I always loved electronic games.
Astro Wars. Scramble. Munchman.
At 9 and 10 years old the highlight of my week was getting my turn on these games at the local youth club between packets of salt & vinegar Krunchy Puffs and marching up and down the school hall to Adam & The Ants' Prince Charming (it's been downhill ever since, clearly). And I was always pretty good at these games too. Great dexterity.
As part of the first generation to enjoy home computers my interest grew as I did, from the Commodore 64 and Barry McGuigan's Boxing, the Amiga and Kick Off, to the PlayStation and Tomb Raider, and hopefully in the not-too-distant future to the day the PS4 comes down in price enough to justify forking out for one. Yes, I still love electronic games.
Which is a roundabout way of casually strolling into the theme of this post: sexting.
'Dear lord, what the hell is coming next?'
Now I fully understand that the last thing you want to read are toe-curlingly hideous descriptions of a 40+ bloke doing something that should really be left to the yoof, those of the moisturiser, wax and fake-tan generation (I'm talking about the men here; don't get me wrong, despite my uber-masculine persona I'm partial to the odd bath-bomb and scented candle, but really, any man that has a 'daily skincare and grooming routine'... Sorry, I'm just not down with that bro).
Where was I before veering off on that all-too obvious diversion of highlighting the misguided ways of others in a futile attempt to divert attention away from my own embarrassing confessions?
Ah yes, sexting. There's no getting away from it, dating is very different these days. And I blame electronic games.
You see, in the digital age so much of our communication is electronic - texts, emails, whatsapp messages, tweets, and others that I can't keep up with at my advanced age; this undoubtedly has huge benefits - you wouldn't be reading this without it after all (ok I'll let you be the judge of that). And if you're going to date in the 20teens (or whatever 'brand-name' it's been given) well, you'd better limber up those thumbs and get messaging.
(I swear the next stage of evolution will be an extra eye on the top of our heads so we can see where we're going while arseing about on our phones, but I digress....).
Yes, the dating game is the new electronic game of choice. And it's a high stakes game - reach a top score and you can be settled for life, take a false turn and you'll have to start again - most probably with far fewer credits to your name. There's no way around it, if you're joining the modern dating game you need to adapt to modern methods.
So yes, I've joined the modern ranks of 'the sexter'.
At this point I hasten to add that this isn't why my dating life has been such a dismal failure so far. I don't use sexting as an opening gambit, I do have a little more finesse to my approach than that.
(Although I have been on the receiving end of some rather 'direct' approaches: an introductory offer of 'Netflix and chill' [she didn't know what it meant, just happened to read in Cosmo that it was a good 'ice-breaker'. Yeah. Right], and a reply to a rather innocent opening question that what really floated her boat 'is a nice big c***' - having viewed the accompanying five photos [naked; her, not me] I was more than willing to oblige, until the revelation that it came [or not... nah, no need to be modest Matthew] with a price tag attached).
The first rule of sexting is never, ever, ever read back the messages that you have sent. Ever.
Now I've developed some pretentions of late that I might be a bit of a writer. Maybe in my finer moments a bit of a wordsmith even. Be that as it may, William Shakespeare himself would surely concede that there are only so many ways you can answer the question, 'What would you like to do to me?' And very few of them would evoke the full beauty of the English language.
I'd like to wager that if you took away dear William's parchment and quill and replaced them with tapping on an iPhone screen - one-handed - the resulting prose would not be quite so poetic. A little more 'anglo-saxon' shall we say, with a liberal sprinkling of anatomical references using decidedly less than medical terminology.
You see, as with any writing, it's all about the purpose, the end-game so to speak. And the desired outcome of this particular electronic game, is - without wishing to put too fine a point on it - to quote Prince, to 'Gett Off'.
"Let me show you baby I'm a talented boy..."
In the heat of the moment an inner demon is unleashed (I said an inner demon) and man does he talk some bollocks. Seriously. But he knows what his job is and it doesn't require the most sophisticated grasp of the art of seduction. And that is why words that are said in the heat of the moment should stay in the heat of the moment.
Whatever you do: Dont. Read. Back. Your. Messages.
And maybe, just maybe, you won't feel like a complete tit afterwards.
If you haven't had the pleasure of sexting and are wishing the ground could swallow you up to save you - and me - from this embarrassing confessional (hell, even if you are amongst the sexting multitudes you're probably feeling the same reading this), you might be surprised just how easy this whole sexting thing is.
The thing with modern communication is that it has a way of removing inhibitions, of breaking boundaries that we wouldn't think to cross in our regular lives. The more impersonal nature of much of the modern courtship ritual can quickly take us into unexplored territory, a sense of intimacy that allows us to explore and pursue our desires, not only our physical desires but our emotional desires too.
And whilst this can be exciting, intoxicating even, there are inherent risks; not only the obvious - sharing of messages beyond the consenting adults involved - but also in allowing us to connect emotionally based on little more than the 'best self' versions of themselves that people will inevitably offer online.
I've been amazed at how quickly I have felt that I have come to know people without ever having met them. How quickly a sense of familiarity can be built, a sense of connection, a shared worldview and sense of humour. A sense of intimacy.
But this doesn't always translate into the same feelings in 'real' life. There can be a very real risk that the person that was so attentive online and in the early days of dating isn't quite the perfect partner that was promised. Real life has a way of catching us out, of revealing who and what we are really about, however we may try to present ourselves. We can say anything we want, but ultimately it is what we do that defines us and it is how we respond to the unpredictable, sometimes unfair twists and turns of 'real' life, that ultimately reveal the depths of our characters.
It's easy for people to be judgemental about things that they have never experienced, to hear about 'sexting' and take it as further proof that society is indeed, finally, going to hell in a handcart, as promised when hemlines first rose above the knee. But like anything, it's not that black and white.
It has its upsides, it has its downsides, and I guess the trick is to be aware of both and to be able to step back even as we are swept along, to trust our intuition and to listen to what our gut is telling us, regardless of what our heart or other organs may be saying.
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