Love letters are overrated. In 2019, express your undeniable lust through wholesome thirst memes.
Being a teenager is a thoroughly unpleasant experience, and nothing makes you want to shrivel up and crawl into a hole like talking about doing it. But the wholesome thirst memes of Instagram can be the ice breaker for having productive conversations about sex.
The wholesome thirst memes of Instagram are basically very cute, very public sexts for people to send their crushes. Aesthetically, they’re safe for work. If you scroll through the hashtags #saucylovememes and #softmemes, you’ll find an array of cutesy images plastered with heart and sparkle emoji.
As pure as the memes look, the content is absolutely horny.
Aside from confessing a crush (and the desire to hook up) the memes can also encourage young people to have honest, open conversations about sex and boundaries. If you’re inexperienced and just starting to date someone, bringing up sex can be uncomfortable. But these memes can ease partners into a conversation about it.
“I think they’re definitely a safe way to test where you’re at in a relationship or cross another line if it’s ready to be crossed,” the creator of @very.soft.memes said via Instagram DM. They preferred to be called just “S” for this story.
S, who is 17, said they started the account because they used to send wholesome thirst memes to their boyfriend. Their followers use the memes to “bridge the gap between an innocent relationship and third base.”
Sex — and all things associated with it — can be intimidating. When you’re in high school and inundated with health class materials of infected genitals and condom-banana tutorials, being honest about what you want in the bedroom takes a backseat. According to the creators of @bold.yet.wholesome, who are both 16, sending a crush a thirst meme eases nerves about “going at the right speed.”
“Having a serious talk about having sex can be a little daunting,” bold.yet.wholesome said in a DM to Mashable. “Sending a post about it helps break the tension.”
The teenagers of Gen Z are having less sex than millennials and Gen X. According to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47 percent of high schoolers said they had sex in 2005. In 2015, only 41 percent of high schoolers admitted they’ve had sex. As Politico points out, teenagers are “more inclined to focus on the emotional and physical risks of sex, rather than the joys.” The youngest generation of Americans are less risky: they’re less likely to drink, drive, and get laid —which is why confessing feelings and lust through memes is so appealing.
Shan Boodram, a sexologist whose YouTube channel discusses relationships, sex, and self-care, says “it’s easier for people — period — to talk about anything serious through humor.”
Sending someone a meme about wanting to fuck can be an easy icebreaker, instead of just launching into the awkward conversation. During a phone interview, Boodram said the memes act as an “escape route” since you don’t have to “take responsibility for the words.” If it backfires, you can always brush it off as a joke.
“If you’re already stressed out about how to engage in these conversations, having something with a backdoor built in — pun intended — could be nice,” Boodram explained.
Boodram is cautious about calling the memes “wholesome,” though. Nodding to teenagers’ “insatiable need to orgasm,” she says the memes are closer to porn than they are to sweet displays of affection.
“You know when someone insults you, but says no offense first?” Boodram said. “I feel like it’s getting to be as vulgar as you want to but shrouding it with a unicorn tail on top of it.”
Jessica Melendez, a Pleasure Professional at O.school and a sex educator, adds that the memes are a “cause for pause,” depending on the recipient. She’s wary of the intention behind sending images of Pikachu asking to be choked — the sparkles and hearts may soften it, but if you’re sending unsolicited thirst memes to a classmate or friend, it can get slimy.
“The person you’re sending this to,” Melendez questioned. “Do you have a relationship where you can send stuff like that to each other?”
If you’re already dating it’s one thing, but if you’re “trying to get out of the friend zone” — as Melendez puts it — you’re bound to cross a line. She’s especially worried that in some states, sending the memes could count as sexting, which gets blurry when minors are involved. Although it’s an “extreme view,” she notes that if a teenager actually followers though with the meme requesting nudes, it can count as child pornography.
But if everything is safe and consensual, both sex educators see no harm in sending your boo a wholesome thirst meme. While Boodram says most of the memes she’s seen have been “dick-centric,” she’s all for young women expressing their sexual desires — memes asking your significant other to eat you out carry an empowerment you wouldn’t have seen ten years ago.
“This notion that we have to keep people innocent is folly because a majority of people aren’t,” Boodram said, acknowledging that although she thought most of the memes focused on male pleasure, she loves anything that validates girls’ sexuality. “Using their sexual parts for what they’re meant to be used for, if that is a loss of innocence, then I think a lot of people lost [that] far beyond when people think you’re supposed to give teens the talk.”
Despite once being teens themselves, adults are woefully ignorant when it comes to approaching middle and high schoolers about sex. Just look at basic emoji “explainers” that try to decipher sexts. One particularly horrifying explainer in The Times described the eggplant emoji: “One might be forgiven for interpreting the inclusion of this emoji as an invitation to enjoy moussaka. However, the aubergine is also used to indicate an erection.”
Yeah, it’s bad.
While adults may rush to censor and block adolescents from anything vaguely sexual, Melendez says they “miss the big picture” because thirst memes are just another form of expression.
“Young people will draw things, young people will write things,” Melendez said. “Young people might make memes to express their humor [and] say something they really want to say to somebody else.”
The memes are also a side effect of a larger trend: the demand for female pleasure. Boodram credits social media for the rise in what she dubbed “clit culture.”
Melendez says that as a sex educator, getting teenagers to comfortably discuss sex can be challenging, but the popularity of the memes can encourage young women who weren’t raised to be open about it.
“As far as bringing those memes into light, it definitely has shifted the narrative that anyone of any gender can talk about sex, think about sex, [and] can consensually have sex,” Melendez said. “As opposed to what the narrative was maybe eight or ten years ago.”