For readers of a certain age who may be asking themselves “What’s Sexting?” It’s the act of sending sexy text messages which may include sexually explicit images (often personal). It’s the 21st century version of spin the bottle or strip poker but with higher stakes. It’s a way to bring sexual intrigue to the forefront of the conversation. The main difference is that you don’t even have to be part of the game to experience it. For example, last weekend I was shown a bunch of pretty graphic pornographic images of men and women who probably never gave a second thought to what would become of these personal photos when they were hitting the send button on their phone. And no – I didn’t ask to see them.
This past year I’ve read numerous news stories about teenagers (young women mostly) who’ve committed suicide after nude photos they sent to someone they probably trusted were shared on social media. After a couple friends surprised me with the photos they’d received, I started to think about how impulsivity kicked up while sexting overrides, weighing out big-picture consequences. I’m not here to be a buzz kill if you get off on sending dick pics or if sending photos that would make Hustler readers blush is part of your foreplay. What interests me is how the emotional consequences or fallout from impulsive behavior might affect someone in recovery. I learned from the conversations we’ve had on SEX TALK that it’s much harder for people in recovery to discuss negative consequences connected to their sexual behavior than it is to admit emotional pain from other sources.
A couple weeks ago a friend told me about a guy she met at the gym. She’d been through a terrible break-up and had been stuck in the darkness of grief so this chance meeting shone light in the direction of hope and possibility. She forwarded a face photo to me that he’d sent shortly after their initial meeting. It had been a few weeks so over lunch I asked how things were going with the new guy. She said she’d had to postpone their first date a couple times because of work obligations so they got into the habit of nightly texting. It didn’t take long before the texts became playful and sexy – which she was down for since she was enjoying the attention and it was evidence that she was moving on with her life. When dick pics started turning up on her phone she wasn’t discouraging. The playfulness of their sexy banter was exciting but she failed to noticed that it replaced their “getting to know you” texts. At this point in our conversation, tears began welling up in her eyes. When they finally met up in person the space between them was filled with awkward silence and sexual tension. She’d been interested in him and wanted to get to know him but because of their sexting the date turned out to be nothing more than a hook up. She was devastated but not surprised when she didn’t hear from him again – not because she had an emotional investment in the new guy (because she didn’t) but because his texts had been filling a void which now felt even bigger. As a woman in her 40s, she didn’t consider sexting as anything more than sexy playful banter and figured emotional intimacy would follow in real life if they had a connection. She had no idea when she started sexting back that it was replacing the emotional intimacy she craved nor had she noticed how she’d become dependent on evenings of texting as a way to avoid experiencing the grief of heartbreak, fear of change. Fixed by fantasy and distraction she also failed to recognize the need for self-care when she was in HALT.
The above is just one person’s sexting experience so join me this Sunday at 9pm for SEX TALK and let’s get this conversation started. What are your experiences with the pros and cons of sexting?
SEX TALK is an open forum at InTheRooms.com where we talk about sex in recovery; so if sexting doesn’t apply to you feel free to steer the direction of the conversation toward issues that do concern you.