In today's world where emojis double as sexual innuendos (we're looking at you, eggplant) and filters are ready-made for the perfect nude Snapchat, sexting abounds in forms aplenty. From spammy Instagram accounts to the ever-innocent round of dirty talk via iMessage, there's certainly no shortage of ways to express yourself sexually these days.
But for those who are confounded by (or even worried about) this sexual renaissance of sorts, know this: It probably isn't yielding as significant an effect on your actual, physical sexual behavior as you might think.
Researchers at North Carolina State University studied 234 pieces of research covering sexting and came to the conclusion that the correlation between sending sexts and subsequent sexual behavior was "weak." In fact, they found no evidence at all that proved sexting led to better, or even different, sex.
As for parents worried about what their pubescent teens may or may not be doing behind closed doors, the study also found that there is a negligible correlation between sexting and risky sexual behavior. In plain English, if your kids are sexting, that doesn't make them more likely to engage in unprotected sex or sex with an increased number of partners — in fact, it doesn't even lead to an increased likelihood of hooking up with someone at all.
While the study's findings may be a relief to parents and downright surprising to the rest of us (You mean to tell me today's over-sexualized culture doesn't affect people in the bedroom at all?), researchers made it clear that more research has to be done in order to support their findings. In fact, only 15 of the 234 journal articles they studied were able to be analyzed — and plus, there isn't even a widely agreed-upon definition for the term "sexting."
"There are two take-home messages here," Andrew Binder, co-author of the review and an associate professor of communication at NC State, said in a press release. "First is that sexting does not appear to pose a public health threat to America's youth – so don't panic. Second, if this is something we want to study, we need to design better studies. For example, the field needs a common, clear definition of what we mean by sexting, as well as more robust survey questions and methods."
Until more research is done on sexting, we can't draw any definitive conclusions about how it's affecting our sexual behavior. But the next time you get an unsolicited d*ck pic, we'd say it's probably safe to say you know what's going on on the other end.