To sext or not to sext? That is the question… At least, it used to be. These days, it seems like everyone has a naughty text or two stored in their inbox and according to recent research, this assumption is not far off. One 2015 study in particular surveyed 870 Americans, 88% of whom admitted to sexting at least once in their life. And these weren’t just millennials!

With the rise in dating apps and social media, it’s no surprise that sexting has become a pivotal part of the mating process. When done correctly, sexting can be seen as the modern-day equivalent of a steamy love letter, minus the debilitating hand cramp (Unless of course… Well, you know!) But send the wrong sext to the wrong person and you’ll be forever saved in their mind as awkward, offensive or downright skeezy. So how do you know if your sexually explicit message will be received with a sizzle or returned with a restraining order? The success of any sext comes down to two important factors: content and context. What are you sexting? Why are you sexting it? And who are you sending sexually explicit messages to?

Before you hit the send button, here are

5 simple rules to guide your sexting behaviors

1. Know Your Audience

Before we get into the topic of WHAT you’re about to send out into the digital universe, there is an important piece of the puzzle you need to consider: Who is on the other side of that sext?

While you might not need to know their mother’s maiden name or social security number, you do need to know them well enough to know if sexting is something they are okay with. Are they the type of person who would think this is fun? Or the type that would become immediately offended and share said sext with all of their friends (Because yes, women do that. We’re sorry.)

Which brings me to the second reason to know the person you’re sexting: Trust. Once you send that initial sext, it is gone forever. You can’t get it back, and you can’t control what the recipient chooses to do with it. So you have to ask yourself, can you trust this person to delete your steamy message once the conversation is over? If there’s any question in your mind, skip the previews completely and save the good stuff for the live show.

2. Sense the Tone

As I mentioned, context is very important when it comes to sexting. You can’t just launch into an X-rated conversation without doing a little recon first: Is this a relationship in which sexting could be considered appropriate? Has the conversation been building up to this? Or are you throwing an unsolicited sext out as a Hail Mary, hoping to get something positive back? Just because you’re protected by an LED screen does not give you the right to be a creep.

Bottom line, sexts should never stand alone and should not be sent unprovoked. If you’re not sure if a new fling is sext-friendly, test the waters first by asking some sneakily pointed questions: What are they doing? Are they alone? What are they thinking about right now? If they reply back that they are thinking about you, you’re as good as in! Lay the groundwork first and build up to your consensual sexting sesh — it’s worth it in the long run.

3. Keep It In Your Pants, Guys

If you were walking down the street and a man popped up out of nowhere and flashed you his junk, what kind of response could that man expect? Horror, disgust, a call to the police, perhaps? Uninvited, unexpected male nudity in the real world is a form of assault, so why would it be okay to do over texting? And yet, men everywhere are sexting out perfectly posed pictures of their manhood to strangers, expecting to be praised for their thoughtful package like a cat that leaves a dead mouse in its owner’s slipper.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in the case of sexting, I’m pretty sure most women would prefer the words. A picture of a penis without a man attached looks like a fish out of water, but a well-worded text describing what that penis could do to you… Well, that’s something she can take straight to the spank bank. Plus words are a lot less startling when they pop up on your phone.

4. Be a Tease

Like any other form of foreplay, sexting is something that should be eased into. In a way, it’s an art form. Sexts are meant to entice and to build arousal until two people can physically pick up where their digital foreplay left off, so when you go straight from “What are you wearing” to a picture of your penis, you’re depriving your cyber buddy the hottest part of sexting: the tease.

Say you’re getting intimate with a new partner. Do you jump straight into sex the second you hit the bedroom? Probably not. There is no such thing as a sexting quickie, so it’s best to take your time and savor the exchange. Consider it a learning experience! If you’re sexting with someone new (i.e. a person you have not slept with in real life) take the time to explore their turn on’s and turn off’s, their fantasies and desires. If this is someone you’ve already been intimate with, remind them of things you did together (and don’t be afraid to get descriptive!) The hotter you can get this person via text, the more amazing your real life lovemaking will be.

5. Don’t Drink and Sext

Remember when drunk dialing was the most embarrassing thing a person could do while intoxicated? At least with a late night drunk dial, there’s always the chance of the person being asleep and missing the call. By the time they call back the next morning, you have already had plenty of time to make up a convincing excuse, hopefully one that sounds better than “I was drunk and wanted to see you naked”.

Text messages, on the other hand, are not so forgiving. Instead of a mysterious missed call, that person wakes up to garbled messages, mostly sexual in nature, and perhaps a sloppy selfie or two… Not so enticing, am I right? While drunk you probably feels pretty confident in your sexting seduction skills, sober you can do a whole lot better, so why not save it for less hazy days. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you have to close one eye and lean against something to send a sext, trust me — it can wait until the morning.

A lot of sexting rules come down to common sense: Is this a person you should be sending racy texts to? Say someone were to see this sexy text message – Just how big of a pickle would you be in? If the recipient is in a relationship, or if God forbid, you are in a relationship, put down the phone and get yourself into a nice, cold shower. Cheating is bad enough, you do not need actual digital proof of your indiscretions.

Be smart, take it slow and have fun!

About The Author

Dr. Emily Morse

Emily Morse is a sexologist with a doctorate in human sexuality, and is the host of the top downloaded podcast, Sex With Emily. Emily is cofounder of Emily & Tony, the author of Hot Sex: Over 200 Things You Can Try Tonight, and a weekly cohost of Loveline With Dr. Drew Pinsky.