“I think I’m addicted to sexting,” I said to my therapist last week.
“What makes you think this?” she asked emotionlessly.
“Because I sent [name withheld for legal reasons] a bunch of nudie shots the other day.”
“I don’t know.”
And that’s the honest truth. I don’t know why I did it.
When Anthony Weiner got caught this week being Anthony Weiner yet again, it got me thinking. I know a lot of Anthony Weiners, and I know what it’s like to be the woman on the other end of that wiener. The former mayoral candidate has officially tanked his career, his marriage and his reputation. He’s now nothing more than a punch line, the blogosphere having chewed up his transgressions and turned them into click bait about everything from campaign politics to gender studies. What is the psychology that drives someone to lose everything because he can’t stop himself from doing something as ridiculous as sexting?
In my “Naked Manifesto,” I explore why I post nude self-portraits online. One of the reasons I started was that it felt like a preemptive strike against my pictures being leaked. I didn’t want to live in fear, but I knew early on there would be little to no chance of me abstaining from the sexy selfie game. Few things give me as much joy as sending a nude shot to a man who will appreciate it. The very act of taking them has become “me time.” And if you’re a single woman in the modern world, you have stock photos. That’s a fact.
But while taking nude photos of myself precipitated the desire to take control of my image, it is a completely different animal than sexting. Sexting starts with a flirtatious, uninhibited and sometimes uncouth message and then intensifies, just like real sex. It is not static. As a writer, this secretive, modern-day erotica appeals to me. I love writing descriptive texts about what I want to do to someone and what I want done to me. Cell phones didn’t create sexting. They merely digitized the love letters of generations past. But the evolution of smartphone cameras did suddenly make sexting a visual medium. And then a monster was born.
In the early days, I set hard rules like “no pussy shots.” More recently, my sexting has begun to feel more and more like an addiction. Last year, I graduated to sending videos of me coming to a chosen few. (That’s quite a progression from “no pussy shots.”) This scared me, especially because I sent those videos in the heat of the moment, way before the Catholic guilt set in. Afterward, I realized I didn’t want them out in the world, and that made my sexting felt out of control.
But it kind of turned me on, too.
When we talk about addictions, we measure their impact by what we’ve lost. I’m not sure whether I’m addicted to sexting because I have nothing to lose. I have no boyfriend, no public service job, no reputation, et cetera. Still, that doesn’t mean my behavior won’t haunt me down the line. And this is what I’ve realized about sexting: Risk is part of the appeal.
Personally, the more inappropriate a man is, the bigger the thrill sexting provides me. I’m not talking about random strangers or Internet followers, because I need to have a sexual connection with someone and a desire to fuck them—or better yet, have fucked them already. I’m talking about men who have something to lose by engaging with me. Looking at my patterns, I’ve realized I love sexting men I can’t have—men who are unavailable emotionally, physically or otherwise.
I’m not sure if this makes me a thrill-seeker, a sociopath or a sexual savant, but sexting men who have something to lose almost guarantees they won’t share my photos. Unlike a personal addiction, this behavior won’t ruin my life—but it could ruin theirs. And it forces me to trust them, something I can’t guarantee with a one-night stand. With this certain breed of man, I can sleep soundly knowing my pictures will probably be deleted immediately.
I’ve been told my sexting is compulsive. Or that it’s a manifestation of my “daddy issues” or my “mommy issues.” Or that it’s a form of self-objectification because I was raped and don’t feel valued. It’s classic attention seeking behavior; it’s validation because I feel powerless; it’s a way of owning my sexuality because I’m powerful; it’s my fear of intimacy, which causes me to disconnect; it’s a way for me to connect.
I’d say there is a bit of truth to all of these explanations, but whenever anyone—friends, lovers or professionals—label my sexting habits, they forget the most important thing: I fucking love it.
I love the way I feel when I get a good shot. I love knowing I put a smile on a guy’s face and an erection in his pants. I love knowing my body can cheer up a man when he’s had a bad day. Sexting brings me (and others) so much joy. Sometimes it’s just that simple.
We can attach all kinds of judgments to the behavior of men like Anthony Weiner, but at the end of the day, Weiner is a high-profile man who got caught doing what millions of men do all the time, and not because they don’t love their wife, or because they don’t value their careers, but because sometimes, the little guy downstairs runs the show. It’s not psychology or politics. It’s biology.
I’m not defending or justifying Weiner’s behavior, or as the other woman on the end of such exchanges, mine. I don’t want to ruin marriages or wreck homes or ruin lives. But I would be a giant hypocrite if I joined the morality police online in lambasting the guy. We’re humans, but we’re also animals. Sometimes we are blindly driven by our libido and our brains kick in later. Weiner acted stupidly and selfishly, but he’s not a villain. He’s a moron. And I’m a sexual woman who loves the thrill of arousing men.
Does this make me an addict? Maybe, but that would imply I’m doing something wrong. In my eyes, my need to sext just makes me human—albeit at times a stupid, often horny, human. As far as I can tell, when it comes to the pitfalls of sending digital erotica, the only difference between a guy like Weiner and me is that he has something to lose.