The golf star's recently released text messages to one of his paramours left everyone cringing. Rachel Kramer Bussel, the editor of the Best Sex Writing 2010, on the dos and don’ts of this new epistolary form.
The publication of a series of text messages in US Weekly between Tiger Woods and Jaimee Grubbs left everyone uncomfortable. The texts made a splash in part because of their banality; they're more playful than salacious, with Woods seemingly more interested in Grubbs' other potential lovers than their own affair. There were no curses that needed to be covered up, and Grubbs' piercing turned out to be in her cheek. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the texts is how quickly Grubbs coughed them up, alongside a photo of her with her incriminating iPhone next to the words "Tiger W." Unlike Woods' longing emails to rumored lover Rachel Uchitel, he and Grubbs kept their tone light. These weren't professions of love or, necessarily, lust, though their joking tone indicated a history between the pair.
Think of sexting as extended foreplay, keeping the passion alive while you’re not physically together (or perhaps while you’re both at a boring party and just want to liven things up).
Having been the other woman once myself, I can say that I would hold a lover to a higher standard. Though I doubt Woods will be texting anything non-PG any time soon, here are some ways he (or you) can become a master sexter. Though written with Tiger in mind, these tips can and should be used by members of both sexes.
1. Ask who else she’s seeing
“Do you have a boyfriend” and “who is your new boy toy,” Woods asked Grubbs. Not only is it not his business, it sours the mood he’s trying to create. Keep your texts about the relationship at hand, not possible outside entanglements.
2. Talk about your spouse
Of course his mistresses knew Woods was married, but there was no need to focus on that, even when Grubbs tried to draw him out. Not only will it be much worse if the texts ever fall into the wrong hands, but you are trying to create intimacy with this person and make them think about you in a sexual way. Even the least jealous person doesn't want to be reminded that she’s the other woman or other man. If you can’t see each other right away, focus on when you can.
3. Accuse her of being a slut
When Woods said he didn’t believe that he was Grubbs’ first black guy, or intimated that her gift to a friend was her “naked body,” he may have been letting her know he didn’t think she was being faithful to him. Even if you’re clearly in an open, casual relationship, this is a bad strategy. It makes her feel less special and takes away from what the two of you share.
4. Be afraid to sound stupid
Once you’re well into lewd territory, go for it. Frankly, any dirty talk is going to sound a little ridiculous when taken out of context. “Send me something very naughty,” as Woods advised Grubbs, is a way to engage her in the dynamic and leaves the specific act up to her. He could’ve gone even further, telling her what he liked about being with her, that he’s thinking about her and getting aroused. Within the context of two lovers, anything goes, no matter how explicit or ridiculous it may sound to outsiders. If you know that she’s into it, don’t hold back.
5. Disregard the risk factor
This is probably the biggest thing Woods disregarded until it was too late; his damage-control phone call to Grubbs backfired once it was exposed. Bottom line: Don’t text or email something that would change your life for the worse if it became public. I once had a moment of panic after sending a topless photo of myself to a lover. What if he showed it to his friends? Now that he possessed it—forever—I wondered if I’d done the right thing. Use a separate phone that can’t be traced to your name (as opposed to the one you use to text everyone else in your life) if this is a consideration but you still want to keep writing to the person.
But Tiger didn’t do everything wrong. Here are some tips for better sexting:
1. Start slow
This doubles as good advice when it comes to putting the first move on someone. Don’t leap straight into explicit language until you know that’s what the other person’s into. Woods and Grubbs were already seeing each other once their risqué texts started flying. David Borgenicht, co-author of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, Dating and Sex, agrees. “Know your audience” is his first rule (this, I’d say, also applies to dirty talk). “Don't be overly blunt or crude if your sexting target is shy. When it comes to intimacy use double entendres and suggestive language rather than blunt statements of desire or graphic descriptions of actions you'd like to take.”
2. Go deep
Share something personal that she would never otherwise know. A little humility goes a long way. Woods exposes a vulnerable side of himself when he writes, “having an asian mother and a military father you cannot and will not ever be full of yourself.” This allows her to feel like she’s being let in on a secret and is a nice contrast to the golfing wunderkind the rest of the world knows him as. Good lovers don’t need to boast about how good they are.
3. Draw it out
Think of sexting as extended foreplay, keeping the passion alive while you’re not physically together (or perhaps while you’re both at a boring party and just want to liven things up). You don’t want to necessarily reveal all, but give them a teaser of what’s to come. Woods and Grubbs did this, veering from the joking and personal to the more intimate, but they don’t seem to have kept up constant communication. Judging from what’s been published, it was too sporadic to fully capitalize on their energy. I once had an affair, and even though I couldn’t see the other person too often, I’d get early-morning and late-night emails, or quick notes throughout the day that made me feel special.
You don’t have to reveal everything right away. Make them wait to see what your next move is going to be. Leaving them wondering can spark even more fantasies. The end goal doesn’t have to be dropping everything to get off (and indeed, it can’t be when you’re having an affair); it can be enough that you made your lover smile, or simply think about you when they’d otherwise be in line at Starbucks.
4. Keep it short and sweet
Save overly long gushy notes for email. Grubbs went a little overboard when she wrote, “I have fun with u, you always make me smile and I am not afraid to be myself or say anything to u ... the day I met u I thought u were going to kick me out a few times but for some reason you didn't and u have told me numerous times I talk to much but slowly as I get to know u i think your absolutely amazing.” Unless the other person is also this prolific with their texts, keeping it simple works better for this medium. Drop hints or say you have something important to tell them when you see each other next time. Sexting should be a way to spice things up between the times you see each other, but shouldn’t take the place of other forms of communication.
5. Make them feel special
Sexting is both more immediate and more intimate than sending an email and you should keep this in mind. People usually check email when they have a moment to pause, but carry their phones and will check them when they hear them buzz. Don’t waste texts on random thoughts.
This last rule is the most important. Even if you have lots of other women, she should feel like you are thinking about her and only her. Use private jokes, recall the times you’ve been together, reveal something personal. When Woods wrote, “privately and secretly we will always be together,” he was telling Grubbs she wasn’t just another girl in his phone (even though we now know she was). Unfortunately, he disregarded the No. 1 “don’t” above by following that up with, “when was the last time you got laid.”
Rachel Kramer Bussel is the editor of Peep Show: Erotic Tales of Voyeurs and Exhibitionists, Bottoms Up and over 25 other erotica anthologies, and hosts and curates In the Flesh Reading Series.