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Sexting has now replaced flirting
80% of people in a committed relationship have sent or received sexually explicit messages.
60% have sent or received sexually explicit pictures or videos.*
How we express our sexual selves is changing. It is no longer a private realm, shared only by two people. It is casual, it is uninhibited and it is out there. The click of an instant camera can snap an intimate photo while the click of a mouse can share it with the world.
We have become more voyeuristic than ever. Skype can take phone sex to a new level, while social media sites can turn our innermost thoughts into public domain.
New York congressman Anthony Weiner may have been found out but he is not the only one conducting an amorous liaison via electronic media. His public persona and age have caused a stir from many who thought this pass time was limited to the young and naive, however it seems that sexting is far more common than many realise.
A recent report in the US** found that out of 2,252 adults (18-29 years old) surveyed, nearly 35% said they had received sexually suggestive or nude photos from someone they knew and 13% said they had sent them.
Even among 30 to 49 year olds, 17% said they had received images and 5% admitted to sending them. Pew research found that figures among adolescents with mobile phones were 15% and 4%.
“Given the alchemy of sex and lust and love and technology, it’s not that surprising that the numbers are where they are,” a research specialist at Pew, Amanda Lenhart said.
A University of Kansas professor of communication studies and the author of a new book Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Nancy Baym, agreed: ”I think we tend to blame teenagers for behaviours that we’re quite guilty of ourselves.”
“We use new technologies in romantic relationships all the time,” Ms Baym said. “When two people meet and they’re interested in developing the relationship, they go to text messages really fast as a way to safely negotiate the relationship.”
Michelle Drouin, assistant professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, spoke with 745 college students (aged 18 to 25) to find out what their sexting habits were. She found sexting to be an accepted form of sexual exchange within both committed romantic relationships and casual sexual relationships.
With casual sexual partners, flings or hook-ups, 70% had sent or received sexually explicit text messages, and 51% had sent or received sexually explicit pictures or videos.
Her results showed that certain types of individuals were more prone to conduct their relationships through sexting, they were:
- Those who were dependent on text messaging to navigate their social relationships, and
- Those who were insecure with or emotionally distant from their romantic partners.
Drouin reported in The New York Times that “sexting could be considered pornography because it is erotic material used, presumably, to arouse one’s partner. The fact that these sexual overtures are now taking place via text is probably more of a reflection of our reliance on electronic media and not an increase in pornographic consumption.”
Experts suggest that infidelity rates are on the rise due to the age of the ‘digital romance’. With Facebook, twitter sexting and Skype comes an increased opportunity to exchange information and kindle a romance over the ether.
“The internet has increased the availability of alternative romantic partners, whether it’s flirtation, reuniting with old lovers or having texting sexual relationships,” Ms Baym said.
* Survey by Michelle Drouin, assistant professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
**Pew Research Centre’s Internet and American Life Project.