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Why Couples Should Talk More During Sex, According To Science

Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
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.
Image by Leah Flores / Stocksy
April 14, 2019

Do you talk during sex?

And I don't mean before the sex starts or after it ends (although both are great things as well). I mean during the actual sex.

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If you're indeed a talker in bed, you're probably a lot happier with your sex life than the rest of us zipped-lipped fornicators. A new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy just found that people who communicate in bed tend to be more satisfied both sexually and in their relationships.

To clarify, you can certainly talk with your body: Nonverbal cues, including moving someone's hand where you want it to go, moaning when they do something you like, or shaking your head when something makes you uncomfortable, all count as forms of communication. Both verbal and nonverbal communication were associated with more communication satisfaction and thus more sexual satisfaction.

"Our findings suggest that use of verbal or nonverbal communication, specifically, is less significant to one's sexual satisfaction when individuals are satisfied with their sexual communication," the researchers wrote in the paper on their findings. "In other words, trying to ascribe to a particular communication style may be less important than simply being satisfied within a relationship with a particular communication style."

To reach these conclusions, researchers surveyed about 400 people about how often they communicated during sex, how they communicated (verbally and nonverbally), and how and how often their partner communicated. The partners also reported how happy they were with their sex lives, their relationship, and the sexual communication within their relationship. More communication of all kinds during sex (whether verbal or nonverbal and whether it was you talking or your partner talking) was associated with people being more satisfied with the levels of sexual communication in the relationship. And being satisfied with the communication was associated with being satisfied with the sex.

In other words, the more people communicate in bed, the better the sex is.

That might seem obvious, but think about it: How often do you speak actual words during? How often do you directly convey to your partner what you do and don't want while you're actually in the middle of the romp?

The researchers point to past studies that have suggested people can be really uncomfortable about ruining the mood or getting shut down if they speak up during a sexual encounter:

Some people believe that talking about sex will cause embarrassment or ruin a sexual mood. And some people may be concerned or fear their partner’s reaction to verbally communicating about sex. This fear, in turn, can inhibit open communication. In response to these fears, people may prefer more ambiguous communication in order ‘to test partner responses and save face if the partner does not respond positively.’ Indeed, couples report intentionally engaging in communication tactics to help ‘save face’ and avoid discomfort or embarrassment associated with direct verbal sexual communication. This may be particularly true during a sexual encounter. Given that individuals may be especially vulnerable when engaging in partnered sexual activity, the consequences of a negative partner reaction may have more impact than a negative reaction in a less vulnerable situation.

It's so important for us to move past these fears of negative reactions. The results of this study prove that everyone tends to be more pleased with sex when the communication is better, both with oneself talking and with one's partner talking. And there's nothing wrong with a good ol' nonverbal cue if that better suits you and helps keep you both in a sexual mood: "Nonverbal communication during sex is often perceived to be less awkward or less threatening than verbal communication," they write. "It may be less awkward or threatening for a woman to guide her partner's hand to her genitals rather than directing her partner verbally: 'Please touch my genitals.'"

Not that a direct ask is ever bad. Having a person you find attractive ask you to touch their anything can be a big turn-on if phrased the right way and spoken seductively. It can give both of you a little bit of confidence.

Clinical sexologist and sex therapist Cyndi Darnell tells mbg that communicating during sex is just a good way to tell your partner what you're into: "The silence means it's hard to read what their partner is experiencing, and while it needn't be a porno soundtrack, a little aural feedback is a great thing!"

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Kelly Gonsalves
Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor

Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.

You can stay in the loop about her latest programs, gatherings, and other projects through her newsletter: kellygonsalves.com/newsletter