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Posted on Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Sexting a normal part of dating? U-M researcher says it's become 'another way of flirting'

By Kellie Woodhouse

Sexting may not be as taboo as you think.

In fact, a new study concludes that the practice has become "another way of flirting" for the Internet generation, said Jose Bauermeister, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

"It doesn’t seem to be problematic," he said, adding that sexting is becoming "more and more common."

"Just like when the Internet rolled out ... we should expect to see technology embedded in our sexuality," he continued.

According to a U-M SexLab and Prevention Research Center of Michigan study of 3,500 young adults between 18 and 24, roughly 43 percent had received or sent sexts.

Bauermeister and other researchers found that 28 percent of sexters sent and received sexual pictures on their phone, 13 percent received and 2 percent sent without receiving pictures in return.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they had never engaged in sexting.

Respondents were asked about depression levels, anxiety levels and self-esteem evaluations. According to the study, there was no significant variance in responses from participants that sexted and those that didn't.

There also wasn't much difference in the level of unprotected sex among the two groups, although sexters were more likely to be sexually active.

"What was surprising to us was given all the 'hurrah, hurrah' and the long-standing assumption that sexting must be associated with risk… we actually didn’t see any of that," said Bauermeister.

"As to be expected, though, individuals who engage in sexting were also more likely to be sexually active in their lifetime," he added.

The study also found that men are more likely to receive a sext without sending one in return.

While the study didn't find a correlation between sexting and mental health problems, study authors suggested more research is needed "to examine the association between sexting and mental health" because "pressure to sext and viral sexts may present mental health risks."

The study findings do not pertain to teenage sexting, which is prohibited by law in at least 17 states.

"For younger age groups, legality is an issue," study co-author Debbie Gordon-Messer said. "They are also in a very different place in their sexual development."

A March U-M survey found that while the majority of adults disapproved of teenage sexting, they thought the practice shouldn't be criminalized.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

I missed my time!


Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

Does anyone actually edit these fluff pieces, or do you just expect the readers to do it?

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

I have to say that I have never understood why people worry so much about naked pictures or sexually suggestive texts. So what? There is nothing at all immoral about nudity and if someone feels comfortable enough about their body to take a picture, so what? Why all of the hand wringing?


Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

Lighten up - There's no hand wringing going on. It's still a free country. Apparently people are allowed to be incredibly stupid per the law, even if they are consenting adults. People's phones get stolen all the time. If they have sensitive pictures or information on them, it just makes them vulnerable. That is a choice people can make. In my eyes, by making themselves vulnerable, they forfeit the right to turn around and complain that their rights have been somehow violated because they were too stupid to take a few precautions. In the end, it's still tacky and shallow.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 9:43 p.m.

Oh well sure. It would be pretty rude to send naked pictures of oneself to someone who doesn't wish to receive them. But what is the harm between two people who consent to it?


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

It's like if someone is coughing in your face without covering their cough. It's kinda disgusting, and some people don't like that. Just because some people want to share with everyone doesn't mean everyone wants to receive what they are sharing. It's called "courtesy" and "respect".


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

When you get aroused while texting its called getting a "phoner"


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

Hilarious. Thanks for the LOL.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 3:35 a.m.

"There's nothing like the real thing, baby..."


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 11:28 p.m.

How many words can we make up in one study?


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.

If you're on the dating scene and you get a sext, then you can completely rule that person out as flaky and shallow. People don't need to send a sext to get friends or dates, and if you do, I would seriously question those kinds of "friends" or "dates". Come on kids, respect yourselves!


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 11:11 p.m.

Well said!


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 9:43 p.m.

Normal for Sodom and Gomorrah !


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

Any reason sexting is not defined in the article?

Terri Eagen-Torkko

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 7:26 p.m.

Here's a direct link to the lab, where you can find information on who funds the studies, who gets paid to do the research, what the actual name of the lab is, and the results of their work.

Rudra N Rebbapragada

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 7 p.m.

Human Reproductive and Communication Behavior : This study is fundamentally flawed as it makes no distinction between human reproductive behavior and human communication behavior. They are not one and the same. Reproductive behavior has a more stronger genetic basis as it involves a biological function concerned with the survival of the species and hence it is more of an Innate behavior that is influenced or modified by acquired or learned behavior. We have the genetic basis and potential to communicate with other members but the manner in which we use that genetic capability is entirely learned or acquired through sense experience. The issue of communicating a sexual thought or desire using 'sexting' speaks about human communication behavior and it has nothing to do with sexuality or reproductive behavior which seeks the propagation of the genetic potential.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 11:35 a.m.

Yay Rudra!


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 6:04 p.m.

wait wait wait....according to a "U-M SexLab and Prevention Research Center of Michigan" study... UM SexLab and Prevention Research Center???? what are they trying to "prevent"? Sex? Are they trying to end human life?

Billy Bob Schwartz

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 7:06 p.m.

Nope. Just trying to keep in the petrie dish where it belongs.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

Am so glad these Woodstock generation people on here decrying this awful never used their Polaroids "inappropriately"! We all know "Free Love" never happened. Where did this young generation learn their morals? oh...wait...


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 1:46 a.m.

I thought the issue was lewd photos and messages...not the fact that they can go viral. so it's ok as long as it doesn't go viral?

Billy Bob Schwartz

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 7:05 p.m.

I never heard of a polaroid photo going instantly viral.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 4:44 p.m.

As far as I know "sexting" is taking a picture of your privates and exposing them to intended and possibly unintended people. Isn't this pretty risky? Against the law? At least kinda stupid? Perhaps at future speed dating sites if you're unable to show up that day you could instead just leave your first name and pictures of all your essential body parts on the table. Technology and sex--what a concept. Sounds just too pathetic (and stupid) to me.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 5:27 p.m.

Why would I be upset if some naked picture of me ended up on the internet? I have a beautiful body and there is nothing immoral about nudity. Granted I haven't ever bothered to take naked pictures because they aren't my thing but I really don't understand why people think it will ruin a person if someone sees naked pictures of them.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 11:27 p.m.

Don't forget the hole in the sheet!


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

"Bauermeister and other researchers found that 28 percent of sexters sent and received sexual pictures on their phone, 13 percent received and 2 percent sent without receiving pictures in return." This implies that not all sexting involves sexual pictures, so I'd like to know how the study defined sexting.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

I believe the term encompasses more than explicit photo's. Explicit/provocative words count too.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

I agree. Sex should only be between a married man and his wife, and should only take place in their anointed bedroom, at night, with the lights out, while the wife is wearing a full-length flannel nightgown and the husband is wearing a pair of those classic pinstripe pajamas.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

I'm curious to know how the study defines "sexting." Because what I've always thought was sexting is definitely not what one would consider "another way of flirting." Hmm.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

On most Saturday nights its just me and my phone.....*sigh*.....


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

For what it's worth, there are plenty of married people that do this (me being one of them) once in awhile. It keeps things hot sometimes, so to speak. It's not only for teens and politicians having affairs, as some people might think


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 11:03 p.m.

To clarify: I was talking about BETWEEN spouses, not to other people. Lol...


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

Assuming these married folks are keeping things "hot" with their spouse...........

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

would it count if I texted my wife a link to this article? ;)

Christine Moellering

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

Somebody gets paid to do this research?


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

People are losing the ability to form relationships and have a conversation anymore. I see more socially awkward young people who can't look you in the eye when speaking to you, don't know how to treat people, have no empathy for others. I make my kids pick up the phone and have conversations. I see people walking down teh street almost getting run over by cars and kids sitting amongst a group of friends never leaving their cell phone or interacting. This is progress??

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 5:23 p.m.

Every older generation in the history of technology has said the exact same thing. Only before it was Computers, the Internet, Cable TV, Broadcast TV, radio, the printing press, etc. The best part is that someday this generation will be complaining about some new technology while saying, "in my day, we knew how to communicate using the written word in texts and emails. Now with this new telepathy, no one has to talk to each other or write each other anymore. What is the world coming to?!"


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 4:26 a.m.

Like, you know, like totally, you know ... like ...


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

Agree. I was out watering my yard yesterday evening, and a young mother walked by pushing her young child in a stroller. Left hand on stroller, right hand holding phone. She never looked up from the phone, even to cross the street, for a good ten minutes. Made me wonder how much time she actually spends talking and playing with her child versus texting.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

I get the feeling that some of these "sexters" may be too busy "sexting" to participate in actual sex. And when does sexting become indecent exposure?


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

I think we mothers of the world need to united to stop this! Let's form MAS: Mothers Against Sexting

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 5:20 p.m.

Why? You don't want your kids to have sex someday?


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

Please write beautiful love letters.

John Hritz

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.

Love letters were pretty racy in the old days. One of the ways that you would end an engagement was to ask for your letters back. Unfortunately, there is no practical analog to this for sexting.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

So, the UM professors should offer "Love letter" class to the students, staffs and faculties.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Beautiful love letters are only from those who are sure they can spell. Too risky otherwise!


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

Hmm, I am wondering who paid for this study.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

"It doesn't seem to be problematic," he said, adding that sexting is becoming "more and more common." said Jose Bauermeister, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Just because something is "more and more common." does not mean it does not have a negative impact! Mass shootings Attacks against women Drunk driving Unemployment Foreclosures and the list goes on. These " professors" will probably get a six figure grant to study the short term affect and the long term effect! Criminalized - no pooh poohed - NO


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 5:49 p.m.

are you implying Attacks Against Men are OK?

Angry Moderate

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

Drunk driving is certainly not "more and more common." Attacks against women and mass shootings seem doubtful too.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

Having technology embedded in your sexuality sounds painful...

Madeleine Borthwick

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.



Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

To Drut Ferguson: It is not painful if it is done by a qualified UoM surgeon and anaethesiologist. However, it is probably not covered by Medicare; once again we, older people, are shortchanged!


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

"... we should expect to see technology embedded in our sexuality." We, older people, missed a lot, I guess. Individuals who engage in sexting are "more likely to be sexually active in their lifetime": tell me, please, how many people do you know who are sexually active after their lifetime? And how do they do it?


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.



Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

And just think about how popular you'll be when the nude pictures of you end up on the internets, ladies and gents!

Billy Bob Schwartz

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 6:56 p.m.

Esp. if you are in Congress! Sounds cool to me!


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

Its more efficient than writing a romantic letter or actually calling someone too. So two thumbs up for Sexting!

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

There once was a smart phone user from Nantucket.... somehow it doesn't have the flow.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 1:02 a.m.

well done sir, well done indeed.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 8:50 p.m.

There was a romantic iPhoner Who took pics of his gigantic... mirror. To his girlfriend they rushed. When she saw them, she blushed. And now the poor fool is a loner.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 10:29 a.m.

"Let it all hang out"