When Roger gets to an intimate stage with a woman these days, it usually doesn't take long until the sexy photos start. His dating partners either request that he send them a suggestive—or downright explicit—photo from his cell phone to theirs, or they just send one themselves, completely unsolicited.
"I'll say, 'You have an amazing body. You have amazing breasts,'" he reports. "The next thing you know, you'll get a picture of a breast," he says with a hearty laugh.
The Massachusetts resident has been enjoying the high-tech flirtation for years now, taking part in a trend the mainstream media has dubbed "sexting," a play on the term "texting" ("sex" plus "text" equals "sext"). The term has made headlines recently, as teens continually get themselves in sticky situations with a form of high-speed communication that thrives on informality, spontaneity, and—for many young folks—bad judgment.
The catch is, Roger isn't a teenager—or even a 20-something. He's a 59-year-old divorcé, and, thanks to his cell phone and a slew of sassy ladies, his love life is more interesting than ever.
Shocked? Don't be. More and more of the 50+ set, both single and married, are using text messaging to spice up their sex lives. Boomers, often sandwiched between teenagers, aging parents, and busy work schedules, are taking advantage of the new technology because it's fast, easy, and fun.
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 braver," she says. "It takes the fear away, your inhibitions. I might be a little bolder 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 City 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.
"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 need to travel away from one another 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 cell phone's in your hands every day. You're already doing it."
But beware, the experts warn. Sexting has its dangers, too, especially when it comes to people in the dating world.
One of the biggies? False advertising, 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 receiving 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 cell phone 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."
Experts Weigh In on Sextings Dos and Don'ts
Step 1 – Fan the Flame. New to sexting? "Sexpert" Genie James recommends texting a quick love note to your sweetie during the day. Some of her favorites are, "Love you most," or "I still want to go to the prom with you!"
Step 2 – Turn Up the Heat. When you're comfortable, try texting something slightly suggestive, James says. "Can't wait until tonight" would work even for shy novices. Feeling bold? She recommends turning things up a notch with something along the lines of, "Forget chocolate, I am craving the taste of you!"
Periodically – Houseclean. If you're sending or receiving racy notes or photos, delete them every so often, advises relationship coach Suzanne Blake. "If you lose your cell phone or it's stolen, pictures can be uploaded in a heartbeat." –And that's not to mention the possibility of your teenage kids innocently flipping through your texts or photos.
Always – Stay Grounded. If you're dating, keep expectations based on sexting in check, says psychotherapist and advice columnist Dr. Jonathan Alpert. Just because you're getting hot and heavy texts, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll get hot and heavy in person.