Unless you’ve been celibate for the past decade, you’re well aware that sexting has quickly become a staple part of romance in the 21st century. Depending on which study you read, between 30 and 60% of teenagers and young adults are sexting, so it’s a safe bet that you’ve sent or received a saucy image at least once before.

And if not, it’s probably because you’ve been spooked by all the high-profile cases of these private images becoming public scandals. Malusi Gigaba’s infamous “home affairs” recordings are still fresh in everyone’s memory. Celebrities are clearly not the only ones who have to worry about a leaked sex tape anymore because we’re all vulnerable to phone hackers and vengeful exes.

So how do you take part in this hot and steamy way of flirting that’s rapidly becoming an expected part of romantic communication while also keeping your privates private?

Here are a few tips:

Try not to surprise anyone

Sending someone an unsolicited picture of your dick, especially if you’re concerned about your privacy, is a bad move. No matter how impressively endowed you are, it’s going to make you look bad – like one of those guys who randomly flashes his privates in public.

Plus, there’s also a high likelihood that it will be shared. If you send those pics to a lady who doesn’t want them, she might share them with her friends and say: “This creepy guy sent me a photo of his dick.” And making people you haven’t even met think you’re creepy is not ideal.

Crop out your face

It sounds obvious, but if you want to preserve plausible deniability, don’t include your face or any identifying marks (tattoos, unique moles, and birthmarks) in the explicit images you send. Think of this strategy as a first line of defence against the world at large knowing, and with certainty, what you look like naked.

Don’t sext someone you don’t trust

The number one risk of sexting is the person on the other end violating your privacy by sharing your image. Discuss your privacy expectations, just as you would talk about your expectations of exclusivity or using protection during sex. Most people expect that if they send a private, sexual image, it will remain private, but leaving that open to interpretation increases the risk of people seeing your junk without your permission. 

Wait until you’re established

If you’re in a long-term relationship, you’ve got a lot less to worry about when sexting your partner than the guy a few offices down who’s flirting with 12 new Tinder matches. Established couples would feel the pain of one of their photos leaking together, but without deep ties the same sense of obligation just doesn’t exist. Sexting is not the safest way to start a relationship but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it all – you just need to be aware of the risk involved.

Use a service that safeguards your privacy

Try using an app like Bleep, which sends text and images directly to the intended recipient’s device through a peer-to-peer communication system, meaning messages never touch a server or cloud that might be compromised.

Bleep also has a function called Whisper, through which users can send messages and images that disappear 25 seconds after the recipient reads it without their name being shown. If the reader tries to screenshot a whisper, the app won’t show the image or the name of the sender.

Additional source: Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent by Amy Adele Hasinoff