Sexting — sending or receiving sexually explicit texts or pictures on smartphones — isn't just a teen thing, a study finds, with many adults indulging in the practice and saying they're happy they have.
In a study conducted by researchers at Drexel University, nearly three-quarters of the adults taking part in a survey said they've sexted within the context of a relationship and that the activity brought them greater sexual satisfaction within that relationship.
"This research indicates that sexting is a prevalent behavior that adults engage in for a variety of reasons," says clinical psychology doctoral student Emily Stasko. "These findings show a robust relationship between sexting and sexual and relationship satisfaction."
In the Drexel survey, 870 U.S. participants between ages 18 to 82 — slightly more than half of which were women — were queried about their sexting behaviors and motives, as well as their sexual satisfaction with their relationships.
Eighty-eight percent said they had sexted at some point, and 82 percent said they had done so within the past year.
Seventy-five percent said their sexting was done in the context of a committed relationship, while 43 percent said they had indulged in sexting as part of a casual relationship.
Sexting was found to be associated with greater levels of sexual satisfaction, particularly for those people in a committed relationship, the researchers found.
Although often linked with risky sexual behaviors such as unprotected sex and an elevated risk of sexually transmitted infections, the researchers suggest their study has identified potential positive effects of open sexual communication such as sexting with a relationship partner.
Some experts say they agree with the finding of a positive aspect of sexting.
"I actually recommend sexting — particularly the texting part of sexting — for [couples] to show desire for each other," says Patti Britton, a clinical sexologist at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco.
Sexting as a phenomenon is here to stay, Stasko suggests.
"Sexting is definitely something that many adults are doing, it's not going away, and the findings indicate that it can actually be good for relationships and sexual satisfaction," she says.
Sexting as a type of communication may actually make it easier for some people who have a difficult time talking about sex face to face be more open about it, she suggests.