Sexting with a partner can be thrilling. It can also be nerve-raking. How can you be sure they're the only one who will see a racy pic? What if they send you a nude photo, but you don't feel comfortable returning the favor? What's the appropriate way to respond if you like what you see? And what if you get a nude pic that's not appreciated?
Sending and receiving nude photos can be amazing, but only if everyone is on the same page. "In terms of pictures, consent and communication are needed as they are in all sexual interactions, off or online," says Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., a sex therapist, psychologist, and author of Becoming Cliterate.
Here's how to handle every sexting situation that comes your way.
Situation 1: Your partner asks for a nude photo
First things first: It's completely up to you if you're willing to get naked in front of the camera. (If full-on nudity isn't your thing, you might try something more subtle like underwear or even just a t-shirt.)
Second, be aware that sending a nude photo always entails some risk, says Mintz. The question to ask yourself is, “How sure are you this would not be someone who would show these photos to someone else or post them in revenge if you break up?” she says. "You need to be aware that trust can be broken."
To practice safer sexting, at the very least, add a passcode to your phone and have your partner do the same. Cropping your face out of any photos also helps to minimize privacy concerns. To really be protected, consider using an encrypted app like DiscKreet which adds an extra layer of protection to your peace of mind. Messages and photos sent between partners in the app require two passwords to open at any given time—in other words, you have to give your consent every time a partner wants to view your photos.
Situation 2: You want to send a nude photo to someone
You're comfortable enough with someone to take your texting to the next level? Awesome. Just make sure they're on board, too, since not everyone has the same comfort level.
Rule number one: Always ask before sending an unsolicited racy photo. "If they reply with enthusiasm, you’ve got the green light," says Astroglide's resident sexologist Jess O'Reilly, Ph.D. "If they say no or sound unsure, respect their boundaries. Sexting can be hot, but there are many other hot activities in which to engage if it’s not your partner’s cup of tea."
Situation 3: You want your partner to send a nude photo
When you're asking for a photo, the same rules apply: make sure your partner enthusiastically consents before engaging in any nude photo exchange. Mintz recommends a simple, clear request like “I’d love to get a picture of your XX.”
Most importantly, don't pressure them, and don't take it personally if they say "no," says O'Reilly. They may be concerned about privacy or just not feel comfortable with it, but that doesn't reflect how they feel about you.
Situation 4: You get a photo you like but aren't sure where to take it from there
Sexting can be fantastic foreplay—it can also be a little awkward to get the hang of. Once you get a sexy photo from your partner, it's not uncommon to draw a blank on what to say next, especially if this is a new activity for you or your partner.
Spoiler alert: "Nice!" probably won't cut it. Taking a mental health day to binge watch Game of Thrones is nice. Scoring the last spot in your favorite SoulCycle class is nice. When someone get's vulnerable enough to share a nude photo, you can do better than nice.
Don't overthink it, says O'Reilly. "Let them know what you like about the photo and how it makes you feel," says O'Reilly. You could even tell them what you want to do with whatever body part you're seeing. If you're shy, a flirty emoji can be a more comfortable option.
Whatever your response, don't feel obligated to send your own nudes in return. There are other ways to reciprocate if sending a pic makes you uncomfortable.
Situation 5: You get an(other) unsolicited dick pic
Sending unsolicited photos is sexual harassment—full stop.
It's the digital equivalent of flashing someone on the street, so no, you don't have to be polite if someone on Tinder sends you an unwanted photo of their junk. If this is an ongoing occurrence, O'Reilly suggests reaching out to a friend for support. "Being harassed online can take a toll on your physical and mental health, sense of safety, and relationships," she says. Know that feeling angry, threatened or fearful in response to unsolicited sexts is completely valid.
To avoid hearing from the person again, Mintz suggests blocking them or saying something very clear like, “Do not send me any more pictures. This is a form of sexual harassment and I will report you to the police.” You can also actually report them to the police—there are laws around how nude photos are shared. Ultimately, it's your decision how you respond. "It’s up to you to decide if you’d like to mute, block, report, or reply," says O'Reilly.