Send Nudes, but Not If You’re a Dude: Variations in Judgments of Individuals Engaged in Sexting

BY: Carissa Harvey, M.A.

Recent studies on sexting reveal positive outcomes for those who sext (e.g., improved sexual intimacy between partners; Drouin, Coupe, & Temple, 2017). However, negative perceptions of this specific sexual behavior persist. This is especially true with respect to the acceptability of sexting for women versus men, which is the essence of the sexual double standard (SDS; in which women are judged more harshly for engaging in similar sexual behavior as men; Papp et al., 2015). Although two qualitative studies on sexting and the SDS reveal that sexting is viewed as desirable for men but not for women (Ringrose, Harvey, Gill, & Livingstone, 2012), we still do not understand what specifically influences judgments of those who engage in sexting.

Thus, myself and Dr. Ashley Thompson conducted a study in which U.S. adults were asked to judge the morality of hypothetical men and women engaged in sexting in casual and committed relationships. Contrary to previous research, the results indicated that men sexters were judged as less moral than were women sexters. In addition, those who sexted in a casual relationship were judged as less moral than were those who sexted in a committed relationship.

Sext

The results of this study are illuminating in that they reveal the specific contexts in which individuals may be judged negatively for sexting. In fact, negative perceptions of sexting outside the confines of a committed relationship is supported by previous research which finds that we hold positive judgments toward others who engage in sexual activity with someone they know in comparison to someone they are not familiar with (Brand, 2015). This is especially true for sexting, as many view sexting with casual partners as “risky” or even “dangerous” (Brand, 2015).

Additionally, the tendency for participants to view male sexters as less moral than female sexters is consistent with emerging research documenting the existence of a reverse sexual double standard (in which men are judged more harshly than women for engaging in high sexual activity; Papp et al., 2015). It is possible that the appearance of the reverse sexual double standard is a result of recent prominent societal movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp (Foubert, Tatum, & Godin, 2010). In fact, because these movements draw attention to the negative sexual experiences that women endure, people may be more inclined to scrutinize men’s sexual behavior. This, in combination with concerns related to perpetuating socially unacceptable attitudes and beliefs (Tourangeau & Yan, 2007), may explain why hypothetical men in this study were judged as being less moral for sexting compared to women.

Although these results may be discouraging, the silver lining is that they do provide clear paths forward so that we may create new avenues for future research as well as providing much needed updates to our sexual education programming module on sexting, which often fails to feature or discuss sexting in any detail (Jorgenson, Weckesser, Turner, & Wade, 2018). Additionally, the results can help support counselors and practitioners in targeting therapies and aims of treatment to improve individual and sexual functioning for those affected by negative perceptions of their sexting behavior.

References

Brand, A. N. (2015).  From locked doors to locked screens: The implications of sexting as a gendered performance (master’s thesis). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 1591469)

Drouin, M., Coupe, M., & Temple, J. (2017). Is sexting good for your relationship? It depends … Computers in Human Behavior, 75, 749-756.

Foubert, J. D., Tatum, J. L., & Godin, E. E. (2010). First-year male students’ perceptions of a rape prevention program 7 months after their participation: Attitude and behavior changes. Journal of College Student Development, 51, 707-715.

Jorgenson, C. R., Weckesser, A., Turner, J., & Wade, A. (2018). Young people’s views on sexting education and support needs: Findings and recommendations from a UK-based study. Sex Education.

Papp, L. J., Hagerman, C., Gnoleba, M. A., Erchull, M. J., Liss, M., Miles-McLean, H., & Robertson, C.M. (2015). Exploring perceptions of slut-shaming on Facebook: Evidence for a reverse sexual double standard. Gender Issues, 32, 57-76.

Ringrose, J., Harvey, L., Gill, R., & Livingstone, S. (2013). Teen girls, sexual double standards and ‘sexting’: Gendered value in digital image exchange. Feminist Theory, 14, 305-323.

Tourangeau, R., & Yan, T. (2007). Sensitive questions in surveys. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 859-883.

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iSex: The Use of Smartphones in the Bedroom

By: Ashley Thompson, PhD 

According to a study conducted in the summer of 2013 (surveying over 1,000 American adults), approximately 1 in 10 report having used their smartphones during sexual activity (Rodriguez, 2013). In addition, it should come as no surprise, that a larger proportion (1:5) of young adults  (18-34 years of age) report using their smartphone during sex. Although the stats may sound a bit frightening, it should not come as a huge shock considering the importance placed on smartphones (particularly by young adults) in the past decade or so. Smartphones have now been integrated into nearly every aspect of person’s life, in fact, people often report feeling “naked” without their smartphones in hand. So, why would we expect the use of smartphones in the bedroom to be any different?

Recently, it appears as though people have started taking notice of the popularity of cell phone use when in the sack, and are now creating apps to be used during sexual activity. In particular, a new app called Spreadsheets is designed to measure your sexual performance by monitoring your movements and your audio levels when “doing the deed.” According to the app’s website, it allows users to keep record of their average, peak, and aggregate performance. For example, it provides statistics on the average and longest duration of a single session, the number of days in a row, the highest decibel reached, the average and largest number of thrusts per minute, and more.

Although incredibly innovative, Spreadsheets is not the first erotic app created. In fact, there are apps such as “Sex Game” that allows users test their knowledge of everything erotic and “Vanity” that scans a user’s face to reveal just how attractive they are on a 1 to 10 scale.

With the rate technology is advancing and the rapid uptake of the population, there is no question that there is more to come. However, the question is, what will it be?


Rodriquez, S. (2013). Most adults always have smartphone close by, 1 in 10 use it during sex. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from: http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-smartphone-nearby-1-in-10-use-during-sex-20130711-story.html#axzz2nMzjzuKZ”>study