Whenever a new form of technology emerges, humans can be counted on to develop a horny application for it. Photography captured nude photos, film gave rise to porn, internet chat rooms became havens for cybersex, and texting begot sexting. And when emoji became widely available on iPhones and Androids, they too met a similar fate.
Googling “emoji sexting” pulls up over 300,000 results. BuzzFeed celebrated “The 16 Best Emoji Sexts to Ever Happen.” Fusion, Mashable, Women’s Health, the Frisky, and Complex have all created guides. (Because I shouldn’t throw stones in this glass trend-piece house, the Cut has also published its definitive emoji-sexting glossary.) There’s even a new eggplant-emoji vibrator on the market. As I was discussing this all with my partner, who spends less time on the internet than I do, I mentioned that I couldn’t stand that the eggplant had become the chosen phallic emoji. “Wait, what?” he asked. “Who decided that the eggplant would be the penis emoji?” Turns out there’s a Slate think piece I can point him to.
It does not need to be this way: Emoji — with their bright colors and cartoonish childlike designs — belong nowhere near our sexts, regardless of what the bevy of listicles above suggests. Now, is “emoji sexting is bad” the hill on which I want to die? No, not really, but complaining is fun, I’ve taken my stand, and it’s too late to turn back.
The whole sexting process is pretty straightforward: You say your thing, they say their thing, maybe you exchange some photos, everyone has a nice time and hopefully an orgasm or two. It’s also inherently very silly when you think about it too much; the sexiness of the interaction hinges on ignoring said silliness. It’s difficult to keep that up when you’re trying to codify your lust via cartoon produce.
Emoji can also needlessly complicate a simple activity. Take the Women’s Health “Lazy Girl’s Guide to Sexting.” The author presents alternative emoji translations for phrases like “I’m horny” and “let’s hump.” (If you’re too lazy to type out the words let’s hump, I truly commend your commitment to your lifestyle.) The phrase “eat my pussy” gets translated into the emoji for fork and knife, a girl with her hands over her head, and a smirking cat. At first glance, that looks like “I’m going to eat our sassy cat for dinner.” “Hammer me in the shower” becomes the emoji for a hammer, girl, and a showerhead — which really only reads like “I’m going to murder someone in our shower with a hammer.”
Lest you still need convincing that emoji sexting is fundamentally unsexy, consider Anthony Weiner — who should really be better at sexting, given how much he does it. Weiner is reported to have sent a purple demon emoji, a winking tongue-out emoji, and “a graphic, homemade text-and-emoji image of an ejaculating penis” to his last sexting partner. We should not be surprised: This is the same man who thought the nickname Carlos Danger would in any way rouse sexual feelings in another human being.
Look, I enjoy sexting. Do you really think my partner and I wrote flowery love letters when we were first getting to know each other? No! We sent disgusting text messages, like normal people. When I’m an old woman — like, old-Rose-in-Titanic old — I’ll lie in my bed, my deceased partner’s cryogenically frozen head beside me on my nightstand, and re-read our early sexts. I’ll pull up a dick pic or an extremely flattering photo of my butt taken circa 2013 and smile wistfully. You just can’t get those kinds of memories from 🍑💦👅🎉