Thus far, 2020 feels like the producers of Black Mirror made a season of The Circle, except we can FaceTime and no one wins. We are self-isolating for our survival, and for some (like those who live alone), participating in TikTok dance crazes is their only semblance of social interaction.

If your love language is physical touch, you may be struggling to find an alternative to get you through what could be a very long, very lonely period. Whether you’re in a long-distance relationship, a situationship or simply have a regular Friday-to-Sunday Hinge rotation, the next few weeks (or months?) might be the perfect time to brush up on a lost form of communication previously relegated to the DM: the sext.

With the help of Kristina Virro, an Ontario-based registered psychotherapist, I’ve come up with a few tips to get sexting beginners on the right track. 

How do I initiate sexting?

Assuming that you’ve already established mutual interest, the first step here is to verify that the person you want to sext is both a) open to sexting and b) a responsive texter. There is no silence more deafening than the one that accompanies the wait for a response, so this step is key to ensuring you don’t induce anxiety – and waste your valuable quarantine time.

My go-to sext starter is always something to the effect of “I miss you… What would we be doing if you were with me right now?” It’s suggestive but not explicit, and it gives the recipient the option of a platonic response (“Hmm, I dunno…playing Settlers of Catan?”) or something a little more risqué. If they respond with anything like the former, or if they take too long to respond, RETREAT! They are either not picking up on your hints or they are not that interested in having this type of exchange. Save your thumb energy and move on.

I have no idea what to say! How do I keep the conversation going?

If you manage to get past that first hurdle, take baby steps. Sexting can make people feel vulnerable, so if it’s the first time you and a partner are trying it, you should take it slow to make sure everyone is comfortable.

“This might not be the time to share your dirtiest, darkest fantasy or fetish,” says Virro. “If the other person gives positive feedback, you can consider ‘upping the ante’ over time. Err on the side of caution and ‘read the room’ when possible.”

You can gauge your partner’s headspace by prompting them with memories of times past. (“Remember when I…and then you…?”) It’s an easy way to make your intentions known while giving your partner easy, top-of-mind options to respond with. Alternatively, Virro suggests using the theme of what you’re going to do to each other once you’re able to have physical contact again. “Wanting what you can’t have – i.e., being in physical contact with your partner right now – can increase feelings of desire. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter in your brain that’s associated with reward and pleasure, continually rises the longer you have to wait for a desire or craving to be fulfilled. So, rest assured that when you see your crush or significant other in person, it will feel extremely satisfying.”

Keep in mind that this is not a Nicholas Sparks novel; there’s no need to take yourself too seriously here. Aim to find a balance between detailed and concise. If all goes well, the same connection you have in person will carry over via text and you’ll have given yourself a whole new self-isolation pastime. Pro tip: Spellcheck before you send, and don’t get lazy with short forms! There is nothing less sexy than the word “ur.”

Do I have to send nudes?

My answer to the nudes question is almost always “no.” Too many terrible experiences have left me with little faith in technology to safekeep images of my wobbly bits and even less faith in the millenni-boy who asked me to show him images of my goods. That said, if you want to (and no judgment here), the number one rule of nudes etiquette is plausible deniability. Never – I repeat, never – send a nude photo of yourself that includes your face. If at all possible, do not include recognizable features, like tattoos, birthmarks and piercings, either.

You should be doing this (at least in part) for your own sexual gratification, so you have to remember to put yourself first. You might think Chad from Hinge would never share your intimate moments with anyone after your five amazing dates, but how do you know he’s not the type to write down his phone password on a Post-it note? Don’t risk it. It’s the neck down or nothing.

This advice applies to those in relationships as well. When asked about sending nude photos, Ashley (not her real name), a twentysomething from Toronto who has been in a long-distance relationship for five years, says: “My boyfriend has a special [hidden] folder of all the pics/videos I’ve sent him. I know he would never do anything with them, even if we broke up, but just to be safe, 95 percent of them don’t show my face.”

Don’t let Instagram stories or Snapchat lull you into a false sense of security: A screenshot lasts forever.

My partner wants me to send sexy photos and texts, but I’m really not into it! What should I do?

Virro invites us to reflect on what is motivating us to send a sext or nude. “Is it because you’re trying to appease someone?” she says. “Are you worried that they’ll lose interest if you don’t? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes,’ consider setting an explicit boundary instead.” It’s up to you, and only you, to decide what you do and don’t feel comfortable with when it comes to sex – and that includes sexting and sending nudes. “If you don’t feel comfortable, it is your right to say so. If you don’t want to do something, you don’t want to do something. Period.”

My last piece of advice is simply a reminder that the internet is a weird place and to trust strangers sparingly. Self-isolation is going to be a strange time for us all, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use it to explore new ways to keep in touch. (Get it? Because we can’t?…too soon?) If you want to sext, I say go for it – just remember to be safe, make sure everyone is consenting and take it slow. Who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire you to become the next E. L. James.


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