An eggplant emoji is never just an eggplant emoji.
Neither is the peach emoji, rarely is the cat emoji, and we all know any emoji involving water is certainly not about the weather.
I found myself at a multi-generational, multicultural dinner party last week at a table full of sex educators and relationship experts. As it does in great company, conversation quickly turned to modern sex practices namely, the art of sexting. An Austrian woman in her 40s wanted to know, If the eggplant emoji isnt an eggplant emoji, then what is it?
I took out my phone and opened a blank message screen and typed out an eggplant, a hand pointing to the right, a tulip, three raindrops and a wave. I then handed her my phone. Ohhhhhhh., she said, blushing.
While the constant notifications between snaps, posts, updates, tweets and texts can seem downright suffocating at times, its undeniably handy to be able to shoot off a quick message (or 10) to your sweetie. That might typically involve reminding them to buy milk, pay rent or walk the dog, but not much more. At times, its all-too-easy to scroll or swipe quality time with your partner right out the window.
But texting doesn’t have to be business-like, boring or just plain bad, especially for our intimate relationships. Sometimes we just use it that way.
Digital communication gets a bad rap for relationships because we so often see couples looking at their respective phones rather than genuinely connecting, says sex and relationships educator Kate McCombs, MPH. But, when used mindfully, digital communication can create a kind of secret, intimate world for a couple.
Whether its time to elaborate your emoji metaphors, step up your texting accountability or diversify your digital dating, these sex and relationship experts hold out hope for sexting.
1. Download a GIF keyboard.
McCombs recommends PopKey or Riffsy. Text your partner empathetic GIFs during their day. If you know they’ve got a high stakes meeting, send them a “you can do it” cat. If they’ve had a stressful day, send a baby panda rolling down a hill as a palate cleanser. Better yet, send ones that feature some sort of inside joke between the two of you.”
2. Exchange selfies.
My partner and I both work a lot, and I commute to graduate school in an entirely different state. Last year, we started sending each other what we call Mid-Day Selfie Exchanges; Id send him a quick selfie with a mood update during a break in classes, and hed reply from work. Selfies are quicker than a drawn out text conversation and can convey the tone of your day with just one minute of privacy. As they say, A selfies worth a thousand texts…or something.
3. Pick your own secret sex emoji.
Agree on a single emoji denoting sexy times, a custom shorthand for you and your partner, recommends McCombs. Having a little secret language can build intimacy and even a little silliness. Some people might like the or the classic . My partner and I use the angry cat because we’re always having to kick the little guy out of the bedroom.”
Cute add-on emoji keyboards, like the punchy, colorful vaginas, penises, condoms and handcuffs that come withFlirtmojican really up your sext ante (and even promote safer sex practices while youre at it).
4. Write your own e-rotica.
Megan, a 28-year-old young professional in a long distance relationship, says her favorite way to flirt is by co-authoring a little choose-your-own-adventure erotica between her and her boyfriend. We write bits of erotica and email them to each other, each picking up where the story left off and adding to the scene, she says. It’s fun, really sexy, a huge turn-on, a way to initiate sexy time when we do see each other, and sometimes when were doing it right its just plain hilarious.”
5. Mix your media.
Make your sext exchanges a multimedia affair. Why relegate your sexts to text when you can slip in a snapshot of exacccctly what youre wearing (or not) at the moment, send a short video or even a sexy audio clip? (And FaceTime? Not just for faces.)
Just make sure to check where your sweetie is located as you dont want them accidentally opening your solicited-but-unexpected dick pic in the middle of a business meeting. Make sure to add ‘NSFW’ in the subject line of all erotic emails, elaborates McCombs, so it isn’t opened at work.” Only send sexts to personal email accounts, not work email.
6. But dont mix UP your media.
With certain settings, email, Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger may pop up on your or your partner’s screen suddenly. If they aren’t near their device, these messages might stay up, visible to anyone or flash in the middle of a presentation. Nightmare.
Relegate the raunch to a specific communication channel. My partner and I have even been known to be carrying on a sext session via text while simultaneously Facebook messaging about daily to-dos, like groceries and laundry. The separation of media mediums helps us keep tasks on track without disrupting our digital dirty talk.
7. Sext at the next level.
Writer Tina Horn wrote a book about digital, hand-held intimacy: Sexting: The Grown-Ups Little Book of Sex Tips for Getting Dirty Digitally feeds us delightfully digestible tips to make sure were all on the same screen when it comes to digi-sex.
Horn details how to get sextual while achieving positive intimacy (Start kinky conversations from the safety of your screen! Choose your opening sext wisely. Check your autocorrect!), shares commandments about how to date online (The block button is thy friend, be not afraid of it!) and reveals how to be a good booty call (Dont be a flake!).
8. But when in doubt, keep it simple.
Mattitiyahu Zimbler, PhD., Social Psychology of Romantic Relationships, reminds us that we dont necessarily need emoji to get digitally emotive. Write a text that expects no response, says Zimbler. If you feeling something loving, say it without worrying about their reply.”
9. Dont leave your partner hanging.
Gahh, the dreaded (…) bubble.
Don’t just stop a conversation in the middle with no explanation, advises Zimbler. You may be able to get away with that behavior when dating, but it’s still not the way you should treat any person, especially your significant other. If you do space out and realize you left your partner hanging, send a text apologizing or simply explaining what happened. Taking responsibility for your actions, even small ones like texts, builds relational trust.
“The two-way exchange of text communication can actually build for more trust in this flakey age of digital dating,” says Zimbler. “The trust gained from knowing your partner will be responsive to your communication comes in stark contrast to the guess work and ghosting of modern digital dating culture.”
And though tech can help keep us in touch, Zimbler reminds, Its important to find a balance. Just like in face to face communication, people have different text styles. Personally, I have a three-text rule. After texting back and forth three times, I would rather just have a quick conversation. But as long and both partners are into it, type your little fingers off.”
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