Does Sexting Lead To Sex?

Does Sexting Lead To Sex?

ILLUSTRATED BY:  ABBIE WINTERS at Refinery29

ILLUSTRATED BY: ABBIE WINTERS at Refinery29

Sexting means sending a sexually provocative message – often in photo or video form, though it could be words in a traditional text. And people do it. Often.

Official articles say that about 15% of all teenagers have sent sexts, and more than 25% have received them, though I think both of these stats are gross underestimations. When I teach 12- and 13-year olds in the classroom and I ask them the question How many of you know someone who has sent or received a nude? (which, in case you aren’t familiar with the parlance, means a naked pic of someone), literally 100% raise their hands. Now in fairness, I am asking if they know someone, not if it has involved them directly, but still…

Pulling the lens back, we parents have all heard about sexting scandals at schools, whereby an image of one kid is forwarded to others, sometimes almost virally. The consequences of that can be dire for everyone involved: reputational damage, suspension, expulsion, even in some cases charges of trafficking child pornography.

The interesting thing about sexting is that many have suggested it actually delays physical intercourse. It’s a form of sexual experimentation, they say, that doesn’t involve any possible transmission of disease and by which no one can become pregnant. That was true, at least until now. A new study suggests that kids who sext are not only three times more likely to engage in real-life sexual encounters than those who don’t, they are also twice as likely to skip contraception. Plus they tend to struggle with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. 

My advice after reading this study is to talk to your kids not just about what they are doing, but also what they are seeing and sending and receiving. Sexual experimentation is normal during adolescence. But there are consequences to all of these behaviors, from in-the-flesh sex to virtual sex. And now it looks like one kind of sex can be a red flag for the other. In case no one warned you, there’s no such thing as The Talk anymore. There’s lots and lots to talk about.