Though sexting hasn't yet been recognized by museums and art galleries, it's nonetheless a modern art form. Unfortunately, there isn't a universally agreed-upon set of rules for proper sexting etiquette. Sure, we know it's never a good idea to send an unsolicited dick pic, nor is it OK to communicate exclusively via eggplant and peach emojis. But beyond that, good sexting is largely a matter of trial and error.
Even so, there are still some rules of thumb for what qualifies as good sexting. There's a fine line between titillation and over-familiarity, between being coy and frustratingly obtuse. A good sext subtly expresses your desire in the hope of eliciting a similar response. If you scare the recipient off with your sext, you're doing it wrong.
In order to develop an etiquette for sexting, here are some of the methods single women are already familiar with:
1) The "Let's Jump Into it Before We've Even Seen Each Other Naked" Sext
It is never a good idea to sext someone until both parties have agreed to a sexual relationship, either digitally or IRL. If you jump into sexting before you've both consented to sexual activity, that's a clear red flag for the recipient that you have trouble understanding the concept of personal boundaries.
Jenny, who's in her mid 30s, told Mic that it's only OK to begin sexting after a relationship has been established as just a hook-up, or once a more serious relationship has become sexual.
"If we're here for expressly sexual purposes, all pretenses are out the window and we can get down to the nitty-gritty," she told Mic. "To start up sexting before you know what you want from a person or what they want from you is presumptuous."
Michaela, who's in her early 20s, agreed that timing is crucial. "If you can learn good timing you can have more successful relationships," she told Mic. "Sexting should follow similar rules to real-life flirting. How is the other person reacting to you? Are they responding in kind?"
2) The Subtle, Suggestive Sext
Many people don't understand that sexting doesn't necessarily have to be overtly sexual, especially in the beginning. Flirtatious texts are like the prelude to foreplay: They're the words you'd whisper to your lover in a crowded restaurant, and it wouldn't be a total disaster if the music cut out and everyone heard you.
On their own, "I was thinking of you in bed" or "I just got out of the shower" are suggestive enough to be open to interpretation. They won't leave the receiver feeling uncomfortable, and if they want to take the exchange to the next level they can respond accordingly.
3) The Unsolicited Boner Sext
While it should be perfectly obvious to most men why it's not OK to send someone penis pics without their permission, that apparently hasn't stopped some from doing it. Janet, who's in her early 20s, hypothesized that it's because the type of guy who sends a dick pic is too anxious to deal with human interaction IRL.
"Dudes that send unsolicited are so alienated from the world and their bodies they can't even flirt with another human," she told Mic. "You can tell they're insecure."
That's not to say that women don't enjoy the occasional piece of junk mail. They just want it to come from guys they're actually sleeping with. "I love dick pics, but only when they're solicited," Jenny told Mic. "I have some great ones from one of my long-term lovers stored on my phone."
4) The Hurry-Up Follow-Up Sext
It takes courage to lay your sexual desire for another person on the table, and women respect that. But while we understand that it can be frustrating to not immediately receive a response, temporary radio silence doesn't mean we're not into your sext. It could be a signal that the message was ill-timed, or that the recipient was asleep, busy or at work.
"I don't like when someone can't take a hint," Lauren told Mic, recalling follow-up texts consisting only of "Hey" or worse, the exaggerated spelling of the receiver's name, "Laaaaaaureeeeeeen." A follow-up or "poke text" puts unwanted pressure on the receiver and makes them no more inclined to respond.
Sometimes, the recipient just isn't in the right head space to respond to your sext immediately. "Sexting is an on-or-off thing for me. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood," Michaela said. "If I'm not feeling relaxed, I won't respond. But I will when the mood strikes me again."
5) The Generic 'Could Be Anyone' Sext
Sexting is an intimate act, and no matter what the relationship is between sender and receiver, people want to feel close to the person they're sexting. A sext or line that feels like it's been used many times before is a reminder of all the other people who might be receiving it. It's also boring.
Obvious signs are a wrong name, a trite pick-up line or references to an event you weren't a participant in. Lines like "I wanna fuck you so hard" are welcome if you've developed a sexual vocabulary with someone, but if you're sending it for the first time, it sounds impersonal and cold.
"You can tell [the difference between] a guy who wants to make you feel desired and a sleazy dude who's just trying out lines," Elena told Mic.
6) The Take-it-or-Leave-it Sext
Of course, the primary purpose of sexts is to get the receiver thinking about sex, and thinking about sex is sexy. However, there are certain messages that make the recipient feel like they're being pressured to consent to something they might not want. That pressure removes all sexiness from the situation.
When the sexter and sextee are just getting to know each other, sex shouldn't be the end goal of the conversation. A sext that adds unnecessary pressure — something like "If I come by you better let me sleep over this time" — may feel like a threat. It comes down to knowing your recipient and what tone they're most comfortable with.
7) The Sext That References a Sexy Shared Moment
The opposite of an all-purpose copy-and-paste sext is one that's customized precisely to the recipient's tastes. It might require a bit more thought, but it's also more likely to be well received.
"It's nice when people have their signature and you get familiar with it. The best sext is one that has some kind of intimacy, uniqueness and intellect to it," Janet told Mic. "Sexts shouldn't sound different [from] the regular texts you send. If you don't write like that when you're asking me for coffee or about my day, don't write like that when talking about me naked."
A shared emoji, the nicknames you call each other or a link to the song you were listening to the last time you had sex are powerful and personal touches. "It's intimacy crossed with sex," Jenna told Mic. "It brings you right back to a shared moment, and that's the biggest turn on of all."