Baring All Online: How Sexting Shapes Young Adults’ Social Bonds
Sexting (broadly defined here as the electronic sharing of nude or semi-nude images) is an increasingly common element of American society. It is visible in studies on online dating and digital abuse, the law, news coverage of publicized scandals, and references in television, films, and novels. However, our collective understanding of sexting often involves a rigid dichotomy that separates sexting into two categories: flirtation or harassment, love or revenge, consensual or nonconsensual, and victim or perpetrator. As a result, the ways in which individuals actually engage in sexting remains opaque.
How do young people sext? What separates a satisfying sexting interaction from an unsatisfying one? And is sexting really just about sex? Baring All Online will answer these questions using in-depth survey and interview data that explore how college students think about and engage in sexting. The book exposes how young people use nude images to bond with one another and how these bonding rituals may challenge or uphold gender inequalities.
Baring All Online is the only comprehensive study of sexting that explores how and why young people share nude images and the consequences of these actions, drawing attention to how sexting interactions vary across contexts and relationships. Using the stories told by my interviewees, I show how young people use nude images to build and break social bonds. It may not be surprising that sexting plays some role in how young people pursue and end romantic relationships online. As technology has become more engrained into our social lives, intimate relationships frequently include digital communication. The book’s shocking conclusion is that, in line with Durkheim’s work on religious rituals, sexting is not only responsible for bonding romantic partners to one another, it also bonds society together.