This week at Refinery29 Canada, we’re dialling into one of the most intimate (and infuriating) relationships in our lives: the one we have with our phones.
Sexting is this generation’s phone sex. It’s a fun and playful act, that according to studies, half of all us are doing via explicit texts, nude photos, or spicy videos. But just like sex of any other kind, sexting can get complicated — whether we don’t know quite what to say when sliding into someone’s DMs or, worst, we are the victims of revenge porn.
So how do you keep sexting safe, fun and get exactly what you want out of it? Enter Samantha Bitty, a Toronto-based sexual health and consent educator, whose goal is to make sex both empowering and safe. Her first piece of advice: Think deeply about what gives you pleasure.
We spoke with Bitty, 33, about what to show and hide in a sext, how to get satisfaction via your phone, and her favourite angle for the most-flattering nudes.
Say you want to send a sext. What’s the first thing you need to know?
Consent comes first. Am I consenting to give the photo and are they consenting to receive it? It goes two ways. Say I’m going to randomly send a person a sexy picture — I’m a woman and yes, society has told me that this is my currency and this person will be blessed to receive this picture. But maybe the person (you’re sending it to) is showing their mom a YouTube video on their phone and (then all of the sudden) there’s your breasts. Not only have you taken away that person’s ability to consent to receiving the photo, you’re not consenting to someone else seeing it that you don’t want to see it. Consent requires communication. What’s OK one day may not be OK the next day. That’s why with sex in general, it’s so important you know what your values are. Asking questions to the person you’re sexting with — “Have you ever sent nudes before?” Or, “Have you ever shown other people nudes that were sent to you? — are also a great way to build trust. You can text, “I don’t want you to show anyone this” and then there’s a contract there. Those decisions might include using an app that will secure those photos and make sure they disappear. Negotiate your terms.
Any tips for concealing your identity?
A lot of people have identifying marks — I’m covered in tattoos, for example. But not showing your face and not showing identifiable information in the background, like an envelope with your address on your desk, are key.
What about keeping your actual photos safe? People lose phones, iClouds get hacked.
Take it with a real camera. I’m kind of joking. You can password-protect but it boils down to risk and reward. Negotiate the risks you feel comfortable with and then go from there. Let’s say somebody gets a hold of all these nudes. How do you feel about that? Maybe that informs the type of nudes you take.
What’s your strategy for dealing with unsolicited pics?
If someone has sent you an unsolicited nude and it’s aggressive, like, here’s my dick, then you’re perfectly entitled to not engage or say, “No thanks.” One of my favourite things to say is, “Don’t say that to me.” It’s super-dry, it shuts down the conversation and keeps your energy protected.
What advice do you have for young women if they want to say no to someone they’re dating?
It’s important to say if you’re under 18; it’s illegal because it can be considered distribution of child pornography. So if you’re under 18, my suggestion would be to not distribute photos.
Revenge porn can be an unfortunate reality of sexting. What can you tell us about how to handle it, for example, from a legal perspective?
Revenge porn is violence; it’s a terrible abuse of power and relationship. When people do revenge porn, it’s indicative of their character, not of your worth. We’re still in a place where women are disproportionately negatively affected by sexual assault and it’s still very, very, very, very hard to prove sexual assault in court and have someone be brought to justice, let alone in a revenge-porn situation. One thing to consider is capacity. What is my capacity to either file a civil or criminal lawsuit against somebody if I’m the victim of revenge porn? Most people don’t have the capacity, whether it’s financial or emotional. What would my tangible advice be? Educate yourself around the outcomes of revenge porn. It’s about making an informed decision and if that’s a viable risk to you, then maybe don’t send the nude. I hate that advice, it sucks!
It’s like saying if you’re under 18, you shouldn’t have sex — that’s not the real world.
Yeah! I think it comes down to creating a culture. I heard that teens are using the noodles emoji to say, “Yes, I want to send nudes.” There’s a culture around it and until we have sex education in schools that looks at pleasure and desire, then revenge porn is always going to be a risk.
On a lighter note, any advice for taking a good nude?
Lighting! Maybe you want a lot of natural light or you’re using light to create shadow and conceal. Backlighting can also be something to show the shape but not the details. I love the idea of taking nudes as a practice of self-love whether they’re being sent to anyone or not. A lot of us are not socialized to love our bodies. And I personally think the under-the-butt is the only nude that’s really great for every single person.
How do you actually get that angle?
You angle your arm backwards and you use self-facing camera and on an iPhone, I use the side buttons. The light can catch it [your butt shape] really well. If you don’t have a lot of cake, you can create the illusion of more cake.
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