Have You Participated in Consensual But Unwanted Sexting?

Sexting is the absolute worst, and no one actually likes it.
Publish date:
June 13, 2014
lying, sexting, consent, phone sex

A while back, I saw a study on people’s sexting habits reported in the Pacific Standard. Researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, found that 48% of the 155 participants in the study admitted to “lying during sexting with a committed partner.” Of those lying sexters who confessed to faking sexy text messages, 20% lied about either what they were wearing or what they were doing, and 28% lied about both, to which every person who has ever engaged in any kind of explicit text exchange replied with a resounding, “DUH."

According to researchers, two-thirds of the participants who made up fake sexts said they did so to benefit or appease their partner in some way, or because they felt they should want to “keep things interesting." Basically, they didn’t want to be the one to reply, “What am I wearing? Uh, dirty sweatpants and popcorn kernels, u?”

Not only are we lying while we sext, we're sexting when we don't really want to in the first place. Half of the people questioned had engaged in unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner, because they didn’t want to make their partner feel rejected, or get dumped themselves.

I’ve dabbled in sexting, but I just can't take it seriously. I’ve never felt a genuine desire to send someone a headless picture of my boobs for my own gratification. What am I wearing? STOP. And texting explicit sex details just makes me laugh uncomfortably. My sexts end up reading like Tina Belcher’s erotic friend fiction.

And yet even I have participated in "consensual but unwanted sexting." It all started on Tinder (don’t worry, I’m also cringing profusely) when I swiped right on a dude who seemed normal enough. We messaged, he asked for my number, and we texted benignly back and forth for a few days before the conversation got boring and kind of died. I figured that was that. I didn’t intend to contact him again, and didn’t expect to hear from him again either, so I deleted his number and forgot about it.

A few weeks later, he started texting me again with the same inarticulate, boring-ass nonsense from before. I was at work, and had just decided not to answer anymore, when I received a different kind of text.

“What are you wearing?”

Before I could come up with a fake reply, a picture of his penis popped up on my phone with the caption, “This is what I’m wearing,” and after a few minutes without a reply from me, “Do you like that?”


There’s nothing you can really say after someone sends you an unsolicited photo of their penis.

"Great penis!"

"Yeah, that’s what a dick looks like!"

"I see you have genitals!"

I most definitely DID NOT ask for a photo of his junk, but I DID save it in a special file on my computer, you know, for posterity. I don’t look at it or show it to people, but maybe one day I’ll have enough dick pics stored to create some kind of dick pic art installation, or something. You never know.

The dick pics kept rolling in, as well as a charming description of stuff he wanted to do with me, to which I stopped responding. He sent me an annoyed message and gave up for a while. Later that night, he texted, “U up?” and “Wut r u up to.”

I was bored, so I responded: “Nm, just chillin.” ("Chillin" means watching TV in an old, white T-shirt with pit stains while eating hummus from the container with a spoon.)

More dick pics, and then he called me. I panicked and answered. He then proceeded to describe in detail what he was doing to himself, and stuff he wanted me to do to myself as I listened in horrified silence.

“Go lie on your bed.”

“OK.” (Nope, not getting off the couch)

“Are you touching yourself?”

“Yes.” (NOPE)

“Do you like that?”

“Uh-huh.” (NOPE)

I added in some sex noises, just for good measure, and within three minutes, I guess he was finished because he hung up.

No one made me answer the phone, but I couldn’t figure out why I’d gone along with phone sex that I wasn’t into, at all. I didn’t know the guy, I could have easily told him to leave me alone. I didn’t really want to engage in whatever this dude was trying to engage in, and I don’t really know why I did. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a sext exchange, as long as you are really, truly, consensually enjoying it, and not consensually as in, “Oh OK, there’s a dick pic so I guess this is happening.” Especially since there hard data to back up what we’ve known all along: that sexting is the absolute worst, and no one actually likes it. It’s SCIENCE.