According to this study, nearly everyone you know is secretly sexting. (Photo: Getty Images)
Sexting. n. The sending or receiving of sexually suggestive or explicit content via text.
Most of us have a knee-jerk reaction to that word, right? And it’s often negative. Much of the press surrounding sexting in the past several years has been tied activity among teenage minors growing up in the digital generation.
But there’s a much wider user base outside that dangerous demographic. Emily Stasko, MS, MPH, of Drexel University and her co-author and mentor Pamela Geller, PhD, an associate professor of psychology, OB-GYN and public health at Drexel University wanted to take a different approach to sexting study. “We wanted to explore its role in adult relationships,”Stasko tells Yahoo Health. “Sexting is usually looked at as dangerous, but if it were only bad, it wouldn’t be as popular as it is.”
And it is popular. According to Stasko and Geller’s research, of 870 U.S. participants between the ages of 18 and 82, almost 88 percent reported having sexted at some point in their lives, more than 82 percent in the past year.
With that many adults engaging, it’s worth a closer look. The researchers wanted to dig deeper into the behaviors, motives, and relationship satisfaction of those who sext. They presented their findings Saturday morning, August 8, at the American Psychological Association’s 123rd Annual Convention. Here’s what they found out about sexting:
Sexters are generally committed. Although lots of people reported sexting in casual arrangements (43 percent), roughly 75 percent said they sexted within the confines of their committed relationships – which may be the smarter move. Those who sexted in their established relationships received a bump in their relationship and sexual satisfaction, whereas single men and women who sexted reported significantly lower levels of sexual satisfaction.
Most sext from home, but not all. While three quarters of sexters said they exchanged these charged texts from the privacy of their own home, around 30 percent said they sexted while “out and about”or at the office.
The more people sext, the less seriously they take it. Stasko and Geller found that, the more men and women sexted, the more fun and carefree they found the practice to be – and the more they perceived it as common fare in relationships instead of an anomalous behavior. They also began to view the practice as lower-risk, for better or worse.
Attitudes about sexting matter. Sexting appears to be generally good for sexual satisfaction in relationships, but only if both parties are on board and willing, says Stasko. “Within the context of a relationship, wantedness of sexting matters,”she explains. If one person wants to sext and the other doesn’t? Satisfaction falls.
Men and women respond to sexting the same way.Whaa? It’s true. “The most surprising finding was that these relationships did not vary by gender,”Stasko says. Men and women reported very similar levels of sexting, and the relationship between sexting and relationship or sexual satisfaction was virtually the same for both genders.
So, what does all this mean? Stasko says the goal of her research was to simply reframe the conversation a bit, since so many people are engaging in the practice anyway. “We need to discuss sexting as a behavior that can be both good and bad,”she explains. “Sexting is a normal part of many adult relationships. There is a tendency to sensationalize or villainize it, but our findings indicate that sexting can have a role in a happy and healthy relationship.”
In a world where everything sent to another party is forever, it’s still important to gauge the potential complications of such texts. But something to think about, nonetheless.