For more sex education resources during the COVID-19 outbreak, check out our Better Sex Ed guide.
During quarantine, while you may have been self-isolating from your partner and horny, you’ve probably been seeing advice about taking nudes, upping your sexting game, and getting started with virtual sex. But does that mean you have to send nudes or sext to keep the spark alive?
We’re here to tell you: definitely not.
That doesn’t mean sending nudes is inherently bad. For some people it’s a great option, and it may work for your best friend and their partner. But sending erotic photos of yourself to your partners doesn’t guarantee that those relationships will survive quarantine, just like an “I promise” doesn’t guarantee that the recipient will protect your privacy.
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But just as with any other sex act, it’s best to be fully informed and to set some boundaries before you send or receive nude pictures. Digital privacy is a big concern, especially with new questions being raised during the COVID-19 outbreak, but your emotional comfort is also an important consideration.
If you’re feeling uncertain about sending nudes, this guide will help you decide if it’s right for you.
Many of these considerations can also be applied to other forms of long-distance sex, like sexting, phone sex, and cybersex. I use the word “partner” throughout, but these tips aren’t just for people in romantic relationships—they can also be applied to anyone you have a sexual relationship with.
How to decide if sending nudes is right for you
No one wants an unsolicited dick pic, but if your partner is soliciting nudes, it’s worth having a conversation with them about it in advance.
Consensually sharing naked, partially clothed, or other erotic images can feel exciting and can make you feel closer to your long-distance partner, but if and only if consent is the basis of the interaction. If you’ve previously sexted or had phone sex, you might broach the subject by asking something like, “I’d love to add some suggestive photos to the mix here. Would you be down for us sending some to each other?”
Asking if your partner can send nudes or if you can send nudes to your partner in the middle of a steamy sexting session can put pressure on the other person to respond right away, even if they aren’t certain.
So save the ask for a time when the pressure is low, they have space to ask questions, and time to think on their own before they make a decision. When you do have that conversation, make it clear that it is absolutely OK for your partner to say they’re not interested.
It isn’t enough to just create an opportunity for a “yes”—you also have to create a pressure-free space for them to say “no.”
Here are some other questions to consider on your own:
- Do you and the recipient have an established pattern of trust?
- How have they demonstrated trustworthiness in the past?
- If you did send nudes, what type of safety protocol would be acceptable to you?
- Do you have a safe, private place where you could take photos?
- Do you have any easily identifiable marks on your body?
- Do you feel sending nudes is a last-ditch effort to keep your relationship going?
- What feelings, needs, and desires are you looking to fulfill by sharing nudes with each other?
- Do you feel confident that your digital privacy will be protected?
You probably shouldn’t send nudes if…
The number of questions that I’ve gotten recently from people whose partners are pressuring them to send nudes or have cyber sex has gone way up.
Whether your partner is long-distance or live-in, it’s never OK to pressure someone to send nude photos.
If your partner is pressuring you to send nudes, and a gut check tells you it doesn’t feel quite right, listen to your gut. That feeling is more likely a “no” that doesn’t feel comfortable being stated out loud.
That “no” is valid no matter the reason—and you don’t have to justify it. If your partner is saying or implying things like, “If you don’t send me nudes, you must not really trust or care about me,” that’s emotional manipulation, and it’s a big red flag.
You shouldn’t send nudes as an effort to save your relationship or restore the “spark,” either. In the short-term they make you feel closer, but if your relationship was already rocky, then nudes (no matter how hot) aren’t going to save it.
Here are some other reasons why sending nudes might not be the best choice for you:
- You share digital devices or logins with someone other than the recipient.
- Your partner shares devices with others or other people know their password.
- You don’t have access to a secured app (more on that in a bit).
- Your partner has a history of not respecting your boundaries, minor and major.
- You don’t have an established pattern of trust with the recipient.
- The potential recipient is pressuring you or making you feel like not sending nudes means you don’t care about them.
- You have body markers that would be easily recognized and can’t be covered up in some way.
And here’s one situation in which you should never send nudes: if you or the recipient are under 18. Yes, even if you’re both under 18.
Even if the photos are consensually taken, sent, and received, the law doesn’t see it that way in most states. So if you’re a minor, stick to using your words rather than photos or video.
How to send nudes more safely
Let’s get real about one thing: If you’ve decided that sending nudes is the right choice for you and your relationship, there are practices you can put into place to help protect you and your partner’s digital safety.
First, remember that conversation I mentioned earlier? Here are some critical questions that you should have the answers to:
- What parts of my body am I willing to show?
- What do I expect you to do with the photos or videos afterward?
- If I expect you to delete them, how soon after does that need to be done?
- What types of images or videos am I comfortable receiving?
- How will we confirm that the images are deleted from all devices and from the cloud?
- When is it OK for us to send nudes? What times of day are off-limits?
- How will we ask permission to send nudes? How will we grant permission?
- Even considering all these precautions, how would I feel if the photo were found online?
Even in long-standing relationships with a history of trust, you should talk about what digital privacy means to you and how you work to maintain that privacy day to day. Everyone’s privacy thresholds are different, so don’t assume that you and your partner will be on the same page from the start.
Once you’re on the same page emotionally, you can begin to consider logistics:
- How will I cover up distinguishing body features or parts of my home?
- What space of my home feels safe, private, and comfortable enough to take photos?
When you take a photo with your phone’s camera, the image file includes metadata that can compromise your privacy, like your GPS location. Before you send an image, you can strip it of that information, known as EXIF data, with an app like ViewExif.
Then finally, you can talk about the medium to use. When it comes to sending nudes, you have more options than texting or using Snapchat. In fact, I discourage you from using both (though Snapchat will do in a pinch).
If you have a smartphone and are looking to consensually send nudes, I recommend the Confide app. While Snapchat just tells you if someone has taken a screenshot, Confide blocks some of the common ways recipients can take screenshots, which is pretty cool. It also has other features, like only letting you view one line of text at a time and allowing you to retract unread messages.
Using an encrypted app like Confide can take your digital comfort to the next level and remove some of the stress from your sexting adventures.
But keep in mind: While using an app like this can decrease the chances of your photo leaking out, it is not foolproof, nor is it hacker proof.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: If someone else can view it, they can find a way to save it. Using a more secure app is no substitute for establishing trust, determining your own comfort levels, and asking your partner the right questions.
There’s nothing inherently good or bad when it comes to consensually sending nudes. Just remember—no one wants your unsolicited genital pics. Seriously, no one. (In fact, in Texas, it’s now illegal to send unsolicited nude photos.) So ask first, have a conversation, and set the boundaries that work for you and your recipient. Then, have fun!