And so, to the news of the moment (putting aside recent events in Belgium and Lahore for just a sec to focus on what really matters): Vernon Kay, of Vernon and Tess, is allegedly back in contact with model Rhian Sudgen, the woman he exchanged a series of X-rated sexts with, almost destroying his marriage, back in 2010. Of course, Vernon is denying that this latest correspondence is in any way inappropriate, reassuring a salivating public that we’ve got it all twisted – these new messages are platonic, actually. Tess knows everything and she’s fine with it. Move along, nothing to see here.
Not being Vernon’s wife, I have no reason to believe his emphatic denials of wrong-doing. Let’s face it, if a straight white male is arranging hotel meetings with a glamour model whose pert ass he once, allegedly, longed to grab, it is unlikely sex will be entirely absent from his mind. I have met enough straight white men in enough hotels to know the score, and I am decidedly not a glamour model (although I’ve no doubt I could give one a run for her money in the pert ass stakes, thank you very much).
Still, I can’t help but feel a bit sad for poor old Vern, jabbing frantically at his smart phone, hoping a steamy string of words might alleviate the tedium of real life. Because what we’re forgetting here, atop the moral high ground, is that sexts aren’t real life. They’re a way for inexperienced teenagers, caddish footballers, charismatic celebrity hosts and other lonely, unfulfilled souls to fill up the void with romance. Much in the way MacDonald’s exists to fill up the void with ‘food’.
I know because two years ago I spent six months indulging in an intense romance with an old crush. It was tender, erotic and conducted entirely by text message. It is now clear to me that the object of my textual affections had a flesh and blood girlfriend the entire time. He announced their engagement on Facebook a week or so after our fauxmance fizzled out, at which point I realised he’d never been serious. He had never wanted me in body nor in spirit. He just wanted to know that he was wanted. It was fantasy for him, and I don’t hold it against him because it was fantasy for me too.
I was lonely and undersexed and fed up with dates that ended with an ‘I’ll see you soon’ and then total radio silence. It was nice to hear that someone thought me hot, from afar. It was nice to get a regular dopamine buzz from a sext message, without the inevitable bonding that happens when you sex in the real world, which so often leads to heartache. It never would have worked between us in person, as the one phone call we attempted (stilted, monosyllabic small-talk during which he told me my voice was ‘different than he remembered - and not in a good way’) eventually proved. Like Vernon, my crush was never really going to cheat, and I was never going to let him.
Even between real life lovers, even when they are sent to husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, sexts are nothing more than fantasy. They let you describe the life you wish you were leading, so that taking out the bins feels a bit more bearable. And let’s face it, in the life you wish you were leading, you’re having better sex, more often, than whatever you’re getting now.
Like dreams, sexts are at once both more and less than our real lives. They’re a means by which our subconscious filters through the day’s stimulus - alternately disturbing and beautiful, though, ultimately, harmless. But I doubt your wife will agree. So, all things considered babe, I’d advise that you save the fantasies for your pillow, where she can’t find out.
Katie Beswick is the author of Reasons to be Single