So: Have you ever sent a spontaneous dick pic? 

[nods silently]

Ever sent a spontaneous dick pic and gotten a positive response?

[shakes head dejectedly]

Yeah, didn't think so.

Sexting strikes different chords in (straight) men and women. While the average dude might take it in stride if he got any scandalous picture (at any time of day) from a woman, the here's-my-penis-surprise isn't exctly a charming turn-on for her without some kind of context or lead-up.

As a ​sex therapist​, I hear a lot of stories about the sexts my clients receive. I get the inside scoop on what they like and what they, well, hate. With this unique perspective in mind, here’s your guide to successfully introducing sexting into a new relationship.

1. Be patient

My first piece of advice might be a little hard for many to accept, but here goes: Wait to sext until you’ve actually had sex first. There are a couple of reasons. First, you won’t catch her completely off-guard. You have to ease into graphic sexting. It’s weird to go out for one drink with someone, then get a string of incredibly detailed dirty messages from them as you’re in the cab ride home. And keep in mind that there are plenty of people who don’t enjoy sexting at all—so coming on too strong, too fast, will definitely scare her away.

Second: By sexting too quickly, you’re also likely to overhype what real-life sex will actually be like between the two of you. Building anticipation is one thing—but sexting can set expectations too high. It’s really awkward to have great electronic chemistry, and zero face-to-face chemistry.

Third, having sex gives you a perfectly natural opportunity to start sexting. All you have to do is start with something like, “I can’t stop thinking about last night...”

2. Start with words

Begin with text messages first, not pictures. Words can be just as hot as pictures. And plenty of wom​en like words even ​more than pictures. 

Plus, starting with words is a better way to gauge if she's into sexting. If she ignores your messages, or sends vague, non-sexual responses, you’ll know not to kick things up with pictures. Getting the silent treatment after a text is much easier on the ol’ ego than getting the silent treatment after sending her a picture of your penis.

3. Go slow

Sensing a theme here yet? Most guys take their sexting adventures way too quickly, but the truth is that most women like a slow tease. Women want to be seduced. So be suggestive rather than explicit. Here are some simple places to start:

  • “I keep replaying last night in my mind.”
  • “I can’t stop thinking about what you were wearing last night.”
  • “I’ve been thinking of some things I’d like to do to you the next time we’re together.”

If she responds positively, you can gradually ease your way into more and more sexual texts. If not? See tip #1.

4. Follow her lead with pictures

If, and only if, she responds to your sexts, can you think about escalating to pictures. If she doesn’t seem down to sext via text, d​o not send her a picture of you in your boxers, you standing buck naked in front of a mirror, you holding your penis. Nothing. None. Put it away.

The other golden rule to follow here is to never send a dick pic out of the blue. Consent matters. You want her to ​want to see your picture, not be startled by it. Seriously, there’s nothing women hate more than unsolicited dick pics.

Plus, you never know what she might be doing in that moment, or what her notification settings are like. She might be having dinner with her parents, and all of a sudden see a preview of your naked body flash up on her screen. (Even once the two of you have started sexting regularly, you may want to get into the habit of asking, “Are you alone? I want to send you something...”)

Here’s how you should approach it instead: After the two of you have been sexting back and forth via text, ask her to send a picture of herself first. Ask for something mostly tame, like a picture of her wearing a bra. Say something like, “I don’t know if you usually do this, but I’d love to see a picture of your [fill in the blank]. You don’t have to put your face in the picture, and I promise to delete it right after I spend a few minutes enjoying it. And I can send a picture back of something of your choosing.”

This sends the message that (1) it’s her decision to make, (2) that you’ll take specific steps to protect her privacy, and (3) that you’ll reciprocate. It’s also another good way to spare your ego. It’s better to have her tell you she’s not into sending dirty pictures before any pictures have been exchanged.

If she wants a photo in return, go for suggestive but not explicit at first. Coming out of the shower with the towel draped just right is a great place to start.

5. Be creative

If you’re interested in sending more explicit photos, I highly recommend doing some research. One of my clients jokingly told me about the website ​critiquemydickpic​, and it’s actually an amazing resource. The author gets user-submitted dick pics, and gives them each thoughtful reviews. You’ll learn a lot about finding the right angles, getting good lighting, and infusing your photos with some creativity.  

6. Keep it private

Sexting is fun, but you always run the risk of your texts being seen by others. There are just so many ways your privacy can be compromised.

Someone else could accidentally see it pop up on her notification screen. She could lose her phone. She could get hacked. She could show her friends. She could get angry at you and show anyone and everyone she can get ahold of (hello, revenge porn). You have to be careful.

Whenever you send a picture, make sure to keep your face out of it, along with any identifying details like tattoos, or moles. Make sure there’s nothing identifying in the background either, like clothes, posters, or furniture.

7. Use the right tech

If you’re sexting regularly, you can also take steps like disabling your chat history, or checking out apps like ​Confide,​ ​Bleep​, H​idely, and Signal, which take steps to protect your messaging from prying eyes.​

Remember: texting apps (and even Snapchat) aren't encrypted, which can leave you vulnerable to a hack even if someone doesn't have access to you (or your significant other's) phone.

Vanessa Marin is a sex therapist. Check out her online orgasm course, Finishing School.