A recently presented paper at the American Psychological Association's annual convention claims that the controversial practice of sexting can be "a positive relationship behavior."
Authored by Ph.D. student Emily C. Stasko and Drexel University Psychology professor Pamela A. Geller, the research abstract argued that sexting has "both positive and negative" effects on relationships.
"Sexting is usually looked at as dangerous, but if it were only bad, it wouldn't be as popular as it is," Stasko asserted during an interview with The Christian Post, adding they were "surprised by the high rates of sexting we observed."
"We set out to look at sexting as a form of communication that can have positive and negative aspects."
Commonly defined as the act of sending sexually explicit material to a romantic partner via text message, sexting has largely been viewed as a negative form of communication.
This may be, in part, because, as Stasko has explained elsewhere, studies on sexting have generally focused on teenagers and minors rather than adults.
One example would be The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, whose sample space for their 2008 report on sexting focused on teens (ages 13-19), and young adults (ages 20-26).
Bill Albert, chief program officer at The National Campaign, who directed CP to the 2008 report, explained that their research was "dated."
"It is dated because it stems from a 2008 survey of teens and young adults — different time, different cohort," said Albert.
"Moreover, the concerns one might have about a 15-year-old sharing nude or semi-nude images of themselves is likely quite different from concerns one might have about a consenting 45- year-old."
Stasko and Geller's research was part of a symposium at the APA's annual convention held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Aug. 6-9.
Stasko told CP that the large number of respondents to the survey who said they had sexted at least once may not be a proper representation of the general U.S. population.
"We recruited participants from the Internet; it is possible that they are [more] comfortable with technology than the general population," she said.
"Additionally, individuals interested in the topic of sexting may have been more likely to respond to participate in a survey on that subject. Regardless of the reason for this high prevalence, it makes this an appropriate group with which to explore the role of sexting in adult relationships."
The abstract to their research submitted in March states: "Sexting … has received growing attention as a risky activity, associated with numerous other risk taking behaviors (e.g., unprotected sex, drug use) and negative health sequelae."
"This approach fails to account for the possible positive effects of open sexual communication with a partner. The research in this presentation explored the possibility that sexting may also be a protective factor by examining the relationship between sexting and relationship and sexual satisfaction."
Connected to the research was an online survey conducted by Drexel University's Women's Health Psychology Lab which noted that of 870 respondents ages 18-82, 88 percent of them said they had sexted at least once.
Stasko told CP that she believed the research "presentation went very well and was well received" and that the "reception we have gotten so far has been very encouraging."
"This was one of the first public presentations of our findings. We are currently in the process of preparing and submitting for publication," said Stasko.
A spokesperson from the American Psychological Association told CP that the organization does not have an official position on sexting.