Sex Q&A

Sex Question Friday: Sexting, Pheromones, and Asexuality

July 26, 2013 by Justin Lehmiller

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week, we’re talking about the frequency of sexting, the effect of pheromones on sexual attraction, and how many people are asexual.

How common is “sexting” among college students?

“Sexting,” or the practice of sending nude or sexually explicit photos of oneself via text messaging is a relatively common practice among young adults. As some evidence of this, a recent study of nearly 3,500 men and women aged 18-24 found that approximately 1 in 3 participants reported having sent nude photos of themselves by either text or e-mail [1]. Specifically, 29% had engaged in two-way sexting (i.e., sending and receiving), 13% had received (but not sent) sexts, and 2% had sent (but not received) sexts. Among those participants who were sexually active, there were no differences between sexters and non-sexters in number of sexual partners and frequency of unprotected sex, so it doesn’t seem to be the case that sexting promotes riskier behaviors. Studies of adolescents have found much lower rates of sexting, so this is a behavior that appears to be more common in the college crowd.

Do pheromones play a role in human sexual behavior?

A growing amount of research lends support to the idea that chemicals secreted through humans’ sweat glands can affect their sexual behavior. For instance, in two recent experiments, men and women were randomly assigned to apply either a synthetic pheromone or a placebo solution to their skin for a period of several weeks [2,3]. Across both sexes, those who wore the pheromone solution ended up having more sex than those who wore the placebo! To learn more about these and other studies of human pheromones, check out this article.

How common is asexuality in our society?

Asexuality is the term used to describe an individual who does not have any interest in or desire for partnered sexual activity. It is distinct from celibacy, in which people intentionally abstain from sexual activity for a variety of religious or personal reasons. Instead, asexuality is a sexual orientation, or an enduring pattern of sexual attraction and behavior. Results from a national probability sample in Britain put the percentage of asexuals at 1% of the population [4]. To learn more about asexuality, check out this article.

For past Sex Question Friday posts, see here. Want to learn more about The Psychology of Human Sexuality? Click here for a complete list of articles or like the Facebook page to get articles delivered to your newsfeed.

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[1] Gordon-Messer, D., Bauermeister, J.A., Grodzinski, A., & Zimmerman, M. (in press). Sexting among young adults. Journal of Adolescent Health.

[2] Cutler, W. B., Friedmann, E., & McCoy, N. L. (1998). Pheromonal influences on sociosexual behaviour in men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 27, 1–13.

[3] McCoy, N. L, & Pitino, L. (2002). Pheromonal influences on sociosexual behaviour in young women. Physiological Behavior, 75, 367–375.

[4] Bogaert, A. F. (2004). Asexuality: Prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 279-287.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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