In a nationwide survey conducted by TRU, a global leader in research on teens and 20-somethings, and commissioned by the National Campaign to Prevent Teenage and Unwanted Pregnancy, researchers found that nearly 60 percent of young adults (age 20-26) have sent a sexually suggestive text or email message to their significant other, someone they had a crush on or wanted to hook up with, or to someone they knew online. Another 33 percent of young adults have posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves.
There are numerous dangers associated with this phenomenon, but in this technological age of Facebooking, tweeting, Skyping, FaceTime, and on-line dating, it also has me wondering if there is a way we could use it to encourage healthy sexual communication.
I couldn’t call myself a health educator if I didn’t first talk about the negative side of sexting. In the same survey mentioned above, researchers found that even though 75 percent of teens and 71 percent of young adults know that sending /posting sexual suggestive content can be potentially dangerous, they do it anyway. They also revealed that they have shared photos (15%) or messages (20%) with someone other than the intended recipient , or had those pictures/messages shared with them (30% and 40% respectively).
Some researchers believe that the use of technology encourages an even more casual, hook-up culture and that it creates an online disinhibition effect making teens and young adults more forward and aggressive than they would be in real life. Nearly one-third of young adults (28%) said they were personally more aggressive using sexually suggestive messages and 34 percent more aggressive with nude or semi-nude photos/videos than they would be in real life. Most young adults (66%) also felt that their peers were more forward and aggressive using sexy messages and pictures/video than they were in real life. Other potential dangers with sexting include the fact that 40 percent of young adults say exchanging sexual content makes dating or hooking up with others more likely and 24 percent believe that people who are exchanging sexually suggestive material are “expected” to date or hook up. Those statistics can be problematic if that is not the sender’s intention.
The study revealed that a majority of young adults sext to be fun and flirtatious or to give their partner a “sexy” present. It’s when they are sending things to people they don’t know very well or have only met online to get attention that they can experience the most negative consequences of sexting. Those negative consequences include: embarrassing themselves, hurting their reputation, disappointing family and friends, getting in trouble with the law or hurting their chances for employment or higher education opportunities.
The report also provided teens and young adults with “Five things to think about before pressing ‘send.’”
1. Don’t assume anything you send or post is going to remain private
2. There is no changing your mind in cyberspace – anything you send or post will never go away
3. Don’t give in the pressure to do something that makes you uncomfortable, even in cyberspace
4. Consider the recipient’s reaction
5. Nothing is truly anonymous
Taking all of the above information into account, I still can’t help but wonder if there’s a way we can jump on this speeding technology train and channel the sexting phenomenon to encourage students who are currently in a relationship, to have healthy sexual communication with their partners.
Good communication is a must in any sexual relationship
- You can explore what your partner likes and dislikes.
- You can find out about each other’s sexual history.
- You can talk about the different ways to protect yourselves.
- Once you’ve talked about your limits and protection, the real fun begins.
- Many people find that talking about sex beforehand can be sexy.
- You can share fantasies and things you want to try.
- Communication is the best sexual technique – the best way for both parties to get what they want from the sexual relationship
One of the main reasons that students don’t engage in conversation about safer sex is because they feel awkward and uncomfortable. If sexting makes students less inhibited, and provides the impetus to start the conversation with their partner, I say go for it! Now, obviously, this form of “safer sexting” will only work with someone that you know fairly well and whom you trust not to share your messages etc. with others. Because if you can’t trust them to hold such personal information confidential, you should be asking yourself if this is a person with whom you’d want to share sexual intimacy with in the first place? Just sayin’….
Happy safer sexting!
If you’d like more information about sexy communication or healthy relationships you can visit the Student Health Services website: http://studenthealth.oregonstate.edu/. You can also come in to talk to a Health Coach http://studenthealth.oregonstate.edu/health-coaching or you can make an appointment with a MARS guy (Male Advocate for Responsible Sexuality) http://studenthealth.oregonstate.edu/mars
The full “Sex and Tech” report from the The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy can be found at: http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/sextech/PDF/SexTech_Summary.pdf
Be Well. Be Orange.