This is the text version of episode 15’s book review. Sexting: The Grownup’s Little Book of Sex Tips for Getting Dirty Digitally by Tina Horn.
It hadn’t occurred to me until now that we probably get the word ‘digital’ from ‘digit’ because we do it with our hands—typing and such.
Which reminds me—when I was 12 and I first heard of oral sex I thought it was phone sex. Because we gave oral reports in school and that was just talking. Boy, was I in for a surprise. (When I learned what it actually was I thought, ‘Well, that’s unhygienic.’)
So this book is, ostensibly, about how to do the sex with your hands, but not the way you’re used to.
Really, though, it’s about communication in all its forms—it’s about self awareness first—about how to figure out what you want—and then how to communicate that to another person.
In our culture our communication is screen-heavy and Horn—once walking the reader through communicating with him or herself and then the more traditional forms of conversation—helps us hapless boobs deal with the various ways we can screw up or enhance our relationships with all this newfangled technology.
Full disclosure: I received this book for free, but I’m buying a copy of my own and a copy for a friend.
I wish book smells had specific names so I could tell you how different books smelled. I kept stopping to whiff this one. It has thick pages and smelled good. It’s square and the covers are thick so it feels good in your hands. The paper is heavy weight, as well. The book is nice to molest, basically.
Tina does a lot with sex—I found her through Coming Out Like a Porn Star, which I reviewed in episode 10, but she’s also an educator and has a podcast called Why Are People Into That?! that I’m slowly working my way through.
In the Introduction she says:
In this age, you can hit the dating world after a few short years of a monogamous relationship only to feel like everyone is fluent in a dialect you didn’t even know existed.
No joke! I’ve just started some tentative steps out into technodating land and what the crap has been happening out there? There’s Snapchat, which is supposed to Mission Impossible explode photos, but I see them online all the time so there’s a flaw there and my experience with OKCupid thus far has been uninspiring.
And Tinder is not going to be my jam, I already know, so I’m not going anywhere near that one.
Chapter One is called: Use Your Words: The Basics of Dirty Talk. In it, she asks:
Why does sex make us feel ridiculous sometimes? Perhaps it’s because our sexual nature can feel distinct, messier, and more primal than our everyday selves. Letting go completely can be so terrifying. We don’t say the things we really want to say to our partners because we think if we stay quiet we can protect our vulnerable feelings.
Horn clearly has thought (and talked) about sex a lot because she makes some astute observations.
A couple pages later she gives an assignment to keep something called a Private Dirty Notebook, with all sorts of ideas including a yes/no/maybe list, a dream journal, and reviews of erotica or porn you watch. If I had read this book before having my own blog and digital notebook, I would have put this book down right then and gone out and bought the perfect notebook. Much agonizing would have taken place. A new pen would have also been acquired.
As it is, I have a great number of her suggestions on my blog or computer (but not all—notes have been made!) HOMEWORK! YES!
A little later Tina talks about the sort of thing Kevin and katie [power exchange presenters I talked about in the intro] discuss in their class. When people communicate with one another this wacky thing happens where, either, they get more of what they want, or they learn they aren’t compatible. As I’ve been talking to some of my vanilla friends about the negotiation part of being kinky, several have said vanilla people could use those negotiation skills in relationships. Much of this book is basically: Kink Communication for Vanillas.
Then there’s a bit about what slut shaming is and how not to do it, which is very useful for everyone who exists in the current dating world and wants to be all about equality.
In Tina’s Tips for OKC she says:
I would be real about everything I think makes me fabulous and only go out with people who could understand and appreciate me.
There’s an assignment for your dirty notebook that’s a sort of Mad Libs, but it’s the best Mad Libs ever. It’s called Dirty Talk Fill-in-the-Blanks. I would love an adult activity book with a bunch of these, please.
There’s a page on roleplay that reminded me of the episode of Why Are People into That?! Horn did with Mollena Williams on… roleplay. It was a two-episode long topic because there was so much to say, but this book is supposed to help people explore a little here and there—not delve deeply into the Narnia of their perversion.
And then we’re on to…Chapter Two: Putting Yourself Out There: Hooking Up and Finding Compatibility.
Now, Tina and I are on the same page in many ways, but she then sent people to Fetlife for dating purposes.
Look. People use Fet for different purposes. Some are just there to read writings or join groups or attend events. It’s not expressly a dating site. If you go there looking for a date don’t expect everyone else to be there for the same reason. And don’t be upset if a person is uninterested in your advances.
And now, I shall sing you the song of my people: Read their bio/Read their bio/Read their bio/And don’t send a dick pic unless they ask!
It’s called manners! And they’re free!
Tina had a different take on writing online profiles from what I’ve seen before, which she frames as ‘advertising copy’. I shall be taking her advice.
Then there’s etiquette and tips on how to best handle chat apps. In terms of approaching D-types, though, I don’t know the protocol—this isn’t the sort of book that’d go into that sort of thing. Though I suppose the sort of Dominant I’m looking for would appreciate an s-type who knew what she was looking for and wasn’t afraid to send a polite introduction.
In all exchanges over dating apps, always respond to something from the previous message and give the person something to respond to. If you’re talking to someone and he leaves the conversation dead in the water, abandon that thread. Anyone worth dating will take the time to compose a thoughtful response.
A theme of the book is ‘don’t waste other people’s time and don’t feel guilty about not allowing other people to waste your time’. This is an important theme. Know what you want—be honest about it and don’t faff about with people who don’t return the favor.
If you don’t hear back from someone after you’ve sent him the perfect cute message, do not follow up with another message. That’s creepy. Let it go. Not everyone is going to be interested and/or available. Don’t dwell on it. Disappointment is an important aspect of dating. The more you accept these little disappointments, the less they will feel like full-on rejection.
After Tina gets us through using the magical internet box to meet other people she gives advice on the first date, which includes how to carry on a conversation based on their profile. This made me think of an episode of Multiamory where they gave advice on writing an online profile and they discuss the differences between trivia and traits either one will make good conversation starters, but the second will make better ones.
Then we’re on to tips on how to handle the always uncomfortable safer sex discussion. If you’ve listened to episode nine of this show, where I talked about HPV—how I have it and how it’s insanely easy to get but there’s no test to know your status—then you know safer sex is muy importante.
Throughout the book Tina is inclusive of all gender expressions and sexualities and it becomes particularly clear in the section where she gives examples of things to keep in mind before getting down with your squishy bits. Under ‘Birth Control’ she says:
If there’s any chance that one of your anatomies can knock the other’s up, you need to let each other know where you stand. Is there hormonal birth control or an IUD in the mix? Would you like to use a barrier for intercourse regardless?
In this pre-flight pre-check section, she includes What you’re looking for right now (in terms of relationship or not), STIs and Testing, Barrier Protection Preferences and Monogamy Status. Things you need to know about yourself and the other person.
She has an excellent two-page description of what she called The Silent Alarm, which is what people in the BDSM scene would call a Safe Call. This book is really BDSM advice for Vanillas. It’s like she didn’t want to scare the vanillas by calling it that, though. Either way, I’m all about it. Yes, give them the info. Silent Alarm, Safe Call. Whatever. Don’t get murdered by a stranger. Kinky or vanilla, I think we can all agree being strewn across the countryside in an array of garbage bags is less than optimal.
Later Tina talks about how each date is an audition. This rather ties back into the concept of your ad being advertising copy, except you’re auditioning as yourself and the part is for the authentic you. Don’t lie. She says:
You have to keep auditioning over and over and over again, and you are going to get used to rejection.
Sometimes the person who was cast instead of you baffles you completely. Sometimes you know that you would have been better for the part (and all your besties assure you this is correct.)
As a person who has done quite a bit of theatre, I can tell you that hounding the director about his casting choice won’t make him change his mind. And as a person who has been pestered by people I’ve turned down romantically—being re-asked, cajoled and insulted didn’t make me change my mind, either.
TheFerrett—a member of Fet–compares dating to writing—submitting your writing to different magazines. This is also a perfect metaphor. If your style isn’t a good fit for that magazine or publisher then you shouldn’t be there. Submit your writing somewhere it’ll be appreciated. There are thousands of places—if you’re a decent person/writer there’s a place for you. No one got a publishing contract or sold a story or essay by shouting.
The metaphor does fall apart a bit here because if you’re a terrible human with zero social skills who only sends dick pics then no, no one is ever going to give you a ‘publishing contract’. Maybe the metaphor then becomes to take a freakin’ writing class and actually send thoughtful messages. You could read this book, actually. This book would be that class. I’m getting off topic.
Tina urges the reader to talk to friends about sex—to throw out the idea of what is appropriate conversation. Good friends listen and don’t judge. I don’t have a filter but have very good friends, so I got lucky. Some of my friends have learned a lot about a lot, though.
Chapter Three comes rolling in. Discover the Joys of Sext: Using Technology to Stay Turned On
Now we’re into chapter three, which brings us into the actual sexting part—it’s about halfway through the book. That may seem a long way when the title is Sexting, but if you can’t communicate at all then you certainly won’t be able to communicate through your phone or laptop effectively.
In an offset little block Tina says she doesn’t recommend using voice recognition software because the sexts come out incorrectly. She gives a couple examples, but I couldn’t work out what they were supposed to be, so I’m going to read them. Sexts by Siri. Ready? ‘I’m so out of shoes.’ ‘I want to linger am now.’ Are you losing control now? I know I am.
Tina promotes a rational approach to grammar and punctuation in texts and for this she is my hero. I can almost forgive her for sending people to Fet for dates over it.
There’s a page of Dirty Talk and Sexting that appears in songs and film. In the song category we have, I quote, ‘basically anything by Prince’. And I’ve added a few films to my ‘to watch list’. Cheers, friend!
We zoom right into the final chapter, Chapter Four: Send Sexy Pictures and Video: A Selfie Says a Thousand (Dirty) Words
In chapter four—the chapter on how to take and send the best dirty photos and videos and keep them as private as possible—Tina refers to our phones and computers as ‘personal smut-making machines’. This reminded me of an episode of My Name is Earl where Earl’s buddy saw a laptop and exclaimed, ‘A porn machine!’ Yup. That’s what it is.
Tina is an advocate of the selfie for the same reason I am—our society says that it’s the natural order of things for men to objectify women but if a woman thinks she’s attractive she’s vain, as though we’re supposed to get all of our validation from guys. I call bullshit on that. This is what Tina says about it:
In Defense of the Selfie: The modern culture of selfie taking catches a lot of flak. ‘We have become a society of egomaniacs,’ quoth the cynics, ‘each citizen a Narcissus obsessively staring into the shallow pool of his or her own reflection.’
To this I say: Whatever, fellas. We woke up like this.
Most critiques of vanity are inherently based on sexist double standards, by which women (and gay men) are expected to be perfect objects of masculine desire while never appearing to be trying too hard.
Also, this isn’t new, or female. Go to any large museum and you’ll see enormous paintings of men. You think someone had to beg them to sit down to had their likenesses immortalized? Those dead white dudes would have taken a billion selfies if they’d had the technology. Instead we just have billboard sized paintings of them, which I’m sure aren’t the tenth the size of their egos.
Here’s an important quote for you:
Remember, don’t send a picture of your genitals unless someone asks for it. It’s really that simple.
Do I need to sing a song of my people about this? Because I will. My people have many songs.
This section also has tips on the types of photos to include with your ads, how to take different types of excellent selfies, and advice on how to best use snapchat and other apps.
Speaking of various apps, as sex isn’t my thing, I don’t spend time thinking about various creative ways of going about it, but Tina had some ideas when using Skype or Facetime! Even I thought they were hot. Wow.
Prior to tips on keeping images of your privates private, Tina had this to say about a particular facet of our culture:
…part of the appeal of the naked person in a picture is the way she shows off her vulnerability and her particular expression of sexiness.
Counterintuitively, we also blame and shame women who show off their bodies proudly. Women must always look presentable but never betray their effort. Look no further for proof of this double standard than the ongoing controversies over the hacking of celebrities’ private photos. Countless famous actresses, including Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Lawrence, have had to address backlash after their private nude pictures were stolen and uploaded onto the Internet for anyone to see. Many conservative critiques of these crimes have chastised these women for taking the photos in the first place. By this reasoning, these women deserved to have their pictures viewed by the world, because their were irresponsible enough to take them. This is complete bullshit.
Indeed, Tina. If someone stole their diaries and posted them no one would say, ‘She shouldn’t have been stupid enough to write down her thoughts. Thoughts are private.’ But in our culture women are defined by their bodies and once they no longer have that then they have nothing. A few weeks ago Justin Bieber… I said his name on my show… help me… anyway, a nude picture of him surfaced and you could hear the fangirl screaming in space. No shaming there because men are more than their bodies in our society.
Anyway, for keeping photos safe Tina recommends storing your dirty photos in a special folder. I use an app called Private Photo Vault. You get two albums for free and can have as many as you’d like for $4—I paid to turn off ads and to have lots of albums and I love it. It allows you to use either a passcode or your thumbprint to log in and within the app each album can be locked separately, as well. It will also delete photos from your camera roll as you add them to the the app if you’d like. You can take photos directly into the app that will bypass the camera roll and it has an in-built private internet browser that will allow you to save images and gifs from the internet. Also, you can have a decoy passcode that opens a completely different set of images so if someone pesters you for it they’ll see whatever innocuous images you’ve put in there. It also plays mov and mp4 video files. Also, if someone tries to break in, it takes their photo and GPS location. It’s available for iOS and Android. No, they’re not a sponsor—I just love the app, though if they wanted to be a sponsor I would not turn them away. I’ll put a link in the show notes. If you want to look for it in your app store now it’s Private Photo Vault and worth every single penny.
I should really get paid for my effusive ads. Anyway, Tina also talks about how to respond if someone tries to show you a nude sent to them in confidence. Don’t be a consent violator, basically.
Tina closes the book with some thoughts on the pros and cons of our technology-rich society.
Sometimes people hide behind machines, and sometimes they use their anonymity as an excuse to act careless, inconsiderate, or even abusive. Yet I cannot tell you how many people I have met who thought they were utterly alone…until the Internet helped them connect with other people who shared their desires.
Indeed, friend, indeed.
This book is more about overall better communication—which I am all about—than just texting. They should hand them out at high school graduation—if only because it’s illegal to give them to fifteen year olds.
It’s about getting to know yourself and expressing what you want (and hopefully getting more of what you want).
And it has these funky little illustrations I really dig.
It’s also small enough to go in your bag.