“Sexting” and the New World of Tech-Savvy Cheaters

This study attempted to explore various behaviors of infidelity via Internet and SMS, also known as “sexting.” The researchers of this study used a survey conducted on a website that allowed married participants to search for “sexual partners outside their marriage.” Results showed that most participants look for and often find sexual partners outside of marriage on the Internet, but are worried about being caught. Sexting is more popular with females while both online and real-life infidelity is common in both sexes. Among men, those in the older age group are more likely to cheat in actual life. The authors conclude that “standards of dating culture” are changing in the society.

Over the past two decades, along with the improvements and changes in communication systems like mobile phones, video cameras and Internet, there is also a major shift in the ways in which people get involved in relationships. The Internet alone has gathered a 399 percent rise in followers, worldwide, in the last decade. Through these avenues of communication, most people have met their spouses, sexual or platonic partners and have also fulfilled their sexual and other fantasies through online relationships. This study was conducted to analyze the behavior of individuals and their tendencies toward finding partners online and being unfaithful to their spouses. People involved in relationships on the Internet and over the mobile phone, using sexually explicit messages etc., were analyzed.

* A survey was placed by the researchers on the website, AshleyMadison.com, which is a dating service launched for married individuals or those in a committed relationship. This site allows the users to be unfaithful to their spouses and partners, and the users reveal their married or committed status without a fear of rejection.
* All the users of the site were asked a set of 68 questions. Of these, 20 questions were related to their level of Internet use, 33 questions were on sexual preferences, behaviors and attitudes towards sex on the Internet. Lastly, 15 questions sought details such as age, sex, occupation, etc.
* The survey had 5,187 respondents. Their responses to the questions were studied and analyzed statistically.

Key findings
* Results revealed that both men and women looked for and found sexual and other partners on the Internet. More than 66 percent respondents agreed that they met one or more real life dates after meeting them online. This was more common in women (82.8 percent) than in men (66.7 percent).
* Results also revealed that nearly 75 percent of the respondents found sexual partners via Internet. Of all the respondents, 66 percent reported to have found partners purely for sex. Men and women scored equally on this count.
* Half of the men did not leave trails of their infidelity after them, and did not want their real life partners to know of their unfaithful behavior.
* It was seen that nearly 60 percent of the respondents took part in both online sex and sex via mobile phones. Men (52.2 percent) were 1.5 times less likely than women (67.5 percent) to participate in cyber or cellular phone sex. Women (27.5 percent) on the other hand were 1.5 times more likely than men (18.4 percent) to indulge in both these behaviors.

Next steps/Shortcomings
Authors agree that not all the respondents of this survey were married. Of the sample population, 33 percent men and over 40 percent women were unmarried or not in a relationship. According to the authors, single individuals may have accessed the site in order to find married sexual partners. Thus, not all the respondents can be linked to infidelity, which the study had originally planned to explore.

This study shows that the change that has come about in communication systems and technology has also changed relationship-seeking behavior. This study primarily aimed at exploring online and mobile phone infidelities and attempted to seek sexual (virtual or real life) and dating partners. Using the online social networking and dating site, AshleyMadison.com, the authors of this study analyzed online relationship-seeking behaviors. The study showed that an increasing number of women and men are using online sites to find partners. Furthermore, the authors also noted that “respondents are more interested in real-life partners, rather than online-only partners” and a “physical, face-to face contact” is still the primary aim of communication, at least at some point of time in a relationship between individuals.

For More Information:
“Let My Fingers Do the Talking”: Sexting and Infidelity in Cyberspace
Publication Journal: Sexuality & Culture, March 2011
By Diane Kholos Wysocki; Cheryl D. Childers; University of Nebraska at Kearney and Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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