Rep. Anthony Weiner's Sexting Scandal: Why Did He Do It?

Therapists say powerful men sext to feel even more powerful.

June 6, 2011, 8:25 AM

June 6, 2011 — -- Rep. Anthony Weiner's admission that he tweeted and Facebook-messaged inappropriate photos of himself to at least six women is the latest sexting scandal among politicians and public figures. From NFL quarterback Brett Favre to disgraced Rep. Christopher Lee, R-N.Y., Weiner had plenty of examples of what happens when you get caught. So why did he do it?

"If you're looking for some kind of deep explanation, I simply don't have one," Weiner said at a press conference this afternoon. "This was just me doing a dumb thing, doing it repeatedly and then lying about it."

Weiner didn't have an answer, but therapists do.

"Adults, particularly those in positions of power like politicians, sext because they want even more power," said Bethany Marshall, a marriage and family therapist in Beverly Hills, Calif. "They want reassurance, they want the sexual stimulation, they want to think of themselves as sexually desirable."

Marshall said that sexting, once a teen phenomenon, has grown into an adult problem, leaving spouses questioning their husbands and wives. Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, have been married only a year.

Choking back tears, Weiner talked about his wife's reaction.

"My primary sense of regret, my primary apology, goes to my wife," he said.

Weiner admitted to lying to his wife, his staff and the public about a photo of his crotch that was tweeted from his account on May 27.

"They [politicians] have an insatiable need to feel wanted and desired and when they sext, sometimes it is to coerce a response from the woman," Marshall said. "They sext the pictures of themselves with the fantasy that they are particularly desirable and then on top of it, they don't think they are going to be caught."

When the scandal first broke, Weiner said his account had been hacked. Now he admits that he tweeted the photo, intending for it to be a direct message.

"I have made terrible mistakes. I have hurt the people I care about the most and I am deeply sorry," Weiner said. "I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations. ... I have engaged six women over the past three years."

Weiner specified that he never had sex with these women and that some of these relationships began before his marriage.

"Sexting is certainly a much newer phenomenon for adults, but what I always say is where there is smoke, there is fire and show me an adult who started sexting and I will show you an adult who has been having an affair," Marshall said.

Therapists say these public sexting scandals are rooted in age-old behaviors.

"Basically, people are engaging in the same fantasies and behaviors that they always have," Marshall said. "But now they have the technology to back it up."

Sexting (sending sexually explicit messages or photographs via electronic devices) was once considered primarily a teen issue, with parents and even MTV warning of the consequences. MTV aired messages saying, "Sexts can take on a life of their own."

It seems adults might need some warnings of their own, too.

Lee, a married Republican, resigned in February after he reportedly sent a bare-chested image of himself to a woman on Craigslist.

Brett Favre last fall denied sending a lewd photo of himself to Jenn Sterger, a sports reporter then working for the New York Jets, when he was playing for the team in 2008. The National Football League investigated the incident and fined Favre $50,000.

"Gossip Girl" actress Blake Lively is the latest Hollywood starlet to get caught up in a nude photo scandal. She said the nude iPhone pictures that surfaced last week are 100 percent fake.

The FBI is investigating a ring of hackers accused of releasing photos of young celebrities including Vanessa Hudges, Scarlett Johansson and Miley Cyrus.

Sexting scandals aren't reserved for the famous and powerful. A 41-year-old English teacher from New Hampshire recently admitted to texting nude photos and sending inappropriate emails to a 15-year-old student.

ABC News' Amanda Keegan and Sheila Marikar contributed to this report.

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