We know that American teenagers have always under-reported on surveys that gauge sexual activity and drug use, so we can be pretty sure that what mainstream media has termed the “shocking frequency” of so-called sexting has been, so to speak, lowballed as well.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy teamed up with hard-hitting research partner, um, cosmogirl.com more than a year ago in order to study this rapidly spreading sextidemic. The resulting study concludes that 20 percent of teens have sent nude images of themselves via text (or “sext”) message.
Even if 20 percent was accurate in the 2008 survey, we can be sure it’s more pervasive now. For one thing, the media’s obsession with proving that everyone is doing it has undoubtedly made many more teens try it. For another, mobile phones have continued to proliferate and, happily for budding sexting aficionados, the camera quality of phones has dramatically improved.
It’s hard to see what the big deal is: Teens have always been friskier than staid parents who were once frisky teens would like to believe. When parents panic because the media reports that teens are “hooking up,” ie, having casual sexual encounters, it’s more like a time warp than a cause for concern. And if sending intimate asides from phone to phone has usurped the pick-up line, that’s no less natural a progression than ordering a round of cosmos instead of Cutty Sarks—things change, if only stylistically.
Last November, AARP published an article claiming that sexting is popular with the senior set as well. Suddenly, it’s not only teens who are using provocative images as a prelude to hooking up, but horny hustlers with hip replacements also are out to score some nursing-home nooky.
Where does that leave the 20-, 30- and 40-somethings stuck in the middle? Are we the silent majority whose sextual exploits and fickle fondlings are too predictable to make the news? Or are us in-betweeners too prude to get e-crude and pursue casual coitus?
SFR hit the bars to gauge the personal and digital pick-up habits of post-teen, pre-pension Santa Feans. Interview subjects were granted anonymity.
20-something blond with 40-something fashion sense:
Have you ever used a pick-up line or had one used on you? I don’t really get picked up. Or, at least, it takes awhile—multiple interactions—a seduction.
What does hooking up mean to you? It means going home with somebody. I mean, I assume a hook up means sex.
Are you into sexting? No.
Unemployed actor staring down the barrel of 30 years old:
The pick up? I’ve never used a pick-up line.
The hook up? It’s a po-mo reaction to a meta-sexual existence. I didn’t really grow up with the term but I think I’ve caught up to it. Or it’s caught up to me. Or something.
Sexting? Never done it. Now phone sex…
Flirtatious sprite with mismatched socks:
The pick up? Do you come here often? I’ve actually said that and it’s actually worked.
The hook up? I’ve hooked up. It can range from sex to, well, I mean, it’s usually sex—and usually after a night of drunkenness.
Sexting? I’m not into it. I’d prefer to get down to it in person. I mean, are phones so ingrained that we now have to use them for sex too?
Sensible shoes, backpack that could only belong to a college student:
The pick up? I don’t pick people up. I tend to get into heavy relationships. But if I liked someone, I would walk over to them and say ‘I like you.’ Is that a pick-up line?
The hook up? It’s definitely a concept I grew up with, even if it wasn’t always called that, but I’ve never really understood it or even known how I’d go about it.
Sexting? Yes. Yes. Oh, yeah.
Exotic and ageless girl with a penchant for canned beer:
The pick up? No.
The hook up? Hooking up can be anything from making out to sex as long as it really doesn’t matter. I mean, it might matter later, but it doesn’t really mean much at the time. It’s a moment of freedom.
Very pretty man with a carefully placed cap:
The pick up? Yes. No. I don’t know. I think so.
The hook up? It’s artfully vague, isn’t it? It can really mean anything that it’s convenient for it to mean.
Sexting? No, not really.
Sweatshirt, headphones, mid-20s permanent brood:
The pick up? No. I was raised by my grandmother and I think I ended up with a different set of values.
The hook up? It’s kind of an anonymous sexual encounter.
Sexting? No. I’d rather see and hear it in person.
Girl who says “I hear you’re interviewing people…want to do me?”
The pick up? Yeah. I’ve used ‘nice shoes…wanna fuck?’
The hook up? Yeah, hook up, get together, go home with someone—it’s always been around.
Sexting? I’m still kind of stuck on the phone sex.
Older intense dude with a twitch:
The pick up? Yeah. I said, ‘I just made love to you with my eyes. Want to do it again?’
The hook up? That’s just what people do, right? Sometimes we hook up for 20 minutes and sometimes we hook up for 60 years.
Sexting? Dude, there was this girl from Argentina…
Man more interested in his phone than anyone else:
The pick up? No, I’ve never used a pick-up line. Well, I mean, I’ve never used one successfully.
The hook up? It’s a make-out session.
Sexting? Hey, yeah…just last weekend for the first time.
40ish, elegant woman with a complicated cocktail:
The pick up? Um, probably one’s been used on me. More than one. Quite a few.
The hook up? Everybody knows what hooking up is. I can vouch for history here: Today’s youth did not invent hooking up.
Sexting? Sexting, phone sex, dirty email—I do all of it. I’ll get hot and bothered with a couple of tin cans and some string.
So if a random sampling of anonymous Santa Feans can be called credible, sexting is a fact of life across all age ranges, even if it’s most popular with teens, senior citizens and Tiger Woods.
Despite media hype, not much has changed in terms of sex throughout human history. Hooking up has been around at least since tool-using Eastern agrarian dudes ran into European hunter-gatherer chicks, so the pick-up line will never die, even if it comes out as “Can I CU L8er 2nite?”