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Let’s Talk about Sext

By: Deborah Schiller, LPC, CSAT-S, CMAT-S, Director of Pine Grove’s Gratitude Program    

I was waiting for a flight the other day and noticed almost everyone waiting with me was either looking at some form of a screen or they were talking on their cell phones.

Although I often hear people complain about the saturation in our daily life of others focused on their personal electronics, I never hear anyone say they themselves want to be without theirs.

Recently, I returned to my office from an award’s ceremony at a local university for one of our graduate students only to realize I did not have my cell phone with me. I kept looking in my purse, my backpack, my raincoat pocket, the staff lounge, my car … anywhere I had been in that window of a half hour since I had been taking photos of our intern getting his award. I thought to myself, “I know I just looked here but maybe if I look again it will magically appear.” I called campus security, AT&T, and the I-phone help center, all to no avail.

I began to feel a mild panic as I remembered that within a few hours I would be the administrator on call here at Pine Grove’s Gratitude program for the treatment of sexual addiction. The fact that I could have such an emotional response to being without my phone for only that short period of time is concerning,  yet truth be told, this is where I find myself today. If a 65 year old woman could come to depend on a device she has only had access to in the last third of her life, I think to myself, how much more can we expect young people to become attached to theirs when they have had these personal electronic devices for their entire lives? Additionally, how much more expert at the use of these devices would they be and how many more life situations would they be likely to incorporate them into? Why would using their personal electronics such as desktop and laptop computers, I-pads and cell phones in their sex lives be any different than other aspects of their lives?

The focus of this article is on sexting among college students. Even though sexting has become quite a hot topic lately, I run into people who have never heard of it. Sexting is the term that has caught on to refer to sending directly to another person sexually explicit material through electronic means. For some who write about it the definition is narrowed to refer to only photos or videos. For others, it may be restricted to material sent only over cell phones. For this article, I will use the definition set forth by Jessica Sabbah-Mani from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law who cited the definition set forth in Miller vs. Mitchell: “The practice of sending or posting sexually suggestive text messages and images, including nude or semi-nude photographs, via cellular telephones or over the Internet.”

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