Is There a ‘Sexting’ Double Standard for Teenagers?

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

  • Is Popular Culture to Blame?
  • Sexting and Sex Addiction: What's the Connection?

A recent study involving adolescents and “sexting” highlighted disturbing double standards between boys and girls. With the study results we examine whether or not this behavior could lead to porn and sex addictions.

Published in this month’s edition of Journal of Children and Media, the project surveyed 51 kids aged 12 to 18 from the New York City, Atlanta and Denver areas. Approximately half of the subjects were girls. Researchers found that among the 43 participants who answered the survey, nine had admitted to sending “sexts,” or sexually explicit pictures of themselves. About half of the respondents said they had received sexts, but most of those who admitted this were boys.

Girls who sexted were given harsh comments by some of the boys, including… ‘slut’ reputations.”

However, the double standards in the study regarding views on girls who sext resemble much of what can be seen in the real world. Girls who sexted were given harsh comments by some of the boys, including an 18-year-old who wrote that it was only common for girls with ‘slut’ reputations. But if they didn’t engage, some boys still found fault by calling them “stuck up,” “goody” girls or prudes.

“The boys didn’t face any penalty [for sexting]. It was a very one-sided equation,” said co-author Julia Lippman, a postdoctoral research fellow in psychology at the University of Michigan.

“The boys didn’t face any penalty… It was a very one-sided equation.”-Julie Lippman

Despite the findings, the small sample size makes it difficult to draw conclusions about this being a problem across the country. Previous studies have also drawn widely difficult conclusions about how many adolescents engage in sexting. A 2011 survey by the University of New Hampshire found that just one percent of American kids aged 10 to 17 said they’d sent explicit images by phone. However, a survey the following year from the University of Utah concluded that nearly 20 percent of teens aged 14 to 18 had sent sexually explicit photos of themselves.

Is Popular Culture to Blame?

Part of this growing trend among adolescents has to do with the increase in adults who sext. A 2012 interactive poll found that one in five Americans send explicit text messages, while a study from last August noted that 80 percent of 21-year-olds have received an explicit text. The sexting scandal last summer involving disgraced politician Anthony Weiner also brought the act into the forefront of mainstream culture, while celebrities like Kim Kardashian have kept it there by regularly posting suggestive selfies on Twitter and Instagram.

Also Read: How to Recognize and Treat Love Addiction

Sexting and Sex Addiction: What’s the Connection?

Experts believe that nearly 40 percent of adults who receive treatment for sex addiction began viewing excess amounts of porn in their teen and pre-teen years.This early exposure to sexually suggestive content and pornography could lead to problems later in life. Matt Bulkley, counselor at the Youth Pornography Addiction Center in Utah, noted this is especially true now because “kids who have never masturbated without porn have no idea how it is affecting them.” Experts believe that nearly 40 percent of adults who receive treatment for sex addiction began viewing excess amounts of porn in their teen and pre-teen years.

And while peer pressure has historically led to teenagers experimenting with drugs or alcohol, that same pressure can lead to kids sending or receiving sexts when they may not necessarily want to. “We found that the issue isn’t about phones or technology,” said Andrew Harris, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. “Its root is social and emotional development, and it can be reduced by teaching respect and acceptable relationship boundaries very early on in kids’ education.”

Help is Here: If you or someone you love is struggling with sex addiction, we can help you find the right treatment options for your needs. Call 1-888-332-2565 and speak to a recovery advisor today.

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