Sexting is the 21st century version of phone sex – and ELLE Canada readers are dialled in. Some 65% of women who answered our ELLE Canada Sex and Relationship Survey have tried sexting. About 80% said they thought sending naughty photos, vids or texts could be good for a relationship— and 78% found it empowering.
Experts agree. “It's a legitimate form of sexual expression that takes advantage of the technology that we have at our fingertips,” says Lara Karaian, an associate professor at Carleton University who studies cybersex and law. “We tend to trivialize sexual expression as less important than social, emotional, economic qualities of life, but our daily fulfillment is a big part of our overall fulfillment.”
Sexting can also help women reclaim their right to sexual pleasure. “It gives women more control over their sexuality,” says Erin Watson, who studies sexuality at the University of Guelph. “In the bedroom or even just socially there’s a lot of ‘dress this way’ or ‘act this way’ and it’s all dictated by what men want.”
WHO ARE WE SEXTING… AND WHY?
Almost half of us (47%) are sexting our partners or spouses. Another 27% are send these messages to a current boyfriend or girlfriend; 12% are beeping their casual dating partners and another 9% sexting their exes (eye roll). Very rarely are we texting with strangers we met online or via dating apps. As for the reasons? There are many, but mostly we’re sexting to shake up a current relationship (29%); tease someone sexually (19%) or to communicate sexual desires (17%).
Sexting also builds up anticipation: Say you’re doing the long-distance thing or won’t see each other until Saturday date night; a few saucy photos and sentences can help heighten your desire. On a deeper level, sexting may also help us communicate things we want in bed that we’re often too shy to share face-to-face. “It’s a whole different thing to talk dirty. In some ways it’s actually more vulnerable,” says Karaian. “Doing it from a distance, by phone, could help people play a little bit more and feel less anxious.”
If you’re new to sexting, do what feels comfortable. “So often woman go beyond what feels pleasurable and desirable for them because they’re more concerned with what everybody else is doing,” says Watson. “Listen to your body. Does this feel good to you? Does it turn you on? Do you want it? And let that dictate what you want to say.”
PRACTISE SAFE SEXTING
About 20% of ELLE Canada readers had a negative experience with sexting – mostly because they felt they weren’t good at it or that the person to whom they were sexting didn’t respond well to the message. Other reasons we gave it the thumb’s down? Some felt forced to sex when they didn’t want to; others had their sexts shared without their permission and a small percentage were bullied or shamed for sexting.
If your sexts are shared without your permission (known as revenge porn, for which people can now be held criminally responsible), remember you are not at fault. “It’s only damaging because we allow it to be damaging,” says Karaian, who decries the moral panic that surrounds sexting. “There’s nothing wrong with being sexual or expressing that sexuality. The fault comes with those individuals who violated your trust and consent.”
There are ways to practise safe sexting that can maintain your anonymity. Try cropping your head out of the photo and trying an angle that doesn’t show off your very unique tattoo or the flamingo wallpaper in your bathroom.