Sexting may be more common than previously thought. A new study finds that 89% of 18 to 30-year-olds have engaged in some form of sexting, according to researchers at California State University. The study also examined motivations for men versus women and how sexting may add spice to existing romantic relationships.
The study results support the high prevalence of sexting, especially among the “Net Generation,” according to the researchers in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
Sexting is generally defined as “sending and receiving sexually suggestive images, videos, or texts on cell phones.” For this study, researchers defined specific types of sexting as part of a spectrum, from low to high risk.
The type of sexting included:
- Text – Sending a sexually suggestive text message
- Proposition – Sending a text message propositioning sexual activity
- Underwear – Sending a photo in underwear or lingerie using a cell phone
- Nude pictures – Sending a nude photo using a cell phone
- Photo – Sending a sexually suggestive photo using a cell phone
To engage in sexting, most of the study participants said they needed to be dating regularly or in a committed relationship. Still, men were more likely to engage in sexting such as texting, propositioning, or sending pictures in underwear. Researchers suggested this may be due to “the traditional male gender role as the sexual initiator.”
They noted different personality types of men often relate to different sexting strategies. Some men relied on higher-risk, visual forms of sexting. Others carefully selected words to elicit a favorable response.
“Men may use sexting to try to attract or lure a potential partner,” wrote researchers. “Whereas women may use sexting as a way of keeping a current partner interested.”
Women in the study often expressed needing a higher degree of commitment in a relationship before they engage in sexting.
For both women and men in romantic relationships, higher-risk sexting (between the couple) related to a greater degree of commitment within the relationship. Sexting, the researchers suggested, may be an emerging strategy for maintaining a relationship.
For people already predisposed toward compulsive or addictive behaviors, they cautioned that there is potential for problematic sexting behaviors.
Still, they noted that — given mutual consensus — sexting may be used to express sexuality in a relationship that is beneficial. For couples in safe and caring relationships, sexting may be an alternative way to connect sexually.