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Why I, Like J-Lo, Refuse To Sext

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Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet
I was reading this interview with David Bailey the other day who admitted that the first time someone asked him if he’d ever taken a “selfie”, he thought they were referring to masturbation. That’s what a selfie is though, right? A form of self love – that occasionally tips into you getting off with yourself for everyone to see. Because what a typical 'selfie' is really asking is this: ‘Do you think I’m sexy?’

In 2016, we pretty much have sex with our iPhones. I might go so far as to suggest that the mobile is not only a means of communication, but also a rather un-sexily packaged vibrator (of sorts).

In my opinion, the selfies we send to our lovers privately are blurring with the images we post of ourselves on social media. When we advertise ourselves, which we do now, daily, we get lazy. Pictures so quickly become about how our peers – and then in turn absolute strangers – value our lives. The selfie is, arguably, at the forefront of that sexual stock, where likes raise or lower our value on the market in the blink of a tap.

As an unattached female, it can be a tricky game to play, because you're essentially inviting others to cast their vote on your physicality. On paper, the upside of a selfie sent with the aim of arousing one person, is that it's only going to be seen by one person, of your choosing. The reality, however, is that it could end up being seen, and commented on, by a lot of people, and that's why I don't send them, even when asked. Beyond finding the whole thing really unsexy, I'm just not up for rolling the dice with naked images of myself.

We meet potential love matches with our mobiles (dating apps); we advertise our sexual prowess with pictures (see above re: selfies); we remind current partners of our physical value (a Facebook profile picture change perhaps.) Sex, in 2016, is not something you have to do in person. It no longer equates to penetration or to two people being in the same place at the same time. Sex that occurs through a screen is just as valid as the traditional, fleshy act. 'Sexting', or 'Digital Love', or whatever you'd like to call it, is happening, and it's real, and it's shaping the libido of the next generation. It's everything we need as time-poor people: instant, spontaneous, consuming.

While a sultry, 'come-hither' selfie on the ‘gram might be a nod or a wink in the right person's direction, we're also using our private messaging apps to have full-blown, pretty explicit sex. I am of course talking about Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, the common text, Instagram direct messages – even Snapchat. In the words of Yo Gotti’s hit song, "It Goes Down In The DM". The ‘DM’ has opened up a whole new level of personal ways to interact with our sexual conquests. Yo Gotti is on to something: We’re all having sex in the DM.

Yo Gotti is on to something: We’re all having sex in the DM.

Being as I am, a 25-year-old woman living in London, it will not surprise you to learn that I have been sent dick pics. Caveat: a dick pic. Scrap that: a dick Snapchat. Yeah, a moving image sext. And it was intense, and I deleted Snapchat afterwards (sorry – you know who you are). But, you know what, I was slightly concerned with how little curated genital art I’ve been on the reciprocating end of, before I realised it’s because I’m not putting it out there. I’ve thought about it. I’ve taken well lit pictures of my waist and ass and I’ve sent them to my mates as kind of ‘yo, whatsupppppp!’ (give my life/body authentication please) messages on a whim, but I’ve always gone chicken shit at the thought of seeding them out to boys I fancy.

My friends, I know, do take pictures and do send them out. I'm not just talking a barely covered breast or a Kardashian ‘belfie’ either, I'm talking full-frontal vaginal and peni-gal (go with it) shots. One of my friends basically has sex with her long distance boyfriend via the use of Snapchat and some well-lit bathroom selfies, and it works for them.

It’s not just pictures of myself naked popping up in someone’s inbox that triggers a cloying in my throat, it’s sexting too. I have been known to send a boozy text that reads something like, “I want to have sex with you", or if the night has truly taken me, “let’s fuck.” But then I chicken out.

Yesterday, a boy Whatsapp'd me this question: "Have you ever had anal?" While a message like that might raise a few tuts from my friends, and while I was, admittedly, taken by surprise, I actually just laughed, then checked my emails, and then thought nothing of it. The sext conversations of my pals, that I have been privy to, go on forever. They read like bad porno-scripts. Clunky clichés and scenarios that set my teeth on edge – but I love reading them. Much like real sex itself, they begin with foreplay, come to a climax and crescendo with a mutual arrival at a destination; “that was so fucking good babes, oh my god” etc, etc, etc.

I usually have a few questions though. Just how ambidextrous are my mates? How can you get past the whole screen thing, and is FaceTime not just so cringe? Maybe it’s different because I’m single and live in perennial fear of the screenshot. In fact, if you’re reading this, and you live in East London, and are also in your twenties, I’d bet my last rolo I’ve seen a screenshot of some of your online activity. I bet you’ve probably seen some of mine too. Because we live in an age where everything is visible and retrievable and screen-shotable. When we're having sex on our phones, there is a third person involved: the iPhone and all the possibilities that come with 4G.
It's sad, but I’m in a more vulnerable position as a single woman when it comes to images of my naked/half-naked self being shared, and that’s what stops me right in my Uber tracks after I send the dreaded and inevitable “let’s have sex" text. Because I start to imagine his housemate laughing at my sexy selfie; I start to see him unlocking his phone and his boss catching a glimpse of my arse; I can see it getting PR’d on the lads' WhatsApp – and I want the ground to swallow me up.

So, yesterday, when J-Lo was asked to agree ‘yes’, by saying ‘J-LO’, and ‘no’ by saying ‘J-No’ on some American TV chat show, I found myself nodding vehemently when she answered ‘J-No’ to whether she agrees with sexting. “Dangerous,” she said. “I’m gonna have to say J. No. That’s dangerous!” And that’s a very particular word to use: ‘dangerous’ and one I would employ in this context too. Maybe, as a celebrity, she’s especially paranoid too after the whole iCloud leaks where nude images of celebrities like J-Law and Selena Gomez were released, but, I think the word’s still applicable to civilians like us. Yes, selfies can be empowering, but once you abscond control over your image or send an explicit image detailing the tributaries of your clitoris, you are taking a risk.

For me, having coitus on your phone comes down to two very sexy words: Risk Assessment. I get if it’s your partner, or your boyfriend, or your long distance wife, and that needs must, and maybe I have a poor sense of imagination or a general lack of trust but... I'd just rather have the real thing.

I have to stop myself there because I've realised that largely how I engage in 'the real thing' begins with a text. In yet more words of Yo Gotti: “Snapchat me that pussy or FaceTime me that pussy if it's cool.” Just make sure you’re using protection kids – and by protection I mean some serious iCloud and data protection and some very complex emotional foresight. Apart from that, have fun!
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