In exchanging our world of physical connectedness for protection against the pandemic, we’ve had to make adaptations and revaluations in all spheres of our lives. While there have emerged alternatives to make up for most of our usual routines, the question of how to remain sexually active during a pandemic, can be a particularly tricky puzzle to solve. Although studies report a 20% decline in the amount of sex that people have been having, they also point out that there’s been a rise in porn viewership, consumption of sex toys, and of people trying new forms of sex than their usual, which includes the switching of sex lives to the online mode. With sexting even being described as an essential skill to survive the quarantine, the Gaysi Guide to Sexting is an inclusive guide to navigating some of the major concerns that might be holding you back from admitting defeat to your quarantine imposed celibacy and sending that risque text. (even if you’ve been sexually active, everyday you learn something no?)
What Is Sexting And What’s In It For Me?
Sexting can be defined as a consensual practice of exchanging (usually) self authored texts, images, audio recordings or videos, that reflect or are intended to arouse sexual desire. Since context is key, sexting could include anything from sending a tongue emoji to sharing subscriber-only content on OnlyFans (not that the two represent any sort of extremes). The earliest evidences of sexts have been traced by anthropologists to 30,000 BC, of erotic images in Paleolithic cave paintings. And although we’ve come a long way since then, allowing for opportunities to make instant disclosures of our desires, sexting has gained a bit of a bad rep. This can be attributed to the incessant request for “bob and vagene” pics by desi uncles on Facebook, the unsolicited sharing as well as the (body) shaming of the dick pic, along with very genuine concerns of breaches of privacy and revenge porn. The solution lies in sex education, effective communication and data privacy.
Sexting occupies a unique space in the queer community because it allows for the formation of sexual relationships despite limits to communication as a result of marginalization. Most research on sexting indicates higher incidence of sexting among the queer population. However this can also put added pressure on queer folx to engage in sexting despite their own inhibitions.
Being mindful of these blind spots, we can also focus on harnessing the benefits of sexting. Sexting has been seen as a medium to improve communication between partners, because of the general need to verbalise desires, which can be tough to talk about otherwise, and can often go overlooked in the heat of the moment. Sexting can also be an option to discover one’s own sexual identity and explore fantasies or fetishes with partners, before deciding to try them outside the virtual setting. There’s also no worries about STDs and undesired pregnancies, and in the case of a pandemic, the option of engaging in sex while maintaining physical distancing.
Tips For Great Sexting
~ Consent is Sexy
It’s always important to establish the rules of engagement before engaging in sex of any form. Legally, the age of consent for sexting as well, is 18 and anyone under would be considered a minor, with any form of “sexual” image or media produced and/or shared, being considered child pornography. However, several critics argue that these laws need to be re-defined, to protect the sexual autonomy of minors, while still holding offenders accountable.
Consent is an opportunity to confirm mutual interests in sexting, as well as to share and discuss boundaries and confidentiality, which can include conversations like expressing comfort or discomfort with sharing nudes, and if surprise sexts are okay or if scheduled sexting sessions would be better preferred.
~ Setting the mood
Provided a discussion on consent has taken place, a quick vibe check can help figure out what each partner is in the mood for and decide the tone of the sexting session. This could also be a chance to assess if a partner is alone and it’s a suitable time to be dirty talking -unless you’re being a tease.
~ Knowing your Audience
Being vocal about desires helps better understand what turns each person on. Much like using and asking for preferred pronouns reflects a queer affirmative understanding of identity, discussing what words one prefers to use for describing their body reflects a queer affirmative understanding of the body. Getting to know each other can also help develop a sexting vocabulary with phrases, nicknames and situations you can rely on to feel aroused.
~ Getting into Character
Quite often when sexting, there arises a dominant narrator who directs the flow of the conversation, based on the scenario that is being explored by the partners. But what generally makes the experience mutually satisfying is the active involvement of both/all the partners. Along with painting pictures with words, the experience is further enhanced when involving other senses like sound and touch. Paying attention to one’s words, whether it’s avoiding typos, or unsexy words like ‘sphincter’, also helps stay in character.
~ Staying in the moment
Chances are, when we’re texting we’re also doing something else on the side. And while one can choose to send sexts on and off throughout the day, a steamy conversation that captures complete attention has its own place. Having thirst trap pictures locked and loaded beforehand, getting into the details and being vocal about what each partner is doing and feeling, can help you feel like you’re in the same room despite the distance.
~ Practise Makes Perfect
Since there’s so much to discover with sexting, it’s only fair that one takes their time to develop a unique sexting voice. Looking inwards and learning more about sexy turn ons can help bring authenticity to the communication. Reading erotica can help pick up sexting vocabulary along with ideas. There’s also apps like Slutbot, which is a free tool designed to practice sexting, allowing for the user to chat with a bot based on their gender preferences, with options for penis owning and vagina owning bots, inclusive of queer interests.
Body Positivity and Taking the “Perfect” Nudes
Taking nudes can be empowering and an act of rebellion against a society that dictates what types of bodies are acceptable and attractive, or even simply deserved to be seen. That is also what makes nudity a tactic that is sometimes used as a part of public protest. However, this is not to discount the challenges that come with being naked and taking photos naked, which often requires paying conscious attention to one’s own body. A few tips that might help in embracing the “part art form, part strategic endeavor, and all pep talk” that is taking nudes, along with digitally protecting them are:
~ Discovering your body for yourself
Sometimes even looking into the mirror can be a radical act. John Berger writes in “The Ways of Seeing”, about the difference between male and female presence. While a man’s presence is dependent on the promise of power which he embodies, the surveyor of a woman in herself is male. This makes it important to ask ourselves, “Am I seeing my body through my own POV”? In trying to answer this question, we might be able to make efforts to observe our bodies for what they are, apart from definitions provided by the male gaze, which also rewards non binary identities based on their abilities to pass as cisgender. Thus discovering our bodies also acts as a way to reclaim our bodies for ourselves, helping provide self agency when picturing and capturing our bodies in the nude.
~ Finding your inspiration
Creating a mood board can provide ideas and help conceptualize how to take a nude. Finding references of bodies similar to ours may be useful in identifying what we like best about our own bodies and in assimilating flattering poses, although there doesn’t need to be any specific prototype to be adhered to. Inspiration can extend beyond reference images, as well, with music, literature and even specific eras like the vintage, being some other sources.
~ Lighting is everything
Although experimentation takes the centre stage, certain universal definitions of a good photo tend to remain true even with taking nudes. A nude photo of good quality, reflecting a certain mood and having a personality has a great appeal to it, with lighting playing an important factor. Suggestive semi nudes can be extremely hot as well, being a great way to show off what you’ve got, while leaving something to the imagination. Making use of a self timer gives room to try different poses along with the ability to direct oneself in front of the camera.
~ Face or No Face
While it is a personal choice, it’s almost always advisable to send nudes minus the face, or any other identifiable marks. Even when it’s being sent to a trusted partner, there is the risk of it being hacked by a third party. While blurring could be a way to offer some anonymity, there are certain apps which work to revert blurred images, making avoiding your face and other identifiable marks altogether, the safest option.
Phone Sex and Using Protection
~ Where is it okay to talk
According to Feminism in India, apps that are preferable for sexting are open source, offer end to end encryption, blocking of screen shots, self destructing images and do not require contact details to sign up. Although apps like Instagram and Snapchat provide the option of sending self destructing images and notifications of screenshots, they’re closely linked to one’s identity and hence might overlook security. Apps that have gotten the thumbs up from tech experts include Telegram, Signal, Line, Viber, Confide and Dust.
It is also important to be mindful of one’s physical surroundings when sending a sext. It’s best to avoid sexting when connected to a work WiFi or public WiFi.
~ Turning off cloud services
Otherwise a most convenient provision, cloud services can threaten privacy by syncing private photos, which makes them available outside of the device they were taken on. Syncing of photos to the cloud can be avoided by sending the photos after turning off sync, deleting them from the device and then re-enabling sync to back up other photos as usual. This step could be avoided if one has a strong, unique password and has set up two factor authentication wherever possible.
~ Phone security and metadata
Storing private files in encrypted secure vaults that require passwords can offer some protection. When a photo is taken on a smartphone, there’s EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) data embedded into the image file, which includes the precise location at where the picture was taken, allowing for receivers to track down the owner of the device. Apps like ViewExif and Exif Eraser can help remove this information before sharing the image. Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) hides web traffic and activity.
Red Flags and Cybercrime (TW: emotional abuse, self harm)
- Being Coercive: Any form of threats, physical or emotional, posed to pressurize another into sexting. This could include threats to self harm, shaming someone for not being “sexually liberated” or even equating sexting to a test of validity of the relationship – “If you really loved me, you would trust me with your pictures.”
- Breaching Confidentiality: When someone goes beyond the consented boundaries, which could take the form of taking screenshots or recordings without permission, sending unsolicited pictures or media, or even sharing and/or asking for non consented private photos of another person.
- Questionable Qualities: If someone comes across as misogynistic and queerphobic, it’s probably safer to avoid getting involved with them sexually, because of the inherent lack of understanding of equal rights. Some people might even display toxic traits upfront, such as pointing out flaws in another’s appearance. Sexting is an engagement that requires trust and should be enjoyable by all parties involved. Steering off of such individuals could be a healthy choice, both physically and emotionally.
Image based sexual violence, more commonly known as “revenge porn” is a form of cybercrime that involves “pattern of behaviors involving the nonconsensual creation, distribution, or threats to distribute, nude or sexual images.” Dealing with such an issue can be extremely troubling and tough, especially in a society where sex is still a taboo topic and a general response is blaming and shaming the victim for not being more careful or even expressing any form of sexual desire.
There are certain legislations in place that may still prove to be helpful. These include Sections 354, 354C, 500, and 5 09 o f the I PC all of which are in place to protect women from assault or use of criminal force to outrage her modesty, the dissemination of consented photos to third parties without her knowledge, and threats to defamation and privacy. Of course, there is the need to redefine these laws in a gender neutral context so that all citizens can enjoy their rights to privacy. The Information Technology (IT) Act o f 2000 protects individuals against the transmission of private images without consent. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act of 2012 criminalizes cybercrimes including sexting with minors. With regards to social media, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat include guidelines on reporting images that violate terms of service, which also extends to revenge porn.
Thus although sexting can be risky, there are a host of techniques to make it a more safe and fun experience. After all, what form of intimacy doesn’t come with risks? Taking our time to put our sexual impulses to words can be a way to become more mindful of our desires and those of whom we engage with – yet another transformative potential that the quarantine situation may have brought us. I’d say we give it a shot. Happy sexting and stay safe!