Between the serious hacks and careless slip-ups, it seems the only time you hear about anyone’s sexting habit is once it’s become a newsworthy scandal. But studies continue to prove that a large swath of the phone-carrying population is exchanging sexy messages. This trend isn’t just for the younger generations who came of age with cellphones tightly clutched in hand either. In 2015, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a study using 870 participants aged 18 to 82 and found that more than 80 percent had sexted within the past year. It seems scandalous texts are an indulgence that defies age. Still, we wonder, is there an age at which sexting becomes inappropriate?
According to relationship experts, it seems to be a perfectly healthy habit for adults, if not one with inherent risk. “We’re living in a digital age and it’s common to use technology to flirt.” says Andrea Syrtash, Dating and Relationship Expert and Author of He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s a Good Thing). “It’s become less taboo to send a suggestive text, and it can be a great way to increase excitement and anticipation.”
“As long as sexting is between two consenting adults, it doesn’t matter if you’re 28 or 78,” says Syrtash. “The key is that you’re not imposing sexts on a person who really doesn’t want to be receiving them.” Sexting can be part of a positive relationship behavior (though, it should never become an expectation), and for those casually dating it can be a way to spice things up. If you’re new to the craft and want to take the leap, remember that less is more. “Think of it like foreplay in the bedroom,” says Syrtash. “You generally caress and kiss before you get naked.”
The online doctor service DrEd conducted a recent study on 1,000 Americans who were 18 and older, focusing specifically on the exchange of sexy photos. Of the women 35 and older, more than half reported having sent at least one sexually suggestive pic. As far as which body parts were featured, 55 percent of women across all age groups sent shots of their breasts, while only 17 percent included their faces and only 4 percent sent fully nude shots. Clearly there’s something to leaving a little mystery.
“I love the attention and knowing how turned on someone is by me and vice versa.”
More importantly, sexting remains a risky activity. “Never show your face and only send what you’re comfortable sending,” says Natalie, 39, who frequently deletes images from her photo roll as an added precaution. “It will end up being shown to others—whether it’s a guy’s friend or millions of complete strangers.”
It’s not just a matter of whether or not you trust the recipient, which is a hefty consideration in itself. But do you also trust technology? And do you trust yourself to avoid human error? According to Emily, 30, another woman we spoke to about her texting habits, her worst mishap occurred while simultaneously sexting and tweeting after having a few drinks. “Accidentally wound up putting something online that I really didn’t want to go out there,” she says. “Thankfully I caught it quick and deleted it.” And, please, quintuple-check that you’ve keyed up the right recipient. You wouldn’t be the first person to accidentally text dad instead.
Whether sending or receiving, there seems to be a thrill for both parties, regardless of age. The APA’s study found frequent sexting to be associated with greater sexual satisfaction, though this could just mean those who are sexually satisfied are more inclined to explore other means of connectivity. Researchers also discovered a positive correlation between frequent sexting and greater relationship satisfaction, with the exception of those who described their relationship as “very committed.”
“I love the attention and knowing how turned on someone is by me and vice versa,” says Emily. Though, she admits text is a flawed vehicle for any type of conversation, let alone more intimate ones. “God forbid there’s a typo—you could take a turn that you really did not want.”