Why Smart People Sext

Jeff Bezos isn't the only one.

Posted Feb 11, 2019

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Source: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

By all accounts, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is a smart man. He started Amazon in the garage of his Seattle home back in 1994 as an online book store that has since become the world's largest online retailer. Along the way, it catapulted Bezos into riches; he's the world's richest person with an estimated net worth of $142 billion dollars.

Financial statements aside, he's also just a man who puts his pants on one leg at a time. You have probably heard about the recent imbroglio Bezos is involved in, with the National Enquirer.  The Enquirer states it lawfully obtained salacious and sexual photos and messages that Bezos had previously sent to his reported girlfriend, former Los Angeles news anchor, Lauren Sanchez. Bezos is married to his wife, Mackenzie, of 25 years but recently announced they will be divorcing (sexting with someone other than your spouse can be harmful to your marriage).

So why in God's green earth would Bezos, a seemingly down-to-earth family man, risk it all to sext with someone other than his wife?  Beyond Bezos, why would smart men and women sext in the first place?

As a therapist specializing in problematic sexual behaviors, I understand that sexting can be a form of harmless escapism and thrill-seeking. It can also be compulsive, addictive, or even sexual-offending behavior.

It can be a means to bring "spice" to a dulled long-term relationship or a means to jump-start a new relationship in the early throes of courtship.  In Bezos' case, I believe the reasoning is the latter as the 55-year-old Amazon CEO reportedly hired Sanchez as a pilot to shoot aerial shots for his project, Blue Origin, a space-launch company.

The two were reportedly spotted together as recently as January 6, on the day of the Golden Globes, at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. Last fall, Sanchez separated from her husband, Hollywood agent Patrick Whitesell. Sources told People magazine, “Lauren and Jeff have been spending a lot of time together over the last year and especially the past few months...at first it was socially at parties… here and there. But their time together has definitely seemed to evolve, raising some eyebrows."

In a recent study of gender differences in sexting conducted by Butler University (2016), researchers found that men were more likely to say that hedonism (feels good or satisfies sexual needs) is a reason they send sext messages (nearly 50% of men and just under 20% for women). Meanwhile, women were more than four times more likely to say that insecurity (i.e. worry partner won’t want you or won’t love you if you don’t) is a reason they sext (nearly 20% of women, while only 5% of men, cite insecurity for sexting).

Another study, measuring sexting between married Americans, found that sending sexually explicit photos is rare among married couples. Only 12% of participants reported ever sending photos to their partner.

So what does the research really mean when it comes to sexting and decision-making among smart people like Jeff Bezos?

For Bezos and many others who engage in sexting outside their marriage or committed relationship, it could have been a simple means of trying to keep their affair going in secrecy. Michelle Drouin, a psychology professor at Purdue University Fort Wayne, explains the rationale, “Your cheating partner is not usually the person you go home to every night...it’s a way to express sexual desire at a distance in a way that can be hidden a little bit.”  As for Bezos, it would look like that's the case for his sexting, as it's hard to run a multibillion dollar company, a family, and run around with a woman who's not your wife all at the same time.

References

Springston, K. (2017) Gender Differences in Participation in and Motivations for Sexting: The Effects of Gender Role Attitudes, Masculinity, and Femininity Butler Journal of Undergraduate Research, Vol. 3 Article 9. 142-157.

McDaniel, B. & Drouin, M., PhD (2015) Sexting Among Married Couples: Who Is Doing It, and Are They More Satisfied? Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18 (11), 628-634.

Mull, A. "Why Do Smart People Send Nudes?" The Atlantic Feb. 2019

Ritschel, C. "How Sexting can Negatively Affect Your Relationship" The Independent (London) Jan. 2018