Sexting is supposed to be a wonderful thing that spices up your relationship and keeps things fresh. It's also, for the most part, meant to be private (for your partner's eyes only), especially if photos are involved. A new study, however, suggests that our sexts are probably being shared around more often than we'd like. According to research conducted by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and published in the journal Sexual Health, one in four people share sexts they receive with their friends. After surveying 5,805 single adults between the ages of 21 and 75, researchers found that although 73% of participants said they were uncomfortable with their sexts being shared, 23% reported having shared sexy photos and texts with an average of over three different friends.
"That finding suggests that the real risk of sexting is the potential for nonconsensual sharing of sext messages," Justin Garcia, the study's author, a research scientist at the Kinsey Institute, said in a press release. "It raises the question that if someone sends something to you with the presumption that it’s private, and then you share it with others — which, when it comes to sexting, nearly one out of every four single Americans are doing, what do we want to consider that type of violation? Is it just bad taste? Is it criminal?" These, of course, are all valid questions, and well worth asking, considering that 60% to 74% of respondents reported believing that sexting could damage their reputation, career, self-esteem, or current relationships or friendships. Interestingly, the study also found that men were twice as likely as women to share sexy texts with others, and women were more likely to be upset about their sexts being shared. As Garcia says, it's not really the sexting itself that presents an issue: It's the risk of a violation of privacy. "The real risk is not the sending of sexual messages and images per se, but rather the nonconsensual distribution of those materials to other parties," he said. "As sexting becomes more common and normative, we’re seeing a contemporary struggle as men and women attempt to reconcile digital eroticism with real-world consequences." The bottom line is, as fun and exciting as sexting may be, keep in mind that your sexy messages might not always be for your partner's eyes only.