Men tend to think positive things will happen if they send and receive sexually explicit text messages, whereas women have more negative expectations about such “sexting,” a new study suggests.
The study is one of the first to examine what people expect when they sext — dubbed their “sextpectancies” by the researchers — and how such expectations may influence sexting behavior.
The study surveyed 278 college students at a large public university in the Midwest (average age 21, 53 percent female, 76 percent white and 91 percent heterosexual) about their sexting behavior, as well as their views about the outcomes of sexting. Sexting was defined in the study as sending sexually explicit pictures or text messages by phone or through social networking sites. [9 Odd Ways Your Tech Devices May Injure You]
About 80 percent of participants reported receiving, and 67 percent reported sending, sexts through text messages; about 46 percent reported sending and 64 percent reported receiving sexts with pictures. Most people said they did not sext frequently (fewer than three times a month). Men reported sending and receiving sexts more often than women.
People reported both positive and negative “sextpectancies.” Common positive feelings were: “sexting makes one feel sexy,” “sexting makes one excited” and “sexting makes it easier to flirt.” Common negative ones were: “Sexting makes one embarrassed” and “sexting makes one feel uncomfortable.”
Men reported more positive expectations about receiving sexts, while women reported more negative ones. Single people also reported more negative expectations about receiving sexts than those who were dating, living together or married.
Women may have more negative expectations in part because of the feeling that it’s more acceptable for men than women to be promiscuous, said study researcher Allyson Dir, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Previous studies have found that women also have more negative views about hooking up, or casual sex, Dir said.
People who are single also may be taking more of a risk when sexting than are people who are in relationships, Dir said. Singles may be sexting with people they don’t know as well, meaning the receiver might share the sext without permission, or a single person may be more likely to be rejected after a sext, Dir said.
However, given that positive expectancies were also common, “sexting doesn’t seem to be as risky as the media makes it out to be,” at least for college students, Dir said. Few people in the study reported negative consequences as result of sexting, Dir said.
The results may be different for adolescents and adults, and future studies are needed to examine this.
The study was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.