When I heard the word “frexting,” I assumed it was another bit of young person jargon I was not hip enough to be in on, but it’s actually describing something I’m already doing. I just wasn’t cool enough to know there was a name for it. It’s a mashup of “friendship” and “sexting” which means — you guessed it — sending sexy text messages to friends. Namely, sexy photos exchanged between female friends. While this may sounds like every frat boy’s dream, it’s actually for girls’ eyes only, meant to be seen by friends and no one else. Alana Levinson wrote about receiving her first frext in Medium, likening it to seeing a grownup changing in the locker room: “I was excited and in awe and also a little embarrassed.” Adulting outlines some ground rules: “Frexting etiquette includes replying with positive emojis, including but not limited to the little fire, a cat with hearts for eyes and clapping.” I would also recommend the dancing lady.
But it’s about more than just emojis. It’s empowering. For some, it’s allowing your sexuality to manifest in a way that will never come back to haunt you. You don’t have to worry about a critical male gaze or that a boyfriend you send it to will do something with vindictive with it later. For me, it’s always been an experiment somewhere between the silly and subversive. I’ve sent my flatmate Snapchats of myself prancing around in nothing but a thong and high heels, doing my best Nicki Minaj impression, and she’s sent me ones of herself sunbathing. It goes way beyond her — a lot of my friends have seen photos of me naked, or damn close to it.
What’s their response? Always positive and always confidence-boosting. Yes, there’s definitely some blushing and awkward giggling, but there’s also that sense that you’ve taken a step closer in friendship by doing something a little outrageous. It’s like the first time you pee in front of each other, or talk about poop, or when I sent a group text with a photo of myself posing with my friend’s virgin-blood-stained sheets after her first sexual encounter. Maybe that’s just us. But relationships of all kinds, including friendships, are formed by making yourself vulnerable, and by other people not leaving you hanging. As Jenna Wortham, who interviewed 60 people on sexting, says, “There is a culture of women looking after each other.”
The important thing, as Levinson points out, is that because it’s done with friends, it’s more about being the subject than the object. “The offering here is less about being a sexy thing, and more about being a sexual human being.” It’s embracing your sexuality in a safe space. We’re all for it.