Sexting is often seen as scandalous or dirty, but a new study suggests sending risqué photos or seductive text messages is perfectly normal and usually healthy. Not only that, it may actually improve your sex life and boost relationship satisfaction.
Psychologists from Drexel University surveyed 870 adults to find out just how common sexting really is. They were surprised to learn that 88 percent reported having sexted at least once in their lives, while 82 percent said they'd sexted within the last year. Of the admitted sexters, 74 percent did so in the context of a committed relationship, and 43 percent had sexted with a casual romantic partner. Only 12 of participants reported having sexted in a cheating relationship.
Higher frequency of sexting was also linked to greater sexual satisfaction — especially for those in relationships. However, this only held true when the sexts were "wanted." According to the survey, when people received unsolicited sexts, likely from casual hookups or admirers who they didn't feel the same way about, the images and words were received negatively and wound up harming the relationship.
This is all great news for committed couples. Of course, in some cases it's possible that the happier the partners and the more heat between them, the more likely they are to sext. But experts think it can work the other way too. "Sexting can help couples develop their communication skills," says Dr. Kat Van Kirk, a licensed marriage and sex therapist based in Los Angeles. "It can build a strong foundation for a pattern of dialogue about sex in general and get partners in the mode to advocate for what they want in bed." She says that couples who sext are more apt to share fantasies, and by doing so, they make themselves vulnerable, which can help build trust in a relationship.
Van Kirk believes sexting can be especially beneficial for couples in long-distance relationship or when one partner is out of town for a long period of time. "Sexting can build anticipation and actually become a part of foreplay before the two of you even get in the same zip code," she says. It can help also couples who've been together for years — or who've simply hit a slump in their relationship—to reawaken their desire for each other. "Research indicates that spontaneity is an important component of creating long-lasting relationships," says Van Kirk. "Sexting can be the perfect avenue for surprising your partner with titillating photos and messages."
The hush-hush factor of sexting may also be a good thing. "Engaging in 'taboo' behavior, such as knowing that your sexts might get discovered by a third party, can increase sexual arousal and allow couples to feel a little naughty," Van Kirk says.