"I don't send sexy pictures. I mean, that's like a virtual hickey," began *Stephanie, the most logical among my college lady-clique. "Someone has marked their territory on you. They own your image."
It was sound advice. I probably should have followed it.
When Stephanie dropped this sage wisdom back in 2009, smartphones were just beginning their meteoric rise. Soon, many women would feel perfectly comfortable sending sexually charged iPhone pics to their partners . . . or even people they kinda, you know, like-liked. Who could have predicted, in those innocent college years, an era where the whole world would bear witness to naughty selfies of Kim Kardashian's famous backside, or of A-list celebrity pictures being leaked to the masses?
As for me? I can't take part. Not any more. Because for a long time, I was a sexting addict. And it all began with me being a heartless succubus.
*Jack and I dated briefly in the spring of 2011. He looked like something out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, with lustrous blonde hair I still find myself remembering fondly. But it was more than that which drew me to him: He was also intelligent and charmingly socially awkward. I was smitten.
Soon, Jack ended our fling, but he quickly regretted it. I refused to let him back into my life until I heard the five words I yearned to hear:
"Can we just have sex?"
So we did. And dear Aphrodite, the sex was glorious. As I yanked Jack's luscious locks, we copulated from every angle. After having sex multiple times a week for three months, Jack started hinting that he wanted more from me. I fought against it for an additional month. Though I liked Jack, I didn't think he was "boyfriend material" (whatever that means). I dated other men.
It was during the throes of a break-up with another guy—someone who left me wanting sexually—that I decided to text Jack:
"Be at your place in 15 minutes."
Words were barely uttered before we began ripping off each other's clothes. I came—I kid you not—18 times, as if making up for my lack of intimacy with the other man.
Jack moved away less than a week later, and as he stood by the moving van, he said words I'll never forget: "You mean a lot to me. You broke my heart though . . . you really did. I love you."
I never said it back.
After a few weeks, Jack asked if I'd send him a sexy picture. Briefly, I recalled Stephanie's words about virtual hickeys. But then, a voice inside me said:
"You broke his heart. Just send one. That will make him feel better."
I donned my sexiest lingerie (read: the most expensive Frederick's of Hollywood purchase) and lounged seductively in front of my mirror. Before sending the picture, I studied it. Immediately, my body shivered with a thrill entirely new. I looked amazing. With my face cut out (due to Stephanie's influence), the focus was on my firm gym-earned body and curves. Had I ever looked so hot? Would I again?
It made me high.
As soon as the message whirled into the digital world, panic—a sensation I'd later crave—seized me. What if Jack didn't think I looked sexy? What if I had an overly inflated ego and was actually hideous? Maybe Jack would laugh at my feeble attempt to look sexy and show all his friends. Yes, that is what would happen. What had I done?
I was, of course, wrong. Jack loved it. A lot. As if smoking sativa leaves, my happiness bordered on delirium. I waited a few days before sending another. Again, I admired my body, feared it would be mocked, then reveled in Jack's incessant flattering. I dragged my fingernails upwards on my thigh, biting my lip, while reading Jack's response. I thrived off the exhibition.
It just got worse from there.
I couldn't stop sexting. Jack didn't have to ask—I started sending them by the spank bankful. At my parents' house, I ran to the bathroom to snap a quick boob shot in the mirror. When out with friends, I made flimsy excuses so I could leave and get my fix. Hell, when I was at an employee BBQ, hosted by my boss, I got the urge, running into the bathroom stall so I could shed my sundress and undergarments and take a full body selfie in the mirror.
That time, the rush nearly knocked me out. I rejoined my coworkers, basking in their ignorance. Even though I had nothing to drink, I felt just as buzzed as my beer-imbibing colleagues.
My diversion was already becoming an obsession when, as the fall of 2012 began, Jack asked me if we could video-chat sex. Of course, I said yes.
Bathed in the light of laptop screens, we touched ourselves and talked dirty, enacting our version of an online porno. And then, as the climax neared, I thought I heard a few weird sounds . . . almost like a camera was flashing.
It was then I realized that Jack had taken screenshots of me.
And just like that, my high gave way to the crash, my ecstasy devolving into humiliation and blind furor. Jack apologized and sent all the shots to me—shots in which my face (and a token Breakfast at Tiffany's poster) were clearly visible. I couldn't believe Jack could so blatantly violate my privacy. But to him, taking shots of me during video-chat sex without my permission was no different than me sending dirty sexting photos to him.
Who was right? It's been two years now, and I still grapple with this question. But it taught me one thing: My sexting made me vulnerable to personal violation.
For unrelated reasons, Jack and I drifted apart. He gave me his shirt that I still wear—it's stupid comfortable—but my addiction was over. I no longer take sexy pictures.
And yet, despite this revelation, I haven't been able to give up on video-chat sex. I still crave that high.
Maybe I haven't learned my lesson after all.