The injudicious use of a cellphone by former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner has turned the spotlight on sexting — a practice typically associated with teenagers. But the reality is that more and more of the 50-plus set, both single and married, routinely use text messaging to send tantalizing pictures and provocative words to their partner, according to relationship experts.
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Most of them are not sexting in the highly public — and, as he acknowledged, "inappropriate" — way that Weiner has admitted to doing. Rather, they are using it as a fun, easy and usually harmless way to spice up their sex.
Relationship coach Suzanne Blake has seen and heard it all when it comes to sexting, including a wife who enjoys sexting her husband while he's traveling on business, telling (and showing) him what he's missing at home. While this may surprise some, Blake's not surprised at all.
"It's a misnomer that the biological changes of aging have to lead to a decrease in sexuality and sexual experience," she says.
Whether they're single and casually dating, married, or in long-term relationships, "Boomers want sexual activity," Blake explains. "They want to flirt. It makes them feel lively and young."
Jill, 50, certainly feels fresh and vital when she sexts."It makes you a little more brave," she says. "It takes the fear away, your inhibitions. I might be a little more bold in a text message than I would be over the phone or in person."
Sexting also makes the South Carolina nurse, who's been divorced for 15 years and enjoys casual dating, feel as if she had a "naughty secret."
"If you're sitting in a restaurant waiting for your food, you can just talk dirty to someone, and no one knows what you're doing," Jill says, in a slow Southern drawl. "I would rather talk on the phone. But I'm also comfortable with hiding behind texting if I want to say something dirty."
"That's exactly the appeal of sexting," according to New York psychotherapist and advice columnist Dr. Jonathan Alpert.
"Because there's no anticipation of a direct verbal response, there's less at stake than if the conversation were being held the old-fashioned method: face-to-face," he says. "Where there's less risk of being critiqued or judged, there's opportunity for greater sexual expression."
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"It also fits nicely into longtime couples' busy schedules to keep things spicy," says relationship and sexual health expert Genie James, who recommends sexting to couples who travel a lot, live apart in different cities or have trouble connecting throughout the day."It’s cheap," she says."It's quick. It's right there. And nobody can hear you."
James continues, "It's about setting the stage for sex and keeping passion alive. A cellphone's in your hands every day. You're already doing it."
But beware, the experts warn. Sexting has its dangers, too. For one thing, it can be easy to send a text to a wrong number, and that can be embarrassing — or worse.
When it comes to dating, false advertising is often a big issue, says relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle. It's something online daters may be all too familiar with when their date shows up looking about 30 years older than his profile photo.
"They're overselling and over-promising," she says of big-talking sexters. "I think too much, too soon in relationships is not such a great thing. I suggest to people that you grow the relationship outside the bedroom so that when you come into the bedroom, it's your playpen." Then there's the comfort factor. Not everyone likes having a sexually charged text or photo pop up on her phone as much as she thought she would.
Richard, 66, received an X-rated photo on his cellphone from a potential online date recently and surprised himself by being less than thrilled.
"It was a little bit embarrassing," the Iowa resident says sheepishly. "Well, it was very embarrassing."
The fact that he was with a group of colleagues after hours at a restaurant didn't help matters, either.
Sexting might be an interesting experiment, he says with a sigh, but after his experience, "It was like the fun kind of went out of it."
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