Digital Intimacy & Safe Sex Online

Tips for Traversing Online Sex for Those New to Virtual Relationships

Despite the simplicity of what consent is, navigating how to ask for it seems to be a continuous challenge. Given that many of us are social distancing, the added pressure of finding consent through a text-based conversation can seem exceedingly daunting.

Not all of us have ventured into online dating.  You might be feeling the urge to do something new and exciting while COVID-19 keeps us apart. And while dating apps are the better option if you are looking for romance, a lot of people still use social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) to reach out and make these connections. Just remember that this approach can have a negative impact if you aren’t paying attention to how you’re representing yourself. In any conversation, people want to feel respected and seen as an equal, we want to know that this person is being honest and that there are no hidden intentions. This way, when we find that connection, it feels absolutely freeing to be able to safely open up.

It can be confusing and hurtful if your intention is to create an intimate space with a new person, but you start the conversation under the guise of friendship.

This is where people are slipping up.  It can be confusing and hurtful if your intention is to create an intimate space with a new person, but you start the conversation under the guise of friendship. Most people aren’t using social media to look for a partner. For some, social media is their livelihood, a place for social connection, a scrapbook of their lives. You wouldn’t normally hit on someone while they are at work (or at least you know you shouldn’t) but yet, people still use DMs to strike up a personal conversation where the clear intention is not platonic.  If you want to ask someone out or have a sexual/romantic relationship with them, you need to be upfront and not lie about it.  Just go ahead and ask that question straight out. Yes, just ask. Let your first message be true to your intentions, no need to waste time.

From my perspective, I’ve lost a lot of what I thought were friendships, due to lack of honesty. Here are some of the reasons why this happens and how to try and avoid being put in this position on either side.

Media Idolization

People will idolize the version of you they see on social media and decide they want something from you. We all do this unintentionally considering social media automatically creates this specific version of ourselves. No matter how much we post, our social media is not entirely who we are, but it creates a feeling in others that they know us completely. Accounts from 15 to 15 million are idolized by their followers and through no fault of either party because our society has elevated social media to be this kind of fantasy life no matter how true to our own lives it may be. I’ve watched tons of new followers message me wanting to bond on some element of my life that I’ve posted and while I do enjoy making connections, I’m far more guarded than I used to be. I would have long conversations about my interests with another person only to find out that this was just a tactic to get nudes or create some sort of romantic interest despite not knowing me at all. It made me feel totally used, like the entire conversation was just a ruse to attempt a fake connection. After so many falsehoods, every new message feels like a bomb waiting to go off. The people you see online, they’re real, they have feelings and lives outside of social media that encompass so much more of who they are, and unless you know them in real life, you really must remember that you don’t know them at all.

Setting Boundaries for the Idolized

It’s rare that people are upfront, and when they are, I feel so much better equipped to talk with them. I’ve had this exploited attempt at friendship used on me so many times, that I really feel a lot of anxiety and fear when talking to new people online. It makes me worried that anyone just trying to be “friendly” or a “nice guy” is lying to me and thus I’ve had to put up a lot of boundaries to make this process easier. The thing that has helped the most is confronting the strangers that message me if the conversation gets slightly flirty or sexual. I attempt to mention my appreciation for their friendship or interests and then make myself sparse or I’ll be direct, mentioning that what they wrote makes me feel uncomfortable. Not everyone is good at being held accountable but if we’re honest with other people, we can at least hope for them to be honest with us back.

Clear Intentions

The nicest thing about being forward with what you want, is that when something clicks, it feels kind of perfect. From my experience, knowing I can trust that person makes me feel way more open to going on a date, talking casually, or if I really end up liking them, maybe even sending photos.

As someone in the sex work field this feeling is further compounded when you’re not sure what the person is really trying to get from you. And this is different for all of us in this field of work. Deception is unneeded when looking for a service, just state what you are looking for, plain and simple and I promise you, you’ll get an answer much faster than if you fuck around. A clear desire, financial compensation, and timetable help us create for you. While SWer’s services may fill a different aspect for them whether it be strictly work, expression, or survival—no matter what it’s for they are giving you their time, energy, and physical work. To expect free content from this time and labor put in, shows a lack of caring or recognizing the effort that was put into our actions in the first place. You are not respecting the workers by asking to see things for free. You’re asking for a service to be fulfilled not a friendship or relationship. This is work and nothing else.

Online Intimacy

For the time being, sexting and sending nudes or cybering by way of facetime fornication are really our only ways at having safe sex online during COVID-19.

The main thing to remember is to practice consent and communication with your partner so you both can feel comfortable and enjoy online sex together.

Creating an intimate space in a virtual world can be tough. If you’re not someone who has taken a nude or tried dirty talk over the phone before, it can feel really uncomfortable or scary to do the first time. The best way to create this safe space is to have a conversation with the other person about how you both feel when it comes to intimacy. Calling on the phone takes away the pressure of having a message sent out, but it also puts pressure on talking dirty, which not everyone enjoys or feels they can do. So, talking about how you’re feeling while talking dirty can help. Listening to someone you find hot talk to you about holding you, touching you, etc. Tell them how it makes you feel. And it’s okay not to like it or want to try something else. The main thing to remember is to practice consent and communication with your partner so you both can feel comfortable and enjoy online sex together.

You might also want to acknowledge that with the amount of nudes leaked on the web, the idea of sending one, especially if it could negatively affect your life, is terrifying. You are putting a lot of trust in someone else. And social media outlets aren’t really a safe way to go about sending a nude. With FOSTA/SESTA, even sending certain images through messaging apps can get people into trouble. For SWer’s the avenues for safe ways to produce and promote content has dwindled. Asking for teasers and promos or even a shot of someone’s body could potentially hurt their work or a social media-based account. Whether you purchase content or consensually get it from a partner or love interest, and this shouldn’t even have to be said, but keep it to yourself. If you do decide to cyber or send nudes to anyone, think about it you feel safe with this person having your photos. Sending photos is never a problem, but unsafe people using them against you can be. A way around this is of course snapchat but it would be great to see more dating applications holding users to an agreement that details what happens if nudes are leaked, that the party responsible should be held accountable and liable for what they’ve done. That way everyone can feel much safer about enjoying seeing each other. But since that might not necessarily happen from the apps themselves, the best thing you can do is try to facilitate some sort of agreement between each other that requires accountability no matter what.

We are living in strange times. It’s not unusual to want to create a relationship with someone who you fancy, but with our only means being limited to keyboards, you have to let that intention come through clearly. So much gets lost in a text message over a conversation and whether you mean to or not, it can really hurt the other person if they think you’re just trying to be a friend. There’s so much more to people than the way they look or who they are online, get to know them yes, but don’t use the knowledge they give you as a means to creating a relationship if they were never looking for one in the first place. 

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