What is sexting? 

Sexting is just another type of sexual communication.  It’s a way to flirt with your partner, to talk about what you like or what you want, to spice things up.  There is a common idea that sexting means sending naked photos of yourself… and while that can be what sexting looks like, it doesn’t have to be.  Try thinking of it as sexy, flirty talk over text.

We mostly hear about sexting when there’s a celebrity scandal or when people are talking about teens and young adults.  That can make it seem like something foreign and scary.  When adults are asked about sexting, however, around half of adults report having tried it at least once.  That’s about 1 in 2 people!  If so many people are doing it, there must be a reason why.  

Why would adults sext?

Actually, there are a lot of reasons couples choose to send each other racy text messages.  Those include (but are not limited to) wanting to:

Flirt with your partner

Spice things up

Focus on the fun and pleasurable side of wanting, not the reproductive aspects of sex

Remind your partner of good times you’ve had

Tell your partner what you like in bed

Feel connected with your partner

Share an intimate secret

Does that mean that sexting is good for relationships?

This is a really important question.  First, let’s look at what sexting is.

Sexting is a type of texting.  Research shows that people who text with their partners to tell them they love them or are thinking about them report feeling more connected.  And more texting is related to better relationship satisfaction. 

Sexting is a type of sexual communication. Sexual communication is one of the factors that links sexual and relationship satisfaction.  It’s probably not a surprise however that when researchers have looked at couples in long-term relationships and asked how they communicate about sex, the answer was that they don’t do it very well. One study found that in over a hundred couples who had been together for an average of 14 years, partners only understood an average of 62% of their partner’s likes and 26% of their partner’s dislikes about sex.  

Communicating with your partner is important, but talking about sex can be hard, even in long term relationships.  Most couples need help telling their partners what they want (and what they don’t want!).    We also know that sometimes, when people stop connecting sexually, their overall intimacy levels drop.  This can lead to feeling less satisfied not only sexually, but also with the relationship as a whole.

Put together this means that sexting can be a way to connect with your partner about something that is difficult to talk about over a method of communication that you already use… and, it can be fun!

However, research also shows that sometimes people sext when they don’t really want to.  When people report frequently sexting when they don’t want to, more sexting has been linked to lower relationship satisfaction.  This means, it is important to ask yourself why you are doing this.  If you feel pressured or coerced, it might be a sign of other problems with communication.  If you feel unsafe in your relationship, please visit the resources page of this site for suggestions of where you can seek help.

If we think back to the question about whether sexting is good for relationships, what does this mean? 

It means that just like other forms of communication, sexting can be good or bad for relationships depending on how it is used.  It also means that for people who are sexting because they want to, it is linked to higher sexual and relationship satisfaction.  

How would I even start?

Even knowing all this (that sexting is just another way to be sexy with your partner and it might be a fun way to spice up your sex life), you might be wondering how you would even get started. 

Here are some tips to try:

  • Use language and phrases that mean something to the two of you.
  • Remind your partner of things you’ve done together.
  • Lay out a fantasy.
  • Tell your partner how sexy they are.
  • Tell your partner how turned on you are.
  • Tell your partner what you are wearing...or not wearing.
  • Tell your partner what you want to do to them.
  • Tell your partner what you want them to do to you.
  • Ask your partner a naughty question.
  • If you are comfortable, send a sexy pic.

Most importantly, just be you… you know how to flirt with your partner. 

Remember, you don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with.  If you are nervous, wade in slowly.

Common concerns about sexting



That doesn’t sound like us.

Many people have the idea sexting is something that “people like me” don’t do.  The problem with this idea is that it is often based on silence around the topic instead of actual facts.  Remember, about half of adults sext which means you probably do know someone who is doing it.  In general, we don’t talk about the details of our sex lives with many people, so we don’t really know what other people do.

What if somebody else sees?

Privacy concerns are very common.  Although there is no way to completely remove the risk of someone seeing your texts or photos, there are ways to minimize those risks.  For example, you can change privacy settings on your phone to reduce the risk of someone else seeing your texts.  There are also apps specifically designed to keep “those kind” of messages private.  Visit the Safer Sexting page for more information about privacy concerns around sexting.

Is it legal?

As long as everyone involved is over the age of 18 and has consented, sexting with your partner is generally legal.  Most legal problems with sexting concern sending pictures of or to minors or sending or forwarding photographs without consent.  For more information about legal concerns, visit the Safer Sexting page.