So, You Want to Start Sexting

A field guide to sending nudes *safely*

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An eggplant emoji in a blue text bubble against a red background
(Illustration: Joel Louzado)

It’s late, you’re feeling yourself and, more importantly, you’re feeling the person you’re texting. Things are getting hot, so you decide, why not? You remove some clothes, check your angles, and—click!—you’re sexting. Sending a sexy pic can be a rush—and there’s raw power in taking control of your sexuality, feeling beautiful and sexy enough to share proof with your partner. And to be clear, there is nothing wrong, bad or dirty about sending or receiving a consensual sext. (Sext-shaming is just as negative as slut-shaming.) But that doesn’t mean there’s no risk to sexting. So, how can you make sure you’re protecting yourself? And what even happens to your sexy Snaps once you hit send? Here’s what you need to know about safe sexting.

I’m a newbie. What is sexting?

Sexting is the act of sharing intimate or explicit images featuring nudity or sexual acts via digital distribution. Not to be confused with phone sex, which is talking through sex acts (yes, actual talking on the phone), sexting can vary from sending a peekaboo nip slip to an ejaculation video, and everything in between. The important thing to remember is that, like all sexual acts, sexting must be consensual between two adults to be legal. It is illegal for minors under the age of 18 to send nude images of themselves, even to other minors—under the criminal code, that’s considered child pornography—and it’s illegal for anyone to knowingly share intimate images of another person without their consent. (That’s been law in Canada since 2015.)

Just because it’s illegal, however, doesn’t mean people aren’t doing it (obvs). And whether or not you are the sexting type, it’s important to be informed. Read on for tips on how to protect yourself and your images.

Crop out your face

That’s it. That’s the rule. Always.

Trust your gut–and lay down your rules

It’s important to have a conversation about expectations and deal-breakers when sexting. It doesn’t have to be formal; a simple, “This is for your eyes only, no screen grabs, please delete” goes a long way. You should trust and respect the person you’re trading sexts with, and the feeling should be mutual. And don’t drink (or otherwise imbibe) and sext. This can be a tough one—for some, being tipsy is the only way sexting makes sense. The confidence that can come after a night spent flirting, drinking and dancing is potent. But from a privacy perspective, you don’t want anything to compromise your judgement. Nor do you want to accidentally sext the wrong person!

Turn off iCloud or Google Photos

If your camera automatically backs up over wi-fi, turn off the wi-fi before sending a sext, especially if you share a Google Photos account. True story: Someone I know sent a string of hot af photos to her boyfriend, only to have them immediately upload to her family’s shared Google Photos account. Her grandpa sent her a text telling her! I died from embarrassment-by-association.

Know how your apps work

Using an app to sext is very common, but do you know what apps save what, and where? What’s App automatically saves to your camera roll; Snapchat and Instagram inform you when someone takes a screen grab of your photo, which is very good to know. You can deactivate all these options easily in the app settings. And check your phone’s settings as well.

Delete the photo’s metadata

EXIF metadata is saved to every image and video you create with your phone’s digital camera. EXIF is an acronym for Exchangeable Image File Format, which is all the photo’s unique info such as size, aperture, camera make and model, etc. It also contains the time, date, place (if you have Location turned on) and your IP address—the latter is what links the picture to your phone. If you’re concerned about being tied to an explicit image, use an app like Scrambed Exif or Photo Exif Editor to scrape your images before sending.

Make sure your phone is secure

This is important for anyone who use has a mobile phone (so, like, just about everyone). There are two simple things you can do to combat the potential of hackers getting their hands on your nudes: Keep your apps up to date and change your password often. I know, we all have too many passwords, but luckily there’s an app for that. Password managers keep track of your passwords and auto-generate new ones so you don’t have to stress over adding one more $#@* to a word you’ll never remember.

Related:

9 Reasons Dating in Your 20s Is the Worst
Uh, Is Emotional Cheating Even a Real Thing?
4 Cringe-Worthy Stories About Losing Your Virginity (And 2 That Are Surprisingly Sweet)

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