Young people are sexting – but that doesn't mean they necessarily want to be, says research

More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner'

With the rise of smartphones and Snapchat, sexting is in vogue – but a new study has found that many young people engage in the practice without really wanting to.

More than half (52.3 per cent) of young adults have engaged in “ unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner”, according to research to be published in February in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.

Most did so for flirtation, foreplay, to fulfil a partner’s needs, or for intimacy, but women were more likely to consent to unwanted sexting because of anxieties about their relationships.

The research, which was carried out by scientists at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), polled 155 undergraduates in committed relationships on their sexting habits.

Fifty-five per cent of the female respondents said they had previously engaged in unwanted sexting, while 48 per cent of men had done the same. 

The results show similarities between sexual behaviour online and off: in both cases, couples will willingly go along with sex, even when they do not feel like it, from reasons ranging from satisfying their partner to avoiding an argument.

But while women are often considered to engage in unwanted sex more than men, the research shows only a small difference in the number of men and women partaking in unwanted sexting.

The authors of the article argued “gender-role expectations” could be to blame. Men might be more likely to agree to undesired sexting because doing so is “relatively easy and does not require them to invest more into the relationship,” while women might be discouraged from virtual sex because it fails to help them attain their relationship “goals”.

The survey also showed that people who were anxious about their relationships were more likely to send begrudging sexts, in a bid to alleviate fears about alienation or abandonment by their partners.

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