Not surprisingly, when cellphones became popular, people started "sexting," which means sending and getting flirty and suggestive text messages, photos, and videos. We've come a long way since the days of eggplant and avocado emojis, but there are still questions about how sexting affects relationships. Does it make our relationships stronger? Hurt them? Is it worth the chances that could happen? Finally, how to find out if someone has dating profiles and sexts online?
In early studies about relationships, sexting was often seen as a risky thing to do. But Jonathon Beckmeyer recently did a studyto challenge these ideas about sexting. This is similar to other topics we've looked into together. He didn't just assume that the risks of sharing are worse than the benefits. Instead, he dug deeper to find out.
A BRIEF NOTE ON THE SCIENCE
Sexting with a stranger or a casual friend is very different from sexting with a romantic partner or spouse. It could be said that the less serious the relationship, the more likely it is that someone will misuse the information and the less likely it is that sexting will help or improve the relationship. After all, there isn't much to improve. For this reason, all of the people who took part in the study were in relationships when they filled out the poll, though some were in less serious ones than others.
Dr. Beckmeyer asked 484 young peopleabout their experiences with sexting and how their relationships were going in terms of good and bad interactions and how committed they were. Here is what he found out:
NOT EVERYONE IS INTO SEXTING
If you didn't connect with the first paragraph and thought, "Nope, not my thing, thanks," you're not alone.This study found that42% of people neither sent nor got sexts and did not want to. Fewer people were not flirting but wanted to (4.8%) or had partners who wanted to (5.8%). In the end, a lot of people just don't want to sext.
WHEN PEOPLE DO ENGAGE IN SEXTING...
More than half of the people taking part send or get sexts from their partners. Surprisingly, sexting was linked to better communication and more loyalty between partners. Isn't it interesting?
We must highlight that this study does not prove that sexting improves relationships or increases commitment. It's possible that sexting makes married couples feel more comfortable. This makes sense, since flirting requires a lot of trust and putting yourself out there. On the other hand, partners who get along well with each other may be able to use sexting in a way that makes their relationships better, not worse.
SO, SHOULD YOU SEXT?
As a rule of thumb, we don't think people "should" do anything in relationships other than be kind and respectful to each other. Aside from that, people should do what works for them, what makes them feel relaxed, and what makes them feel more fun, safe, and connected to their partners. About half of the young people in this study did this by sending each other silly messages or pictures. For a large number of other participants, it meant making sure their words were more PG. In a healthy partnership, partners should never try to force each other to do something that makes them feel bad. If one person says no to sexting, that should be taken as a limit that should be honored.
If you decide to sext, make sure that everyone involved is at least 18 years old. Even if you are also a child, it is against the law to send or receive explicit content with a minor in it. It's important for adults to set clear rules about how sexually explicit texts will be used, deleted, and shared (or not shared).
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Beckmeyer, J. J. (2023). Sexting and the dynamics of emerging adults' romantic partnerships. Sexuality and Culture, Advance Online