Sexting Is A Healthy And Normal Part Of Adult Sexuality, Says Science

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It usually takes a while before a new phenomenon really catches on and starts to become accepted as normal—especially when it comes to sexuality. But doesn’t it feel like the weird hush-hush and tsk-tsk around sexting has gone on a little too long?

Part of the problem is that we can’t seem to dissociate teens passing around nude images of themselves from the grown ass adults who do it. A young kid sending nudes poses risks (1) because that’s child porn and (2) because they may not yet have developed the wisdom to know the difference between jerks and non-jerks, to understand the potential consequences of their digital decisions, or to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. This is very different from an adult choosing to send nudes with full knowledge of what the act entails. In fact, a slew of studies in the last several years has found sexting isn’t related to any risky sexual behavior or emotional issues when it comes to adults—it may actually be related to relationship health.

So sexting is healthy? Yes.

About 87% of adults between ages 18 and 82 have sexted in their lifetime, the American Psychological Association recently reported, and 82% had done it in the last year. (Shout-out to the grannies out there owning their sexuality!) That study also found people in casual relationships who’ve reported sexting—defined as anything from sending sexually suggestive messages to totally naked selfies—tended to be happier with their relationships than those who didn’t.

Another recent study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy and led by sexuality researcher Joseph M. Currin, Ph.D., surveyed over 370 adults in committed relationships who were over age 29 on average, asking about their sexting and sexual health habits. They found no correlation between sending out nudes and engaging in unsafe sex practices like not using condoms, and it also had no relationship to negative psychological consequences like loneliness and depression. The one thing sexting couples did have in common mirrored the APA’s findings: They tended to be way more pleased with their relationships than the non-sexters.

A 2013 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health concurred, finding no relationship between sexting and number of partners, amount of unprotected sex, or any hits to psychological well-being.

“Although cultural scripts surrounding sexting have led to stigmatization of individuals engaging in this behavior, sexting has not been found to be associated with prevalence of depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem in young adults,” writes Dr. Currin and a team of researchers in another recent paper with similar findings. “It appears that sexting should not be referred to as deviant and recognized as a normative behavior for adults to express their sexuality and desires.”

There you have it: All this evidence suggests sexting is a totally normal and healthy part of adult sexuality. Not only is it a great way to own your own sexuality and treat your body like the work of art it is, but it can apparently even help bring couples closer together. Clearly it’s common enough that it can’t be considered an activity exclusively for the kinky or adventurous types. To the contrary, relationship and well-being coach Shula Melamed says it can be a great tool for pairs who are looking for an extra boost in their sex lives, such as busy professionals or overworked parents.

“Technology is one of these things that’s blamed for tearing people apart and causing a lot of issues,” Melamed says. “When you use it correctly, you can build intimacy and create an erotic environment for a couple. Sexting could be used to kind of speed up the process of creating that erotic frisson between each person because sometimes you get home, or you see each other, and you have limited time together face to face because of busy schedules, kids, all of those things. If you can build that tension somewhere else, you can be in the mood faster. So sexting is a great place to build desire and to create that before you even see each other—that anticipation, the expectation, and turning each other on when you’re not even face to face—so that by the time you get face to face, you just get right to whatever it is you want to get to.”

So to all you grown ass adults out there embracing the empowering thrill and intrigue of DIY one-on-one pornography: Keep doing you.

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