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How to Best Talk About Sex, Research

How to Best Talk About Sex, Research


One of the most important things in sustaining  a good relationship, and a sexual relationship for that matter, is good communication. But what exactly is good communication when it comes to sex? How should we talk about sex to our partners?

Hess and Coffelt (2012) have investigated how married couples talk to each other about sex, whether men and women use different types of communication, and how certain types of communication can affect relationship satisfaction. The results of a study among 293 individuals from heterosexual marriages (mean age of 40) showed that married couples use different types of communication, which could for instance be labeled slang, clinical terms, and ordinary sexual terms or erotic terms. Overall, sexual verbal communication was not used  very by married couples. The clinical terms, which lacked relational or emotional connotation, were used the least often. The authors suggest that married people may rely more heavily on nonverbal codes to convey sexual meaning (Hess & Coffelt, 2012).

Sex talk did not differ much between men and women, although men used somewhat more crude slang. The relationship with sexual satisfaction did differ between the sexes, however. Specifically, men’s use of everyday sexual terms was associated with their relational satisfaction and closeness, whereas their use of erotic terms was related to closeness. For women, use of everyday and slang terms was associated with communication satisfaction and relational satisfaction, and use of all terms was related to closeness (Hess & Coffelt, 2012).

What you say, and how you say it, gives certain meaning to a situation or an event. In a sexual situation, you can express activity, passivity, intimacy, distance just by choosing certain types of words. But at the same time, how you talk about sex doesn’t even seem to matter that much– for women, nearly all types of communication were associated with relationship satisfaction. Although, it should be noted that these findings are all correlational. It could be that more satisfied couples feel more comfortable to talk about sex, and thus are more likely use all types of sexual communication. Either way, it seems that Salt-n-Pepa have given us good relationship advice when they sang “let’s talk about sex, baby”.

Reference: Hess, J., & Coffelt, T. (2012). Verbal Communication about Sex in Marriage: Patterns of Language Use and Its Connection with Relational Outcomes Journal of Sex Research, 49 (6), 603-612 DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2011.619282

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