Sexy photo exchanges can be delicate interactions. Not only do nudes need to be sent with care, since receiving one without full consent can feel really violating, but they have to be received with care as well. After all, when someone chooses to engage in an NSFW photo exchange, they’re putting a lot on the line: They’re risking their privacy, and they’re opening themselves up to potential criticism.
An Etiquette Guide for Sending and Receiving Nudes
Here’s how to show someone the utmost respect when you’re exchanging nudes, whether they’re a long-term partner or someone you just matched with on Tinder.
1. Ask if they want to see your nudes.
Digital interactions require consent just as much as in-person interactions. “Not everyone wants the same thing sexually — in bed or on their phone,” says Good Vibrations staff sexologist Carol Queen.
"Sending an erotic picture is a sex act. And like touch, it can be received as wanted — maybe a stepping stone to something more, or just a hot moment you shared — or as an unwanted assault, or anywhere in between.”
So, before you send a sext, it’s important to text the other person something like “Are you in the mood for a sexy pic?” or “Do you want to see my ________?”, says Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, sex and relationship expert and host of the host the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast. The only situation where you may not need to do this is if you’ve both agreed in advance to exchange nudes on an ongoing basis.
“Even before asking ‘Should I send you hot pictures, or nah?’ the would-be sender should ask themselves, ‘Would they want this? Have they given me a signal it would be welcome?’” says Queen. “It's worth asking yourself if you feel comfortable with this person having the photo, too.” And if you’re the one being asked, don’t feel any pressure to oblige. “If you have any concerns about the type of pic being solicited, listen to your gut,” says Queen.
Read: Sexting: A Guide to the Erotic Power of Words
2. Ask your partner what they want to see.
There’s no way to know what someone would really enjoy seeing unless you ask. “Nude” or “sexy pic,” after all, can mean lots of different things to different people. For some, it might just mean a photo of you in your underwear, while for others, it might mean a full-on dick pic.
“There are no universal rules for sending nudes, so talk to your partner(s) about their preferences so that what you send aligns with what they’re expecting,” says O'Reilly. You could give them options, like you in your underwear, a close-up of a specific body part, or some other creative idea you come up with.
3. Make it fun for the receiver.
If someone’s offering you the gift of their well-composed nudes (or an audience for yours), you can repay them by putting some effort into your own. One way to do this is to space out your photos. “You don’t have to send everything at once, and you don’t have to include closeups of your genitals,” says O'Reilly. “Instead, you might want to photograph other parts of your body from multiple angles and send one pic at a time to tease it out.”
You can also create a sexy setting by decluttering your room and adjusting the lights — or even putting a scarf over the light to create an old-school filter. (Just remember to take it down after! Fire safety is important, people.)
The important thing, though, isn’t what you look like in the photo but how you feel. “Ground your sexiness in yourself,” says Queen. “It's fine to get ideas for position, lighting, etc. from other erotic images you've seen, but you don't have to try to copy porn poses or expressions to be sexy.” You might even want to create a persona and use clothing or props to convey it. “You're engaging in a creative practice when you do this,” says Queen.
Read: Why Aren't There Pussy Pics?
4. Keep their photos private.
If someone entrusts you with an NSFW photo of themselves, it’s your responsibility to keep that photo private, says Queen. “People generally don't send out their photos in order to have them shared with others.”
Don’t save a photo on your phone without your partner’s permission, and don’t show it to anyone else.
5. Protect your own privacy as you wish.
If you’re concerned about your photos potentially getting leaked, you can have a policy to only share images from the neck down so that you’re not identifiable, says O'Reilly. You might also want to save your photos in a separate folder so that you don’t accidentally reveal them while sharing other photos.
Read: Why I Post Sexy Selfies
6. Give appreciative feedback (if you are appreciative).
Since sending a nude is a vulnerable act, a nice compliment that lets your partner know you’re into it can go a long way. O'Reilly suggests telling them specifically what about their body or the photo you like. If you want to escalate the conversation and talk about what you want to do with the person in the photo, Queen recommends asking permission first with a line like, "Do you want to hear what I find hot about this picture?"
"If you want a different kind of photo, convey this without criticizing what you've been sent. Of course, if the photo was unsolicited, it’s completely within your rights to tell the sender you’re not interested in receiving sexts from them," says Queen.
“You can always make communication about sex sexy, even if it's about saying no, declaring barriers, or asking for consent,” she adds. “People think that stuff isn't sexy, but it is! It helps the other person feel seen and heard, it encourages you both to express what you're actually interested in, and it lets you figure out where your common ground is.”
Suzannah Weiss is a feminist writer, certified sex educator, and sex/love coach. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and more.