Sexting has a pretty singular reputation as, ahem, digital foreplay. And certainly, that’s one reason to fire off a steamy, dirty-emoji-riddled SMS to your partner, but it’s not the only one. Research suggests—and relationship experts echo—that messages chock-full of blush-worthy innuendos serve many more purposes than just foreshadowing a romp or two later on. In fact, when it comes to boosting intimacy in relationships by communicating your needs, sextual healing is a legit thing, because it turns out there are a number of reasons to sext that have nothing to do with having actual sex.
“To the people who think sexting only initiates or leads to sex, you’re just wrong,” says Rachel Wright, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “There are so many reasons to sext, and with the majority of people across the world social distancing, this is an important topic to discuss.”
Below, Rachel DeAlto, JD, a relationship therapist specializing in dating in the digital age, and Wright break down the many reasons to hit “send” on those explicit messages that have nothing to do with being down to…you know. Plus, the two pros offer plenty of scripts to help you get started.
5 reasons to sext that have no connection to having actual sex.
1. to communicate what you need sexually
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that people who had sex more frequently, orgasmed consistently, received oral sex, and—take note—communicated openly also experienced more sexual satisfaction overall. But many find that when they’re face-to-face with someone they like and making all the eye contact, declaring something like “I want [insert kink here]” isn’t so easy. “Sexting can give you a way to tell your partner what you want,” says DeAlto. “Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to ask for what you want in bed, face-to-face. Sexting can drop those not-so-subtle hints.”
“Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to ask for what you want in bed, face-to-face. Sexting can drop those not-so-subtle hints.” —Rachel DeAlto, JD, relationship therapist
If you think you may chicken out when it comes to telling your partner IRL that you want to, say, try pegging or anal sex, you can weave it into a text instead. Try typing: “I loved the way you _____. Maybe next time we could _____, would you like that?”
2. To Bridge a physical distance between you two
“Whether you’ve always been in a long-distance relationship or you’re navigating that for the first time now, being quarantined at home due to COVID-19, staying connected with your romantic partners while physically apart is important,” says Wright. “Sexting gives you that connection even if you’re not in the same room, city, state, or country.” Just because you’re currently paused on the whole physical touch thing doesn’t mean you have to press pause on your libido.
To fill that desire, DeAlto recommends a message that reads something like: “I love it when you _____.” Or “I’m imagining you doing _____ right now.” Or “I wish you were here to ________.”
3. To feel assured and connected in your relationship
Internet chatter will tell you that so much of dating-app swipe culture is about that hit of dopamine you get from someone right-swiping you, as well. But feeling loved, appreciated, and—yeah—sexy isn’t some trivial thing. It’s a human need, one that—according to both sexperts—gets fulfilled by sexting. “Sexting can increase your confidence and the confidence of your partner,” says DeAlto.
“It’s easy to start to doubt what we don’t see in front of us, as humans. Sexting helps reassure the connection, for both people.” —Rachel Wright, LMFT
Wright adds that along with helping you feel yourself, typing out that message to your partner can bridge some of the space between the two of you. “When you’re not there to make eye contact, touch each other’s legs, or engage in any sort of sexual relationship, it can start to wear on someone’s mentality,” she says. “It’s easy to start to doubt what we don’t see in front of us, as humans. Sexting helps reassure the connection, for both people.”
Thus, it makes sense that a large number of people in the aforementioned sexting study conducted by Texas Tech University Department of Psychological Sciences sought reassurance from their partner. We really all just want to feel loved, y’all.
4. to, um, masturbate
People don’t just get off to pictures and videos—words can be a seriously powerful aphrodisiac, too. “Using your partner’s words for masturbation is hot,” says Wright. “Let them know what you want to do and ask them to ‘lend a hand.’ It keeps them involved in your sex life, even when they’re not there.”
To get started, she recommends saying something like: “What do you want to do in bed next time we’re physically together?” Let your partner’s imagination—and thumbs—run wild from there.
5. To help you learn new things about your partner
Another reason to sext? It shouldn’t be solely in the name of self-discovery; you can use it to uncover shiny-new things about your love interest, as well. “Just like how you may be able to explore more through the written word, your partners will, too. You can learn a lot about how their mind works sexually, or otherwise, through sexting,” says Wright.
You can use the same prompt like the one above to wade into the unknown waters of what really gets your current partner (or partners) going. And, who knows? You may just chart new levels of sexual and emotional pleasure using only your smartphone. Who said technology was useless?