The Surprising Benefits Of Talking About Sex With Your Friends
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex educator, relationship coach, and journalist. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
When it comes to improving our sex life, we're told over and over how important it is to talk to our partner about our desires, turn-ons, worries, ideal frequency, and every other little detail. Communication is crucial to making sure both partners are satisfied with every encounter and are maximizing their pleasure; one recent study found both members of a couple were more pleased with their sex lives and their relationships the more each person communicated about their sexual needs.
But according to a new study in the International Journal of Sexual Health, it's not just talking to your partner about sex that matters. Talking about sex with your squad is also crucial.
Researchers surveyed over 600 women about a handful of their sexual behaviors, how often they talked to their women friends about sex, and what those conversations involved—such as general support and encouragement, advice about specific sexual activities, and advice about STIs and birth control, to name a few. The study found that women who talked more with their friends about this stuff also tended to have more of two specific qualities: more sexual self-esteem, meaning they felt way more confident about how they express themselves and perform in bed, and more self-efficacy, meaning they felt more confident about protecting their sexual health and asking for what they needed to feel safer.
Let's be clear here: Those are two huge benefits! Not only are these conversations just a great way to bond with the people in our lives, but it seems they're also making us more confident and able to assert our needs when it comes to sex. These findings prove just how powerful it can be to share even the most intimate parts of ourselves with the people we care about.
"The relationship between sexual self-esteem and expressive sexual communication is not surprising, given that expressive communication is about encouragement and other confidence-building communications," writes Katrina L. Pariera, Ph.D., a George Washington University communications professor who led the study. "Women may also benefit from exposure to sexual scripts that promote sexual agency and assertiveness."
And by the way, the women in the study were an average of 36 years old, so we're not just talking about teen girls giggling about crushes at a sleepover here. If you're someone who tends to be pretty unsure or anxious during sex, consider reaching out to a close friend and opening up some sincere dialogue about what's going on. You don't even necessarily need to ask for help or advice—the study found the majority of women mostly talked to express themselves and simply seek encouragement and validation about their own experiences. Everyone can benefit from knowing they're not the only ones going through something weird behind closed doors; it's a great way to turn something that you might feel embarrassed about into something you can laugh about and grow from.
"The current study adds to mounting evidence that peer sex education is a promising avenue for promoting sexual health and wellness," Dr. Pariera writes. "Silence begets shame and misinformation."
In a country like America, where comprehensive sexual education is seriously lacking, it looks like plain ol' word-of-mouth information sharing might be an effective way of disseminating knowledge about safer sex.
You know what that means: Time to crack open a bottle of wine and get the squad together for some real talk.
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