Strangers on the internet asking for you snapchat is, in my experience, universal code for ‘send nudes’. Whether you do or don’t send naked pictures of yourself to people you do or don’t know – you have my respect… so long as you do so respectfully and always with consent. Without spending too long dwelling on these ‘unprecedented times’, I imagine the internet void, or The Cloud is probably brimming with dicks, tits, and all other anatomical ‘best bits’ as the internet is currently the only place we can ‘flaunt it’ so-to-speak. This is by no means a bad thing in and of itself; viva la nip is all I’m saying. For some, sending nudes is incredibly empowering, for others it can feel more awkward and embarrassing than sexy. Also, ‘sexting’ is not always as simple as the exchange of images, there’s dialogue involved as well – a virtual dirty talk that tends to fall weirdly flat without the sighing, panting, moaning and , all the other more visceral aspects of sex that, honestly, just cannot be replicated through Snapchat (or whatever sexting medium you use).
One fairly obvious lesson I have learned of late is that my phone is nowhere near as private as my bedroom. There may be a lock-screen and passcode, something I wish my door had at the moment, but that doesn’t stop texts from relatives appearing on my screen mid-mischief (I’ll spare you the detail). There’s also, of course, the danger posed by having so many names crammed into a list; what if you send something to the wrong person? Which, besides being super embarrassing for yourself, comes as a shock to the recipient since I think it’s safe to assume that unsolicited nudes are never sexy in a ‘spontaneous way’ – they’re just invasive. It’s the virtual equivalent to men in trench coats flashing passers by just without the immediate physical threat, but still creepy.
Other potential awkwardness in the virtual bedroom can stem from the minor details like slow Wifi (buffering nudes ://) to the experience as a whole. If I’ve learned anything it’s that sexting strangers I meet on Tinder is no where near as good as with someone you actually know well like a long-distance romantic partner, for example. I find myself wondering “what does their voice sound like?” or “what if they smell really bad in real life?” and mostly “would I be attracted to this person if I met them in the flesh?” because, in my experience, it is impossible to gauge sexual chemistry through words, or images, on a screen. I’m at the stage of lockdown where I’ve forgotten what human touch feels like to the point where ‘sexting’ has become, to me, pointless when I don’t have the sensory data to actually imagine what that feels like – or maybe I’m just not trying very hard.
The flipside to all the awkwardness, the obvious risks, and the inescapable fact that it will never be as good as the real thing is that sexting can be strangely empowering. That obviously depends on your personal relationship with nudity – as they say, showcasing one’s body is wonderful for some whilst modesty is empowering for others. As someone who lives in crop tops, mesh clothing, and tiny shorts, I’d say I am the type that enjoys nudity, or semi-nudity, and therefore have not been shy about taking and sending pictures in the past. I have a right to be comfortable in my body, especially my naked body, and how I exercise that is my own business – the same goes for everybody else. In spite of legislation and support networks that now help those who have fallen victim to revenge porn, or a general leaking of images, the potential risks haven’t gone away. I read something recently that suggested not including your face, or any identifiable birthmarks, in any photos can be a simple rule of thumb in terms of protecting yourself.
There’s also been some advice out there on what to do if someone is pressuring you into sending nudes/sexting etc. which I’d like to reiterate here: consent is just as important online as it is offline. Always ask, and if the answer is no the answer is NO and that much is final. No further discussion is needed. This is as non-negotiable as someone saying ‘no’ in real life – I don’t know if some people require a voice-note because they can’t read or what but seriously ‘no means no’ wherever you are. So, send nudes, don’t send nudes, sext or don’t sext – do whatever makes you happy, and whatever you need to maintain connections with long-distance partners, or to stay sane at a time when sexts are the closest most of us are going to get to physical intimacy in the coming months.
Olivia Duval’s artwork can be found on Instagram @livduvaldrawings