“If sexting were all bad, it wouldn’t be as popular as it is,” said Emily Stasko, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Drexel University who worked on the study. “There’s got to be part of it that’s functional and adaptive.”
Among 870 study participants ages 18 to 82, who identify as heterosexual, 88 percent reported that they had sexted in the past year. About 74 percent reported sexting in a committed relationship in the past year and 43 percent as part of a casual relationship. The average age of respondents was 35, and just over half of them were women.
Stasko said she and her fellow researcher, Pamela Geller, were surprised at the prevalence of sexting among adults. “Overall we found that higher levels of sexting were related to higher levels of sexual satisfaction,” Stasko said. “Sexting appears to be generally good for sex satisfaction.”
For this survey, sexting was defined as “sending or receiving sexually suggestive or explicit content via text message,” Stasko said. Respondents weren’t asked about emoji or Bitmoji. But “if you’re sending suggestive eggplants, you’re conceptualizing that as suggestive images, so you would then count that as sexting,” Stasko said.
(Stasko pointed out that the study was conducted through Amazon Mechanical Turk, so respondents were people who are already comfortable with technology. The study isn’t representative of Americans across the board,)
But only when both partners were enthusiastic about it. Frequent sexting with partners who didn’t want to be sending or receiving explicit messages was accompanied by lower levels of relationship satisfaction. “Sexting and relationship satisfaction were significantly related for everyone,” regardless of relationship status, Stasko said, but especially so for people in not at all committed to somewhat committed relationships.
Before you try to sext your way out of a relationship rut, keep in mind that correlation doesn’t imply causation.
“Is more sexting leading to more satisfaction? Or is more satisfaction leading to more sexting? It’s hard to tell,” Stasko said. “There are a lot of different things that could be fueling sexual and relationship satisfaction.”
Sexting seems to play a similar role for men and women in their relationships, Stasko said. “We had thought there would be [gender] differences and there weren’t,” she added.
So go ahead and get creative with those eggplant and peach emoji. Sexting may be scandalous among teens. For everyone else, though, it seems to be quite common and healthy.