Where were you when you received your first “what are you wearing?” text? As a proud crusader against small talk, that’s probably my favorite question to liven up any conversation (though I’ve learned it’s not always welcome at wakes or DBT group). I, for one, always have my answer ready to go…
But first, let’s go back to 2009; it’s 1am on the floor of my best friend’s basement. My summer camp ex-boyfriend had been spamming my flip phone with Maroon 5 lyrics all night and finally, after being met with a few “wtf” responses, decided it was time to change his strategy. Of course, his text came with the classic “:P” face, and at first just made me laugh. I looked down at my pizza sauce-stained pajama pants, then over at my friend who was a much more seasoned sexter than I was. “What do I say?” I asked her.
“Whatever you want!” she replied, followed by a knowing cackle. So, with those empowering words of wisdom, I wiped the pepperoni grease from my hands and started typing…
Fast forward to my late 20s and I’m a full-fledged sexting fiend. It’s truly my favorite activity!I’ll do it casually under the table at Panera while enjoying a nice bread bowl, or make a special ritual of it with my partner. There are few things I love more than getting dressed to the nines just to lay in bed and write the Magna Carta of SMS smut. I’ll even leap at the opportunity to ghost-sext, helping my friends craft salacious hypotheticals to violently horny film bros. “Tell him you want him to rail you from behind while he makes you admit Legally Blonde is a bad movie!” “Say you’ll sit on his face for the duration of the Godfather trilogy!” Who needs an MFA when you have a filthy mind and unlimited data? Plus, some of my best orgasms have been from getting myself off while reading a green text bubble about getting “pouty little princess lips pounded”. Nothing hotter than some good alliteration.
Who needs an MFA when you have a filthy mind and unlimited data?
For the most part, sexting has always been a space where I can be recklessly inventive, play with taboos, and feel insanely hot no matter what I’m actually wearing. But last summer was the first time I felt there was too stark of an asymmetry between real-life Rachel and the dolled-up cum slut protagonist of all my descriptive debauchery. I was living in LA when my mental health hit an all-time low and I lost the ability to take even the most basic care of myself. (My friends blame an untreated mood disorder; I blame spending more than 40 seconds inside an Erehwon.) Either way, there was about a month and a half where I didn’t shower, didn’t do laundry, ignored the overflowing trash can, and barely moved from my bed.
If being caught in the grips of a meltdown wasn’t enough, this period when I felt the least sexy that I’ve ever felt in my life was also when a hot, kinky dude I’d been casually chatting with online finally gave me his number to plan a meet-up. At first, I figured we could just do some fun dirty talking for a while. I certainly was not in the mental space to be handcuffed to someone’s desk, let alone go out in public without sobbing into my cocktail and oversharing about the time my dad threw a shoe at me for beating him in Wii Tennis. Plus, I typically like to sext a person before I meet up with them to determine compatibility and gauge how well they respect boundaries.
But this time when I tried to get into it, I couldn’t help but feel like a total fraud. “What are you wearing?” is about the last question you want to receive when the answer is a grimy Tampa Bay Turkey Trot t-shirt you haven’t taken off in 11 days.
As I sat there in my unmade bed, surrounded by empty Dorito bags and half-eaten Door Dash orders, imprisoned by depression and self-disgust, I begun to feel undeserving of my sexual agency – which was annoying because I was still horny as fuck! I just felt like I was too unclean and dysfunctional to satisfy that urge. How could I possibly justify feeling sexy when I hadn’t picked up a toothbrush in weeks? Why did I think I’d be able to get someone else off if I couldn’t even practice basic self-care? And what business did I have concocting perverted fantasies when my reality resembled the inside of a dumpster behind Pizza Hut?
Thankfully, I eventually got way too horny and gave in to the part of me that wanted to be a slut despite the surrounding squalor. The more we sexted, the clearer it became that having a safe little digital world to do and be whoever I wanted was actually the thing I needed most. For a while it was the one thing I was able to do, and helped me keep track of the passing of time. I even used the sexting sessions as a reward sometimes, telling myself if I washed my face or did one dish, I could lay in bed and dirty talk until both a new day and I came.
The more we sexted, the clearer it became that having a safe little digital world to do and be whoever I wanted was actually the thing I needed most.
Sexting through a time where I felt my least sexy was remarkably healing, and far more helpful than any self-love infographics or inspirational quotes I saw doom scrolling through Instagram. Reflecting back, I realize how so much of the initial disconnect I felt was due to deeply ingrained neurotypical model of sexual agency, as well as deep shame over the unhygienic habits my mental illness creates. Allowing my sex drive to coexist with parts of me that felt ‘unclean’ or ‘unwell’ helped me reject that shame and unlearn oppressive, unimaginative ideals about what sexual health looks like. Luckily, my brain is much better right now but it’s nice to know that when the next crisis inevitably comes knocking (complex PTSD is an insatiable slut), I’ll have my filthy mind and iPhone charger to get me through. Here’s to perverted vignettes and Verizon Wireless!