Tuesday, 18 December 2012

On Sexting and Assumed Consent

sexting, along with sexy emails, are something i am in theory totally down for - they are an extension of our sexual expression and experience, additional ways in which we can engage with each other in hot and enjoyable ways.

that said, i have often felt violated upon receiving these messages; here are some of my thoughts on why that happens and what to do about it.

when we send a sexy message, it is a reflection of the space that we are in: likely kinda horny, thinking about sex and/or about the person we are messaging, and potentially not distracted by or focused on other things such as work, family, self-care, or other aspects of daily life. that's great! but the person receiving the message is fairly likely to be focusing on something else at that moment.
in the same way that we are thoughtful of our partners(s) emotional, physical, and mental mood/desire/consent/space in our face-to-face (or preferred position) intimate time , we need to take these things into account before hitting send buttons.

if i had just had an emotionally heated conversation with my mother and then you and i are alone together, what's the first thing you'd do? probably ask me how i'm doing, we would talk about the situation for a bit (if i needed/wanted to), and then potentially, if body language, verbal consent, or 'vibes' seemed right, we might slowly begin to move towards sexual intimacy. the fact that we are in the same space allows for us to use many tools and levels of intuition to asses each other's boundaries and emotional states.
those same signals aren't inherently present in text land, and we need to be cognizant of this.
if i am having that same conversation with my mother and hear the little 'bring' of a new message, and distractedly read "i was just touching myself and thinking of you," i will feel not only awkward, but thrust into a type of interaction i am not in the mood for and do not consent to.

i truly want sexy messages to be part of my healthy sexual relationships, but i've found that most of the time i am so caught off guard by the sudden assumed intimacy that i feel violated, upset, and disgusted by the person who sent it. i don't want to feel this way at all, let alone about someone that i trust and have generally positive and sexy feelings about!

so here's my plea:
keep being sexy. keep being sex positive and expressing yourself in ways that work for you and your partners, but ease into sexting in the same way you ease into sex. check in on what your message recipient is up to, since you aren't around to see. consider writing something like "i'm having sexy thoughts about you, would you like me to share?"
it might feel awkward and like it wrecks the spontaneity that makes sexting fun, but remember that those are the same arguments that many people make the first time they learn about the importance of explicit consent for physical sex. once you get used to it, it will enhance your experiences and relationships by ensuring that folks feel respected and are accountable to their needs and desires.

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