Every few days, 25-year-old Michael will receive a WhatsApp message from his girlfriend, usually just a or . He’ll sigh as soon as he sees the emoji. He knows all-too-well what it means. Shutting off whatever game he was in the middle of playing, he’ll sit down at his desk, and for the next hour, he’ll try to think of adjectives to describe how he’d “play with her throbbing pussy” (her words) and imaginative ways he’d use his penis with her.
As his girlfriend sends him even more heavily detailed paragraphs on how she’s pleasuring herself — thinking about being “pinned on the floor and choked” — Michael swivels around in his office chair, racking his brain as to how to respond. Finally, he settles on, “I’d throw you on the ground, open your legs and slowly put myself inside you until it’s so deep and you get wetter.”
The thing is, none of those words came from Michael. Instead, he made the line up by putting together two pre-written sexts he found in a Reddit thread on sexting examples. He frequently uses such Reddit threads, along with websites like sexytext101, The Art of Charm and guides from GQ and Esquire, when he sexts — sometimes to take ideas and reword them, but other times, he admits, he copies and pastes them verbatim. His girlfriend is none the wiser.
He and his girlfriend, Kelly, have been dating since they met at Kenyon College seven years ago. But since Kelly moved to Amsterdam for work last October, they’ve been in a long-distance relationship. (Michael, who works in advertising, is based in New York City.) Obviously, it put their relationship in a quagmire. “We were having sex pretty frequently throughout our relationship,” Michael tells me over Instant Messenger. “That hasn’t changed — even when she comes back the sex is great.”
Michael’s problem then is how to translate those sexual impulses into words — perhaps something that shouldn’t be hard for a guy who works in advertising, but having never sexted until now, he’s found it pretty challenging. “It’s one thing when you’re engaging in desires or fantasies in real life,” he explains. “But when I’m on a phone, it feels different. I feel disassociated from that, and having to think about how to write things that are sexy — both to her and myself… It’s hard, man!”
He says that when Kelly first started sending him thirsty messages, he tried to be authentic, but his messages came across as corny. He’d write things like, “I want to bend you over and fuck you hard.” Or: “I want to put my hard dick in your mouth.” In hindsight, he admits, “[They were] awkward and cringeworthy to type, let alone send sincerely. Maybe it’s because I didn’t watch porn when I was younger. I don’t know how I’d describe a build-up, or how to write paragraphs about foreplay.”
Michael isn’t the only guy who finds it difficult to sext, and who secretly resorts to finding templates written by other people online to help. My friend Peter, 27, from London alerted me to this trend while drunk one evening. (Peter, like Michael, is a pseudonym — as you can probably imagine, no guy I spoke to would admit, on record, that they copy-paste their sexts.) He says that he, too, found it difficult to describe sex acts, especially over a long period of time through a smartphone. “It kills the mood when you’re sending a message to your [girlfriend], and then, in the middle of typing, your mate messages you with a funny video or a funny tweet or something,” he explains. “I’ve been half-assed sexting while watching football matches, or even when I’m just watching something on Netflix.”
In such situations, Peter ends up looking for a template for sexts that he can send his girlfriend, either resorting to threads on r/askmen or on websites like lovedignity and BroBible. He vows it’s not just because of laziness either. “I’d like to be better at sexting, and I do feel bad when I haven’t put thought or a lot of effort into it,” he tells me. “But I also don’t know how to express myself in that way. Finding things online, even as prompts, helps. I can find things like, ‘You make my cock so hard,’ that I’d never think of without associating with porn — and I definitely wouldn’t think of it in a real-life situation. But when I send it to her, I’ll get a positive response. I’m really surprised by that!”
According to a 2011 report from the University of Nebraska, though men are still more likely to cheat in relationships, they’re less likely to send sexually explicit messages online compared to women. That trend continued in 2018, when a study from the Computers in Human Behaviour journal found that men felt it less appropriate to send explicit pictures or lewd sexts compared to women. “These findings suggest that hypermasculinity in the form of a man sending an unsolicited sext message to a woman may be more likely to be judged as a form of sexual harassment that makes the female receiver feel uncomfortable or threatened,” the study concluded. “By contrast, cultural ideals of hegemonic masculinity seem to dictate that men should react positively to sexual advances from women, regardless of whether such advances are solicited or not.”
But for most of the guys I interviewed, their main concern wasn’t the fear of being seen as a harasser or predator. Again, they claimed it was because they don’t know what to say during a sexting session, and that for the most part, advice on sexting was geared toward women. Other guys on Twitter told me that “they felt embarrassed sending explicit messages” — even to their long-term partners. More still felt that, in sexting, they were “writing the worst possible kind of internet porn” and that it demeaned the actual sex they were having with their partners.
One guy, who, like Michael and Peter, uses the internet to get ideas of what to sext his girlfriend, admits that he found sexting stressful because, “I have to imagine myself being a guy who enjoyed rough sex and domination — the things my girlfriend likes to fantasize about, but things we’ve never done in real life.” And so, he couldn’t envision himself carrying out acts like whipping and strangulation. “I’m not that guy, so even pretending to be made me feel fake.”
Of course, not all guys are useless at sexting — especially not the ones who write the templates in the first place. Andre, 28, from New Jersey, was one of these guys, a frequent poster on Bodybuilders.com under the handle ThisIsLife. He first posted about sexting in 2014 when he showed other users on the forum a screenshot of his sexts, which he claimed he’d written while in college. At the bottom of the post, he wrote out a sext that he said was open for anyone to use [sic throughout]:
“I would love to kiss your neck so softly as my hands slide up your stomach through under your shirt to caress your breast, as my cock gets harder then its ever been with the thought of penetratingly your wet pussy, as I move my lips away from yours and slowly kiss my way down your body all the way down to your feet, while sliding off your underwear. I would slide my hands up your legs Into your inner thighs and start rubbing clit before putting my tounge in and tasting you, occasionally slipping my tongue into your tasty ass hole. By this time I couldn’t help myself but stuff my cock into your vagina as you bite your lips and pull me closer to you. I want to fuck you until I cum.”
“People still use that now!” Andre laughs when I message him earlier this week. Though Andre doesn’t post sexts anymore — he was banned from Bodybuilders.com in 2016 for trolling; he wouldn’t elaborate further — his thread “Post This To Any Girl and Have Guaranteed Sex” was one of his highest rated. When I ask him why he thought that was the case, he responds that “men just don’t know how to flirt well, and they still don’t understand that women are just as horny as them. Like it’s still an alien concept.”
In large part, that’s why Andre believes that guys posting their sexts online for others to use is ultimately a positive development, because it “gives them permission to let themselves be horny,” which though he admits is funny to think about, “can be a problem for men who are self-conscious. How can they be sexy to their wives or girlfriends or whatever, if they don’t even see themselves that way?”
Though he doesn’t know how many men cut-and-paste sext messages like his, Andre does think it’s a fairly sizable number from the messages he received when he was a member of the Bodybuilders.com forum. “I had one guy who messaged me to say that I saved his relationship. Him and his girlfriend were having really bad sex, so they were trying to spice things up in other ways. And his girlfriend really liked sexting him in the middle of the day. But he didn’t know what to do! Then he found what I wrote and ended up using it, making various versions of it. He told me his sex life was so much better. I mean, I’m not a therapist, but if I helped, that’s pretty dope.”
When I speak to Michael again, he tells me that he’s still using templates, but he’s worried that they’re getting repetitive, and that he’ll soon run out of things to say. The good news is that he says he’s getting more comfortable sexting, and that since our first conversation, he’d noticed that his sexual confidence had grown. He found it easier to talk about his body, his penis and imagining himself performing more “adventurous” sexual positions — though he isn’t comfortable enough to tell me what they are.
And while Kelly still doesn’t know he’s used online sexting templates, his ultimate fear is that she will find out accidentally. “The other day she told me that I’d said something during one of our sessions that was familiar, and I realized I’d said the same thing the night before,” he says. “I just hope she doesn’t Google it! It would certainly make for a different kind of uncomfortable WhatsApp chat.”