I, for one, never learned how to sext safely as part of my high school curriculum. (I mean, I barely learned how contraceptives work, but that’s an upsetting tale for another time.) Chances are you also haven’t been privy to a formal education in the art of practicing safe sext. The information is always important, but now it’s more pressing than ever, given that social distancing guidelines have limited the mediums of communication available for single people who want to date and also those in committed relationships that suddenly feel long-distance. So since many are now relying on the power of written communication to flirt (and share decidedly dirtier thoughts), a sex educator is here to make sure we all know how to sext safely.
“Sexting is an amazing way to connect with someone if you’re not able to see them often, which is more relevant right now than ever before,” says Sadie Allison, PhD, sexologist, and co-founder of GoLove CBD lubricant. “Whether you’re in a casual or committed relationship, there are helpful guidelines for staying safe—both physically and mentally.”
“Whether you’re in a casual or committed relationship, there are helpful sexting guidelines for staying safe—both physically and mentally.” —Sadie Allison, PhD, sexologist
Personal sexting style will vary by the person, but the following seven guidelines for safe sexting are great broad rules to adhere to. Brush up on them before you hit “send” next.
A sexologist’s 7 golden rules for how to sext safely.
1. Consent is still king
If you’ve ever received an unsolicited picture of someone’s genitals, you already know this.
“[Sexting] can make us feel unsafe, violated, and even threatened,” says Dr. Allison. “That’s why getting not only your partner’s permission, but their enthusiastic permission is an important part of sexting—even if you’ve already had [physical] sex before.”
2. Check in regularly using simple phrases
Consent is a practice that you continue throughout the sexting experience—it’s not one and done. That means you want to drop in with your sext companion as the conversation unfolds.
“When you’re just starting off with sexting, it’s best to be as respectful as possible and simply ask permission with phrases like, ‘Can I send you a sexy picture?’ or ‘Would it be okay to text you one of my fantasies” to ensure the other person is on board to take things to the next level,” says Dr. Allison. “Continue to check in with simple lines like ‘Do you want more?’ or ‘Are you into this?’ to keep both of you on the same page.”
3. Ease in slowly
Even if you’ve already established some healthy sexting ground rules and are feeling particularly saucy, Dr. Allison still recommends starting off slowly, perhaps with an easy compliment. “Let them know what it is you really like about them physically that turns you on, and then elaborate,” she says.
If you’re struggling, you can always rely on the tried-and-true fill in the blanks system: “I love it when you ____ my ____. ” or “I’m going to ____ your ____ when you get home.” Furthermore, don’t underestimate the power of reminiscing on memories, especially if you used to touch each physically, back when touching was a thing.
4. Don’t drink (excessively) and text
“As with most decisions, you’re less likely to make the best ones when you’re not sober,” says Dr. Allison. “We often regret the decisions we make when we’re inebriated—especially those that cross boundaries. Put your phone away, or temporarily block a number if you feel you’re in a precarious situation.” So, yeah, definitely don’t drink and text let alone sext your ex.
5. Be mindful of when you’re sexting
It’s obviously bad form to text someone in the wee small hours of the morning with a “u up?” message. Let’s all agree to act like the adults we’re meant to be and agree to never do that. But you also would be wise to avoid sexting someone midday, especially if that person is currently living with their parents and takes her phone to many wholesome family lunches. (Ahem, that’s me.) “Unless you’ve established otherwise with your partner, aim for sending texts at later hours, when the recipient is more likely to have some privacy,” says Dr. Allison.
6. Be mindful about the photos you sext
Ultimately, it’s your choice to send whatever photos of yourself you’d like, but Dr. Allison recommends that in cases of new relationships or where you don’t know your sexting partner so well, you might want to consider framing your photos so that identifiable features (like you, know, your face) are out of the shot.
“You may also want to un-sync your phone from iPhoto and iCloud so that you don’t end up opening your laptop to some super sexy pics at….well, a super-wrong time, says Dr. Allison. “Consider erasing or safely storing your photos after they’re sent—you don’t want them to end up in the wrong hands.”
7. Adjust your text-message settings accordingly
“There’s also an option on most phones that allows you to turn off ‘preview messages,’ meaning that when a text pops up, it will display the sender’s name and not the text or imagery,” says Dr. Allison. “This is great if you’re often around others and want to play it safe.”
Now that you know how to sext safely, get ready to learn the many reasons people initiate sexting that don’t have to do with sex. And touch might be off the table, but you can still express all the love languages during social distancing.