In Ways of Seeing, the late John Berger explains that, when viewing almost anything, “We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are.” This is especially true of sexting, which, in the best cases, exists as an intimate, intentional exchange between two people. A sext can be an image, words, or a combination of both.
Sexting AF, which stands for Sexting Art Festival but knows what you thought it stood for, was designed to explore the intentions behind the way we sext, the reasons we sext, the ways we were sexting before we even knew how to sext, and the best ways to engage as we sext into the future.
“We recognized that sexting was a topic that kept rearing it’s fuzzy little head in discussions about dating, marriage, app hook-ups, male desperation and the evolving media landscape,” explains the festival’s website on the decision to hold a curated evening of lectures and storytelling, which featured, among other experts, Make Love Not Porn founder Cindy Gallop. The goal of Sexting AF, and hopefully all sexters everywhere, is to move as far away from that predatory, uncomfortable concept of sexting as possible.
Like anything worth doing, sexting takes practice. Here are 7 things you might not have known about sexting, directly from the experts at Sexting AF.
Sexting isn’t sexting if it’s not consensual
Sending unsolicited pictures or graphic descriptions of your most private parts is exactly like sharing those parts in real life: don’t do it unless you’ve been explicitly invited to do it. Just like if someone were to expose themselves to you in person without your consent, getting an unwanted sext is a violation and it is never okay to send one. If you want to try sexting, make sure the person you try it with is someone you trust, and that both of you are into the idea and comfortable sending and/or receiving those kinds of messages.
Sexting pictures might be new, but sexting isn’t
As Stuart Ewen, a professor at the City University of New York who specializes in visual culture, explained, mirrors are a relatively new concept, and were only mass produced within the last 200 years. Paintings, meanwhile, were really only available to the wealthy for quite a while. This means that our understanding of what ourselves, and our lovers, look like was pretty reliant on graphic, wordy descriptions for a while. Humans have spent centuries perfecting the art of describing bodies, both their own and their partners, in truly staggering detail. It’s an ancient art to engage in, passed down through generations and generations of noble, dignified, and significantly aroused individuals.
A sext sent to you is only meant for you
According to a study released last year, one in four Americans share sexts they receive without permission from the original sender. This is a definite do not in terms of sexting, both etiquette-wise and legally, since distributing these images without permission is a violation of laws in several states. It’s also important to note that, depending on your age, even sending your own picture could be a serious violation of the law. But the concern is on everyone’s mind, and, as writer Jane Mulkerrins shared in a personal story, sexting without images is a pretty solid reason to skip the picture part of sexting altogether.