Do you like sexting? If the answer is yes, then I have bad news for you. According to new research, those who send sexually explicit messages, photos or videos with their phone tend to have dark character traits, hostile personalities and antisocial behaviours.
A team of international researchers examined the common personality traits of people who like to use their phone to send sexual texts, and found that those who do sext were more likely to have two of the three traits that make up the famous Dark Triad. The Dark Triad is a psychological construct, coined in 2002 by researchers Delroy L. Paulhus and Kevin M. Williams, that refers to three specific negative personality traits (narcissism, machiavellianism and psychopathy), generally regarded as predictors of psychopathologies and antisocial behaviors. We all know quite well what narcissism means; we usually associate it with those who have a disproportionate ego and a lack of empathy. Machiavellianism, on the other hand, typically refers to people who manipulate and exploit others.
The research, conducted by psychologists from La Sapienza University of Rome and researchers from the University of Huddersfield in the UK on over 6,000 participants aged between 13 and 30 in 11 countries, has highlighted the fact that these two negative personality traits are typical of those who sext.
In the study, the act of sexting has been divided into three main categories: experimental sexting, which is the typical form between two consenting parties; risky sexting, sexting under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or with partners who are strangers; and finally aggravated sexting, which is coercive sexting or sharing messages without one's consent. After an in-depth analysis of respondents' answers, the researchers concluded that in all types of sexting, people who liked to send sexually explicit messages and nude photos scored higher in measured personality traits such as narcissism and machiavellianism. This means that they are more likely to be cunning manipulators, to be narcissistic, and to have big egos.
The study also revealed some gender-based differences, showing that men are “more likely to be involved in risky sexting and in both forms of aggravated sexting”. The former type of action was perpetuated typically by older respondents, while aggravated sexting was more prevalent in younger age groups, which is of great concern considering that aggravated sexting is associated with non-consensual behavior and partner pressure.
What can happen when you sext?
According to the latest statistics, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, one in four teenagers sext, and the chances of sending and receiving sexually explicit messages increased with age. A conclusion that "lends credence to the notion that youth sexting may be an emerging, and potentially normal, component of sexual behavior and development” as the study reported.
Sexting itself is legal if it occurs between consenting adults (over the age of 18). But as with any sexual behaviors, a dangerous line may be crossed when receiving unsolicited, non-consensual sexts. So let’s be clear: sexting will never be 100% safe.
Authors noted a few troubling indicators: they found that 12% of people reported that they had forwarded a sext without consent and 8.5% said that a sext of theirs had been forwarded without their consent. “If we look at things like sexual behavior with teens, if it’s consensual and both teens wanted it and are okay with it, you are not going to see the negative psychological health. If it was non-consensual or coerced, that is where you see the negative mental health problems, and we see the same thing with sexting,” study co-author Jeff Temple, a Psychiatry professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch told CNN.
So while sexting can definitely be exciting, it can be risky too. There are indeed sexting safety considerations for people of all ages, but especially for teens who may not fully understand the potential problems sexting can cause.
The safest way to avoid a picture getting into the wrong hands is to never take it or share it. Sadly, there are cases (sometimes called “revenge porn”) where someone shares pictures meant only for them — sometimes after a breakup. If you are concerned someone is sending your child indecent images, report it to the police or online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). Only call 999 if you believe there is an immediate danger to someone.
Written by Miriam Tagini