Sexting, cyber-shagging, virtual intimacy—if you’re young, hot, and willing, statistics suggest that you’re doing it. Damn it, you’re probably doing it now.

And yet when I say that we’re all at it, there is one notable exception: me. In sexting terms, I can claim the most immaculate virginity.

Sure, I pride myself on my textual abilities—I taught English at Oxford before becoming a journalist. When I was a lone wolf, I could have represented Britain in the virtual-flirting stakes. There were infinite exchanges via office e-mail with whomever was floating my boat. I even traded daily underwear updates with one individual, matching my knickers to heels. Speaking of, whatever happened to the Greek-god-handsome wordsmith who text-sighed, “You set my world curved”?

Still, in the matter of actual sexting, I have always been of the Yoda school: “Do or do not, there is no try.” Maybe it’s a Generation-X-and-above thing?

The closest I’ve come happened not long after my first date with my partner, Terence. I informed him that my mother being diagnosed with terminal cancer had made me want “to fuck in a Lawrentian kind of way.” Being English, his reply was the Jarvis Cocker in Common People–esque “I’ll see what I can do.” And that, my friends, was that.

But sexting proper? Too much Literary Review Bad Sex Awards potential. Witness the worst things that have been said to me in real erotic life. “I want to throw you on a bed and fill you with babies.” (I was in my first year at Oxford: I would have rather thrown myself on a bed and filled myself with books.) See also: “I would have paid for that.” (Thanks, but I’d like to retain my amateur status.)

Even the best I.R.L. remarks have proved too idiosyncratic, too of the moment, or too perilous to be put in writing. Witness the chap who composed an elaborate “what I’d like us to do together” WhatsApp, only to send it to the other Hannah in his mobile—his pubescent daughter. Both of us were too harrowed to proceed; the offspring is still in therapy.

Regardless, matters must change. My younger pals tell me that being a sext refusenik now constitutes a red flag. “Not sexting would be seriously weird,” muses one. “Like some unspeakable kink in itself.”

I don’t like to miss out on a sexual trick. Besides, what if I decide to trade monogamy for polyamory, or some equally modish state? My flaccid flirting would face stiff competition. I need to get on board with sexting as the art form it has become.

There’s a lamentable lack of instruction from U.K. sources, but an American ally steers me toward Los Angeles’s Emily Morse, host of the popular podcast Sex with Emily. She has plenty of tips on nipplegasms and doomsturbating, a form of political processing I can heartily embrace. “A great sext is all about anticipation,” decrees Morse in her episode, “kind of like foreplay.” En passant, I learn about the concept that is Anal August, albeit by the time you read this it will doubtless be Sadomasochistic September.

My younger pals tell me that being a sext refusenik now constitutes a red flag.

First and foremost, says Em, a good sext must be personal. (I could have reached this conclusion myself.) They tend to plant a seed for future action, or perv over particularly winning past experiences.

You might reference something you saw in a film, but I’d tread carefully with that. I once had a relationship fall apart in seconds after asking to watch a companion’s favorite porn clip and reacting only with scorn.

We are to keep it simple. Super simple, as it turns out. The formula: “I’ve got a surprise waiting for you,” which builds anticipation and arousal. Compliments prove winning. But I find Em’s proposed wording—“I love putting my hands all over your sexy body”—so cut-and-paste banal that it suggests that English isn’t the sender’s first language.

“Embrace the three dots!” enthuses La Morse, not a Pinter thing, but “making them wait [between messages] in the most painful, but erotic way.” Her example: “I can’t stop thinking about… dots/pause…you putting your hand up my shirt…dots/pause…and feeling you get hard.” Nudes, we are instructed, “can be a killer confidence boost.” Does this depend on the sender’s physique?

There are tricks to make your booty look bigger (no problems there), plus guidance on safe sexting. WhatsApp provides a secure messaging option. Google Photos can store images in a locked file, Apple a hidden album, while the Notes app can be password protected. I am reminded of the occasion a friend e-mailed me penis shots, meaning that somehow his imposing member manifested on my screen with every subsequent message.

I do the responsible thing and alert my boyfriend of nine years—via text—that I am about to commence sexting. “Is this some obscure form of gaslighting?” he replies. “Yes.... No… Do you want it to be?,” I inquire in as suggestive a tone as possible. “What? No.... Go away … You’re scaring me,” he retorts. The parenthesis is in play, but our content requires work.

The next evening, at a fraught family event, I give matters another whirl, WhatsApping: “I can’t stop thinking about what I want to do to you when we get home.” I’m aware that what I’ll actually do is rage, become painfully introverted, then thrash about with night terrors. Is it dishonorable to sext with no intention of following through? What are the ethics of the thing?

Emily advises her acolytes to find their “sexting voice.” Who am I in phone-fornicating terms: D. H. Lawrence, Anaïs Nin, the Earl of Rochester? I veer more Anglo-Saxon than Latinate in my vocabulary, with a penchant for frankness over purple prose, but that is a testament to the implicit threat in many of my messages rather than stylistic preference.

After nine years studying and then teaching literature, my standards are pretty lofty. I don’t tolerate platitudes. “Is this S&M?” asks Terence, regarding my tone, at one point. As for his technical abilities? Well, surely I’m not the first woman to be turned off by grammatical errors?

It becomes clear that I’m overthinking and underperforming. Terence, meanwhile, is refusing to play ball, despite Morse’s insistence that, “like everything, dirty talk is a practice.”

A novelist friend who considers himself a sextpert assures me I can experiment on him—sext for sext’s sake. The situation rapidly evolves until I’m no longer sure I can look him in the eye. “Please stop, I can barely walk,” he pleads. Success!

“You’re missing the point,” eye-rolls a Gen Z colleague. “Sext is game-playing to maintain energy in a situationship from the first bout of intercourse until the last. Or it’s about keeping a sexual relationship alive while you’re not with the other party. It’s distracting them from the temptations of social media by wielding social media as your weapon. It feeds off absence, jeopardy, longing. Your relationship works. It has love and trust. It doesn’t need this. Wait until one of you is working abroad, and then start slow and go hard.”

You know what? … Should I find myself in the mood … I just might.

Hannah Betts is a features writer and columnist for The Times of London and The Telegraph