A few weeks ago I got a text from my friend asking me for advice. She wanted to know if it was too early to make a trip out to see a man she had been corresponding with via text message. A year ago, he visited her city on vacation and the two hit it off. But like all good romance, it ended too quickly — he returned home, forcing the pair into the confining space of long distance communication.
This is not the first time I’ve been asked to weigh in on geographically challenging affairs. I can only suppose that my former long distance relationship (which ended in us happily moving in together) is reason enough for people to believe I might impart good news during those dark hours between unanswered texts. My friend’s question got me thinking about one of the most common questions I get asked, which strangely, has very little to do with building a long-term, committed relationship.
Internet sex is often viewed as a shadowy hallmark of long distance romance. Some people assume that long distance relationships can’t withstand the absence of sex and therefore require the alternative stimulation. This is a great argument for some people, and good enough to persuade others to do things they wouldn’t normally want to do, or even think about.
While in a long distance relationship, many of my friends interrogated me over the matter of sexting, simultaneously revealing their position without my asking.
“So, you’ve had sex with him on Skype, right?”
The truth was, it never even came up. For two years (while we were long distance), I never sent him nude photos or simulated sex on the phone or internet.
It became clear to me that I had the more radical viewpoint. I would think bare nipples were more progressive, but in our post-sexually-liberated society, I guess I’m the renegade.
Aside from all the associated dangers of sexting or sending nude photos via mobile, women who find themselves in a long distance relationship should not feel pressured to participate in these acts. They are not prerequisite to anything other than fulfilling a very basic and human desire.
It’s healthy to desire your mate, but under the circumstances, these relatively new technologies that allow us to be face to face, albeit over the phone, with someone that’s around the world, is unfamiliar territory. We don’t know if, or what, the effects of our sexual online behavior will amount to because not enough time has passed — yet.
Everyone complains that the word becomes increasingly less genuine as technology interferes more with our human interactions. Does taking naked pictures and sending them to people we care about really mean we care? Or does it say something else? I won’t entertain any of that quasi-feminism-sexual-empowerment-free-love-bull-crap. This has nothing to do with whether I’m sexually empowered enough to have sex on the Internet.
The better question is: am I empowered enough not to?
Long distance relationships are simply built on trust, communication, and common goals. They are not inherently more lustful or sexual by virtue of separation.
However, if you find yourself at the beginning phases of a long distance romance, here’s is a list of things you’ll want crystal clear before you spend a year(s) of your life nurturing a long distance relationship:
· Set clear boundaries on acceptable behavior
· Define your relationship in easy to understand terms
· Make plans to see each other as far in advance as possible
· Always return texts
· Be honest about what you want in the future
· Don’t hold back your emotions
· Don’t rely on your sex to get attention
My advice is not what my friend, or anyone asking me about my experience wants to hear. It’s hard to ask for commitment, express your feelings and plan for your future. What’s more, our sexual liberation has become its own confining space, one where being liberated means giving away too much, and getting little back in return.