Sextually aroused: A mixed-methods analysis of how it feels for romantic and sexual partners to send and receive sext messages

Joseph M. Currin, Molly E. Ireland, Kassidy Cox, Brittney L. Golden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Individuals who engage in sexting are primarily motivated by the desire to initiate sex with their sexting partner. The bulk of the research into sexting, however, focuses on potential negative consequences or societal concerns about participating in the behavior. The current study took a mixed-methods approach to assessing the feelings that adults experience when sending and/or receiving sext messages. A total of 405 participants (54.8% men) who identified as participating in sexting behaviors with their relationship partner(s) in the past 12 months responded to open-ended prompts that explored their feelings when sending or receiving a sext message from their partner(s). Qualitative text coding identified eight themes (excited 42.0%, good 23.3%, anxious 10.2%, wanted 8.8%, naughty 6.1%, connected 4.1%, loved 2.7%, and negative 2.7%). Excitement was mentioned most frequently, typically in conjunction with other feelings, with over one-third of respondents who mentioned feeling anxious, naughty, good, or wanted also mentioning feeling excited. Quantitative text analyses revealed that people who were more attracted to the same sex wrote more about sexting using more explicit and complex language, with higher rates of biological (particularly sexual) words (e.g., aroused, sex) and negations (e.g., never, not). Heterosexual men used more present-tense verbs (e.g., am, feels). Results suggest that sexting tends to be a complex but often arousing and positive experience, with subtle differences in perspective across the sexes and the sexual orientation continuum.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106519
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Language
  • Mixed-methods
  • Sexting
  • Sexual orientation
  • Text messaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Sextually aroused: A mixed-methods analysis of how it feels for romantic and sexual partners to send and receive sext messages'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this