Anisha (name changed) lives in Nagpur, while her boyfriend has been living in Mumbai for the last few years. Apart from occasional visits, the two rarely get to see or touch each other in person. ‘It is difficult, we’ve been doing long-distance for four years. Sometimes I miss him a lot, I miss even simple things like holding hands.’ While managing a long distance relationship is hard, smartphones have changed everything for them. As of 2019, India is estimated to have 800 million mobile phone users in India. Smartphone usage has increased sharply in India over the years. What was once a luxury good, is now a common and everyday item.
For Anisha and her boyfriend, texting is extremely important. First thing in the morning, last thing at night- they text each other. Mostly, they just talk about their day and send each other memes, but sometimes, they take it to the next level. ‘We started sexting around two years ago,’ she says ‘and it’s changed our lives. Otherwise, in a long distance relationship, there is no way to express sexual feelings.’ Anisha also finds it easier to explore her sexuality with her boyfriend over text. ‘Texting is easier, I find it a little harder to talk about sex face to face because I feel awkard. So now if we want to try out something new sexually, we discuss it over text, and then try it out in person when I visit him in Mumbai.’
So what is sexting? Sexting can be defined as any consensual sexual exchange on a digital platform. It can involve describing sexual acts to each other, or sending nude or semi nude photographs to each other. So what are the benefits? To begin with, many people find sexting fun! More importantly, it doesn’t have many of the risks involved with physical sex, like pregnancy, or STIs. Also, for couples who have difficulty meeting in private, sexting becomes a fun alternative. Nishant (name changed) and his girlfriend hail from Mysore, where they have often found it difficult to get a room together. ‘It’s really hard for us, we live in a town where everyone knows everyone. If you want to get a room together, you have to be married.’ Nishant and his partner started traveling to Bangalore once in a while, just so that they could get a room in peace. ‘But traveling is expensive, so what do we the rest of the time? We just sext. It’s fun, it’s easy, we can be in our separate houses and still sexually satisfy each other.”
But, sexting has it’s dark side too. With the internet, cyber safety becomes a real concern. India has seen enough cases of revenge porn- where one person ‘leaks’ intimate photos or videos of another person to ruin their reputation. In most cases, it is usually a man who blackmails an ex girlfriend. Even if you trust your partner completely, what about hackers? Or what if someone else finds your phone and leaks your pictures and intimate texts? These risks are real. But technology is evolving, and adapts to people’s needs. It is possible to take precautions to be as safe as possible while sexting or sharing pictures to a partner online.
Anisha has a ‘no face rule,’ which many women implement. ‘I do send my partner nude photos, but I make sure my face isn’t seen or that I cover my face with my hair.’ Anisha trusts but boyfriend, but is still careful. ‘It just takes one click to ruin a woman’s life,’ she says. ‘So it’s better to stay safe.’ Nishant and his partner only send nude photos to each other on Snapchat. Apps like Snapchat are a safer option, because the photos self-distruct in a matter of seconds.
Here are some other safety tips-
-Avoid sexting with strangers. Make sure you know the person you are chatting with, and that you trust them.
-Set your boundaries. Maybe you only want to have a sexual chat, but not send photographs. Even in your sexual chat, maybe you only want to discuss some sex acts, and not others. It is your right to set boundaries. Don’t do anything you are not comfortable with, and don’t engage with anyone who doesn’t respect your boundaries.
-Consent. Do not harass anyone with sexual material. Always make sure the person you are sexting wants to sext you. Ask for consent throughout the process. If you are just talking about kissing, and want to move on to something more intimate, ask first. Ensure the other person’s comfort. Sending someone unsolicited sexual material is harassment.
-Safety. Find apps that are secure and well encrypted. For sending photographs, use apps that erase the photograph after it is viewed. Sending photos with your face in it can be risky.
-Be informed. Understand the risks and benefits. And make sure you are in a healthy state of mind! Don’t sext anyone if you are drunk, intoxicated or unusually emotional.
With the rise of smartphones, sexting has become a common part of dating, love and relationships. There is nothing wrong with having fun over text, as long as the interacting is completely consensual. But as with all types of sexual activity – remember to stay safe!