Important note: This content applies to adults ages 18 and older.
So...you’re texting with a new romantic interest, or maybe even someone you’ve been seeing for a while, and the conversation starts getting hot and heavy. You’ve both provided enthusiastic consent, but you’re still wondering whether or not sexting is okay and how you should go about it.
We’ve got you covered.
First things first: let’s go over what sexting is and what sexting isn’t. We’ll cover the basics as well as some tips for how to stay a little safer if you’re planning to sext in the near future.
Sexting is... well... what it sounds like: a combination of sex and texting, but it’s not just limited to text messages. Sexting is the act of sending sexual content to someone else. In today’s digital age, it’s even considered a type of foreplay.
Sexting can happen through sexually explicit text messages, provocative audio clips, suggestive selfies, or videos. No matter what form sexting takes, it should always be a consensual practice between two or more parties. That means you’ll want to feel out the waters of your courtship or relationship before diving right into sexting behavior and you should expect to ask for and give mutual consent before sending or receiving a sext.
Sexting has evolved over the years through the changing landscape of social media and the influx of young adults on social messaging platforms. Take Snapchat for example, and it’s “delete is our default” mantra. Snapchat is an enticing platform for sexting, since users can see or send racy content to one another that will self-destruct (or automatically delete) within 24 hours. But beware of the screenshot!
But sexting definitely is not limited to Snapchat—it can take place through all the many different ways we use our cell phones, like text messages, social messaging apps, other social media apps, like Instagram (which also has a disappearing message feature now), or on video calls through WhatsApp and FaceTime. However you decide to engage in sexting, take caution and make sure you trust the other party. Just like with in person intimacy—trust and consent are key when it comes to sexting.
So, what makes a sext a sext? Here are some of the major types of sexting.
Photos: Sexual or racy photos including provocative poses, nude photos, explicit images or visual references. Sexual images can range in content or interpretation.
Videos: Video clips that focus on body parts that might normally be covered by clothing. These can depict sexual acts like masturbation and/or can contain sex toys like a vibrator.
Audio messages: A suggestive or sexually explicit audio clip, for example dirty talk or noises you might make during a sexual act.
Texts: Text messages that contain sexual content or are inherently sexual in nature. These can include a prevalence of emojis, used suggestively to represent body parts or sex acts.
Here are three important sexting facts to keep in mind.
According to sex educators and sexologists, it’s more common than we think. In fact, the majority of adults (and many young adults) have sexted at least one time. The LA times even reported that 88% of U.S. adults have said they’ve sexted. That includes while in committed, long-term relationships or when beginning a fun and flirty courtship. We repeat: there’s no shame in the sext. So let’s normalize sexting behavior!
And we’re not just talking sex offenders here. There is potential danger in sexting someone you don’t know very well, or even someone who you’ve known for years. Ever heard of revenge porn or sextortion? With 1 in 14 internet users under the age of 30 experiencing some form of revenge porn, it is a growing problem that can cause real trauma and suffering.
That’s why it’s important to take a safer approach to sexting, as seen below.
Sending or receiving sexually explicit messages under the age of 18 is considered child pornography and can result in criminal charges in some states. You can learn more about state laws around sexting from cyberbullying.org.
While there’s inherent risk in sharing your sexual desires over text, there are ways to safeguard your sexting experience. First, let’s unravel some of the risks, which may include:
Now, let’s look at ways to mitigate those risks. So you can get back to (or start) sexting in a safer way that feels comfortable to you.
Let’s face it, the exchange of sexual messages and images was here way before the Internet. It’s a normal part of the human experience. But, sexting should be done in the safest way possible. That means ensuring consent above all else, and mitigating any possible risk.
Always use caution when sexting or sending explicit messages to a sexting partner. If it’s not sexting, then there might be another way to flirt, take your courtship to the next level, or improve the sexual health of your relationship.