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The Art of Safer Sexting with Confidence and Consent

An illustration featuring several different phones floating on a multicolor background. Out of one phone screen is a giant eggplant emoji. Out of another is a peach emoji. And out of a third is a femme-presenting person in a larger body in a bikini top from the waist up, taking a picture of herself on her phone.
Charnel Hunter

Sexting is the sharing of sexual images or messages digitally. Though people of all ages sext, society is hyperfixated on women and girls. In the age of data privacy, how can people sext safely and in ways that empower their sexuality?

Whether in a long distance relationship or not, sexting is one way to communicate desire and advocate for pleasure with a partner. But it can seem daunting if there’s a lack of understanding and education.

Like many others, host Anita Rao feels timid about sexting. Penda N’diaye, a pleasure enthusiast and founder of Pro Hoe, encourages her with practical advice and approachable sexting prompts to help guide her — and listeners. She also breaks down consent and the importance of checking in with your partner’s boundaries at every juncture when sexting.

Amy Hasinoff is an associate professor in communication at the University of Colorado Denver and the author of “Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent.” She joins the conversation to explain why some common concerns about sexting are misinformed. Amy also makes sense of unclear and varying legal issues, especially when it comes to sexting for people under the age of 18.

Then Anita speaks with teen and peer educator Aaliyah about the role sexting plays in her and her peers’ romantic relationships. She teaches middle schoolers in an after school sex education program in New York City. Aaliyah shares the types of questions and experiences her peers come to her with for support. She talks openly about the parameters she sets in her own relationships and why body image is a factor in sexting.

Thank you to Hannah, Sydel, Dakota and Mariah for sharing with us for this episode!

Three tips to gain the confidence to sext
from Penda N’diaye, pleasure enthusiast and founder of Pro Hoe 

Set aside some alone time

“If you're someone who likes to journal that's an amazing thing. Like what does fulfilling euphoric sex look like for you? How does it feel? Are you someone who enjoys romance or innuendo? Are you like a comedian? Do you like humor and goofiness? And so I think setting aside some time for yourself to think about what are the themes and kind of markers that feel really sexy for you — that's a beautiful thing to do.”

Create a ‘"yes, no, maybe" list

“This is really about describing a few things that you really love to kind of see if your turn ons actually overlap with your partner. 'Yes, I'm really into impact play, maybe I'd be down for sex with the lights on and I'm definitely not into threesomes.' So you can kind of create this list of yes, no, maybes and understand maybe what your partner is into, and setting parameters so that when you actually are sexting it feels less complicated and the stakes are a lot lower.”

Get consent a.k.a an “enthusiastic yes!”

“I like to kind of set up the consent in a sexy way. 'Can I tell you about how oral sex turns me on, if you're into that too?' So the latter part of the prompt actually sets up the consent and allows the person to answer yes or no.”

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Paige Perez (she/her) is a Caribbean-American audio and photojournalist born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Her work covering sexual and reproductive health, the climate crisis, and racial inequity is published in The Guardian, HuffPost Voices, and Bronx Times. Paige is a recent graduate of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, where she concentrated in health/science reporting and specialized in audio and video. When she is not reporting and producing, she is probably visiting local art spaces or making images.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.