it's complicated

When Sexting Is Better Than Actual Sex

Photo: J.V. Aranda

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For me, the tipping point happened about a year ago and a half ago. I was single, super horny, and out looking for a casual lay. As a woman who dates men, I’ve never found this particular quest to be that tough — and sure enough, within minutes after texting an acquaintance, I was walking from the bar to his place nearby. We had some drinks and, well, boned. It was fine. We tried again in the morning, and it was even less fine.

Afterward, I wanted to leave; he wanted us to lie around listening to Japanese psychedelic records (admittedly, they were fun). And so I stayed, wondering when we would reach the point where it wouldn’t be rude to call myself a Lyft back home, where I could finally get off.

That was the night I gave up on the idea of casual sex as viable solution for my own horniness. Here’s the thing about casual sex no one ever wants to admit: It’s almost always bad. Near- or total-strangers don’t know you or your body, which means it’s usually a high-investment, low-return transaction. The dude will probably get off, because of course he will. But will you? Drunken tumbles in a foreign apartment almost never end in mind-blowing female orgasm.

Casual sexting, on the other hand, is totally different — and, I’ve recently discovered, the clearly superior alternative. You can get validation from A Hot Person, get off, and move along, all from the comfort of your own home. Sexting gives you total control: over when, how, the lighting.

Ever since I took my no-strings hookups from other people’s beds to my phone, I’ve been spreading the gospel of casual sexting all over my social circle, and I’ve found that a surprising number of people already agree with me, for a wide variety of reasons.

“For the most part, one-night stands are expensive, unless it’s a regular fuck buddy you can just call up,” Lex (not her real name) in Austin says. She’s right. Consider the price of bar bills and cab rides. There’s also the time investment of going out and getting home in the morning.

Sexting, though, is both cheaper and more efficient, not to mention less mentally and emotionally taxing. There’s no risk of potentially awkward roommate run-ins — or, even worse, one person developing an unreciprocated crush. “I realized a while ago that I get way too attached to people when I sleep with them, so one-night stands can’t really be a thing for me anymore,” a friend of mine, Caitlin, says.

Enter casual sexting. “I used to write fanfiction as a kid and it’s the same thing,” Caitlin continues. “No weird body hang-ups, no accidental feelings. Just good, clean sexts.”

And it’s a happy middle ground between sex with another person and regular solo masturbation. “Sexting takes out a lot of the guesswork of having actual sex just because you’re horny and want to play around with someone instead of totally by yourself,” my friend Amanda says. “You know you’re going to feel sexy and desirable the whole time, you know you’re going to get off, you know you’re going to be able to roll over and resume whatever you were watching on Netflix immediately afterward,” with little to no prep beforehand — no shaving, no washing your sheets, no uncomfortable underwear.

In fact, the only part of sexting that takes some considering may be curating your sexting stable.

“There was one guy I matched with on a dating app on his last day in the city, and we liked texting so we kept at it after he went home. Eventually, that turned into sexting regularly for months,” Amanda says. “That was great, because there was no super-romantic spark to the texts, but we were friendly and enjoyed the sexting, so it was very convenient.”

Similarly, most of the men I sext regularly are past hookups or at least former flirtations. But they all have one important commonality: distance. I used to wake up at the crack of dawn in Atlanta and start firing off butt selfies to a guy I sometimes slept with when visiting Los Angeles (he stayed up late, so the time difference was actually ideal). I had the space and privacy to nail good lighting, fine-tooth edit, and take my time picking which side of me he would see. Exchanging the occasional raunchy text with a babe I knew in New York served the same purpose.

Having miles between you and your casual sext friend helps the relationship stay that way — there’s no expectation to “make good” on all the dirty talk, a reality that would likely end up disappointing one or both parties. And beyond a lack of accountability, distance also affords you total control. “They get the version of you that you know they want to see,” Amanda says, and “you get to be worry-free about their perceptions of you or your home. It obviates a lot of stray anxieties about casual sex.”

Have I convinced you yet? Even if you’re not an experienced sexter, getting started is pretty easy. First, build up a collection of selfies that you’re comfortable with — even some artful, possibly suggestive silhouettes can be hot in the right context. Then, figure out who you’d want to share them with. You probably already have a few contenders in mind: Maybe that babe you swapped numbers with after making out on vacation in New Orleans, or an old-time flirt from college currently residing abroad (WhatsApp works for sexting, too). Also, keep in mind which hours recipients may be in an office or otherwise non-private setting. For instance, my L.A. man sleeps late and works remotely but goes to tons of concerts, so I knew my time to shine was either my early mornings or late afternoons.

From there, once you’ve struck up a text conversation that lays the groundwork, just have fun with it. One of the best parts of sexting from a distance is it’s kind of like playing an exaggerated character. Maybe you feel ludicrous uttering “cock” aloud, but some variation in text form can really rev you up. It removes you from yourself, making you a little more emboldened — more confident, maybe.

And truly, what’s sexier than that? Not even frequent-flyer miles.

When Sexting Is Better Than Actual Sex