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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Sexting among singles in the USA: prevalence of sending, receiving, and sharing sexual messages and images

Justin R. Garcia A B G , Amanda N. Gesselman A C , Shadia A. Siliman A B , Brea L. Perry D E , Kathryn Coe C and Helen E. Fisher A F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A The Kinsey Institute, Indiana University, 1165 E. Third Street, Morrison Hall 313, Bloomington, IN 47405-3700, USA.

B Department of Gender Studies, Indiana University, 1020 E. Kirkwood Avenue, Ballantine Hall, Bloomington, IN 47405-3700, USA.

C Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, 1050 Wishard Boulevard, Floor 6, Indianapolis, IN 46202-2872, USA.

D Department of Sociology, Indiana University, 1020 E. Kirkwood Avenue, Ballantine Hall, Bloomington, IN 47405-3700, USA.

E Indiana University Network Science Institute, 1001 E. State Road 45/46 Bypass, Bloomington, IN 47408-3700, USA.

F Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University, 131 George Street, Ruth Adams Building, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1414, USA.

G Corresponding author. Email: jusrgarc@indiana.edu

Sexual Health 13(5) 428-435 https://doi.org/10.1071/SH15240
Submitted: 15 December 2015  Accepted: 12 April 2016   Published: 7 July 2016

Abstract

Background: The transmission of sexual images and messages via mobile phone or other electronic media (sexting) has been associated with a variety of mostly negative social and behavioural consequences. Research on sexting has focussed on youth, with limited data across demographics and with little known about the sharing of private sexual images and messages with third parties. Methods: The present study examines sexting attitudes and behaviours, including sending, receiving, and sharing of sexual messages and images, across gender, age, and sexual orientation. A total of 5805 single adults were included in the study (2830 women; 2975 men), ranging in age from 21 to 75+ years. Results: Overall, 21% of participants reported sending and 28% reported receiving sexually explicit text messages; both sending and receiving ‘sexts’ was most common among younger respondents. Although 73.2% of participants reported discomfort with unauthorised sharing of sexts beyond the intended recipient, of those who had received sext images, 22.9% reported sharing them with others (on average with 3.17 friends). Participants also reported concern about the potential consequences of sexting on their social lives, careers, and psychosocial wellbeing. Conclusion: Views on the impact of sexting on reputation suggest a contemporary struggle to reconcile digital eroticism with real-world consequences. These findings suggest a need for future research into negotiations of sexting motivations, risks, and rewards.

Additional keywords: new media, sexual photo, sexuality, sext, texting.


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