A new study purports to show that women are actually more likely to engage in sexting than men are. But a closer look reveals a different picture of the findings.
According to the Times, sociologists surveyed over 5,000 people and found that two-thirds of the women had sent naked pictures or sexy texts, compared to only half of men. But the survey participants were somewhat unusual: all were users of the infidelity website Ashley Madison. Not only that, but they had volunteered to complete the survey, as opposed to being randomly selected — as Pamela Paul of the Times notes, "this is called self-selection and makes generalizing about the entire population unreliable." So really, what the study tells us is just that female Ashley Madison users who decided to fill out a survey admitted to sexting more than male users who filled out the same survey.
As Paul points out, though, even this relatively narrow result isn't without value. The researchers also found that women "were less likely to be anxious about being caught looking at sexually explicit material and less cautious than men about sweeping up their cybertrails." Are ladies less embarrassed about their cheating habits, including sexting? Female cheating is certainly stigmatized, but maybe women see fewer examples of their gender being publicly dragged through the mud, and so are less fearful of this treatment (most famous cheaters in recent months have been dudes). Maybe, as Erica Jong told Anna Holmes in her column on female infidelity, they see cheating as rebellious. Or maybe female Ashley Madison users are just more iconoclastic and uninhibited than male ones. Whatever the case, the survey is an interesting twist on the recent trend of online dating research. And it shows that, at least in one specialized population, women are outsexting men.