By Anju Miura

“Get Psyched” explores the complicated process of human thoughts and behavior to help you understand who we really are. I write this series in the belief that understanding psychological theories will make your life easier, or at least, teach you why life could be so hard. After reading my stories, you’ll get psyched.

Sexting has become a new norm.

Sixty-seven percent of people from 198 different countries reported they use technology in their sex lives, according to a 2017 study conducted by the Kinsey Institute. But why did sending explicit texts and photos become so common, and how does it affect romantic relationships?

What drives us to sext?

Messages from a random guy on a dating app like, “Send me a sexy pic of yourself,” might turn you off if you are looking for a long-term monogamous relationship.

Sexting seems to be more common in a short-term hookup culture as a quick and effective means to show where your intentions lie. However, research conducted by Rob Weisskirch found that people in a committed relationship are most likely to sext their partners.

In a committed relationship, people are likely to sext their partners because of “relational anxiety,” like avoiding a fight or worrying about what their partner thinks of them. Sexting can feel like a quick fix to ease that anxiety.

Does sexting actually grant us sexual pleasure?

Just as watching porn or getting a whiff of a partner’s cologne or perfume can turn us on, sexting also triggers sexual desire by inducing dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of euphoria.

As a flood of dopamine is released during orgasm, the satisfaction caused by this feel-good hormone leads us to seek further pleasurable experience.

Nowadays, texting also induces dopamine in the same way as sex does. When we exchange text messages back and forth, our desire for the response becomes higher and higher like when we expect a climax during sex.

So it’s no wonder why the combination of sex and texting is more addictive and pleasurable.

Does it indicate our attachment style?

Psychologists Michelle Drouin and Carly Landgraff found in a study they published in 2012 that people who feel “anxious” or “avoidant” about their romantic relationships are more likely to engage in sexting than those who believe their relationships involve happiness, friendship and trust.

Anxious attachment style involves a constant fear of abandonment and extreme obsession, and individuals experiencing this want to cling to their partner regularly. They tend to sext in order to ensure proximity with a partner and seek protection in their relationship.

In contrast, people who have avoidant attachment style are afraid of too much closeness or regular contact with a partner. They are uncertain whether they can completely trust their partner, so they engage in sexting to keep their partners at a distance.

Sexting in a committed relationship

Drouin discovered people who sext reported more positive effects on their relationship and fewer negative consequences than those who sexted with casual partners. Moreover, people in committed relationships were found to be more optimistic about sexting than those who are in casual relationships.

Sexting gives us the opportunity to get intimate without getting naked, which can help us spice up our sex life. Unlike sexual intercourse, we don’t have to worry about physically pleasuring a partner adequately, switching positions and getting a partner to finish.

Sexting also enables us to open up about some of our fantasies that might feel intimidating to bring up in the bedroom. Through sexting, we can find our partner’s hidden sexual desires and appease them, without ever having to make a physical appearance.

Sexting can also make us anxious

There is no guarantee that our texts cannot be seen by others, so sending a nude picture or racy text can evoke our fear of revenge porn, bad reputation or blackmail. Thus, whether we can trust our partner greatly affects our engagement in sexting.

A study conducted by Michelle Drouin revealed both males and females are more likely to feel comfortable sexting in committed relationships than in casual relationships. However, females in a casual relationship reported more worry and regret as compared to those who are in a committed relationship.

Male versus female viewpoint

Women seem to need a higher level of emotional commitment to sext to their partners compared to men due to safety concerns such as the risk of slut shaming or blackmail.

A study conducted by Pouria Samimi and Kevin Alderson revealed males have more positive attitudes toward sexting than females. Men tend to regard casual sex more positively than women, so they may sext in an attempt to hook up.