As a sex and relationship therapist, I get asked about sexting difficulties often, along with the related “Why have I stopped initiating sex with my partner?”
The answer lies in the vulnerability of sexual expression — it becomes too honest and intimate to share your authentic sexuality with another. Your sexuality and all that arouses you is the most private and socially shamed part of yourself, and that makes it feel like it needs protection, as exposure may lead to embarrassment, shame or rejection.
If you like someone, your sexuality can become too fragile to share.
The more we begin to attach to someone, their opinion of us begins to matter more. The risk of exposing and engaging parts of ourselves that make us anxious can become insurmountable.
But without sharing what makes you anxious, your intimacy will stop and your relationship will function only on superficial and safe levels. That leads to both relational and sexual boredom. Sexual arousal lives best when operating from honesty and authenticity. Revealing all of your sexual self is an act of care and commitment.
The goal of dating is to be known, not to be liked. So date in an authentic and honest way so as to assess actual compatibility instead of doing what you feel you must to “get the guy or girl.”
Having sex and sexting are valuable parts of dating but often get a bad rap, seen by some as signs of not being “relationally serious.” Remember that we live in a sex-phobic culture in which respectability politics tell you that your worth as a person is dependent upon your sexuality and not on what factors actually determine it — your character and ethics, how you treat others.
Sexting, which is a form of sex, can be an act of care and investment. It’s a form of intimacy building, connection, determining sexual compatibility and also fun.
I have many of my patients working on using sexting as a form of maintaining eroticism with their partners, and as a way to work on building sexual honesty and arousal with others. Courtship in the 21st century involves technology, and is better for it in many ways.
Your ability to reveal sexual parts of yourself is a meaningful way to practice general vulnerability. If you can openly and confidently express your sexual self, then you can express other anxious parts as well.
Sexting should be done with care and compassion, but also with full authenticity. Lean into your vulnerability, as longterm relationships require both open, fluid eroticism and general honesty. If you aren’t sharing what makes you anxious, then you aren’t sharing full vulnerability; you are only playing it safe. True commitment and love means being truly known.
What are your thoughts on sexting? Sound off in the comments.
Dr. Chris Donaghue is a lecturer, therapist and host of the LoveLine podcast, a weekly expert on The Amber Rose Show, and a frequent co-host on TV series The Doctors. He authored the book Sex Outside the Lines: Authentic Sexuality in a Sexually Dysfunctional Culture and has been published in various professional journals and top magazines, including The New York Times, Newsweek, Cosmo and National Geographic. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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