Sexting — sending sexually suggestive or explicit text messages — is more common that previously thought, according to a new study.
In fact, more than eight out of 10 people surveyed online admitted to sexting in the prior year, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association’s 123rd Annual Convention.
“Given the possible implications, both positive and negative, for sexual health, it is important to continue investigating the role sexting plays in current romantic and sexual relationships,” said Emily Stasko, MS, MPH, of Drexel University, who presented the research.
For the study, Stasko and her co-author, Pamela Geller, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology, ob/gyn, and public health at Drexel University, surveyed 870 people in the United States between the ages 18 and 82 to assess sexting behaviors, sexting motives, and relationship and sexual satisfaction. Just over half the participants were women.
The researchers found that 88 percent reported ever having sexted and 82 percent reported they had sexted in the past year. Nearly 75 percent said they sexted in the context of a committed relationship, while 43 percent said they sexted as part of a casual relationship.
The researchers also found that greater levels of sexting were associated with greater sexual satisfaction, especially for those in a relationship. The 26 percent of the participants who were single had significantly lower overall scores for sexual satisfaction, according to the study’s findings.
The researchers also found that greater levels of sexting were associated with relationship satisfaction for all but those who identified their relationship as “very committed.”
The survey also asked about attitudes toward sexting, finding that people who sexted more saw the behavior as fun and carefree. They also had higher beliefs that sexting was expected in their relationships, the researchers noted.
Sexting has received growing attention as a risky activity, associated with other sexual risk-taking behaviors, such as unprotected sex, as well as negative health outcomes, such as sexually transmitted infections, said Stasko. This perspective, though, fails to account for the potential positive effects of open sexual communication with a partner, she said.
“This research indicates that sexting is a prevalent behavior that adults engage in for a variety of reasons,” she said. “These findings show a robust relationship between sexting and sexual and relationship satisfaction.”