I’ve sexted a man I’ve never met

I’m terrified that a stranger is wandering around Dublin with a nude photo of me

Illustration: Thinkstock

Illustration: Thinkstock


Q I’m in an awful panic and don’t know where else to turn. I started using an online dating app called Tinder last week. It was fun at first, flicking left and right on guys’ pictures and profiles and matching up with those I found attractive and who found me attractive back. Completely shallow, I know, but it was quite the ego boost. I’m a shy person in non-virtual life, so I found it liberating.

After a while chatting back and forth with one guy, things started to get more heated, and I was enjoying his fawning honeyed words. The next evening, he once again started speaking about my appearance, imagining what might happen if we spent the evening together, painting a very vivid picture. I had had a glass of wine when he sent me a photo of himself, very much enjoying our conversation. In a moment of madness, I sent him a photo of myself, nude, also enjoying the conversation.

Afterwards we agreed to delete everything from our phones, but I’m terrified that a stranger is wandering around Dublin with a photo of my nether regions. He knows my face and so could use this photo in any number of awful ways. Maybe in this modern age of sexual awareness, I am being paranoid? Or am I?

A Having a glass of wine in one hand and an iPhone in the other can easily lead to a moment of madness. You’re not the first to succumb.

“These days many people can and do establish relationships through online dating, while many others use these sites as a means of hooking up for casual sex or sexting for fun, but Tinder is not a reliable means of finding relationships, or even dates,” says Teresa Bergin, a psychotherapist specialising in sexual matters.

There’s a brilliant YouTube analysis of Tinder’s failings (search for Tinder: The Movie). It shows that the obsession with online seduction can prevent us from seeing potential mates right under our noses if only we would stop searching for perfection.

“We have come to associate sexting, and the risks linked to it, with teenagers but the reality is that many adults in the 20-30 age bracket sext,” says Bergin. “The risks of sexting are obvious: when people engage with it, excitement builds rapidly and inhibitions are reduced far more quickly than in a face-to-face situation, and there is no pop-up message to say that sending that text might be unwise.”

In your own little bubble in your bedroom, you forgot that once you put digital information out there, it’s out there forever. The standard advice is that you should never post anything that you wouldn’t want a potential employer or your granny to see. Many ignore this, of course, especially in today’s online culture where subtle flirting seems to have been lost in favour of sharing intimate pictures instead of intimacies.

“Sexting becomes more precarious with the disinhibiting effect of alcohol,” says Bergin. Drinking alone, feeling frisky then seeking an online playmate has potentially damaging consequences. You are an adult, thus “you are responsible for your own privacy and safety”, says Bergin.

Having said that, you were engaging in this in an informed and mutually consenting manner and were hardly clueless about the pitfalls. People like you “are doing it for fun and possibly in order to feel sexually validated or desired. Seeing one’s profile receive lots of ‘likes’ on Tinder might be an ego boost. It is also, perhaps, a way of experimenting with sexual expression and growing sexual confidence,” she adds.

“The paradox of sexting is that, though it appears intimate, it is devoid of any intimacy at all, and certainly not the intimacy that develops over the course of a relationship. Though people may want and desire sexual contact in life, at times this may not always be in the context of an intimate relationship, and indeed they may not feel ready or equipped for one. Until they reach that point, is it possible that you and your friends are using Tinder to explore and experiment with your sexuality?”

My advice would be stop feeling embarrassed and paranoid and let it go. But don’t do it again. Try to be real. Ask yourself, why am I drinking alone with Tinder?

Email your questions to tellmeaboutit@irishtimes.com or contact Kate on Twitter, @kateholmquist. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into

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