The post by Emmanuela Grinberg refers to the findings of a study currently being submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals by researchers at Drexel University's Women's Health Psychology Lab. They looked at the sexting habits of 870 American adults between the ages of 18 and 82. The study claims that 88% of the sample has sexted at least once. 82% have done so within the past year.
Study co-author, Emily C. Stasko cites the results of the study:
- Respondents in relationships that were not very committed said that higher levels of sexting correlated to higher levels of relationship satisfaction.
- For people in very committed relationships, there was no correlation between levels of sexting and levels of relationship satisfaction.
- Not surprisingly, the respondents who associate sexting with relationship satisfaction tended to be men.
I believe there are 2 key pieces of information that need to be understood before the results of this study can be put into perspective.
Firstly, the researchers defined sexting to include:
- Sexually suggestive photos
- Photos in lingerie or underwear
- Nude photos
- Sexually suggestive texts
- Explicit texts propositioning sexual activity
The study does not break down the percentage of people who engaged in which type of sexting. So, we don't really know what the respondents did. There is a huge difference between writing something suggestive and sending pictures of your privates for all to see.
Secondly, the study was conducted to "explore the potential benefits of sharing sexually explicit messages or images through electronic means, cell phones in particular" (emphasis added). The goal of the study implies that there may be a bias in the research. What is this bias? It is that there is a benefit to sexting regardless of context. Based on this assumption, if you want to improve the happiness in a non-committed relationship, sext more. But, what if you are actually normalizing non-commitment? Wouldn't it make more sense to see if the relationship has the potential to become more meaningful?
It reminds me of the food industry adding all kinds of great tasting chemicals to nutrient deficient fast food. Your body would be a lot healthier if you would add some spice to a healthy meal rather than increase your addiction to eating junk.
Here is my take on this research: men, particularly in non-committed relationships, find that sexually provocative behavior on the part of their hook-up increases their level of happiness. Nothing new there.
Most interestingly, the study conducted by women aimed to "explore the potential benefits" of the sexting behavior. I propose the following conclusion for women not already involved in a committed relationship: women who want to give the casual men in their lives a good reason to not commit to a meaningful relationship should continue to provide their men a no-cost sexual outlet. Women seeking to create a lasting relationship need to witness a man's commitment to cherishing his beloved before sharing their most intimate selves.
So, is there a place for sexting in marriage?
Loving, playful and respectful flirting energizes the sexual chemistry that helps keep a couple in a dynamic, wholesome and healthy relationship. The purpose of flirting is twofold: to arouse your loving partner so that you can share the love you feel with them and to validate their continuing appeal and attractiveness to you.
The study's results indicate that people in committed relationships didn't find that the sexting had a significant impact on their relationship satisfaction. I don't think this is a bad thing. Their relationships are real relationships. They don't depend upon superficial stimulation. The sexual energy in a marriage should start with your getting up and being grateful for the person you are sharing your life with. A responsibility of marriage is to love the person you are married to. That includes behaving in ways that are mutually satisfying. An immature relationship uses someone as a means to your sexual release.
If the sexting is a suggestive text that can be read discretely by your partner, then perhaps this version of sexting, which certainly predates the cell phone, can add to your relationship. However, if either of you are compromising your self-respect, that is something else. One also needs to remember that the level of online privacy is tenuous at best.
So by all means love each other. Be happy with each other. Have a wonderful sexual relationship with each other. Flirt with each other. But do this within a committed relationship. Otherwise, all that is being suggested is to use yet another technology to undermine the value and self-respect of women.
If the research being conducted can be used to improve the actual foundations of a relationship then it may be of great value. I hope that this is where the research is heading.
You can access the original study here.
What are your thoughts on sexting in a relationship? Do you think it can be harmful before there's a long-term commitment? Can it help fan the flames of sexual interest and energy in a marriage?