Half of sexters are lying, study shows

iStock

Next time you get a sext, don't get too excited. About half of people sending sexts are not doing what they say they're doing -- it's all a lie, according to a new study. And if you're in a committed relationship, the sexts are even more likely to be fabricated than if you're just having casual sex with your partner.

In a study of 155 college students, Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne researchers found that 37 percent of people who had been in a committed relationship and 48 percent of active sexters had lied about what they were wearing, doing, or both. As for casual sex partners, only 13 percent have lied.

Once associated with horny high schoolers -- they were even said to use the app SnapChat to send photos instead of just texting -- sexting is now common among the larger population. A McAfee study found that 70 percent of 18-24-year-olds have "received sexually explicitly texts, videos, or pictures."

But just because they're doing it, we can't assume they like it. In an earlier study, Drouin found that 55 percent of women and 48 percent of men have participated in "consensual or unwanted sexting."

After seeing those study results, Drouin tells CBS News she wondered, "If they're doing it and they don't want to, are they lying about it?" New York Magazine's Maureen O'Connor explained the world of sexting in her February feature, "Sexting's Strange Paradox: It's Just No Fun."

Drouin's latest study, published in the online journal Computers in Human Behavior, explains the reason to do something you don't like: 67 percent of the students lied because they wanted to make it better for their partner, while 33 percent did it for themselves. She compares it to faking an orgasm in face-to-face sex, adding that people who are insecure in their relationships or hesitant to get attached are more likely to do it.

Lying in a sext allows them to "keep an emotional distance while still fulfilling their partner," she says. "By not really engaging in the sexting, they're not really risking anything....and are less likely to become involved, attached, or dependent."

The results also showed that 45 percent of the women had lied, compared to 24 percent of men. This, too, lines up with research on faking an orgasm.

One of the reasons committed partners lie more often than those in casual situations could be that they also sext more often. Her earlier research showed that 78 percent of committed partners have sent a text-based sext (this figure does not include photos or video), compared to 63 percent of casual sex partners.

This could be because casual sex partners are afraid that a partner will forward the message on to someone else -- understandably so, as 15 percent of casual partners forward messages on, compared to 3 percent of committed partners -- but it is more likely, Drouin says, that the people in committed relationships are more concerned with pleasing their partners. People in casual relationships are not invested enough to even put in the effort of lying.

"I mean there's a whole lot of face-to-face sexual deception, they fake orgasm or they pretend enthusiasm," she says. As for the reasons why, "it's the same thing, a lot of them are doing it to serve their partners."

While the study only looked at sexting, Druoin says it applies to overall communication.

"It's the basic idea of, how much do we think people are lying via text?" she says. Her next study, to be conducted this spring, will focus on whether people trust regular texts. In this age of constand communication, of expecting everyone to have their phones on them at all times, do we still believe someone who says, "Sorry, I was in a movie. I didn't see your text until just now."

"[Texting] is a medium rife for lying. This is sex, but how much is this medium increasing lying and increasing the perception that someone is lying?" she explains.

For now, Drouin has only published the details on the lying habits of committed partners. She is planning to do a follow-up study to verify the data on casual sex partners.

  • Danielle Elliot On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Danielle Elliot is a freelance science editor and reporter for CBS News. She holds an M.A. in science and health journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. in broadcast journalism from the University of Maryland. Follow her on Twitter - @daniellelliot.

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.