In an online survey, Morgan Johnstonbaugh, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Arizona, asked more than 1,000 college students—20 years old on average—from 7 US universities to describe the last time they sent a nude or semi-nude photograph of themselves to another person electronically. The researchers then asked why they shared the photo. Presented with a list of 23 possible reasons, participants could check as many or as few as they wanted.
In her analysis of the responses, Johnstonbaugh found that the odds were four times higher for women than men to say that they sent sexually explicit images of themselves in order to prevent the recipient from losing interest or to prevent the recipient from looking at images of others.
“The sexual double standard is this idea that’s perpetuated in society that men and women have different types of sexuality—that men have uncontrollable, voracious desires, whereas women are capable of making moral decisions and acting as the gatekeepers to sexual activity,” Johnstonbaugh says.
However, Johnstonbaugh discovered that the odds also were four times higher for women than men to say that they sent sexually explicit images as a way to feel empowered, and women were twice as likely as men to say they sent such images to boost their confidence.
“The fact that women are more likely to feel both empowered and disempowered—that they’re selecting both of these options when thinking about the same event—highlights the fact that women have more to gain from a potentially beneficial interaction, but they also have more to lose,” Johnstonbaugh says.
“In this research, my goal was to disentangle the pressures young people are experiencing, and to get a better understanding of why they are sending these images and what potential benefits they might be hoping for,” she says. “This gives us a little more perspective.”
Johnstonbaugh presented her research, which will contribute to her dissertation on sexting practices among college students, during the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in New York City.
Source: University of Arizona