Research conducted among students across the US found women are four times more likely than men to share nudes and sext in order to feel empowered, or to keep the recipient interested.
Sociology doctoral student Morgan Johnstonbaugh, who conducted the research, explained her findings at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in New York City earlier this month.
The University of Arizona researcher looked into what motivates young people to send sexually explicit images of themselves over text and collected data from more than 1,000 college students, with an average age of 20, from seven US universities.
According to UA News, she asked the participants to describe the last time they sent a nude or semi-nude photograph of themselves to another person electronically and presented them with a list of 23 possible reasons as to why they sent the photograph.
The students could check as many or as few reasons as they wanted and in her analysis of the responses Johnstonbaugh found the odds were four times higher when it came to women saying they sent sexually explicit images in order to prevent the recipient from losing interest or from looking at images of others.
Johnstonbaugh said the findings may point to a sexual double standard which could be disempowering for women, explaining:
The sexual double standard is this idea that’s perpetuated in society that men and women have different types of sexuality – that men have uncontrollable, voracious desires, whereas women are capable of making moral decisions and acting as the gatekeepers to sexual activity.
With this idea in mind, women may feel pressured to share images with their boyfriends in order to keep them interested or to please their appetite.
However, in contrast the researcher also found women are four times more likely than men to send nude photographs in order to feel empowered. They are also twice as likely as men to say they sent sexually explicit images to boost their confidence.
Women might find sexting to be really empowering because you can create a space where you feel safe expressing your sexuality and exploring your body.
Women were found to be somewhat conflicted with their responses as it was not uncommon for respondents to select both disempowering and empowering reasons for sexting.
The University of Arizona student said the clash highlights how women have more to gain from a potentially beneficial interaction when sexting, however they also have more to lose.
She added further analysis was needed to better understand other possible motivations for sexting, as well as to shed light on which motivations might be more common for men.
Through the research, Johnstonbaugh aimed to provide a better understanding of sexting for those interested in reducing harmful sexting practices, to ‘disentangle the pressures young people are experiencing’ and shed light on the ‘potential benefits they might be hoping for’ when sexting.
The researcher hopes her findings succeeded in giving greater perspective.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.