The “Sextual” Double Standard: An Experimental Examination of Variations in Judgments of Men and Women Who Engage in Computer-Mediated Sexual Communication

  • Carissa A. HarveyEmail author
  • Tiffany A. Harvey
  • Ashley E. Thompson
Original Paper


Although computer-mediated sexual communication (i.e., sexting) is a common behavior, research indicates that perceptions of sexting are generally negative. However, no research has attempted to quantitatively examine how perceptions of sexting vary according to the gender of the individuals involved. Thus, the current study investigated the endorsement of the sexual double standard (SDS; defined as the tendency to judge women more harshly than men for engaging in comparable sexual behavior) when evaluating hypothetical individuals who engage in sexting. A total of 949 U.S. adults (512 men, 438 women) participated in a between-subject experimental paradigm, in which they were randomly assigned to read one of 16 vignettes depicting a hypothetical sexting scenario and evaluate one of the individuals involved using three constructs of interest (morality, cognitive abilities, partner quality). The results provided no evidence of a SDS with respect to sexting, with hypothetical men and women being judged similarly on three constructs of interest. However, judgments of those who sext were largely influenced by the target’s role in the interaction (sender/receiver, requester/non-requester) and the familiarity of those involved (casual/committed partners). Hypothetical targets described as sexting with a casual partner and adopting an active role were judged as less moral, having lower cognitive abilities, and being poorer quality partners than those described as sexting a committed partner and adopting a passive role. Overall, these results indicate that the traditional SDS has given way to an egalitarian standard, perhaps due to recent societal shifts. Implications for investigators, educators, and practitioners are discussed.


Sexual double standard Computer-mediated sexual communication Sexting Sexual script theory 



This work was supported by a graduate student internal grant from the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Minnesota Institutional Review Board and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

 Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Minnesota DuluthDuluthUSA
  2. 2.John Jay College of Criminal JusticeNew YorkUSA

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