Sexting has become a part of everyday life for anyone with a smartphone and a libido. An online survey from Drexel University this summer found that 82 percent of the 840 participants, aged 18 to 82, had sexted at least one person in the past year. Thing is—just like with booze and food—the majority of people consume in moderation, but there are a few who end up doing it compulsively.Excessive sexting is usually associated with dick pic bros and cheating politicians, but take a glance at Reddit's NSFW forums and you'll also find hundreds of adult women like Sarah searching for strangers to sext. There's even the website sextbuddies.com—a Craigslist for sext partners—where users offer up Kik, Snapchat and WhatsApp usernames along with their age, gender, and sexual preferences. Posts include: "Daddy, punish me by making me strip for you,""Looking for another girl for a roleplay involving an adult baby diaper," and "Mistress here looking to humiliate slaves. Your obedience makes me wet. SLAVES COME TO MAMA!"
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She adds that women rarely come forward for sex addiction treatment because of the stigma around female sexuality, but that the ten female sex addicts she has treated over the past decade have all had problem with sexting. "I've found that sex addiction often presents itself in women as an addiction to sexting," she explains. "They're less likely to have stranger sex than men because it has more dangers for them; generally [women] have less physical strength than men, risk unwanted pregnancy, and are more likely to get judged for it."
My behavior got riskier and riskier, until I passed out one night with my phone in my lap and my fiancé found a video of one of the guys jerking off.
Both men and women can become obsessed with feeling desired, but Weiss believes women are more likely to seek out sexual validation online because it's easier for us to find it, thanks to the way we're constantly objectified by society. He says that women who are hooked are likely to describe feeling powerful, rather than affronted, when someone gawps uninvited at their cleavage, and will repeatedly seek out similar situations to recreate that feeling. He says: "If this is the primary way they get their emotional and sexual needs met, then they're missing the thing that really feeds us: to be appreciated and valued for who we are and not just what we look like."Clare*, a 34-year-old financial advisor from St. Louis, says she's hooked on the affirmation that comes with sexting. "The first time I sexted, I had been drinking with a male co-worker one night and there was a confession of mutual attraction," she says. "Since then I've sexted guys from Match.com and Reddit." Now she has a sext partner who she talks to daily for "a minimum of five hours a week.""For me, it's addictive because it makes me feel desired. I'm not proud of this, but at times the validation that comes from sexting is what has me hooked," she says. "I get depressed when I don't have anyone to message."
I'm not proud of this, but at times the validation that comes from sexting is what has me hooked.
Sex psychotherapist Hall says that the danger of sex addiction—especially when it's expressed online—is that it can escalate without anyone noticing. This means people often won't think to do anything about it until it has an actual impact on their lives. She says: "You can't drink for eight hours straight without getting sick, but you can sext for eight hours a day."Plus, digital media provides an unlimited resource of partners for sex addicts looking for a hit. Weiss says: "In the tech world they use the world 'friction' to describe what it takes to get you to an experience. All of the friction has been taken out of desirability and sex. The anonymity, immediacy and affordability of finding sex via digital media has made the potential for sex addiction greater."For Tara and her partner, this doesn't come as a shock. "Right now we're working through another one of my screw-ups," she says. "He caught me messaging another man—again. I might have messed up the best thing that ever happened to me."* Names have been changed