Jun 05 , 2021
In a time when physical intimacy is riskier than usual and feelings of loneliness seem pretty universal, it’s more important than ever to find creative sexual and intimate outlets. Virtual sex can be “a nice option for a lot of people (because) it can kind of provide an avenue for connection with another person in a way that is a little bit safer.” Virtual sex isn’t for everyone but can be an option for intimacy when in-person sex isn’t safe.
In a study about COVID-19 and sexual wellbeing, the researchers reported “Total abstinence and self-gratification can be the safest measures, but not always practically feasible… People can be encouraged to engage in digital sex (such as sexting or video sex), with an eye for the safety concerns. The mutual consent of the partners is, however, an essential consideration.” Let’s talk about some of the considerations around virtual sex like boundaries, safety precautions, and how to get the most fun out of it!
DISCUSS BOUNDARIES BEFORE GETTING HOT AND HEAVY
Just as with in-person sex, it is essential to establish boundaries, rules, terms of consent, and safe words.
First, you should assess your own comfort level. How much do you trust this partner(s)? What are you comfortable sending; text, video chat, phone calls, photos, videos? How will you mitigate risk of leaked virtual sex (we’ll talk about risk reduction later!)? Are you willing to risk your words/photos being potentially exposed, even if you take every precaution? Is the risk/benefit worth it? When you and your partner(s) have assessed these questions independently, you can move on to discussing them together. This can feel awkward but if you aren’t comfortable enough setting boundaries with a partner, you shouldn’t be getting intimate with them. Discussing boundaries may help you feel more comfortable overall because you don’t need to worry whether or not your partner(s) into something you want to share or if they might accidentally say something that would upset or trigger you. I find that discussing boundaries beforehand makes me feel a lot more comfortable because I don’t have to worry if they’re into something I want to share or if they’ll accidentally trigger me.
Here are some potential boundaries you might want to consider:
Some things I enjoy are ______. Some things I do not enjoy are _______.
To build on this, set your “soft limits” and “hard limits.” The former is something you’re not actively interested but might consider if a partner was into it. The latter is something you are not willing to do under any circumstance.
No sharing any content with outsiders without explicit permission from the participating partner(s).
When and how you want to initiate virtual sex
Define what sorts of content (e.g. the medium used, the fantasies referenced)you are open to sharing and what you are open to receiving from your partner(s).
NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU TRUST YOUR PARTNER(S), TAKE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
It makes the most sense, in terms of mitigating the risk of a breach of trust, to engage in virtual sex with someone you have a history with and who you know you trust. That being said, even best laid plans may go awry; it’s not fun to think about, we realize. What if in a few months you and your partner(s) have a messy fight or breakup? How certain are you that they wouldn’t seek revenge by violating the boundaries you discussed? This is why, even with your most trusted partners, you should consider safety precautions. Here are some ideas:
Using an encrypted, safe app from the outset is the easiest way to protect your data. While Apple values privacy and does a decent job at securing your data (Android not as much), all messages in iMessage are automatically synced to the cloud. Your best bet for sending photos is to use encrypted service when sending nudes or when video chatting like Signal or Telegram. After sending a piece of sensitive media, you may opt to store it in a password protected app like these or delete it entirely.
Do not show your face in photos; you can either blur it or crop it out. Note that some blurring can be undone by certain software. Check out this article by Vice discussing how to fully censor your face in an irreversible way. Additionally, consider editing out/excluding any identifiable markings like birthmarks or tattoos. Make sure that there is nothing that will identify you in the background like papers with your name on it.
“Code” your photos with a different color or filter for each sexual partner you are sending them to. This way, in the event that it is leaked, you will know who did it.
Unless you have set boundaries to account for this beforehand, don’t sext when you’re under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs such as marijuana because your judgment is impaired in this state and you might regret something you said or did in the morning.
For more safety precautions, check out this thorough article. This may seem like a lot of work and it can be; you can choose to take one, some, all, or none of these precautions. Just remember that if you choose not to implement every security measure, you are at higher risk of having your nudes, with identifiable information that can be traced back to you, leaked publicly. It sounds scary when you’re digesting all these safeguards at once, and there is no foolproof way to exchange sensitive content, but with a few simple tweaks in your routine, you can minimize your risk.
HAVE FUN WITH IT!
Of course, having just discussed setting boundaries and putting safety measures in place, sexting can feel overwhelmingly risky which might make you feel like it’s not worth it. That’s a personal decision for you to make, but it is possible to have safe and fun virtual sex! The best part of virtual sex, in this author’s opinion, is that it’s the best of both partnered sex and masturbation! You get the intimacy and thrill of engaging with another person sexually while satisfying yourself (if you choose to do so) by masturbating, and who knows your body better than you? Here are some ways to get the most out of your steamy virtual sesh:
Set the mood. Turn on some ambient lighting, get some massage oil, make a sexy playlist. You can also use props! Sex toys, lingerie, candles, chocolates, whatever makes you feel good (and sexy!).
If you both consent to this beforehand, surprise each other with a teasing sext or a flirtatious photo throughout the day to build up anticipation for the virtual sex.
Try saying things like…
I was just thinking about you doing ______ to me.
Want to hear a fantasy of mine?
Thinking about your (physical attribute) has me super distracted during work…
Be detailed when you’re telling your partner(s) what you want or what you’re thinking about. The more detail, the better! No one wants to do all the work in a one-sided sexting session.
Virtual sex might not be a perfect solution for these touch-starved times but it can definitely take the edge off. Happy sexting!
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