Bedroom Briefs

By Virginia Johnson

My first kiss almost caused mutual, spontaneous combustion. The pent of desire coursing through my veins bubbled to the surface and I completely lost control. Suddenly, everything was wet and hot and desperate. My desperation occurred due to sexting. My first boyfriend and I narrated our sexual exploration via our flip phones constantly. Long before laying our lips against each other’s mouths, we had meticulously discussed our sexual fantasies. I offered him titillating details of my shower activities. He told me what he wanted to do to me after school in the band room. We exchanged innumerable descriptions of our bodies and our desires, building insurmountable tension and feverish need.

I broke up with that boyfriend long ago, but my practice of sexting persists. A victim of multiple long-distance relationships, sometimes using technology to express desire proved necessary. Other times, sending naughty texts and messages was just fun. The forbidden condition of the activity and its quality of instant gratification fuels my fantasies and adds another layer of excitement to my sex life. However, I find the larger movement to which sexting belongs – that of instantaneous communication – worrisome.

Generation Z, often called the Facebook generation, communicates more than any other age group. We text, email, message, call, Snap Chat, BBM, iMessage, FaceTime, IM, Skype. The mediums are endless. Our multilayered, technologically-charged communication extends into our sex lives. Even when I’m living in the same building as my significant other, I text him three or four times a day, not to mention email, Facebook and phone calls. Most of this communication barely moves past content as shallow as “Hey, how are you?” Other texts might get steamy, even though I could just as easily go say the content of my messages and get a physical rather than textual response. Technology proves even more powerful at the beginning of relationships. A thorough Facebook stalk is the first step for any flirtation, even before the relationship matures past Proctor crush status. Next commences the dangerous dance of the textual courtship. The endless exchanges tapped on a keyboard replace first-date conversations. Perhaps once a relationship has progressed into the sexual arena, sexting can launch and titillate both parties while they attempt to do their homework.

Our dependence on technology to communicate our love and lust stems from the fact that virtual communication feels safer than speaking to someone in person. It’s easy to type out and send the reasons why you love his body or where you want her lips, or how you want it from behind. Contrastingly, in the bedroom, in the nude, a real person in front of whom you are vulnerable, might judge you. Whether that person is a crush, a new boyfriend, or the love of your life, that vulnerability exists and is terrifying. Snap Chat, sexting, and IM circumvent that vulnerability, providing the illusion of safety behind a screen.

Failing to accept vulnerability in our love and sex lives sacrifices a huge opportunity. Vulnerability is the bread and butter of exploration. Surmounting it generates confidence and creates closeness between two people. Every email with an invitation for dinner this weekend, every Facebook message suggesting a future date, every text asking if I like it dirty avoids vulnerability. These modes of communication substitute virtual communication for genuine communion. Sexting is fun. I’m not going to stop doing it. But I recognize its dearth of power in comparison to real-life, in-person sexual experience. At best, sexting and virtual communication functions as a supplement, at worst, it’s a crutch. Avoid the protective screen. Explore your sexuality in the flesh.