A new survey finds more than eight in 10 adults admit to sending or receiving a sexually explicit text message — commonly known as “sexting” — and many say the practice leads to increased sexual satisfaction, particularly when couples are involved.
“Most people have focused on the dangers of sexting and how it can harm a relationship,” said study lead author Emily Stasko, a doctoral candidate in the department of psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia. “But context matters. Sexting is definitely something that many adults are doing, it’s not going away, and the findings indicate that it can actually be good for relationships and sexual satisfaction.”
The poll found that about three-quarters of those who sext do so with a committed partner. And roughly the same percentage sext while in the comfort of their home.
More than four in 10 of those polled said they had sexted while in a “casual relationship,” and nearly one-third copped to sending sexts either while on the job or elsewhere outside the home. Just 12 percent said they used this form of communication to cheat on someone.
Stasko was scheduled to present her team’s findings Saturday in Toronto at a meeting of the American Psychological Association. Findings presented at meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
To get a snapshot of current sexting habits, the study team conducted a 20-minute online survey among 870 Americans. The participants were between the ages of 18 and 82, with a median age of 35, the researchers said.
All of the respondents were heterosexual. Nearly six in 10 were women, and more than 80 percent were white. While more than four in 10 said they were currently married, an equal number said they had never been married.
Investigators found that nearly 88 percent said they had sent or received a sext at least once in their lives. And 82 percent said they had sexted in the last 12 months, the survey revealed.
Men were more likely to think of it as a “fun” and “carefree” experience, and more likely to view the behavior as an expected part of their relationship. Women, on the other hand, appeared to be slightly more likely to want to send texts than to receive them, the researchers said.
But greater sexting frequency was linked to greater sexual satisfaction among both men and women, particularly when sexters were in a relationship, the survey found. In fact, with the exception of those who said they were in a “very committed” relationship, couples who sexted more often were more likely to say they were satisfied with their relationship. For those in very committed relationships, sexting made no difference in sexual satisfaction, the study found.
By contrast, sexting had little effect on sexual satisfaction for people who weren’t in relationships. Twenty-six percent of the group described themselves as single, the survey found.
“Sexting is a behavior that people do for many different reasons,” said Stasko. “The motives can differ, and differ at different times for the same person,” she added.
“So I would say that not all sexting is equal,” Stasko pointed out. “It’s not all positive. For example, while 60 percent said they never sexted when they didn’t want to, that still means that 40 percent did. But at the same time, it’s not all negative. It’s a type of sexual communication, but it’s also more generally just another type of communication, period. And it’s one that might actually make it easier to talk about sex for those who might have a more difficult time of it face to face.”
Jeffrey Hall, an assistant professor in the department of communication studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, said the current findings are “part of a larger discussion that is recognizing that sexting is a likely outgrowth of sexual talk in the context of new and ongoing relationships.”
Hall said, “Assuming that no one is scandalized that relationship partners talk about sex, we should also not be scandalized that people in relationships are talking about sex on their mobile phones.”
And, he added, “as mobile devices continue the steady march toward achieving the status of fully domestic technologies — like the television and the home computer — it should come as no surprise that we treat them as a means to carry on relationship business as usual, including talking about sex.”
There’s more on sexting at AARP.