Exchanging racy texts, aka sexting, is de rigueur in our phone-heavy dating culture, and it's appreciated by many long-distance and long-term couples wanting to maintain intimacy and excitement in their relationships. But if you receive them unsolicited, as many women do – over 40% of young British women have received an unwanted dick pic – they can also be annoying, even distressing.
People sext for a number of reasons, but new research suggests that people perceive sex messages differently depending on whether the sender is a man or a woman. According to the brilliantly named study, 'Not Cool, Dude: Perceptions of Solicited vs. Unsolicited Sext Messages from Men and Women,' people are more likely to judge an unsolicited sext from a man as inappropriate than if the same message were sent by a woman.
For the research, conducted by academics from Southwestern University in the US and published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, a group of 122 predominantly white students in the US (61 men and 61 women) were given short descriptions in which either a man or a women sent a solicited or unsolicited sext to someone of the opposite sex. They were then asked their opinions on the situation and sext message.
The verdict? Men who sent unsolicited sexts were judged as less appropriate than women who sent the same message. Given the prevalence of unsolicited dick pics in today's dating landscape – and the often malicious intent behind them – it's unsurprising that women have more negative view of unsolicited sexts from men.
The researchers described men sending unsolicited sexts to women as an example of hypermasculinity, or exaggerated stereotypically male behaviour that may be considered sexual harassment and make women feel uncomfortable and/or threatened.
When it came to solicited sext messages, however, the genders were considered equally appropriate, which the researchers said was a result of society's "cultural ideals of hegemonic masculinity". This culture dictates that men should "react positively to sexual advances from women, regardless of whether such advances are solicited or not," they wrote.
"Such conceptualisation of masculinity promotes the idea that men should never decline a sexual opportunity and that the rejection of sexual advances from women leads to a loss of status, with sexual voracity as a goal for which men are to strive."
Given the revelations surrounding #MeToo and the abundance of high-profile men exposed as having abused their power to force their sexuality on women, the findings of this study make sense.