My mother is the only person who leaves me voicemails. I’ve told her not to, and that I never listen to them, but deep down it makes me happy to get the little notification that I have a voicemail. It reminds me that she loves me, of course. But more than that, it does it in such a quaint and unique way.

People my generation don’t really use their phones for talking. I’m exaggerating of course, but studies back up what I’ve known about myself for ages – younger people communicate primarily through text, while older generations call each other up to shoot the breeze. (And the trend is intensifying in people younger than me.)

We SMS one another, we Facebook chat. We’re on Whatsapp or BBM under the table during meetings and send out tweets in the middle of conversations. No one thought technology would make us write more – and it certainly has not had a net positive impact on the written English word – but people are increasingly adept at communicating in text, and not in voice. It has had some strange affects.

For me, it is at its most pronounced when it comes to dirty talk. Nowhere is this schism between verbal and written communication wider for me than in dirty talk. The difference between the things I can say and the things I can write is so stark that an observer could be forgiven for thinking I am schizophrenic, or that I have a risqué assistant who stands in for me when things get racy on Whatsapp.

Dirty talk, I imagine, is something all of us master online at an early age. From the first tentative messages on dating sites as teenagers, we quickly learn the lingo. We begin to loosen up, to take ourselves less seriously, and to message people with fewer expectations that they will be “The One”. We learn that writing sexual messages can be fun, and that getting them is often hotter than watching porn. It’s exhilarating to use our imaginations with a script. We send and receive smut without ever really thinking about it. It becomes easy; something to do when we find someone attractive.

“An astute partner will notice what kind of things turn you on during sex, and dial them right up in his dirty talk…”

When the sexting is with someone we’ve slept with, it starts to move beyond typecast moves to the specifics of what we find arousing. And then we stumble into a relationship and the dirty talk is taken to a whole new level. Instead of basing the texts on what we say we like on our dating profiles, a boyfriend quickly learns the buttons that really get us hot under the collar. An astute partner will notice what kind of things turn you on during sex, and dial them right up in his dirty talk. He can send SMSes that get you blushing faster than you can hide your phone, and rushing to cover your crotch with a file before someone sees anything unsuitable for the office or for campus.

My partner is phenomenally good at it. The narratives he whacks out on his phone could be used for trashy novels and yet they are so carefully crafted around what I find hot that they are, thinking about it outside of the heat of the moment, quite psychologically revealing.

I like to think that I am quite good at dirty texting too, being that I pride myself on the way I write. But the tricky thing with being in a relationship is that you have to actually talk to the person too. Unlike a random sexter who you ignore after you’ve done your business – and don’t have to see while you’re doing it – a boyfriend is right in front of you. There is no phone screen to hide behind.

And that is when the gulf between written and verbal communication opens up for me.

It must actually be hilarious to witness; a person so articulate and filthy in text suddenly fumbling around, blushing and unable to make himself dirty talk when his partner does. In real life, while my partner can just as easily say the things that get me rushing to get naked, I am almost completely incapable of saying anything dirty. I feel embarrassed, put on the spot, and silly. I’ve never been a massive believer in vocal sex, but a word of mischievous intention – or of encouragement – is certainly something I wish I could muster. Sadly, the duel of words falls flat, and I disappoint in that regard.

The fact that my partner is younger than me and not nearly so inhibited in real life dirty talk makes me think that perhaps technology hasn’t retarded our ability for verbal talk dirty. It’s possible that it has just freed us up to talk dirty in text. It has provided those of us who are too shy or too well brought up with a quasi-anonymous channel to power through the awkwardness from a safe distance.

The generational gap isn’t so much that we are less equipped to communicate than our parents were; it’s just that our verbal communication hasn’t yet caught up to the leaps we’ve been taking in the written word. But both forms, no doubt, are freer than older people had it. Technology never allowed them to break free of the confines of decorum and say what was really on their mind when they saw someone they wanted to shag. We are only half way through the revolution that did.

As an even younger generation takes the torch and transfers the confidence of sexting into their verbal lives, I should probably look less patronisingly at my mother’s inability to Whatsapp. It’s humbling to realise you’re only young and hip and free when you write it down.

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