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Let's Settle This Once And For All: What Exactly Is Sexting?

It goes like this: horny teenagers have always been horny. Then they got mobile phones, and used them to exchange raunchy pics with each other. Horrified parents demanded an explanation, and “sexting” was born. But what does that mean, exactly? This.

“Sexting” has become as nebulous as it is overhyped. And this is problematic, because the definitions in use are as ambiguous as they are many. Some say a sext is just a naked pic. Some say it’s flirty. Some say it’s sexually suggestive or sexually themed. “Sexually themed” being one of those wonderfully catch-all danger words. It can be kissing! It can be nudity! It can be – sex. Is saying “I wanna make out with you” a sext? What if I include a picture of my penis with that message? What if it’s just the picture?

Nobody seems to agree – and that’s a problem. We’re swept up an exciting new word that has the potential to help unseat politicians, but we’re not exactly sure what we’re talking about.

With every wave of technology, we accumulate new words. Upload. Delete. Google. These are fine, because their meanings are technically clear and innocuous. But sexting is something one’s accused of – an act with some degree of shame accompanying it. It might be a lot of fun (I mean, right?), but you wouldn’t want to talk about doing it over Christmas dinner.

So let’s set things straight right now.

Sexting is a portmanteau of sex and texting. Agreed? Good. We’ll stick with that. It’s not sexual texting, or sexually themed texting – it’s sex texting. Texting as a simulacrum of doin’ it. Remember cybersex?

:<<OH YEAH, I AM TAKING OFF YOUR PANTS NOW. HOLD ON MY MODEM IS DOWNLOADING THE REST OF YOUR BRA.

There wasn’t any confusion about cybersex. Like phone sex before it, cybersex was the acting out of sexual performances via internet. Sexting is the same thing. If I tell you I want to make out via text, I’m not sexting. If I say I want to rip off your pants and push you up against a wall (in a sweet way!), I’m probably sexting. If you send me back a naked picture with a reply to that effect, now we’re both sexting.

If I just send you an unsolicited mobile snapshot of my junk, I’m not a sexter – I’m a pervert. If you’re my girlfriend and I do it, I’m still not sexting – there’s no message, no action – just “Here, look at my blurry genitals.”

So let’s stop being confused. And moreover, let’s stop being afraid! It’s a little dystopian and indicative of an alienated and repressed society, but pretending we’re having sex with electronics can be a lot of fun! So open up your phone, scroll down that contact list, and say some freaky shit. Dong shot optional.

Photo: Poulsons Photography/Shutterstock