"Sexting" may sound salacious, but it isn't always about sex, a new study shows.
In fact, two-thirds of adults who send these sexually-oriented text messages don't have sex in mind at all, the Texas Tech University researchers report.
Some sexting is about foreplay for sex later on. Sexting is also used for reassurance about the relationship. And sometimes it's done to score points for something like a dinner date down the road, said report assistant professor Joseph Currin and doctoral student Kassidy Cox.
The duo are from the department of psychological sciences at Texas Tech. They used data gathered online from 160 people aged 18 to 69 for the study.
They looked specifically at the sexting motivations, relationship attachments and sexual behaviors.
"It was intriguing that two-thirds of the individuals who engaged in sexting did so for nonsexual purposes," Cox said in a school news release. "This may actually be demonstrating some individuals engage in sexting, but would prefer not to, but do so as a means to either gain affirmation about their relationship, relieve anxiety or get something tangible - nonsexual - in return."
These three motivations for sexting were consistent regardless of sexual orientation, gender or age, Cox and Currin found.
"This tells us that sexting among adults is an evolution of how we have communicated our sexual desires to our partners in the past. People used to write love poems and steamy letters, then when photography became more commonplace, couples used to take boudoir photos for each other," Currin said.
The researchers note that their study involved only consensual sexting.
"As with any sexual behavior, it is important and necessary to have consent to engage in sexting," Currin said. "Individuals who send unsolicited sext messages -- such as images of their genitalia - are not actually engaging in sexting; they are sexually harassing the recipient."