Sexting 101: Your Ultimate Guide

Online dating
June 15, 2020

As a steamy way to heat up your romance from a distance, sexting is a PG-13 (and sometimes X)-rated pastime for many. But if you’re new to this digital tango, you may feel nervous sending sultry texts to your partner, a potential date, or even a stranger. To make it easier, we spoke with relationship and sex experts to provide the 101 on sexting best practices. Here, everything you need to know to get those thumbs—and ahem, other things—warmed up. 

What is Sexting?

As one of those modern dating terms, ‘sexting’ is a way to describe a sexually-charged texting conversation. This means both sending and receiving flirtatious messages, as well as images. These texts may turn into role-playing and a conversation that walks through foreplay and intercourse. Or, it could be a one-off text sent in the middle of the day to your long-term partner, detailing what you intend to do later in the evening. The goal of sexting is to encourage naughty play in the future after fantasizing about it at the moment.

Should You Sext in a Relationship?

Hunter Riley, a sex educator, says there is no surefire answer to this question since it varies significantly from couple-to-couple, and from person-to-person. While some enjoy receiving love notes or kinky messages, others may be on the shyer side. If you’re both on board, though, Riley says it’s a fun way to let your partner know you’re thinking of them fondly—and often. Not only is it a compliment, but it can also provide a more natural approach to test the waters with different positions, moves, or scenarios you’d like to act out in real life. “In my classes, I teach that sexting can also be a great way to negotiate and help your partners feel comfortable about what you might do in person,” she continues. “Many people won’t like sexting because they don’t feel confident about their sexting abilities, but those can be learned in classes like the ones I teach, by reading books or by trial and error with an understanding lover.”
Los Angeles-based psychologist Dr. Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., echoes Riley’s sentiments and recommends texting to express what you need from your partner. Especially in a long-term romance where you may be guilty of taking one another for granted, sexting opens up a new part of your dynamic. “If you and your partner are getting complacent in your relationship, sexting can be a way to bring some romance and passion back into it,” she shares. “You might also want to sext your partner if you want to bring more spark and sizzle into the relationship no matter how little or long you’ve been together.”

Is Sexting Cheating?

‘Yes,’ ‘no,’ ‘maybe,’ ‘probably,’ ‘depends’ and ‘sometimes’ are all answers to this common question. If you’re in a relationship with one person, but you would like to send dirty messages to another person, it’s important to be clear on your intentions with both pirates. While some may not considering digital flirting to be cheating, others may find it very hurtful. “It’s a good idea to very clearly negotiate with your partners what you both consider to be cheating,” Riley advises. “You and your partner have to have these conversations to determine what feels like the right understanding that everyone involved feels okay with.”

How Do You Sext?

Ready to test our your sexting skills? These tips will set up the scene: 

Ask before you start sexting.

Or, in other words: don’t send a nude photo of yourself to your partner, a new person you’re dating, or really, anyone, without asking for their permission. As Riley explains, it can be off-putting if the person is having a bad day, not in the mood, and suddenly, confronted with an explicit message. She suggests opening up with: ‘I was just thinking about you and something I really want to try with you next time we’re along. Are you in a space where you’d like to hear it?’ This technique gives someone the ability to opt-in or opt-out, dependent on mood. 

Think carefully about your language.

Though sexting’s intent is to turn up the heat, you should also do your best to be comfortable and confident. After all, no one wants someone who asks, ‘Is that okay?’ every other text. Instead, Riley suggests coming up with the type of vocabulary that you and your partner enjoy and appreciate. “Some people love the ‘pussy,’ and some people hate it. Once you know which words to avoid and which words to add in, that can help you feel a bit more eager,” she shares.

Focus on what turns you both on.

One easy way to start your sexting conversation is to ask your partner what they desire, what they like, and what gets him or her going. Riley recommends exploring questions like these:

  • Do they fantasize in great detail about every touch, kiss, and rub? 
  • Or do they like a larger story with impressive scenery and sex on a rooftop? 
  • Or do they want you to tell them what you’re doing to do with them the next time you see them?

Since everyone likes different parts of fantasy, if you know where to focus, it makes it more enjoyable for all. And don’t forget to ask for what you need, too. Dr. Thomas says one-way sexting can leave one half of the party feeling empty, upset, or dismissed. It can also cause internal doubts, so make sure it’s reciprocated. “Sexting should be an activity done by both partners to make each one feel more attractive and attracted to each other,” she adds.

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