Abstract: Consensual and Non-Consensual Sexting: Prevalence and Characteristics Among US University Students (Society for Prevention Research 27th Annual Meeting)

669 Consensual and Non-Consensual Sexting: Prevalence and Characteristics Among US University Students

Friday, May 31, 2019
Grand Ballroom A (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Megan K. Maas, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Kyla M. Cary, MS, Doctoral Student, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Introduction: Individuals’ time online has increased exponentially in the last decade, with reports indicating up to 11 hours per day on internet-connected mobile devices for those between the ages of 14-25 1. Since this rise in mobile device use, researchers have focused on assessing the prevalence and characteristics of ‘sexting’. However, recent studies have done little to distinguish between consensual and non-consensual sexting experiences. This distinction is especially important when comparing sexting experiences with minors vs. young adults. Given that sexual behavior is normative in emerging adulthood, the risks associated with sexting are likely tied to the nonconsensual distribution of sexts, rather than the act of exchanging sexts with a romantic partner. This proposal seeks to identify the prevalence of different consensual and nonconsensual sexting experiences as well as examine key risk factors and individual differences in these experiences.

Method: To investigate these aims, we surveyed heterosexual college students (N = 1,982; 63% non-HL white, 21% non-HL black, and 9% Hispanic/Latino; 53% female) on a range of risk factors: (1) Gender-based violence victimization-which included lifetime forced sexual assault, coerced sexual assault, or a variety of intimate partner violence experiences; (2) Frequency of pornography used alone over the last 12-months; and (3) use of the social media/dating app Tinder.

Results: Those who engaged in consensual sexting (sending a nude or semi-nude image to someone else via social media, app, or text) were more likely to be female, have experienced gender-based violence, be in a relationship, use pornography and tinder, and less likely to participate in team sports, particularly if female. Those who engaged in non-consensual sexting (posting a nude image or video of someone to social media without their consent, or visiting a secret social media “slut page”) were more likely to be male, use pornography and Tinder, participate in a fraternity or sorority, and participate in team sports, especially if male.

Conclusions: Participation in consensual versus non-consensual sexting varies by gender, athletic and Greek Life participation, as well as sexual media use. Our findings are consistent with prior research on predictors of sexual violence perpetration. Thus, sexual assault prevention programming should address nonconsensual sexting as a means of aggression. Prevention programming should also include sexting education as a means of increasing engagement and relevancy of media literacy and sexuality education programing for digital native youth in a post #MeToo era.