People who engage in sexting can find it both objectifying and liberating, new research suggests.
Surveying 361 college students in Hong Kong the study, published in The Journal of Sex Research, asked participants about their sexual behaviours, body surveillance, body shame and control, and their comfort with nudity.
It revealed that people who sexted more often were found to be more comfortably with being naked in various situations.
However, they were also found to experience more body shame and be more likely to agree with statements such as: “During the day, I think about how I look many times” and “I feel ashamed of myself when I haven’t made the effort to look my best.”
Study co-author and associate professor at Ritsumeikan University in Japan, Mario Liong told Psypost: “When I further studied the literature, I noticed the contradictory ideas about sexting – sexting is reproducing objectification of women’s and girls’ bodies, but also that it acts as a platform for individuals to experiment with their bodies and sexualities and to look at their bodies in a way different from the mainstream media representation.
“So I became interested in conducting an empirical study to examine which claim is more accurate and also to understand more about the nature of sexting.”
He also revealed that, compared to people who have not engaged in sexting, those who have do generally exhibit higher level of body shame and feel the need to monitor their body figure more.
That being said, sexters also tend to feel more comfortable with being nude – something that previous studies have associated with sexual openness and satisfaction.
“Therefore, we should not just focus on the negative consequence of sexting but should acknowledge that sexting can be empowering too,” Liong adds.
The professor also admits that the study does come with its limitations and cannot conclude for sure whether sexting brings about either empowerment or leads to objectification.
He also adds that the study doesn’t resolve any of the issues surrounding the creation of pornographic images or illegal distribution.
“For further study, I think we should continue to think about how to reduce the objectifying effect of sexting," Liong explains.
“I hope that this study can stimulate more thoughts and discussions about the impacts of digital technology on human sexuality and how we can design our future technology to bring about empowerment of gender and sexuality.”