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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Digital Dating: The Influence of Technology on Romance

 

BY: ASHLEY THOMPSON, PH.D.

In the past few decades, we have been inundated with advancements in technology and tools used for communication. For example, Twitter®, Facebook®, YouTube®, and Snapchat® are just a few of the many computer-mediated tools that have been developed recently to assist our interactions with others. Despite the growth in technology making us more interconnected than ever, many people have started to wonder if this computer-mediated connectivity comes at a cost (particularly for romantic relationships).

To investigate the outcomes associated with the use of technology for communication in romantic relationships, Dr. Andrea Boyle and Dr.  Lucia O’Sullivan conducted a study surveying 359 young adults about their participation in computer-mediated and face-to-face communication with their romantic partner (2016). Their results indicated that the time spent communicating with their partner through computer-mediated tools was less than the time spent communicating face-to-face. This is good news because many studies have supported the benefits of interacting face-to-face in comparison to interactions occurring over computers/smartphones (e.g., voice inflation, physical contact, body language; Attrill & Jalil, 2011; Mallen, Day, & Green, 2003; Ramirez Jr. & Broneck, 2009).

Image result for smartphone love

Despite the greater proportion of time spent communicating face-to-face, the results of Boyle and O’Sullivan’s study (2016) also revealed that computer-mediated communication also had value in romantic relationships. In particular, those who shared a wider range of topics about themselves through digital technologies reported greater intimacy and higher relationship quality as compared to those who disclosed fewer things or negative things.

In sum, although face-to-face communication has many benefits, it appears as though there is also a place for computer-mediated communication in romantic relationships. In particular, if looking to share positive and beneficial messages with a partner, communication via technology seems to be a great avenue. However, when serious conversations need to take place or when hoping to get serious with a partner during times of distress, perhaps face-to-face interactions are ideal.

References

Attrill, A., & Jalil, R. (2011). Revealing only the superficial me: Exploring categorical self-disclosure online. Computers in Human Behavior, 27, 1634-1642.

Boyle, A., & O’Sullivan, L. F. (2016).  Staying connected: Technology use, computer-mediated communication and relationship outcomes among college students. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19, 299-307.

Mallen, M. J., Day, S. X., & Green, M. A. (2003). Online versus face-to-face conversation: An examination of relational and discourse variables. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 40, 155-163.

Ramirez Jr, A., & Broneck, K. (2009). IM me’: Instant messaging as relational maintenance and everyday communication. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26, 291-314.