To be human is to talk about sex. As surely as primitive man drew outsized penises on his cave wall, the urge to communicate about copulation is hard-wired in us. Add instant electronic gratification and voila, you have the Sexties: our current era, where the ping of an incoming naughty message counts as foreplay.

Sexting is not just for kids and congressmen anymore. The lure of oversharing is spreading fast among boomers. McAfee, the American online security giant, did a study last fall called 50 Plus Booms Online. The take-away was the news that one in four adults aged 50 to 75 had sent some sort of intimate message online, ranging from suggestive texts to graphic photos of body parts. Compare this to a Harris Interactive survey of just one year before that found only one in 10 seniors were actively sexting.

Celebrities lead the way: the famous who wish they had been more careful with their phones include Scarlett Johansson (whose naked pics to her hubby were hacked and leaked to the press), Chris Brown (recipients of his manhood portraits sold their trophies to the tabloids) and Tiger Woods, whose multiple careless sext acts cost him his marriage and millions of dollars in endorsements. Representing the boomer contingent in this shame game is Hulk Hogan, who in 2012 had a film of him cavorting with his best friend’s wife go viral.

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The New York Times has called sexting the modern equivalent of lipstick on the collar. But if it is so risky, what makes it so compelling? For one thing, it is a trusty way to turn a quiet evening at home into a lightning round of virtual seduction. With lovers and strangers alike, sexting is a diversion, an entertainment. It can be a useful tool to keep intimacy on the table in a long-term relationship when the physical side has flagged. And the relative safety of the forum can make it a place to introduce as-yet-unbroached fantasies, like spanking, say, or role playing.

Wired magazine writer Ogi Ogas says the secret to sexting success lies in complementary gender differences.

“The desire to be desired drives young women’s willingness to flash what their mama gave them. Whereas male exhibitionism is considered a psychiatric disorder and sometimes a crime, female exhibitionism is rarely considered a social problem. Just the opposite: it’s exploited commercially. Multi-millionaire Joe Francis built his Girls Gone Wild empire by taping college girls stripping down for his no-budget camera crew. How does he persuade young women to disrobe? He offers them a T-shirt and a chance to be ogled by millions of men.”

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