My tryst with sexting began at the end of high school. It was a simpler time. Armed with nothing more than a ‘base model’ Nokia phone and a 385 SMS BSNL prepaid plan, I set out into the fantasy land between two asterisk marks. In time, the marks were gone and the texts took off, unhindered. The words flowed free, wild and imaginative. This was also the time when Fifty Shades of Grey became uber-famous, beating even The Bible at a point, in sales. This newly cultivated taste for erotica eventually brought me to authors like Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, Madhuri Banerjee and of course, Literotica.
Sexting then became art. Anything was possible in this co-authored fantasy landscape. We could be anyone, anywhere. Play out our deepest, fabulous, even impossible fantasies and fetishes in the seamless fabric of imagination. Transitioning between acts and spaces had an ease and speed unhindered by the practicalities of real sex. One second we could be by a fire in a deserted cabin in the woods, and the next, under the stars, with the the Himalayan foothills in the distance. There was no need to pause, fidget, scoot over or wait. It was almost magical.
The very fluid, imaginative nature of it, for me, was the best aspect to sexting. There was no performance pressure involved. No fear of whether your naked self was attractive enough. Whether you’d finish too early, go flaccid, or underperform. The very pass-the-ball, participatory structure of sexting not only made it easier for me to understand the other person’s desires better, but also explore my own in the process. It took away the false pressure on me, as a man, to be expected to blindly dominate every time. Sharing the visual language of my body opened me up to owning and embodying the kind of sex I hadn’t known I wanted or had been ashamed to ask for. It added new dimensions to my sexuality.
“Because it combines the word and the body in a way which encourages self-reflection and sexual self-regard, sexting has the potential to break down barriers of shame surrounding desires and the body’s appearance, especially among those who have felt pressured to look and act a certain way.” – Jene Gutierrez
More importantly, it was a safe environment. Both (or more) consenting partners could drive, be driven and most importantly, stop. As a young, bisexual cis-male experimenting with his sexuality, this was important for me. I could try out things from the safety of room, through a screen, and stop whenever I was uncomfortable. It’s sandbox sex. You have the power to shift tracks and express your discomfort or even say no and stop. There was no way the other person could overpower you or physically coerce you into something you wouldn’t want to do.
Sexting led me to owning and embodying the kind of sex I hadn’t known I wanted or had been ashamed to ask for.
And of course, there were the advantages of intimacy building, using it as foreplay, helping each other out over long distances. Done right, it could happen any time, anywhere. *insert wink*
But is it really safe?
When done right and responsibly, yes. On the surface it takes away all the potential risks of sex. No unwanted pregnancies, STIs or even that additional expenditure to “get a room” or find a safe space – especially in an ultra-conservative India. And it is almost just as fulfilling.
However, it is definitely an exercise in trust and vigilance. Often, sexting isn’t limited to just text – although that is perfectly ok. In fact, in some ways, withholding your identity and appearance can be a fun, liberating experience, in addition to being safe. But when images and videos of your naked self are involved, there is always the risk of it being leaked or circulated, or saved in devices beyond a period you are comfortable letting the person see your body (such as, in the event of a break up).
Receiving an unsolicited and unexpected sext, especially one of a graphic, sexual nature, can, I can only imagine, be quite the ordeal.
So what do we do?
Follow safe sexting practices. Here is a list of things I can suggest based on my personal experience. Always remember that sexting gives you immense power to assert yourself, with the least risks. So make sure that you lay your own ground rules and limits, based on what you are comfortable with and your degree of trust. These are just some pointers:
1. DO NOT SEND UNSOLICITED DICK PICS. That is plain gross. I know we think it is a work of art, but trust me, no one wants to see our schlongs if they haven’t specifically, directly, asked us for it. Let’s keep that art in our pants. It’s not even a sext. It’s a crime.
2. Sexting is an act of trust. It’s intimate and personal. Don’t betray your partner(s)’ trust and share their images/videos. That is not just plain horrible, but also a punishable crime.
3. Try not to ever share photos or videos with your face in it. Insist that raunchy video calls happen over laptops/PCs. Screenshots are easier over phone. Plus you’d be able to tell better if you’re being recorded of if someone else is there in the room.
4. Another really useful tip is sending nudes over the “View once” feature in Instagram or Snapchat. It will give you notifications if the other person has taken a screenshot. Or use an app like Dust or Confide. In addition to encryption, messages that disappear after 24 hours (or immediately after they’re read — up to you), and notification if anyone takes a screenshot, Dust also gives you the ability to erase your messages off of someone else’s phone.
Finally, it is all about trust. Use your judgement and keep yourself safe. Always remember that you have a right to say no, and you should never prioritise someone else’s feelings over your own safety and what you are comfortable with.
Am I protected by law?
Leaking and sharing naked images and sexts is a criminally punishable offense. Section 67 and 67A of the IT act prohibit the distribution of sexually explicit material. Section 66E of the same act deals with punishment for violation of privacy, and explicitly forbids capturing, publishing or transmitting ‘the image of a private area of any person without his or her (sic) consent’.
You can be put behind bars under under sections 500 and 506 of IPC and sections 66E and 67A under the IT act. These cases are now processed in fast track courts with speedy justice delivery and offer you complete anonymity.
Lastly, “But what if I’m bad at sexting?”
Relax, you don’t have to be a world class writer or an erotica geek to express yourself. Sexting is all about giving voice to your thoughts. You have the freedom to be yourself. It is fundamentally meant to be a liberating process. Maybe you feel like you don’t know what you like. Or you haven’t had sex before and you feel ‘inexperienced’. Maybe you feel ashamed to say something or ask for something. It is all ok. We’ve all felt that way. I know I have. And most probably, so does the person you are sexting with.
I could try out things from the safety of room, through a screen, and stop whenever I was uncomfortable.
The simplest and only way around it, is to admit it and be honest. Sexting is meant to be a liberating, exploratory process. Use it to explore yourself too. So what if you feel like you don’t know what you want? Go with the flow. Say whatever it makes you feel, think. Feel free to experiment. Wander, wild and free and fearlessly. You can always sway the story out of something if it doesn’t end up being appealing to you. And trust me, over time, not only would you be good at sexting per se, but with the willingness to be transformed by what you discover – you’d have added so many shades to your phenomenal sexual self.
Featured Image Credit: Childsafenet