Editors’ note: This piece is part of Turned On, a CNET special report exploring the intersection of sex and technology.
Do you sext? If so, you’re definitely not alone.
One of the most surprising findings out of a new study from the sexperts at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute and the Berlin-based women’s health startup Clue is the number of respondents who report having sexted someone — 67 percent. That’s a fairly staggering jump from an earlier Kinsey study conducted in 2012. For that poll, only 21 percent of respondents reported having traded racy texts with someone.
“This increase, and this large of a proportion of respondents, suggests that incorporating tech into our private lives may be becoming normal,” writes Amanda Gesselman, a research scientist at the Kinsey Institute. “Sexting may be becoming a new, but typical, step in a sexual or romantic relationship.”
The new study, which culled responses over 140,000 participants from almost 200 countries, asked about everything from use of dating apps to sexting preferences. The results offer an illuminating look at today’s tech-enabled sex culture.
Though a majority of Americans who sext still do so the old-fashioned way, via SMS, the study suggests Snapchat is on the rise as a de facto delivery method for dirty-minded messages and images. Probably not surprisingly, this is especially true among younger respondents, with 43 percent of 18- to 20-year-olds reporting that’d used Snapchat to sext with someone. That’s more than any other age group.
Using tech to score dates
Thirty percent of respondents reported using dating apps to find new partners, but not surprisingly, their motivations vary. Some seek true companionship, while others just want a one-night stand. Still others just want people to chat and sext with. The least desirable app-enabled connection? “Friends with benefits.”
“Using apps to find either long-term or short-term partners, but not friends with benefits, may signal a reliance on tech/apps for either commitment or spontaneity, but not for regular sex with no romantic connection,” Gesselman says.
With 46 percent of Swedish respondents saying they’ve used apps like Tinder and OKCupid to connect, that country’s residents are the most likely to use dating apps. Russians, on the other hand, are the least likely to seek sex using an app — only 3 percent of them admit to ever having used an app to hook up with someone.
Tech’s not just about hooking up — people are using technology to educate themselves about sex, too. One researcher suggests people might feel a need to keep up as sexual culture continues to evolve. This is apparently true regardless of sexual experience — virgins are roughly as likely to use tech to teach themselves about sex (17 percent) as people who’ve been around the block are (19 percent).
The study does show a disparity between men and women, though. Twenty-seven percent of male respondents said they’d used an app to learn about sex, compared with 18 percent of female respondents. Gesselman suggests this might have to do with cultural norms of masculinity, which might discourage men from seeking information from friends and partners.
Virtual safe spaces for sexual minorities
The study also breaks down dating app use among sexual and gender minorities. If you belong to one of those minorities, according to the study, there’s a much better chance you’re looking for a partner online.
Specifically, 44 percent of bi and pansexual respondents, 49 percent of homosexual respondents, and a majority (55 percent) of queer-identifying respondents use dating apps. That’s compared with just 28 percent of heterosexual respondents.
“This signals tech as a potentially more comfortable environment or a safer space than in-person or face-to-face encounters for those on the LGBTQ spectrum who are seeking romantic and sexual partners,” Gesselman writes.
The full PDF of the survey’s results includes lots of other insights, and can be found here.