I don't mean to freak anyone out, but a couple weeks ago, my wife and I had sex.
On a Tuesday. In both positions.
Now that I've (hopefully) grossed out friends and loved ones enough to keep them from reading any further, I want to clarify that we haven't always been so freaky-deaky in the sheets. As anyone who's been in a long-term relationship will tell you, you have to figure out ways to keep things spicy. My biggest fear is turning into one of those couples that simply tolerate each other because of logical survival necessity, emotional codependency and/or because they share a Netflix account.
Which is why, one night during dinner, I declared: "I'm going to start sexting you." My wife shrugged and said something similar to "Hey, it's a free country."
We've been together—either married or boyfriend / girlfriend—since before the first iPhone came out, before the ubiquity of social media. While I take smug pride in never having had to court someone through the annals of virtual existence, I also feel like I've missed out on something that will define relationships in the future. I have never sexted anyone before, and I was thrilled by the idea.
But I needed to do some research first.
Here's the part where Ryan becomes distracted by his "research" and nearly forgets the task at hand: Certainly there are gentlemen on the Internet who could show me how to woo a woman with a clever and seductive, yet ultimately respectful, message, right?
I decided that, to get the most honest experience, I'd pose as a woman on Tinder to see what guys are doing, seduction-wise, and what techniques I could steal from them. I used a haunting, black-and-white picture of French writer Marguerite Duras, because what's sexier than a French writer?
The excitement and novelty of being someone else on Tinder lasted approximately 10 right-swipes. I guess it's not very profound to discover that dudes are boring; their common characteristic was that they were "into beer."
One guy wrote, "I like your picture. It's creepy."
And because I wanted to spark some discussion, I wrote back, "It's the only picture I have from when I was alive."
"Lol," he typed. Then, two hours later: "Wanna have ghost sex?"
My forays into Tinder were depressing, and I suddenly had sympathy for anyone attempting the intricate dance of online flirting, but I didn't have time for this. I turned to Craigslist.
Now, I may be naïve in the world of sexting, but I'm no dummy—I know there are dudes on Craigslist, shaking, roiling with boner in hand, ready to send a picture to anything that remotely resembles a woman. Also, by this time, I'd given up on my original mission of finding research and just wanted to fuck with people. So, taking a cue from "Ghost Sex" guy, I posted a Casual Encounter as "Horny Ghost."
"Dead and dying for it," I wrote in the body of the posting. I didn't even include a picture, certain that it was such an outrageous posting that no one would be interested.
I got more than 50 responses in an hour.
"I'm interested" and "I'm not scared" and "I wanna ghost fuck that spirit pussy" were all pretty common responses, but my favorite was from a guy named T-Rex who promised "loving that'll make a dead girl cum." He also sent two pictures labeled "suit" and "chill" showing the respective states of formality in which he was dressed.
And, of course, there were the dick pics. Just, like, so many. There was little variation: Most bros either stood in front of full-body mirrors—often flexing—with their wieners at half-mast, as if to say, "There's more where this comes from, ladies." Apparently, not even death will keep a dude from wanting to show you his junk.
But the more I thought about it, the more the dick pic seemed like the ultimate sext. There must be a way to make it classy, and romantic. As long as I didn't follow the same formula as all the other guys, I wouldn't come off as a total creep, right?
Here's the part where Ryan looks like a creep: No girl's ever asked for a dick pic. Ever. I know this, and after seeing what guys send, I can understand why. What I do know is that women are (perhaps stereotypically) more contextually aroused than men, who, I think, are more visually stimulated. In our minds, we assume that a close-up of a penis—floating and disembodied—is, like, The Hottest, when in truth it's actually frightening and Cronenbergian.
"Context is everything" was the mantra I had in mind when composing my dick pic. I lay in bed— our bed—basking in the morning sun, which was softened by our curtains. I messed my hair, turning it from "disheveled" to "playful" and, well, took a couple pictures. The mise-en-scene was incredible. I tried adhering to the photography law of thirds: "subject" in the foreground, POV from below, with my face in the background, turned away in what I hoped looked like the throes of lust.
"Thinking about you," I typed, and hit send.
When she got home from work that evening, I was like a frantic puppy dog awaiting her approval.
"Did you get my text?" I asked.
She smiled. "Yeah."
"I mean, don't worry," I said, before she could continue. "They'll get better in the future."
Her smile faded. A look of abject horror crossed her face. "Wait, you're going to do more?"
Ryan is the author of Horror Business. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @theryanbradford