LUBBOCK, Texas — “Sexting,” or exchanging sexually-charged text messages, has become an all too common practice among romantic partners and flings in today’s day and age. The risqué behavior doesn’t seem to require much additional explanation at first glance, but a new study has come to a surprising conclusion regarding this modern dating tactic. Most of the time, researchers say, people engage in sexting without the hopes of gaining any type of sexual gratification or pleasure at all.
In fact, according to the study conducted at Texas Tech University, two-thirds of people typically “sext” their partners for reasons that are not sexual. The authors identified three, equally common reasons:
- Many use sexting as a type of relationship reassurance that their partner still cares for them.
- Some engage in sexting as a favor to their partner — with the important caveat that the favor will be returned later on in a non-sexual way. For example, a person engages in sexting with their significant other, and in return their partner treats them to a dinner date.
- And of course, other people use sexting for its most obvious purpose; sexual pleasure and as foreplay for actual sex later on.
Texas Tech assistant professor Joseph M. Currin and doctoral student Kassidy Cox were the main authors of the study, and initially identified these three motivators by analyzing prior research performed on sexting. Once they had identified the three reasons, they became curious to see which of the three was most common among “sexters”.
So, they collected data online from 160 participants, all of varying ages (18-69). Then, using that data they performed a statistical analysis aimed at measuring sexting motivations, relationship attachment levels, and overall sexual activity. They discovered that each reason was just as prevalent as the other two. Essentially, no one motivator was found to be more common than another.
“It was intriguing that two-thirds of the individuals who engaged in sexting did so for non-sexual purposes,” Cox says in a release. “This may actually be demonstrating 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.”
Surprisingly, researchers also noted no significant motivational differences depending on age, gender, or sexual orientation.
“As it is becoming a more accepted method of communicating one’s sexual desires, we wanted to highlight how adults utilize this behavior in their relationships,” Currin comments. “This tells us 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 common place, couples used to take boudoir photos for each other.”
It’s worth clarifying that this study focused solely on sexts sent between current partners in consensual relationships.
“As with any sexual behavior, it is important and necessary to have consent to engage in sexting,” Currin concludes. “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 study was presented at The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality 2019 Annual Meeting.