After the celebrity photo hackings earlier this year, Jenna Wortham decided to explore “the way that our phones … foster intimate interactions that feel so personal and deep, despite being relayed through a machine.” She elaborates on why she started her “Everybody Sexts” project, which pairs illustrations of NSFW selfies with short interviews:
I think that everybody sexts. Not everyone sends nude photos, of course, for a variety of reasons. But many people I’ve talked to define a sext as anything sent with sexual intent, be it a suggestive Gchat exchange, a racy photo, a suggestive Snapchat, or even those aqua-blue droplets of sweat emoji.
I asked people I knew — and many I didn’t — to talk to me about sexts and the stories behind them, the risks, perceived and real, and why they did it, knowing that they could be shared beyond their control. Lastly, I asked them to share a nude that they had sent to someone. And so many people did, without hesitation, or requiring anything in exchange. I was floored by their openness, and the expanse of human emotions and experiences on display. What I discovered, mainly, is that sexting — like anything else done on our phones — was mostly just meant to be fun, for fun, grown folks doing what grown folks do.
How “K,” a 30-year-old writer in Chicago, describes her sext life:
I sent my first sext the very first second cell phones with cameras were invented. It was very posed — white sheets semi-covering artfully displayed boobs. Now, I send them whenever the mood strikes, or I feel like I look especially great. It has to be someone I’ve been seriously dating for a long time and someone who will be properly in awe of my magnificent everything. I would not send a nude to someone I was not in a trusted relationship with, and anyone in a trusted relationship with me knows better than to trifle with that trust.
I sent this [image] to my girlfriend in July, when she was off on tour with her band. She was sharing rooms with her bandmates every night and had zero privacy, and I wanted to torture her. She really, really liked it and sent me several desperate texts an hour for the rest of the day. This is the exact effect I hoped for.
Cultural worker, Brooklyn
Q. Tell me about this image [seen above].
A. I sent this photo to my boyfriend, from his bedroom. He leaves much earlier for work than I do. I wanted to show him what he was missing.
Q. What was his response?
A. “Oh my lord.”
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(Illustration by Melody Newcomb)