You can be the best version of yourself — no matter your size, shape, gender or orientation — but without good communication skills, no one will know it.
How do you take the perfect photo and pair it with tantalizing text? How do you respond when your booty call sends you a dirty photo that turns you on, but you’re stuck at work? When can you start making videos of yourself in the shower to send to a new paramour? What’s the etiquette for a Tindr hookup versus a Match.com coffee date? Where do you even begin?
In Sexting, sex educator, author and former queer porn maker and Tina Horn discusses communication and getting down digitally, including how to make an online dating profile, how to take sexcellent selfies, how to express your wildest fantasies over text, how to talk dirty and more. It’s practical, honest, fun — and also inclusive, feminist, queer, empowering and filthy. But it’s not just about sexting. Horn’s advice — and her approach — is a great way to think about communication in your sex life, no matter the medium.
10 Key Skills for Talking About Sex
1. Speak up
You can’t expect a partner to have any idea what’s going on in your head — or in your pants — without talking to them about it, preferably in tantalizing, sexy ways. It can feel silly and even scary, but it’s important to communicate if you’re going to get what you want. As Horn puts it, “We don’t say the things we really want to say to our partners because we think if we stay quiet we can protect our vulnerable feelings. […] You will have the best sex possible when you abandon yourself to pleasure.” The fastest way to find that feeling of abandon? Telling someone what to do to get you there.
2. Be honest
There’s no point in looking around unless you’re honest about what it is you actually want — with others, and with yourself. If your dating profile says you want true romance with a side of vanilla when what you’re really hoping for is no-strings-attached dirty sex, you’re likely to end up disappointed — and so will somebody else. “Be up front,” advises Horn, “and I promise you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
3. Be specific
You won’t find exactly what you want unless you state your desires in plain language. Are you looking for a genderfluid fuck buddy who’s up for spending the night every other Thursday? An open relationship with someone who already has a partner? A monogamous D/s romance with a human with auburn hair? Say so! “It helps to be specific and intentional,” says Horn. “None of that vague Prince Charming bullshit. This will make your matches easier to recognize.”
4. Be safe(r)
The first step in safer sex is talking about it. Along with tips for keeping blind dates and hookups as safe as possible, Horn gets into the nitty gritty about discussing safe sex, physical needs and boundaries. She knows that talk can be a major buzzkill, but it’s extremely important. “If you know your lines [for seduction] and know your status and needs, then we’re talking five minutes of potential awkwardness that opens you up for an entire night of uninhibited passion. Fair trade, if you ask me.” (And don’t forget to double-check your privacy settings.)
5. Be a word nerd
In the bedroom, Horn says, “I honestly believe that people do know what to say; they just need a little help with how to say it.” “There is no such thing as an intrinsically offensive word,” Horn says, but it’s important to respect with your partner’s wishes about what upsets or triggers them, and to know your own mind on the matter. Use a past/present/future formula to relive past sexy times, state your present excitement, and allude to what’s going to happen next time you see your lover. And don’t forget that emoji can be dirty, too.
6. Be respectful
Technology may have made it oh-so-easy to send sexy selfies and tawdry texts to jerk off to, but that doesn’t make it okay to be a figurative jerk-off. Be nice. “It may seem like there are no consequences to online cruelty, but the world is just better when everyone practices the Golden Rule […] At any rate,” Horn reminds, “it’s a well-known fact that those who exhibit common human decency give the best head.”
7. Be polite
Do not check your dating apps — or anything else on your phone — while you’re on a date. “There is nothing ruder than a date whose eyes keep drifting to his or her buzzing phone. Put your phone on silent and put it away.”
8. Be yourself
There’s no reason, in the current oversaturated dating landscape, to try to please anyone more than your own exceptionally rad self. The person you want to be with at the end of the night should want to be with you, not a watered-down or constructed you that you created to please them. If someone isn’t right for you, it’s another chance to learn: “Every mismatch teaches you what to look for and what to avoid in your future hunts.”
9. Know yourself
Horn recommends keeping a “private dirty notebook” to get more consciously familiar with your desires. Describe dirty fantasies, record sex dreams, make to-do lists of sex acts, get specific about boundaries and maybes, and try writing erotica. By externalizing these usually internalized sexual landmarks, you can map your desires. Horn wants you to “feel free to express your true sexual self” so you can help someone else get comfy with it later.
10. Love yourself
Along with multiple exhortations to masturbate frequently and well, Horn encourages the nurturing of deep self-respect that resonates throughout the book. She reminds her reader that, after all, you can get yourself aroused, and that “it would be a privilege for someone else to participate in your pleasure.” But it’s not a given, so knowing how much you rock is an important stepping-off point. “Regardless of what you’re looking for, you’re more likely to find it when you project confidence in your own well-rounded life.” Truth.