Let’s talk about sext.
Sexting is extremely common among adults—but maybe not for the reasons you think.
In a new study, researchers found that two-thirds of people who sext do so for non-sexual reasons.
The research was conducted by a ream from the Sexuality, Sexual Health & Sexual Behavior Lab in the Texas Tech University.
In an analysis of the reasons people engage in sexting with their relationship partner, the team confirmed three main motivations found in previous research:
Some people use sexting as foreplay for sexual behaviors later on;
Some sext for the relationship reassurance they receive from their partner; and
Some sext their partner as a favor, with the expectation the favor will be returned later in a non-sexual way (such as a dinner date).
When they began the research, the researchers were curious to see if one of these motivations was the most prevalent.
Using data gathered online from 160 participants, ranging in age from 18-69, they performed a latent class analysis measuring sexting motivations, relationship attachments, and sexual behaviors.
To their surprise, they discovered three nearly equal clusters, suggesting no motivation is more common than another.
The team says the findings demonstrate that some individuals engage in sexting, but would prefer not to, but do so as a means to either gain affirmation about their relationship, relieve anxiety or get something tangible—non-sexual—in return.
There were no significant differences in motivation based on sexual orientation, gender or age.
The study shows that sexting among adults is an evolution of how we have communicated our sexual desires to our partners in the past.
People used to write love poems and steamy letters, then when photography became more commonplace, couples used to take boudoir photos for each other.
The team notes that their research focused on sexting between current partners in consensual relationships only.
Individuals who send unsolicited sext messages—such as images of their genitalia—are not actually engaging in sexting; they are sexually harassing the recipient.
The leader of the study is assistant professor Joseph M. Currin.
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