Arielle Pardes | Digital Get Down
The Screwtinizer | Stop taking sexting so seriously — it’s just a 21st-century version of things we’ve always done
September 12, 2013, 4:45 pm · Updated September 12, 2013, 11:48 pm·
With his signature flair and haughtiness, Anthony Weiner conceded defeat in his campaign for the mayor of New York City on Tuesday night by flipping the bird at a pack of reporters.
In many ways, Weiner had lost the race long before — in part, due to the aforementioned reporters, who made his sexting scandal a point of constant conversation.
Weiner’s sexts were so talked about, in fact, that when his sexting partner Sydney Leathers appeared at the primaries on Tuesday, she said matter-of-factly, “Why not be here? I’m kind of the reason why he is losing.”
Surely, she was. But while Weiner might have been carped for his scintillating photos, sexting is actually quite a common sexual behavior — at least for people of our generation. A recent study, published last month in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, suggested that the majority of college students have sexted: 67 percent of students surveyed had received a naked picture via text, and 47 percent had sent one themselves.
At its core, the research focused on what people expect when they sext — their “sexpectancies” (their words, not mine) — and found that men boast higher expectations, while women are often apprehensive.
So what are those “sexpectancies”? Like any erotic act, sexting can play a role for different people in different situations. Joe Burgo, the author of “Why Do I Do That?” explained that “sometimes sexting can be a part of an ongoing romantic relationship; sometimes it can be used as way to get dates or casual hook-ups, and sometimes it’s a form of infidelity.”
In most cases, though, sexting holds the same appeal as any other erotic act — the only difference is that it’s digitalized.
Despite the hush-hush nature of the act, most college-aged students seem to agree that sexting is simply a new way to communicate sexual interest. Last summer, researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed undergraduates about attitudes toward sexting and found that most considered sexting nothing more than “another way of flirting.” As a generation that grew up seducing each other on AOL Instant Messanger, we’ve graduated to more explicit flirtation through our smart phones.
“I’ve sexted and probably will again, but I don’t think I would do it with someone with whom I didn’t already have a connection with,” said a College senior who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of sexting.
He added that while he felt that sexting was more taboo than other sex acts, “if you think about it, all it really is is phone sex 2.0 — and when you say ‘phone sex,’ people react less adversely.”
Rather than playing out on landlines, “phone sex 2.0” happens in mediums like SnapChat, which has become a communication staple — sexual or otherwise — for our age group. (For the record, SnapChat’s cofounder Evan Spiegel has denied that SnapChat was inventing for the purpose of sexting, but we all know what’s up.)
To be fair, sexting does have a dark side. The prevalence of teenagers sending naked photos has provoked questions about child pornography, and there are recurring risks of having sexts shared with other people (according to one survey, 17 percent of people who receive sexts admit to sharing them with another person). The “Carlos Danger” fiasco burned Weiner not just for the pictures themselves, but because of his marriage, the types of women with whom he communicated and his role in public office. But this should have never become the defining moment in his political career — and it becomes problematic when more people can identify his pecs than they can his policy.
But ultimately, as the lead researcher in the recent sexting study concluded, “sexting doesn’t seem to be as risky as the media makes it out to be.”
The stigma enveloping sexting, as a form of sexual communication, is entirely overstated. We should approach sexting the same way that we approach other sex acts — with caution and a sense of rationality — but without taking ourselves too seriously.
Arielle Pardes is a College senior from San Diego. Her email address is email@example.com. You can follow her @pardesoteric. “The Screwtinizer” appears every Thursday.