This content originally appeared on Mashable for a US audience and has been adapted for the UK audience.
In a world where online dating and casual hookups have become the norm, dating can still feel exhausting. Sometimes, just the thought of putting on proper clothes, coming up with witty conversation starters, and commuting to the actual meetup spot can be tiring.
No matter what kind of encounter you plan, when it comes to dating, there’ll always be some sort of physical effort required.
The good news? There is a loophole: Sexting.
What is sexting?
Sexting is the art of sending sexually explicit photos or messages to one or more people via text. Thanks to its recent rise in popularity, there are now apps for sexting and new sexting features in apps that are otherwise for dating in person.
What do you need to know about sexting?
Whether you’re interested in giving sexting a try or you’re a seasoned pro, there are a few things to keep in mind when downloading and using a new dating app to sext. Sure, there are fewer inhibitions when scoring a new sexting partner when compared to finding a long-term lover, but there are rules you should follow in order for all parties to feel at ease. Here are three big ones:
Mutual respect — Assess the situation and know your audience. Usually, it doesn’t take much more than a few pre-sext texts (or pre-sexts) to gauge whether or not someone is interested in doing the cyber-dirty with you. Take the time to figure that out before you lead with something raunchy and uncalled-for. AKA, don’t just start throwing dick pics at people left and right if they didn’t ask.
Mutual trust — Be respectful: Privacy is sacred. The internet has the scary ability to make fleeting moments very permanent. If someone asks you to keep something to yourself, do it. While sexting can be light and fun, it also requires a serious level of trust. If you betray that trust, you’re ruining it for everybody.
Privacy — No app can completely protect your privacy for you — that’s your job. Though there are apps that have certain features that are designed to protect your identity/content, they don’t rule out all scenarios. For example, someone doesn’t need to take a screenshot to capture a picture you send. They could easily use another phone or device to snap or record your photos and/or videos. You should always keep this in mind before sending anything that could be compromising, and do your best to make sure you trust the person who’s receiving your messages.
Keep these points in mind when engaging in NSFW messaging.
Should you engage in sexting?
Real-life dating is obviously the best way to get to know somebody long-term, especially if you’re looking for any kind of serious, in-person relationship. And real sex will always be better than sexting. However, sexting is an alternative that may help you out in ways you didn’t even think about.
Convenience — Whether you plan to wine and dine on your date or just meet to hook up, it always requires some extra effort. For those with super hectic schedules or those who just don’t have room in their life (for whatever reason) for a steady in-person relationship, sexting is practically a saving grace. After all, your sex drive doesn’t go away just because you’re busy. Sexting allows you to take care of your sexual needs without putting yourself out.
Exploring trust and intimacy — Getting comfortable with another person in close quarters doesn’t always come naturally for everyone — but opting for sexting gives way to a new level of exploration in terms of intimacy and trust. You don’t ever have to meet the person behind the screen if you don’t want to, but being able to practice feeling vulnerable without any strings attached can be a great lesson in being more open.
Freedom — As is the case with most behind-the-screen activities, with sexting, you can let go of your inhibitions and get comfortable exploring your sexual side. Knowing there’s a certain barrier between you and the other person may allow you to experiment with language and ideas that you wouldn’t otherwise explore in person.
Fun — A little honesty, please. A night of sexting is always going to be a lot more fun than endlessly swiping right on a dating app and starting the same conversation over and over. Having the option of opening an app on your phone and engaging in a little virtual foreplay offers instant gratification and (almost) guaranteed pleasure.
Safety — We’ve touched on the reasons why sexting might not be completely safe in terms of privacy, but to its credit, sexting offers an element of safety that in-person meetings don’t. Sexting allows you to interact with both people you know and total strangers without putting yourself in dangerous or unwanted physical situations. Your experience should always be what you want it to be, and with sexting, if it’s not going in the direction you want, it’s just a matter of closing an app.
The benefits are clear for all to see, so not give it a try?
What makes an app good for sexting?
You’ll want to look for certain features in an app if you’re planning on sexting:
Ease of use — You don’t want to find yourself in a hot and steamy conversation trying to figure out how to attach an image or a voice note. When it comes to sexting, the more user-friendly the platform is, the better. You’ll want something that’s efficient and fast.
Privacy features — What happens in a sexting app doesn’t always stay in a sexting app; there are no guarantees that your conversations or selfies won’t wind up a screenshot on someone’s phone. That said, certain apps include instant self-destruction features that delete photos and conversations after a certain amount of time.
Safety — If you’re looking for a night of no-strings-attached fun online, it doesn’t really matter if the person on the other end of your conversation has been verified — but if you do want to ensure you’re not being catfished or chatting with a bot, consider using an app that links social media or verifies users.
Subscription pricing versus free features — How much are you willing to pay for bells and whistles? There are several free apps out there, but if you’re looking for something a little fancier, you can pay a few pounds a month for premium features.
With these features in mind, you should be ready to select an app and start sexting. You’ve got this.
What is the best app for sexting?
Since sexting, by nature, comes with a lot of factors to consider (consent and privacy, for example), we’ve picked out the best sexting apps to get you off — to a good start, that is. We’ve tried to line up something for everyone, so check out these options, and pick your favourite.
These are the best sexting apps in 2023.