We’ve all heard what techno-alarmists say about sexting: that it’s shameful, deviant, exploitative, and just stupid. But in many ways, it’s a new genre of personalized erotica. Now, everyone is her own author and illustrator with the ability to create provocative, graphic stories for herself and her object of desire.
Think of sexting as the latest chapter in a long history of lovers living out their relationships through written correspondence. In the ’40s, feminist Simone de Beauvoir wrote how she could actually feel her romantic scribblings physically: “Writing to you is like kissing you,” she wrote to her long-distance love, Nelson Algren. She went on: “I’ll be there. … In the sad streets of Chicago … in the lonely room, I’ll be with you.” By putting pen to paper, she inserted herself into Algren’s routines in much the same way that, today, sexting’s intimacy worms its way into our most mundane situations.
Imagine Christmas spent at your parents’ house — sitting around the tree, opening presents — underscored with naughty texts from your boyfriend. Or an image of his naked torso appearing in the middle of dinner. Everyday life is made more thrilling by such never-ending foreplay where you’re secretly bathed in the physical advances of his texts. We write our own love stories all day long, no matter where we are — passcode lock recommended.
To sext is also to meet your partner in a portable erotic classroom — a place where you communicate your needs and desires — so by the time you’re in bed together, you know each others’ deepest fantasies without having to say a word. Our iMessages give us permission to dream big and dare to dream with another person.
Of course, trust is essential. You probably don’t want to engage in this kind of erotica with a guy who shortly after exchanging numbers requests a picture of your tits or any idiot who sends you a Snapchat of his penis after only a few brief exchanges. Bad sexters are like bad lovers — a huge disappointment. But they shouldn’t turn you off to the act entirely.
Good sexters know that the advantage to putting our thoughts into words is that we can stop, think, edit, or erase entirely. We have time. And it’s often time that is the biggest turn-on. While de Beauvoir was always at the mercy of the mail, now our anticipation peaks within a few minutes. How arousing it is to watch that gray bubble, its row of three periods pulsing, telling you that your guy has re-thought his text, erased it, is perhaps biting his lip, designing the perfect phrase, or filtering the hottest pic before he finally hits Send.
Entering into a written sexual fantasy with someone you trust isn’t some newfangled concept to fear. Take James Joyce, the Irish novelist. “My sweet little whorish Nora,” he wrote to his lover in 1909, “I did as you told me … and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter.” How intimate a thing to tell someone to masturbate to your writings! And how intimate still to tell someone you actually did it.Twice. Nora was a woman ahead of her time. Just think what she could have done with emoji.