By now, you’ve likely heard about sexting–you know, where you send a sexy text, photo, or video?  Google sexting and your results will mostly tell you the hazards involved. On the other hand, the website Real Simple had some easy tips for improving your relationship, and one of them was to “send a spicy text message” to your partner.  I have to say that I was intrigued at Real Simple’s scientific claim that couples who engage in sexting have greater sexual satisfaction. Before all you non-sexter couples go installing Snap Chat, let me say that I decided to fact-check this for those of you who don’t read scientific journals for fun. (What DO you do for fun!?) Unfortunately, the results of the studies on adults sexting in committed relationships aren’t that compelling (and are limited to heterosexual couples in the US).

If you’ve been in a committed relationship a while, there’s only a 3 in 10 chance that you and your partner ever send sexy messages to each other and a 1 in 10 chance you send sexy pictures or videos. If you have teen children, maybe you are concerned about the idea of them sexting. You have every reason to be. More like 9 out of 10 teens and young adults sext, and it’s risky to send sexually explicit texts or images to somebody with whom you are not committed. Here’s a few reasons why:

If you’re under 18, it’s child porn, which is illegal to produce, disseminate, or possess (this includes underage kids who send pictures of themselves to someone).  Also, if you have any doubt whether the recipient wants to receive a sext, it can feel violating to the other person and you can get in trouble. If the relationship ever goes south, you can’t unsend those messages, although to share them with others for revenge is illegal. But laws don’t deter criminals pretending to be romantically interested in you from using messages to extort or blackmail or recruit someone in sex trafficking (which is a rampant problem in Northern Virginia, by the way). There’s no way to guarantee privacy on cyberspace, either.

Below, I’m leaving links to three peer-reviewed studies. The results pretty much line up with studies on teens and young adults and say that for healthy committed couples, sexting is not correlated with more relationship satisfaction. And doing it even more often doesn’t seem to help. There is also a trend for attachment-avoidant men, in particular, to get gratification from explicit images and avoid more meaningful connection, as well as a trend for attachment-anxious women, in particular, to rely on sexy texts to keep their partners close for fear that they will lose interest. Neither of these are sound strategies, so don’t rely on explicit messages to make up for relationship insecurity–or deeper relationship discord. A couple’s therapist can help with that!

I’m not trying to lay out all the reasons against sexting. I was actually interested to know if it can boost relationship and sexual satisfaction. As far as I can tell, no one has studied whether starting to send more sexy messages will improve your connection. However, research and common wisdom suggest that initiating lots of little loving gestures every day is the best relationship food. Maybe sexting is a way to keep connected and interested in each other, even as you go about your separate busy lives. It could also be a way to encourage fantasy within your relationship so that when you want to have sex, it doesn’t feel like some strange or perfunctory activity detached from any romantic context. Don’t make things weird, okay, but you can have fun with each other and keep things interesting (and respectful and genuine). If texting at all is not of your generation or not your style as a couple, there’s nothing stopping you from leaving good old fashioned love notes or random phone calls throughout the day.