It appears bragging to peers about receiving naughty content fulfils a significant function, albeit not one really concerned with sexual satisfaction.
Focusing on consensual adults and their potential motivations behind sexting, aka sending sexually implicit images or text, Dr Joseph Currin, counsellor and Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University’s Department of Psychological Sciences has concluded that understanding sexual behaviours can help design interventions, “like working with a client to help increase relationship intimacy".
The study grouped together three motivations behind sending saucy images: sexting for enjoyment or relaxation, which is basically foreplay leading to other sexual behaviours, sexting for attachment, like flirting for example, and, finally, sexting for non-sexual purposes – to reinforce or redefine one's own body image and physique.
Surprisingly, the lion’s share of the 160 participants studied currently in a relationship fell into the two categories of non-sexual (but still social and highly personal) motivations.
“This may actually be demonstrating some individuals engage in sexting, but would prefer not to, but do so as a means to either gain affirmation about their relationship, relieve anxiety or get something tangible – non-sexual – in return", researcher Kassidy Cox noted.
It appeared there were also quite a few aggressive reasons at play, predominantly found in heterosexual men. These have also been related to teen dating violence.
Irrespective of gender, both senders and recipients reported feeling “excited, good, and naughty” as a result of sexting.
An earlier study from 2018, by Joris Van Ouytsel, Michel Walrave, Koen Ponnet, and Jeff R. Temple, found one possible motive for younger men sexting – that is to brag to friends about receiving sensual or sexual content.
They discovered at the time that “male adolescents perceive an enhancement of their social status in the peer group as a result of collecting or exposing sexting content that they have received".