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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

The problems of New York Congressman Anthony Weiner haven't let up since his mea culpa. He's facing calls for an ethics probe, possibly even his resignation. Weiner confessed this week to texting women lewd photos of himself, and lying about it. For many, the reaction to this sexting scandal has been simple disgust and bewilderment. But as NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports, this kind of thing is more common than you may think.

JENNIFER LUDDEN: Even the AARP has reported on the phenomenon. A recent headline: Sexting Not Just for Kids.

Ms. SUZANNE BLAKE (Relationship coach): Absolutely. A lot of my clients.

LUDDEN: Suzanne Blake is a relationship coach in Massachusetts. She says even married couples do this with each other.

Ms. BLAKE: People are working different shifts. They're traveling. They're stressed. They don't get to see each other a lot. So it's a playful way of keeping connected.

LUDDEN: But of course, just about every good thing about the Internet seems to have a downside. Eli Karam is a marriage therapist at the University of Louisville.

Dr. ELI KARAM (Marriage Therapist, University of Louisville): What the Internet does, what texting does, is allows you to get this immediate validation or fix. You send a picture, you get immediate response, and you don't have to deal with any face to face interaction.

LUDDEN: Thus, the ease and attraction of sexting with complete strangers.

At his press conference, Weiner stressed that he'd had no physical relationship outside his marriage. So is this cheating?

Dr. KARAM: And I say a relationship is a relationship, whether you touch that person or not.

LUDDEN: In fact, Karam says research shows this kind of virtual, or emotional infidelity, can be just as harmful as a physical fling. Though Suzanne Blake says it's true, sexting may not feel as wrong as meeting someone in a hotel.

Ms. BLAKE: One of my female clients, it's happened several times where she's been on a business trip, she's met somebody, and then they've exchanged sexting afterwards, and she is married. I had to actually say to her, do you realize this is cheating?

LUDDEN: Even when it's committed couples zinging photos back and forth, Blake has words of caution. One client - a 55-year-old woman - was sexting happily with a boyfriend who traveled a lot, sending photos with messages like: Missing seeing you. Then, the woman had a problem with her cell phone, and took it to a store for help.

Ms. BLAKE: When she tried to show the technician what was happening this body part showed up on her screen. So it was very embarrassing to her.

LUDDEN: Blake's advice - for ordinary sexters and high-profile politicians alike, delete, delete, delete.

Jennifer LUDDEN, NPR News.

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