Sexting among British adults: a qualitative analysis of sexting as emotion work governed by 'feeling rules'

Macdowall, W. G. et al. (2022) Sexting among British adults: a qualitative analysis of sexting as emotion work governed by 'feeling rules'. Culture, Health and Sexuality, (doi: 10.1080/13691058.2022.2080866) (PMID:35674014) (Early Online Publication)

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Abstract

Sexting has generated considerable public and professional interest with concerns centring on young people, and potential harms to mental and sexual health. Little research thus far has explored the practice among adults and none has focused on the cultural norms relating to the emotional experience of sexting across different ages and genders. We conducted 40 semi-structured interviews with a diverse sample of adults aged 18-59 years in Britain on the role of digital technologies in participants’ sexual lives. In this paper, we draw on the accounts of 34 people with experience of sexting. We identified three main themes in participants’ accounts related to the emotional aspects of sexting: (1) trust, (2) desire/intimacy and (3) shame. Under each theme, we identified motivations, ‘feeling rules’, and examples of ‘emotion work’ relating to the self, the other and the dyad. We conclude that there are shared cultural norms that constitute what appropriate sexting should feel like. Interventions aiming to minimise harms arising from sexting need to build on commonly held cultural conventions regarding the ‘rules of the game’ concerning feelings as well as behaviours.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The Natsal Resource is supported by a grant from the Wellcome Trust (212931/Z/18/Z), with contributions from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). At time of research RRL, RBP and KRM are supported by the United Kingdom Medical Research Council [MC_UU_12017/11 and MC_UU_00022/3] and the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office [SPHSU11 and SPHSU18]. The views expressed in this output are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the funders. This research was funded in whole, or in part, by the Wellcome Trust [212931/Z/18/Z].
Status:Early Online Publication
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mitchell, Professor Kirstin and Bosó Pérez, Raquel and Maxwell, Dr Karen and Lewis, Dr Ruth
Authors: Macdowall, W. G., Reid, D. S., Bosó Pérez, R., Lewis, R., Mitchell, K., Maxwell, K. J., Smith, C., Attwood, F., Gibbs, J., Hogan, B., Mercer, C. H., Sonnenberg, P., and Bonell, C.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Culture, Health and Sexuality
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1369-1058
ISSN (Online):1464-5351
Published Online:07 June 2022

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727631Social Relationships & Health ImprovementLisa McDaidMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/11HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
3048231Relationships and healthKirstin MitchellMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_00022/3HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
727631Social Relationships & Health ImprovementLisa McDaidOffice of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSO)SPHSU11HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
3048231Relationships and healthKirstin MitchellOffice of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSO)SPHSU18HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit