Hot sexting is like foreplay — flirty hints of what's to come. Here's how to sext so you steam things up while protecting your privacy.

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From celebs having nude photos hacked to 200,000 Snapchat images getting leaked online, sharing intimate information from your phone has clearly become a risky move. That's a shame because research shows that sexting has a definite upside: Sending racy texts to your partner not only ignites things between the sheets, it boosts your confidence, strengthens your bond, and helps you two explore ways to express yourselves sexually. That's a win-win all around. (See: Sexting Can Help You Have a Better Relationship IRL)

Of course, sexting can be a bit awkward if you've never done it before, don't know what to say, or don't know what your partner likes or feels comfortable with. And none of these benefits of sexting matter if you share the wrong delicate data, or allow your chats and snaps to fall into the wrong hands — whether those of a hacker or a partner who proves to be untrustworthy. If you're wondering how to sext in a safe way — and to get the most out of your messages — these five sexting tips will help charge up your sex life without putting your privacy at risk.

Get Consent

FYI, you always need consent to send racy photos — or even sexually- explicit or -forward words — to someone, as Carol Queen, Ph.D., Good Vibrations sexologist, curator of the Antique Vibrator Museum, and co-author of The Sex & Pleasure Book previously told Shape. If you've ever been airdropped a rogue dick pick on the train or got a surprise from a new Tinder match, you know how violating it can feel to be assaulted with unwelcome sexual content, even if it's just some pixels on your phone screen.

Make sure you ask the recipient before sending anything. You don't necessarily have to ask, "Do you consent to sexting?" but try making your intent clear and get their OK before proceeding. Try something like: "I can't stop thinking about what happened last night. Relive it via text with me?" or "You've got me all hot and bothered over here. Should we take this convo to the next level?" or even "I just took a 🔥 selfie... without any clothes on. Want to see?" (It's also a good idea to take a look at your state's specific sexual consent laws.)

Meet Up First

Given the popularity of online dating, you might message with a new partner for weeks before meeting face to face. While you wait, keep the tone a little bit suggestive and flirty but not sexual. You could have fun sexting convos beforehand, but if there's no in-person chemistry, you've just shared a lot of personal info with someone you have zero interest in, explains Emily Morse, sexologist and host of the Sex With Emily podcast. Hold out for someone you have sparks with. (Related: The Best Sex Apps for Improving Your Intimacy)

Use Sexting as Foreplay

Sexting builds big anticipation and hints at things to come, says Morse, so it's ideal for creating pre-sex heat and tension. The right tone can put you in a sexy mood hours before you see each other and set the stage for a passionate night. As for how to sext, focus on keeping messages short — you're not writing a romance novel here, and too long of a delay can kill the vibes — but spiked with juicy details. "Words are aphrodisiacs, and the scenarios you plant in someone's mind can help mold the sex you have in the future," she says. (Related: 10 Foreplay Ideas That Can Be Even Hotter Than Penetration)

Plus, many people typically need emotional foreplay, Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., C.S.T., sex educator and resident sexpert at pleasure product company Adam & Eve, previously told Shape. And since emotional intimacy is a common gateway into physical intimacy, connecting through conversation — whether it's IRL or via sexting — can be a great way to built that up.

Don't Hold Back

Research published in the Journal of Sex Research found that couples that text no-holds-barred terms feel more satisfied with their relationship and have better sexual communication. If you're wondering how to sext, exactly, know that you don't have to kick off the convo with four-letter words; Morse suggests erring on the side of playful rather than pornographic at first. (Think: "I'm still all worked up from what happened last night" or "I'm infatuated with how soft your lips are.") Then get as graphic as your comfort level allows. (Here are more tips on how to talk dirty that you can use for sexting or IRL.)

Draw On Previous Experiences

In person, it's often easy to go with the flow and get a read on what your partner wants and is enjoying — but that can be tricky over text. If you're unsure what to say, exactly, think back to shared experiences you had together that were super hot, certified sex coach Gigi Engle previously told Shape. Tell them (with explicit detail) what you loved about a recent escapade together. This will make it easy for them to join in as well.

Use It to Drop Hints

Sexting can also be a great way to hint at what you want in bed, in a more welcoming atmosphere; you have time to think through what you want to say, and you don't have to work up the guts to blurt it out in person. When you let go of your inhibitions by telling your partner what you want and what you want to do to them, it can improve your overall sexual experience, Fran Walfish, Psy.D., Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, previously told Shape.

Be Careful with Visuals

Sending a nude selfie may seem like an easy way to excite your partner. One important consideration in how to sext safely is that, until you truly trust your partner not to hit forward — meaning, really trust them — stick to texting only or suggestive but not revealing shots, says Morse. Even if you are sending your pics to a discreet person, security breaches do happen, and relationships can take a turn for the worse. Play it safe by not sending out naked snaps at all, or take the proper precautions: really think through who you're sending them to, and crop out any identifying features, like your face and unique tattoos, Haley Hasen, sex educator and erotic laborer, previously told Shape.  (Related: 6 Texts You Might Not Want to Send a Potential Partner)

Don't Save or Archive

That urge to save your hottest, most epic sexting exchanges is totally understandable. Besides being exciting to reread, they're like sexy souvenirs that remind you of how tight you and your partner are and of all the fun bedroom escapades you've enjoyed. But to eliminate the odds that the wrong set of eyes sees them (and hacks or forwards the thread so total strangers read them, too), hit delete, says Morse. Consider doing so, an excuse to sext more soon. 😉