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Is sexting ever OK?

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Woman using a mobile phone

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Updated: May 29, 2014 4:32PM

Anthony Weiner, you’ve given sexting a bad name. Tarnished its reputation along with your own.
Forced to resign his congressional seat in 2011 after sending explicit online messages and photos to women other than his wife, the New York Democrat finds his current bid for that city’s mayoral job in jeopardy after new allegations of the same behavior surfaced.

Not only has the current scandal — where Weiner reportedly referred to himself by a name, Carlos Danger, that’s giving many a giggle — called the 48-year-old’s integrity into question once again, but it has brought sexting under fire.

For the uninitiated, sexting is defined as sending explicit messages or photographs via mobile phones or the Internet.

Weinergate aside, sexting really isn’t all that common among adults. According to the Pew Research Center, only 15 percent of adult cellphone users have ever received a sext, and just 6 percent admit to sending one. Sexting is much more common among teens, and according to the July 2012 issue of “Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine,” one in four adolescents admits to sexting behavior. It’s definitely something parents should talk to teens about, because these images never go away and — as seen with Weiner — sexts often spread like wildfire even if they were only meant for one person.

Despite the negative connotations, sexting actually can be a good thing. That is, if it involves consenting, of-age adults. And, of course, I mean sexting your partner, not random strangers — no way am I endorsing Carlos Danger behavior or infidelity.

How can sexting be beneficial?

Well, for one thing, it can help to keep the fire stoked between you and your partner. It is hard to go from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in the bedroom and to immediately switch from Mommy and Daddy into “Let’s rip each other’s clothes off” partners. It’s an issue that is common for many couples, especially if they have been together for many years or are grappling with both kids and stressful jobs. They don’t relate to each other as sexual and desirable partners throughout the day, so when they finally are alone together, they often end up feeling more like roommates rather than lovers.

Sexting can help couples break out of that rut. A short erotic message or even something as simple as “I can’t wait to be alone with you tonight” can spark your partner’s imagination and increase their arousal. (Since women often take longer to get aroused than men, this can be especially beneficial. Mental arousal is a big part of sexual response and pleasure, so even though it might be 2 p.m. on a Tuesday, it’s still foreplay for your big date night.)

If you are hesitant to send a photograph (and with today’s lack of privacy, that’s understandable), then send a suggestive but tame picture. Snap a shot of the bra you just bought or your bed with the message “Feeling lonely.” Be creative and don’t be afraid to unleash your sensual side.

Remember, sexting isn’t all bad — as long as you are careful and aren’t running for office!

Dr. Laura Berman is a sex and relationship expert based in Chicago.

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