FRIDAY, Aug. 5, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Most people who "sext" expect their erotic images and messages to remain private, but nearly one in four recipients shares them, a new study finds.
Researchers surveyed more than 5,800 single Americans aged 21 to 75. Twenty-one percent said they had sent sexual text messages on their cellphone; 28 percent had received them. Sixteen percent had sent sexual photos and more than 23 percent had received such images.
Sexting was more common among younger people, the findings showed. Men were 1.5 times more likely than women to sext. Of those who had sent provocative images or texts, 66 percent of men and 78 percent of women did so to flirt with a relationship partner.
But privacy is an issue. While 73 percent oppose unauthorized sharing of sexts, 23 percent of recipients said they had done so -- with more than three friends, on average, according to the researchers.
Sharing was more troubling to women than to men, and men were almost twice as likely to share explicit images and messages, the study found.
"There has been a lot of public concern about sexting practices, but there hasn't been enough research examining whether these concerns are justified, examining how people perceive and experience the relative costs and benefits of sexting," said study leader Justin Garcia. He is an assistant professor for gender studies and a research scientist at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.
The study shows "that the real risk of sexting is the potential for non-consensual sharing of sext messages," Garcia said in a university news release.
He added: "It raises the question that if someone sends something to you with the presumption that it's private and then you share it with others -- which, when it comes to sexting, nearly one out of every four single Americans are doing -- what do we want to consider that type of violation? Is it just bad taste? Is it criminal?"
The report was published online recently in the journal Sexual Health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on youngsters and sexting.