Let’s discuss one particular use of technology, sexting – sending lewd pictures and texting sexually explicit messages over the phone – in the context of relationships. A case of a public figure caught sexting has recently brought the use of this technological communication to everybody’s attention.
There are two myths about this practice that need to be challenged:
1. Only teenagers do it. Not true. According to a recent survey, “The Internet and American Life Project” by the Pew Research Center, the practice of sexting is most common not among teenagers, but among the 18-29 age bracket population. And, even though it is not as frequent, it is also popular with the 30-49 year old crowd.
2. It is not that common. Again, not true. In the 18-29 age bracket, 1/3 of people interviewed admitted to receiving sexually explicit/suggestive photos, and 13% sent them. In the 30-49 age bracket, 17% have received photos and 5% had sent them. Among teenagers, 15% received pictures, and 5% had sent them. And, as this practice becomes more popular, one should expect these numbers to climb.
Increasing use of texting in couples is replacing phone calls in most age brackets with the exception of older adults. Texting has become the way in which intimate partners stay in touch, argue and, yes, are sexually playful with one another.
While texting is faster than a phone call, it is also more anonymous, and this can create room for expressing thoughts and desires that one may not express in person, or even on the phone. The additional use of the camera adds to the attraction of this digital device, making the jump from texting to sexting easily achievable, not only between intimate partners but also between strangers.
Although this way of communicating sexually may be appropriate within the context of a relationship, it can lend itself to unhealthy situations, if used inappropriately and with strangers. Because of the anonymity, in fact, and because this means of communication does not involve physical contact, some users who are committed to intimate relationships and reach out to other sexual partners via sexting may downplay the importance of their actions. They may, in fact, see sexting as not constituting infidelity. Sexting, therefore, can be insidious, creating, as it does, a pseudo ‘safe’ avenue for some people to channel their sexual desires and urges without addressing them IN their primary relationship. Reaching out to strangers in a sexually explicit way, additionally, has a whole set of dangers in and by itself, as can be the case with other digital ways of connecting.
Even though texting is a fairly new phenomenon – its name has been in existence only since 2005 – the underlying motivations are as old as humankind. So, we ask, why are people attracted to this form of sexual communication and who are the people most likely to use it?
While there is no single answer that explains why people are attracted to sexting, nor is there a single profile that applies to every user, there are nonetheless some elements in conjunctions with sexters that are interesting to discuss.
In the next two blogs, some of the explanations people have come up with for the popularity of this practice will be discussed, as well as the underlying causes for the existence, popularity and use of this technology.
In a third blog, the role of this practice in intimate relationships will be discussed.