Sexting has a somewhat of a bad reputation: politicians and celebrities have faced public shame for their extra-marital antics and teens have been humiliated by peers who unscrupulously shared their messages. With all these stories in the media, it’s no wonder people are weary of sharing suggestive messages over their phones.
I don’t blame them. But at the same time, I don’t think this is entirely fair to sexting. Sexting is different from texting only in purpose. Sexts are suggestive messages sent over a mobile phone, and texts are all other kinds of messages sent over a mobile phone. Texting, we know, is only a mode of communication, which can be used to give directions to a lost colleague as easily as it can be used to harass someone. We know texting is not inherently bad. Yes, it can be distracting and should not be done while driving – like mascara. And it certainly should not be done in excess while in someone else’s company because it’s rude, like picking up a book and ignoring them would be.
But none of these things, we know, are inherently bad, distracting or rude. They’re tools. It’s our actions that give them context. In the same way, sexting is not inherently inappropriate or shameful. In fact, it can be an excellent way to communicate with those with whom we’re intimate.
In her book The Nice Girl’s Guide to Talking Dirty, couples therapist Dr. Ruth Neustifter argues that sexting can help revitalize the passion in a relationship. While she spends a significant number of pages elaborating about how “nice” girls can benefit from being “vixens” from time to time and other notions that make my slut-shame alarms go off, she does eventually get around to the point that sexting can be helpful in identifying our desires and developing more confident forms of communicating our sexual needs.
Image by Enrique Gutierrez.
In its simplest form, sexting can become a means to shape behavior by what educational psychology refers to as modeling – the exhibition of a behavior to be imitated by the other party without outright instruction. Instead of staring at the ceiling trying to find a polite way to tell him you’d like to try a new position this time around, you can let your main squeeze know – before he even gets home – that you have a mad craving to save a horse, ride a cowboy that night. Or whatever terms you think will get the message across.
That’s the thing about sexting: people often assume that sexting is a matter of putting a few dirty words down and hitting send. They couldn’t be more wrong.THE MODERN LOVE LETTER
Most of us who have ever enjoyed physical book stores have encountered at some point or another books that chronicle the love letters of the greats. Oh, to live then when words were used to convey such incredible emotion! Anyone who tries to argue that sexting is anything like these love letters has to be insane.
Except I’m not. I’ve read my fair share of letters and journals of people between the great to the obscure and I’ll tell you this: there was no shortage of sexy in those days. It’s a different tone than the letters proclaiming love and longing, but it isn’t less passionate or ardent. Often, the love, longing and sexuality are all present. Observe this missive by the great French novelist, Gustave Flaubert:
I will cover you with love when next I see you, with caresses, with ecstasy. I want to gorge you with all the joys of the flesh, so that you faint and die. I want you to be amazed by me, and to confess to yourself that you had never even dreamed of such transports... When you are old, I want you to recall those few hours, I want your dry bones to quiver with joy when you think of them.
And another, from the renowned novelist James Joyce:
My love for you allows me to pray to the spirit of eternal beauty and tenderness mirrored in your eyes or fling you down under me on that softy belly of yours and fuck you up behind, like a hog riding a sow, glorying in the very stink and sweat that rises from your arse, glorying in the open shape of your upturned dress and white girlish drawers and in the confusion of your flushed cheeks and tangled hair.
And a rather tame one from Henry Miller, one of my favorite American authors:
I plunge my hand between your thighs and see that you are already wet. You seem very excited, ready to do anything. That is not surprising. I know you from centuries, what I mean to say is from other incarnations. We were lovers many times.
Forget this “nice girl” business. Sensual missives are a literary tradition and an art form. Now that mobile technology has made it easy for us to communicate instantly, now that smart phones allow for texts that go far beyond the 160-character limit, there are no boundaries to what we can experience in exploring our desires, our imaginations, and our lovers.THE ART OF SEXTING
As with any other art, there is no wrong way to do it, there is just the art that moves us and the art that does not. I’m going to offer some pointers, but I want you to consider that ultimately, the only judge of what works and what doesn’t, is you – and your intended audience, of course.
1. You don’t have to use bad words to sext. You don’t even have to use graphic language to conjure sensuality.
Fire burns until there is nothing left. Our warmth is different. It is a bed in the light of dawn, the sheets heavy with dreams and the previous night’s desire in this new awakening as skin meets skin. A moan is a good morning good as any. But the best greeting is your pulse beating inside of me.
Here, the recipient is immediately transported to the moment, recalling the experience by details: light, the texture of sheets, the warmth of skin, the sensation of the encounter. And not a single word was used that on its own wouldn’t pass muster at the dinner table.
2. Consider the audience.
First off – and I do wish I didn’t even need to mention this, but alas, it seems some people need reminding – never send a sext to someone who has not expressed the desire to receive this sort of communication from you.
Sexting is a lot like writing on the internet in that the better you know your audience, the more successful you will be to move them to respond to your words. Consider how you and your partner tend to communicate over this medium – how do they use language when texting with you? Do they abbreviate a lot or use a formal way of writing?
Taking note of their communication style and employing the aspects that you are comfortable with in developing your messages will make the conversation seem more natural, especially if you have never exchanged an erotic message this way before.
This is especially important to consider when you are using more explicit language. Fantasy is like a crystal bowl -- throwing in a word that creates any degree of cognitive dissonance in the recipient is likely to shatter it. It’s a matter of taste, of course, and some people prefer more straight-forward language but I’d wager euphemisms are the safer bet if you don’t know for sure. Just try to avoid the really tired clichés.
3. Consider what you will say.
Some people engage in sexting the way most do cyber-sex, where erotic narrative becomes a collaborative effort, but this isn’t necessarily the way it must be done. If you or your partner have really demanding jobs, a long dialogue is not going to be possible, but you can still communicate your eagerness to see them later or the fantastic time you had the previous night.
You’re my restlessness. You are why I wait and why I can’t wait. You’re the moment. That pause before you slide into me, the moan, the fullness of you inside me again finally, the first thrust, those thereafter, the last, the explosion, the collapse, the reverie, the hazy hours afterward. You, you, you. Nothing else. Just you.
Of course, if you and your partner happen to have time to make some conversation, you can start the exchange with a question to prompt a response: “Imagine you walk into your office after lunch, close the door and find me naked on your desk. What would you do to me?”
A simple question can lead unexpected places. Creating an alternative fantasy world where you can play to your hearts’ content is one of the greatest features of writing and sexting is no different.
Of course, it bears mentioning that you should go easy on your partner if this sort of communication is new to them. The more you do it, the more comfortable they will become at expressing themselves in this way.
As Neustifter suggests in her book about sexting, you can also use a sext to indicate the sort of encounter you want to have with a partner later on, which serves to both give your partner a hint about what you would like and builds both of your anticipation for the encounter. One such missive I received of this nature read as follows:
Pack a bag with things you will need for a week and clear your calendar. For five days, you will be mine in mind, body and every other aspect. I will retrieve you from your apartment at 5:00PM on Friday. You will be waiting for me on the corner. Wear a coat.
I imagine he mentioned the coat because I might get cold on the journey, but the anticipation won over comfort, and I ended up awaiting him in front of my house in just a coat, thigh highs and stilettos. If he’d called me that morning instead, would I have met him like this? If necessity is the mother of invention, then anticipation is the mother of eroticism.
So there you have it – everything you need to get started to breathe some anticipation and interest into the daily grind. But don’t feel limited by the medium! Just because this is a guide for sexting doesn’t mean you can’t use it for hand-written notes or e-mails or even voice mails. The most memorable things are the rare things.
I have a habit of sending Rodrigo letters. Whether I’m in Los Angeles or traveling, I occasionally drop one of my odes in the mail for him to receive a few days later. There is something indescribable about the anticipation of waiting for him to receive it and knowing that once he does, my words have a physical form he can keep, no matter how many times he upgrades his phone.
He doesn’t send me letters back, but he leaves me Post-Its on my laptop or the book I happen to be reading with little odes. That’s the thing about the timeless art of the erotic exchange – the medium doesn’t matter. Text messaging is just one more tool with which we can express our adoration and desire, why not put it to use?