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Relationship between alcohol use and sexting among college students

Sexting—sending or receiving sexually explicit text message content—is known to be related to college student’s alcohol use, but less is known about how they are linked.  The current study tested whether alcohol-related sex expectancies explain the relationship between drinking and sexting. Alcohol related expectancies are the beliefs a person has about the effects of alcohol.  Alcohol related sex expectancies are beliefs about how alcohol influences sex, including sexual arousal and sexual behavior.  Prior studies have found college students perceive alcohol increases sexual arousal and disinhibition.

The study authors surveyed 534 undergraduates about their alcohol-sex expectancies, alcohol use, alcohol-related problems, and sexting—specifically, requesting or sending naked photos.  They found alcohol use and related problems were associated with sex drive expectancies.  Sex drive expectancy was positively related to sexting. In other words, the pathway from alcohol use and problems to sexting is indirect.  Because sexting can be perceived incorrectly as consent for in-person sexual contact, the study findings inform the importance of targeting prevention and intervention programs to alcohol-sex expectancies and healthier text message practices.

Study limitations include low generalizability due to convenience sampling.  The study was correlational, so causal inferences cannot be made.

Take Away: Alcohol-sex expectancies are an area that campus professionals could target for prevention and intervention programs. Media campaigns could be designed to educate students about healthy and unhealthy sexting behaviors.

Florimbio, A.R., Brem, M.J., Garner, A.R., Grigorian, H.L. & Stuart, G.L. (2018). Alcohol-related sex expectancies explain the relation between alcohol use and sexting among college students. Computers in Human Behavior, 88, 205-209. doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2018.07.005

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