Khana Tillman

I Tried Sexting For The First Time & I Learned So Much

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Sexting is a touchy subject. With every whoosh of a text sent, control goes with it. The risk factor can be part of the appeal of sending a risqué sext, but the actual enjoyment of it depends on a sense of trust and understanding. When I tried sexting for the first time after my partner moved across the country I came away from it feeling entirely unenthused. Do I say c*ck? Would I actually like my neck bitten? How do I feel about leather?

That first time, I pulled on a frayed Yosemite t-shirt and sat cross-legged against my headboard, a cup of chamomile tea in one hand and my phone in the other. I began drafting messages. Nothing seemed right about the situation — my phone screen was cracked, my cat was pawing wildly at the door and I was attempting to forcibly crank out graphic prose. This is all absurd, I remember thinking of the over-the-top sexual declarations I was making while bundled in blankets. The sensation could only be described as a very strange kind of writer’s block.

I have always loved the written word and valued a clever turn of phrase, but when it came to this kind of context, I found that an appreciation for language did not necessarily translate into a cascade of steamy text messages. At the beginning, what I typed didn't just feel ridiculous. It didn’t feel like me at all.

It took a few tries to really settle into my rhythm and find exactly what I liked rather than emulating what I thought was expected of me. Then, slowly but surely, sexting took on an entirely new life in my long-distance relationship. It became a way for me to say exactly what I wanted, what I would like to do and what I thoroughly enjoyed about being intimate with my partner. I reveled in the build up, with every text more graphic than the last. Steamy descriptions and delicious one-liners lit up my phone, and just like that, I started to crave them.

It took some practice and quite a few candid talks with my partner about what I liked to reframe sexting in a way that celebrated my wants and needs rather than regurgitating the language of a tired erotica novel. For anyone that is nervous, racked with stress and trying to fit a mold of sexting set up by other people, here is how I completely revamped my sexting experience.

Talk About It

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Silence just begets more silence. When it comes to what I need, in the bedroom or otherwise, it has been paramount to talk about it openly and unabashedly. In this way, long-distance has been a sort of communication boot camp that relies on total clarity, attentive listening and a whole mess of logistical planning.

I called my partner over FaceTime and we ironed out the basics. Time difference permitting, we liked to talk in the late evenings after work. If any pictures were sent, they were to be secured in a locked folder (more on this later) and everything would be kept off the iCloud. I like a long build up and vivid description, and before we started I made sure that all of this was aired out in the open. Talking about sexting, especially when in a long distance relationship, might feel like it could take the spontaneity out of the act, but I found the totally opposite to be true.

What are you in the mood for? Does this do something for you? Are you not feeling it right now? are questions I regularly ask in this context. Some of these conversations about boundaries and preferences were arguably the most sexy for me and my partner (there's nothing like having someone listen attentively while you describe what you want and how you want it), and often acted as a kind of foreplay in itself. The notion that talking about sex is inherently unsexy only leads to poor communication, fumbles and avoidable stress.

Be Honest About What You Like (& Dislike)

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What do you like? What do they like? Think about your tastes, because when it just you and your phone, you have the luxury of really simmering with your own sexuality. Does any mention of hair-pulling make you feel warm and fuzzy all over? Tell your partner to bring that into the conversation (I did). Are there names that make you feel uncomfortable or take you way out of the moment? Have an open discussion about striking them from the sexting lexicon! When you are leaning into role-playing, kinks or fantasies there should be no shame or judgment. You like what you like!

Sexting allows you the freedom to explore these things in a safe and controlled environment. It is profoundly empowering to know what you like in bed, to feel confident about your body and share that with another person. Sexting can be body-positive, kinky and deliciously intense all at the same time. It offers up a sense of autonomy and reflection that sometimes gets muddled when you are face to face. When your phone is the only tool, clarity is key.

Practice Safe Sexting

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On the road to empowered sexting, some tech smarts are critical. With all our devices now synched up, text streams that start on your phone can end up making a dramatic (and often unwanted) appearance elsewhere. In order to ensure you are not accidentally exposing your intimate bits to your entire family while you scroll through vacation photos, it is best to use locked folders (it is easiest to download a plug-in that works with your iPhone or Android) or PIN-protected apps (like Private Photo Vault).

For me, this simple step was the difference between unshakable anxiety and total ease. Just like the best sex is always rooted in trust, safety and enthusiastic consent every step of the way, the same can be said of sexting.

I found that sexting was a process of trial and error. At the beginning, I felt like I was fumbling and being disingenuous to myself, which translated into unneeded stress. Now, it feels like a natural extension of my everyday life. It can be a way to de-stress or get in touch with my body or a playful 15-minute exchange on my commute. When my partner moved across the country, sexting became a way to excite one another from afar. It just took finding what worked uniquely for us.

There is no right or wrong way to do it, so don’t let anyone try to dictate the expectations to you. Instead, talk openly with your partner about it — and then just have fun.