship. It’s part of attracting, flirting, intimacy building and the maintenance of a sex life,” comments Chris Donaghue, SKYN Sex & Intimacy Expert and host of the re-launched nightly radio show LoveLine. Donahue explains that for some it’s their total relationship to a person, "serving no purpose other than its sexual use one-time in the moment.” And for others, it's the cherry on top of the bigger picture.

OK, so…how does a person get started? Because consent is really important, but texting someone “Do I have your consent to sext you now?” seems really un-sexy and embarrassing.

“Consent is always key before getting frisky, but the language you choose can be part of the build up and play, in lieu of sounding like a doctor’s office consent form,” Balestrieri says. “Consider texting first, to make sure the person you want to sext is in the right frame of mind and space before initiating a sext. This is especially true if you don’t know them well. It’s probably good to avoid sending any intimate photos until you know they are alone, or at least not with their parents or at work.” Donaghue suggests being straightforward: “Just ask ‘Are you down to sext?’ It’s that simple. Don’t make it any more complicated or dramatic than that. Just get their consent.”

How do you make sure what you're writing—or the picture you're sending—will turn them on? (Aargh, it's like another whole way to feel self-conscious.)

“Everyone’s sexuality and arousal template is different, so focus on what turns you on. The more you sext with someone, the more you will learn about what arouses them. You should also ask, as that’s part of sexting. But it’s not just for them, it’s for your pleasure too, so lead with what you find arousing to send,” says Donaghue. That said, video director (she’s shot for Halsey and Tove Lo) Malia James offered some tricks on optics when she joined Foria intimacy products for an Instagram Live sexting teach-in: “Wet skin looks sexy,” James said, for example in a bathtub or after a sweaty workout. She suggests playing with a small mirror to find angles you like of yourself and to start by sending teasing images showing only a small section of skin. “And dim lighting is great, but women shouldn’t be afraid to show their bodies.” 

How does a person protect their sexts being used in a way they don’t want?

While the only way to be 100-percent certain your images and words won’t be leaked is to not send them in the first place, experts agree that you need to establish clearly that you want your images destroyed or otherwise kept private. “Have a conversation with your sexting partner about what you will each do with each other’s images, whether it leads to happily ever after or happily never speak to each other again,” Balestrieri says. Additionally, remember that many states have so-called “revenge porn” laws with fines and jail time for material disseminated without consent. “Safer sexting practices include not showing your face or identifiable body parts,” Donaghue cautions.

So…what if someone is not usually super verbal in intimate moments? Can you suggest a few things that would get the ball rolling? 

Balestrieri suggests these as starting lines:

“I’ve been thinking about you all day…Wanna play?”

“Want to know what I’ve been thinking about all day? Hint: (You + Me) – Clothes”

“Want to see a picture of my new shelter in place outfit? ;)”

“If my thoughts of you were naughty today, would you hold it against me?”

“Hey. Saw your profile, and like what I see. Up for a game of show and tell later?”

“You have had an effect on me… I like it. Want to see?”

James suggests developing your own “vocabulary around sex” before you are even begin sexting with someone. Try writing your own erotica to discover what gives you pleasure. Once you have started a sexting sesh, James says, you can shift between audio, text and video in the same way that you might shift sex positions…in order to please yourself as well as your partner. Or, if you’re feeling shy, James recommends taking the pressure off your own writing ability and reading erotica to each other. So, count that as a win for your inner bookworm.

RELATED: My Boyfriend and I Have Stopped Having Sex. Should We Break Up?

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