To start with the absolute basics: What counts as Cam sex?

It’s actually a fair question, given all the technological options we have at our fingertips. “Cam sex is [a phone-based Video call conversation] between consenting individuals who want to stimulate and be stimulated,” Lori Michels, L.M.F.T., AASECT-certified sex therapist, tells SELF, adding that Cam sex can include voice conversations, video chat, or even sexting. Most people use the term “Cam sex” to indicate voice-to-voice communication, but it’s always a good idea to seek some clarity about what it means for everyone involved. It would be a little awkward (and kind of sweet) if your partner got all dressed up for FaceTime sex, and you simply wanted to chat on the phone.

While some people might snicker at Cam sex, Michels says that it can be a way to cultivate intimacy within a relationship. Yes, it’s a solid date night activity, but it also “requires two people to increase their comfort and skills around verbal expression,” Michels explains. So while you and your partner are “playing,” you might be flexing communication muscles that will help other parts of your relationship too.

Cam sex
Cam sex

Okay, but how do you start having phone & Cam sex?

Unsurprisingly, having great Cam sex starts with a conversation. “I would encourage people to be frank and transparent,” Michels says about broaching the subject. “Make sure that you’re actually getting consent.” That could look like a really frank conversation where you straight up ask for enthusiastic consent. If you’re a little more bashful, it could mean sending a flirty text or dropping a hint that you’d like to try something new and seeing how your partner responds—then clearly asking if they’d like to continue. No matter how you decide to approach it, the important thing is to give your partner the opportunity to opt in and opt out if they want.

Even if you and your partner are both enthusiastic, it’s still important to talk through what consent looks like, Michels says. If your partner says they’d like to have Cam sex, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to do it right this second, and it’s not an automatic invitation for you to call them and masturbate whenever the mood strikes (unless you both agree to those terms). So part of gauging interest is understanding what makes you both excited to take things further.

Clear and direct communication also means acknowledging that your partner might not be into phone sex, or they might have hard limits around video or sexting. In a SELF article about sharing fantasies, sex educator Gigi Engle writes: “You have a right to think about whatever you want during sex or masturbation, but your partner does not have any obligation to fulfill or be open to a fantasy they’re not comfortable with.” To that end, try to prepare yourself for any reaction that might come your way. And if your partner reacts negatively to Cam sex, try not to get defensive. Instead, Engle suggests asking why they feel that way and learning a bit more about your partner.

Provided that your partner is as into the idea as you are, you can use the initial conversation to talk about likes and dislikes, or—if both of you are willing and able—you can transition from, “This is something I’d like to do” to “Let’s do this right now.” There’s no wrong way to approach the conversation, but you want to make sure everyone is excited about participating.

If you’re not exactly sure how to get started, or lines like “What are you wearing?” feel a little cheesy, Michels suggests embracing role play, fantasy Cam sex, and primal desire. This might mean that you and your partner talk in detail about your deepest fantasies or that you find an imaginary scenario that turns you on (and you act it out). All of these conversation starters can help ease you into the conversation. (We have a few more tips below.)

How do you keep the conversation going during Cam sex?

Cam sex can be awkward at the start, and, even if you get into it, staying in the moment can be challenging. If you’re worried about losing your nerve or being vulnerable, Michels says that you might want to focus on one person at a time. This way, there isn’t any pressure to keep up. For instance, the more vocal person can take the lead to relieve some of the stress.

The great thing about phone sex is that it allows you to talk about what you like—but don’t forget the sex aspect of phone sex, Michels says. Touching yourself while you speak and listen is likely part of the equation. “Being able to touch one’s own body…and not worrying about whether or not the person is going to judge them for touching their own body is a huge plus,” Michels explains. In fact, in most cases the other person on the line wants you to touch yourself—which is the opposite of judgmental.

So if you’re at a loss for how to keep things going, try to embrace the idea that you’re allowing someone else to be present while pleasuring yourself. And, if you feel like you’re losing your nerve, simply try closing your eyes and reconnecting to your body and the voice on the other end of the line (or screen). Ultimately, if you can’t find the right words or phrases, don’t overthink things—a little bit of moaning and heavy breathing can do the trick.

How do you end a Cam sex conversation?

If your goal is to have an orgasm, then you should go for the gusto (and, of course, give your partner space and time to do the same). Even if you come, it might feel awkward to return to reality, but Michels says you shouldn’t just rush over this part of the conversation (unless that’s what you’ve agreed to beforehand). “This is supposed to be about connection,” Michels explains, so you might both want to end with the same care and attention with which you began.

In BDSM and kink communities, folks make a point to reconnect after sex, Michels explains. This is called aftercare, and it’s applicable in this situation. You and your partner might decide on a ritual that the two of you share to transition back into being two people chatting on the phone. Or, Michels says, aftercare can involve talking about what you liked and didn’t like about the sexual encounter. The key is to keep the connection alive. “Don’t just say, ‘Hey, thanks a lot, gotta go,” Michels says.

Here are 15 tips to try before, during, and after Cam sex.

1. Don’t know where to begin Cam Sex? Ask yourself about your likes and dislikes.

Michels explains it can be challenging to communicate your desire if you don’t know what they are. So if you want to have phone sex, consider asking yourself what turns you on and what turns you off. If, for instance, you aren’t super vocal during sex, you might ask your partner to skip open-ended questions (like “How does this feel?”) and instead ask direct questions like “Does that feel good?” You can embellish when you answer (of course), but it might make you feel less pressure to respond.

2. Think about the words and phrases that turn you on (get specific).

If you know what you like, but you don’t know how to talk about it, think about books, songs, and movies that put you in the mood, Michels suggests. How would you describe them? Gently nudge yourself toward being more descriptive by thinking about precisely what you like, how you want it, and where you like it. The more comfortable you can get finishing sentences like “I like it when…” the easier it will be to share those things during phone sex.

3. Find somewhere quiet and private to have phone sex.

“I would probably encourage people to talk about it before they actually try to engage in it, especially if they’re using video,” Michels says. If you can have spontaneous phone sex, go for it! But if you live with other people, have privacy concerns, or want some time to prep—go ahead and plan. Find a time and place that allows you to speak openly without disturbing others around you.

4. Don’t forget to charge your phone.

Just like having your vibrator die while you’re using it, it’s probably uniquely terrible to have your phone die while you’re having sex. To that end, make sure you’ve charged your phone (or other devices) and that you are somewhere with good phone service or Wi-Fi connection.

5. Set the mood.

As Michels said, it’s helpful to plan a little bit for phone sex. This should include charging your phone and making sure you’re somewhere private, but it can extend to wearing lingerie, lighting a candle, or anything else that puts you in the mood.

6. Build anticipation.

If you’re not having spontaneous phone sex, it can be challenging to figure out how to turn your phone call into sex. Yes, candles and sexy clothing can help you get into the groove, but you might consider sending a seductive photo or a flirty text message to build anticipation. Ultimately, Michels says that being “transparent about your desires” is the key to good phone sex, and letting your partner know you want them before you get on the phone might help.

7. Know that your phone sex can include a video call.

Phone sex in 2021 can be way more than just voice on voice. If you both feel comfortable, you can embrace video sex. Many of the same rules and tips above apply (plus or minus good lighting), but there’s no pressure to turn your sex life into a Zoom party unless you want to.

8. Consider starting the call by reading erotica to each other.

Maybe you don’t exactly know how to get started. Maybe you and your partner have only used the phone to rant about politics. You can try to slowly introduce more sensuality into your conversations by reading erotic literature to each other, Michels explains. She recommends books like Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices by Brenda Love ($22, Amazon), but you might reach for a good ole fashioned romance novel instead.

9. Watch porn together.

Maybe reading books out loud feels more awkward than actual phone sex, or you want to try something else too. Consider sharing audio porn before your date, swapping video clips, or even taking some time to find and watch porn while you’re on the phone together. You can search for ethical porn on sites like Make Love Not PornBellesa, and Lust Cinema.

10. Talk about the past—or the future.

Like sharing porn or reading books, you can get things started by talking about some of the best experiences you and your partner have shared (remember vacation sex?) or even opening up about something you want to try doing together in the future. Remember to lean into the details so that you and your partner can let your imaginations soar.

11. Break out your sex toys.

It’s no secret that sex toys can increase pleasure and help you maximize certain types of stimulation when you’re alone (or together). So don’t be afraid to use sex toys during phone sex. A bonus: Some sex toys like the We-Vibe Moxie ($120, Ella Paradis) allow your partner to control them remotely.

12. Embrace role-playing.

This one is tricky—we don’t want you to feel like you have to perform, but it can help if you slip into character. Think of it as allowing yourself to surrender to your fantasies and step outside of yourself for a moment. What would you say if you had no fear? Who would you be if you weren’t concerned with other people? Allowing yourself to express your desires through role-playing, or an alter ego, might help you express your most authentic fantasies, Michels explains.

13. But don’t feel pressure to perform.

Role-playing is awesome, but don’t mistake play for performance. Phone sex can still be an authentic and intimate experience, Michels says. “There’s a little space. There’s a little more [time to] take things in,” she says. So, instead of assuming you need to sound like a porn star (unless you want to), connect with your body and your partner so that you can emphasize pleasure over performance.

14. Check in with yourself before, during, and after phone sex.

Yes, aftercare is important for remaining connected with your partner, but you should also make sure you connect to yourself. If phone sex was uncomfortable, unpleasant, or just plain dull, be honest about the experience. It’s okay if your aftercare conversation involves admitting that you’re not sure you like phone sex.

15. Stop at any time if you don’t feel comfortable.

Consent isn’t something you only give at the beginning of sex. It’s something that you continue to provide throughout. And just because sex is happening by phone doesn’t mean that those consent rules disappear. If you change your mind or want to stop at any point, don’t feel pressure to continue. Phone sex is still an intimate experience, and if it’s not working for you, you can (and should) end it. Do what feels right, and enjoy.