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Sext First, Sex Later: The Natural Order of Intimacy Among Teens Today

Sext First, Sex Later: The Natural Order of Intimacy Among Teens Today: Courtney Carmody, Flickr

Courtney Carmody, Flickr

Today, another study about the sexual habits of young people asserts something about Millennials that we almost all already know: child medicine journal Pediatrics published the results of a six-year study their researchers did at a Texas High School, examining what comes first, sex or the sext? Are sexy pictures a precursor to sexy behaviors or more of a morning-after thing?

Looks like they are more of a preview than a recap. As study author Jeff Temple, told the Washington Post:

“Sexting preceded sexual behavior in many cases… The theory behind that is sexting may act as a gateway or prelude to sexual behaviors or increases the acceptance of going to the next level.“

So talking about sex digitally as opposed to verbally tends to precede it? Can’t say I’m surprised.

At 22, I’m older than kids who were given smart phones in elementary school, but even those of us who are finished with college definitely began our sex careers with sexting. While the study narrowly defines sexting as the exchange of nude photos, more innocent versions of sexting certainly began at my middle school, starting with plain-old-fashioned flirting over flip phones (Sample text: "I mean, you’re the hottest guy at school, but you probably already know that…)

Like the kids in this study, kids of my cohort used sexting not just as digital foreplay but as an important part of discovering our own sexuality and desire. Over text messages, iChat, and social media platforms, we were allowed to play with sex long before we were actually having it. Sometimes this becomes a sad attempt at intimacy; other times it’s a way to step out of one’s isolated safety zone. The level of experience is diverse, and there’s much more going on than nude pics, which Pediatric’s study seems to define as sexting in its entirety, eager to apply that information to their thinking on risk-prevention.

I think the next phase of the study should collect data on how long the average teen sexts before they have sex. For some of us, it’s years. For others, it’s weeks. In related demands, I also want to know who today’s true sexual instigators are. Boys still get a bad rap for pressuring girls to sleep with them, but after ample experience with today’s apathetic, porn-brained crop—my money is on the ladies. Always trust a woman to get the job done.

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