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Pillow Talk: Exploring Disclosures After Sexual Activity

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Abstract

Drawing on physiological research, this study explores disclosures after sexual activity, or “pillow talk.” Oxytocin, better known as the “bonding hormone,” has been associated with physical affection and intimacy. While the hormone was originally studied for its role in childbirth, recent work has started to explore oxytocin's other effects, such as decreasing stress, decreasing perceptions of social threat, increasing bonding, and increasing the ability to read emotional cues. Together with the literature on affection exchange theory (Floyd, Judd, & Hesse, 200820. Floyd , K. , Judd , J. , & Hesse , C. ( 2008 ). Affection exchange theory: A bio-evolutionary look at affectionate communication . In L. A. Baxter & B. M. Montgomery (Eds.), Engaging theories in interpersonal communication (pp. 285 – 294 ). Thousand Oaks , CA : Sage . [CrossRef]View all references), several hypotheses regarding characteristics of disclosures after sexual activity were tested. This study found that disclosing positive feelings for one's partner after sexual activity is positively associated with trust, relationship satisfaction, and closeness. Additionally, women who experienced orgasm disclosed significantly more than both men who orgasmed and women who did not reach orgasm. Lastly, individuals in monogamous/committed relationships engaged in more disclosures after sexual activity and experienced more positive outcomes from such disclosures than individuals in casual/open relationships.
Pillow Talk: Exploring Disclosures
After Sexual Activity
Amanda Denes
Drawing on physiological research, this study explores disclosures after sexual activity, or
‘‘pillow talk.’’ Oxytocin, better known as the ‘‘bonding hormone,’’ has been associated
with physical affection and intimacy. While the hormone was originally studied for its
role in childbirth, recent work has started to explore oxytocin’s other effects, such as
decreasing stress, decreasing perceptions of social threat, increasing bonding, and increas-
ing the ability to read emotional cues. Together with the literature on affection exchange
theory (Floyd, Judd, & Hesse, 2008), several hypotheses regarding characteristics of
disclosures after sexual activity were tested. This study found that disclosing positive
feelings for one’s partner after sexual activity is positively associated with trust, relation-
ship satisfaction, and closeness. Additionally, women who experienced orgasm disclosed
significantly more than both men who orgasmed and women who did not reach orgasm.
Lastly, individuals in monogamous=committed relationships engaged in more disclosures
after sexual activity and experienced more positive outcomes from such disclosures than
individuals in casual=open relationships.
Keywords: Affection Exchange Theory; Disclosure; Oxytocin; Physiology; Sex and
Communication
A body of literature exists regarding the ways that stress can lead to disclosure (e.g.,
Stiles, 1987; Stiles, Shuster, & Harrigan, 1992). Much of this work from the Fever
Model (Stiles) explores how anxiety is produced when individuals keep important
information inside. This anxiety builds like a fever, eventually leading to disclosure.
However, far less work exists on how feelings of comfort and decreases in stress may
Amanda Denes is a doctoral student in the Department of Communication at the University of California, Santa
Barbara. Correspondence to: Amanda Denes, Department of Communication, 4005 Social Sciences & Media
Studies Building, Mail Code 4020, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.
E-mail: Amanda.Denes@gmail.com
Western Journal of Communication
Vol. 76, No. 2, March–April 2012, pp. 91–108
ISSN 1057-0314 (print)/ISSN 1745-1027 (online) # 2012 Western States Communication Association
DOI: 10.1080/10570314.2011.651253
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also facilitate disclosure. It is possible that when individuals experience decreases in
stress and increases in intimacy, they may disclose information regarding their feel-
ings for their partners. Specifically, when individuals engage in intimate behaviors
with relational partners, feelings of comfort, security, and trust may counteract the
risks of expressing their feelings and result in greater relational disclosures.
One particular context in which this is likely to occur is after sexual intimacy
between partners. Researchers have found that after sexual activity, individuals
experience increases in the hormone oxytocin (Carmichael et al., 1987). Oxytocin
has a number of beneficial effects, including decreases in aggressive behavior and
stress and increases in nonverbal affection, trust and social recognition (Guastella,
Mitchell, & Dadds, 2008; Kosfeld, Heinrichs, Zak, Fischbacher, & Fehrl, 2005; Lim
& Young, 2006). These responses may together create a safe haven for sharing
intimate feelings with romantic partners, and will likely facilitate disclosure and
relationship development.
Affection exchange theory (AET) presents one avenue for understanding why
physical affection in the form of sexual activity may be beneficial (Floyd et al.,
2008). AET posits that affectionate behaviors may aid in relationship development
as well as provide positive physical effects such as increased immune functioning
and decreased stress (Floyd et al., 2008). AET takes an evolutionary approach to
understanding why ‘‘touch’’ can, and perhaps sexual activity may, be beneficial to
individuals’ well-being and relationship development. Overall, research suggests that
sex may have a number of benefits for individuals. Smith, Frankel, and Yarnell (1997)
found that individuals with high orgasmic frequency had a 50% lower mortality risk
for deaths from coronary heart disease. Greater frequency of penile-vaginal inter-
course has also been associated with lower levels of alexithymia (an inability to recog-
nize and communicate emotions) for women, greater heart rate variability, and lower
resting blood pressure (Brody, 2003; Brody & Preut, 2003; Brody, Veit, & Rau, 2000).
In addition to these positive physical benefits, there may also be benefits to the way
individuals communicate immediately following sexual activity. However, communi-
cation scholars have yet to understand how individuals communicate after sexual
intimacy when engaging in ‘‘pillow talk.’’ Pillow talk is conceptualized as the conver-
sations that occur after sexual activity (Veenestra, 2007). It is the communicative
element of afterglow, which is the ‘‘blissful period of physical and mental relaxation
after orgasm’’ (Veenestra, 2007, p. 39). Veenestra explains that pillow talk involves
intimate communication and often occurs while romantic partners are still in bed.
While no scholarly definition of pillow talk exists, in this study pillow talk is defined
as the communication between two individuals after they engage in some form of
sexual activity with one another. Though definitions like those from Veenestra
may imply that pillow talk always involves the expression of positive sentiment, it
is possible that pillow talk may also involve the expression of negative sentiment.
This study attempts to explore the characteristics and outcomes of pillow talk.
Who engages in pillow talk? Does the type of sexual activity influence the amount
of pillow talk? How is the relationship status of the partners related to not only
pillow talk, but whether or not there are positive outcomes associated with such
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communication? Overall, this study contributes to our understanding of disclosure as
not just a response to stress and rumination, but also as a response to sexual activity.
Physiological Responses to Sexual Activity
A large body of research exists regarding physiological responses to sexual activity,
mainly centered on the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin has long been known to be
released by mothers during childbirth, but recent research has explored the hor-
mone’s relationship with orgasm and sexual activity. Carmichael et al. (1987) showed
that both men and women experience increases from baseline oxytocin levels after
sexual arousal. The hormone has also been specifically linked to female sexual arou-
sal. Blaicher et al. (1999) found that women’s oxytocin levels significantly increased 1
minute after orgasm, and then decreased 5 minutes later. The question still exists,
though, as to how such physiological changes may influence communication beha-
viors after sexual activity.
Effects of Oxytocin
Several studies have found that oxytocin has implications for interpersonal behaviors,
but none have specifically explored communication outcomes. For example,
researchers have found that oxytocin decreases aggressive behavior and enhances
approach behavior and social recognition abilities (Lim & Young, 2006). Similarly,
Domes, Heinrichs, Michel, Berger, and Herpertz (2007) found that individuals given
a nasal dose of oxytocin were better able to read ocular emotional cues from others.
Guastella et al. (2008) further tested oxytocin’s effect on eye gaze and found that
individuals given oxytocin were more fixated on the areas of the face most important
for interpersonal communication. Specifically, individuals gazed longer into the eyes
of neutral faces (an area that Guastella et al. point out as pivotal for assessing
emotional cues, interpersonal interest, and social threat), as well as the mouth and
nose regions.
This increased social behavior may be connected to other studies that have found
that oxytocin decreases fear and increases trust (e.g., Huber, Veinante, & Stoop, 2005;
Kosfeld et al., 2005). This decrease in fear and increase in trust has also been linked to
brain functioning. Kirsch et al. (2005) connected oxytocin to brain activation
mechanisms involved in perceiving social threat. They found that oxytocin reduced
amygdala activation (an area of the brain associated with fear). Thus, researchers
have suggested that oxytocin puts individuals at ease by reducing social threat cues
(Kirsch et al.).
Decreases in perceptions of social threat may also influence risk assessments.
Waldherr and Neumann (2007) found that male rats engaged in riskier behaviors
postorgasm (after increases in oxytocin levels), but the same result did not occur
when oxytocin was blocked. However, Waldherr and Neumann suggested that in
humans, men may simply nod off postcoital in response to oxytocin surges, due to
the stress-reducing effect of the hormone. Lancel, Kro
¨
mer, and Neumann (2003) also
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found that under stress-free conditions, oxytocin can induce sleep in male nonhuman
mammals. Thus, postorgasm stress decreases may result in sleep for men.
The stress-reducing effects of oxytocin have also been linked to decreases in the
stress hormone cortisol (Legros, 2001; Legros, Chiodera, & Geenen, 1988; Legros,
Chiodera, Geenen, Smitz, & von Frenckell, 1984; Legros, Chiodera, Geenen, &
von Frenckell, 1987). While this connection has been widely tested, its influence
on communication has only recently been explored. Ditzen et al. (2009) tested oxy-
tocin’s effect on communication and stress responses for couples. The researchers
had couples come into the lab and took baseline cortisol measurements of the part-
icipants. Partners then rated areas of couple conflict. In a double-blind design, cou-
ples either took five intranasal sprays of synthetic oxytocin or a placebo, and
proceeded to discuss two of the conflict issues they listed. Salivary cortisol measures
were taken postdiscussion. Individuals who received oxytocin showed significant
decreases in cortisol compared with the placebo group. Ditzen et al. concluded that
oxytocin indeed has prosocial and pair-bonding effects as well as stress-buffering
benefits. Oxytocin may therefore play an important role in decreasing stress levels
and helping couples to bond with one another.
Oxytocin, Relationship Development, and Affection Exchange
This research has led scientists to suggest that increases in oxytocin levels may play an
important role in relationship development and maintenance in humans (e.g., Bartz
& Hollander, 2006). This pair bonding is also at the heart of affection exchange
theory (AET; Floyd et al., 2008). The third proposition of AET posits that affectionate
behavior may aid in pair bonding and mate selection by connecting affectionate
behavior with the attainment of two subgoals: obtaining resources (both material
and emotional) and demonstrating reproductive fitness (Floyd et al., 2008). More
specifically, AET states that ‘‘affectionate communication is adaptive with respect
to human viability and fertility’’ (Floyd et al., 2008, p. 286). Thus, sexual activity
between partners and the expression of affectionate feelings in this context may be
one way that individuals engage in relationship development.
Relationship development is one of the primary goals of disclosure described by
Derlega and Grzelak (1979). Derlega and Grzelak outlined self-expression, self-
clarification, social validation, relationship development, and social control as the
five basic functions of disclosure. Since sexual activity often occurs between two indi-
viduals with a romantic interest in one another, relationship development is likely a
salient goal of postsexual activity disclosure, which falls in line with Derlega and
Grzelak’s argument that all disclosure is strategic. Thus, individuals may strategically
disclose information after sexual activity as a means of enhancing relationship
development.
Other individuals may use pillow talk to maintain relationships. It is possible that
pillow talk aligns with several relational maintenance strategies such as showing posi-
tivity, openness, and assurances (Canary & Stafford, 1992; Stafford & Canary, 1991).
Additionally, Dainton (2000) found that when expectations for maintenance
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behavior are exceeded, individuals report more relational satisfaction. In the context
of pillow talk, this may suggest that if certain maintenance strategies such as positiv-
ity, openness, and assurances increase after sexual activity, then partners may experi-
ence positive relational outcomes.
Relationship development and maintenance are two possible goals of individuals
who engage in pillow talk, though there are multiple goals at work whenever indivi-
duals make communication decisions (Caughlin et al., 2009). In the context of pillow
talk, however, these two goals are likely to be salient. If individuals do engage in such
communication with the goal of relationship development or maintenance, then pil-
low talk should be connected to feelings of intimacy and affection. However, this is
limited by whether or not the pillow talk focuses on the expression of positive or
negative feelings for one’s partner. Since pillow talk is defined broadly as communi-
cation between two individuals after they engage in some form of sexual activity with
one another, it is necessary to further specify the type of pillow talk that may lead to
such positive relational outcomes. Such communication likely involves the disclosure
of positive aspects of the relationship between the two partners such as declarations
of love, affection, and intimacy and will thus be termed ‘‘positive relational disclo-
sures.’’ Because of the positive nature of this communication, it can be predicted that
increases in the amount of positive relational disclosures during pillow talk will be
associated with increased trust, relationship satisfaction, and closeness between the
individuals engaging in the sexual activity.
Despite these possible benefits to pillow talk, individuals also assess the risks
involved with disclosing. For example, individuals who disclose information risk
being rejected by the target of the disclosure or losing control over the information
disclosed (Baxter & Montgomery, 1996). While several risks likely arise in postsexual
activity disclosures, increased levels of oxytocin, which have been found to lower per-
ceptions of social threat and fear, may cause individuals to assess less risk. Individuals
may therefore disclose more after sexual activity because of a lower risk assessment
associated with disclosing intimate information. Due to increases in oxytocin, indi-
viduals may feel more at ease with their partners and disclose with the goal of
relationship development or maintenance in mind.
Pillow talk, however, may vary by the sex of the discloser. Research suggests that
men can engage in sexual activity even when feelings of love may not exist for their
partner and are more permissive in their sexual attitudes than women (Hendrick &
Hendrick, 1995; Roche, 1986). Conversely, women have been found to connect sex
with love and are more committed to their relationships (Hendrick & Hendrick,
1995; Roche, 1986). In addition to viewing sexual activity differently, women have
generally been found to disclose more than men when discussing relationships, emo-
tions, and intimacy (for a full review of gender and disclosure, see Hill & Stull, 1987).
Together, these findings suggest that men and women may engage in pillow talk
differently. It can be predicted that women will engage in more positive relational
disclosures after sexual activity than men, perhaps as a way of fostering an affection-
ate relationship with their partners. However, when considering the influence of
sexual activity on women’s disclosures, it is important to point out that certain
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studies have only looked at oxytocin increases for women postorgasm (e.g., Blaicher
et al., 1999; Carmichael et al., 1987). Despite this focus, 50–70% of women report
that they do not orgasm from penile-vaginal intercourse alone (Reinisch & Beasley,
1990). Much of the oxytocin research seems to have confounded penile-vaginal
intercourse and orgasm. Thus, it is important to test whether the amount of positive
relational disclosures varies depending on whether women do or do not experience
orgasm from the sexual activity. If a woman orgasms from sexual activity, her oxy-
tocin levels should increase more than the levels of a woman who does not orgasm.
In sum, women who orgasm should engage in more positive relational disclosures
after sexual activity than men. Additionally, women who orgasm should engage in
more positive relational disclosures after sexual activity than women who do not
orgasm.
Lastly, it is important to consider the nerves being stimulated by penile-vaginal
intercourse versus other forms of sexual stimulation. Vaginal and cervical sensory
responses (such as those from penile-vaginal intercourse) have been found to stimu-
late the pelvic and hypogastric nerves, while clitoral sexual activity stimulated the
pudendal nerve (Peters, Kristal, & Komisaruk, 1987; Whipple & Komisaruk, 2002).
Additionally, the pelvic nerve has been found to play an especially important role
in mating behavior and responsiveness to oxytocin (Moody, Steinman, Komisaruk,
& Adler, 1994). Therefore, increases in oxytocin levels and subsequent effects on dis-
closure may vary for women who are clitorally stimulated versus vaginocervically
(from penile-vaginal intercourse) stimulated as well as for women who do versus
do not orgasm. It is likely that women whose orgasms are connected to the pelvic
nerve (those who orgasm from penile-vaginal intercourse) will engage in more posi-
tive relational disclosures than women whose orgasms are connected to the pudendal
nerve (those who orgasm from receiving oral sex or hand stimulation only), due to
the pelvic nerve’s importance in oxytocin responsiveness (Moody et al.).
Together, the above research supports the following three predictions: First, indi-
viduals who engage in more positive relational disclosures after sexual activity with
their partners will report more (a) trust, (b) relationship satisfaction, and (c) close-
ness (Hypothesis 1). Second, women who orgasm will engage in more positive rela-
tional disclosures after sexual activity than men who orgasm (Hypothesis 2). Third,
women who orgasm during penile-vaginal intercourse will engage in more positive
relational disclosures than (a) women who do not orgasm and (b) women who
orgasm from other sexual stimulation (Hypothesis 3). While postcoitus oxytocin
increases may lead to increased positive relational disclosures, it is also important
to examine whether positive relational disclosures vary by relationship status.
Committed versus casual relationships
Positive relational disclosures may be a source of regret if the communication is too
intimate for the status of the relationship. Research suggests that the link between
disclosure and liking is voided when disclosures are too intimate or violate expecta-
tions (Bochner, 1982; Collins & Miller, 1994). Affection exchange theory similarly
posits that individuals have an optimal tolerance for affection, and that violations
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of this tolerance level may result in aversive reactions (Floyd et al., 2008). Thus, it is
possible that being overly intimate with a partner may violate expectations and
appropriateness in the relationship. Such violations may cause individuals who
disclose their feelings after sexual activity to experience more feelings of regret.
However, individuals who are in monogamous relationships will likely experience
less regret because their partners are already committed to them. Additionally, in a
committed relationship, partners may be disclosing such feelings on a regular basis,
and thus pillow talk would be relationship-appropriate and less likely to scare away
the partner.
This also connects to the possible use of pillow talk as a relational maintenance
strategy for individuals in committed relationships. Individuals in more serious rela-
tionships differ in their perceptions of maintenance behaviors (Stafford & Canary,
1991). Stafford and Canary found that engaged and seriously dating participants
perceived the strategies of positivity, openness, and assurances more than newly dat-
ing partners, suggesting that investment plays an important role in perceptions of
maintenance strategies. In the context of pillow talk, this finding suggests that
individuals in more serious relationships may perceive more positive relational dis-
closures after sexual activity and use this communication as a way of developing
and maintaining their relationships.
With this in mind, it is likely that individuals in monogamous=committed rela-
tionships will communicate differently after sexual activity than individuals in
casual=open relationships due to the established levels of intimacy in more serious
relationships. It is thus predicted that individuals in monogamous=committed rela-
tionships will engage in more positive relational disclosures after sexual activity than
individuals in casual=open relationships (Hypothesis 4). Additionally, it is predicted
that individuals in monogamous=committed relationships will experience (a) less
feelings of regret and (b) higher levels of relationship satisfaction following postsexual
activity disclosures than individuals in open=casual relationships (Hypothesis 5). In
sum, this study explores pillow talk and positive relational disclosures by drawing on
physiological research to predict communication behaviors after sexual activity.
Method
Participants
Participants were college students recruited through the Department of Communi-
cation participant pool at a large western university. The sample consisted of 200
individuals, with 77% identifying as female (n ¼ 153) and 24% identifying as male
(n ¼ 47). The participants ranged in age from 18 to 26 years old, with an average
age of 19.6 years old. Because this study is meant to focus on a range of both casual
and committed relationships (not including marriage), this age range seemed appro-
priate for the nature of the study. Participants were also asked to report their sexual
identity. This was an open-ended question, so as not to assume identity categories.
Ninety-six percent (n ¼ 192) of the sample self-identified as straight, 5 participants
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identified as bisexual, 1 participant identified as gay, and 1 participant identified as
pansexual. The sample was racially diverse, with 59% of participants identifying as
White=Caucasian (n ¼ 120), 16% (n ¼ 32) as Hispanic, 11% (n ¼ 22) as Asian, 9%
as other or mixed race, and 5% (n ¼ 9) as African American.
Sixty-nine percent of the sample identified as ‘‘in a relationship,’’ with an average
relationship length of 13.9 months. When asked the status of their relationship, 53%
of participants (n ¼ 106) said they were in a monogamous or committed relationship,
24% (n ¼ 48) said they were in an open or casual relationship, and 16% (n ¼ 33)
reported a combination of these categories. Thus, the seriousness of the relationship
varied greatly for this sample. All participants identified as single except for 1 partici-
pant who was married and 3 others who identified as engaged.
Procedure
Subjects were instructed that they were eligible to participate in the study if they were
currently in a sexual relationship. If participants met this criterion, they were pro-
vided a link to the study survey. Participants were given the following information
on the first page of the online survey: Please complete this survey within 2 hours
of sexual activity (sexual intercourse or other sexual activity) with your partner. Part-
icipants then returned to the website to complete the survey after sexual activity.
They were asked to complete demographic measures and several questions assessing
the nature of the sexual activity, their relationship, and their communication with
their partners after sexual activity. The survey consisted of both open-ended
questions and scales.
Measures
Demographics
Participants first completed a set of demographic measures asking their age, sex,
gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, relationship type, relationship length, and marital
status.
Nature of sexual activity
Participants were then asked to log the day and time of their sexual activity with their
partners to confirm that the survey had been completed within the 2-hour window.
They were then asked to explain the nature of their sexual activity. Participants were
also asked whether they experienced orgasm from this sexual activity. Thirty percent
(n ¼ 55) of the sample reported that they did not experience orgasm from the sexual
activity, while 69% (n ¼ 129) of the sample did (1% reported yes and no). For
women, 38% (n ¼ 54) reported that they did not experience orgasm from the sexual
activity and 60% (n ¼ 85) reported that they did experience orgasm (1% reported yes
and no). For men, 2% (n ¼ 1) reported that they did not experience orgasm from the
sexual activity and 98% (n ¼ 44) reported that they did. Because only one male par-
ticipant did not orgasm, he was excluded from the analyses. Thus, the entire sample
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of men consisted of men who experienced orgasm. Participants then completed a
checklist of sexual behaviors included in the sexual activity. Ninety-four percent
(n ¼ 189) of the sample reported that they kissed, 73% (n ¼ 147) hugged, 46%
(n ¼ 92) performed oral sex on their partners, 45% (n ¼ 90) were the receivers of oral
sex, 72% (n ¼ 144) gave their partners hand stimulation, and 77% (n ¼ 154) received
hand stimulation from their partners.
Though participants were asked about disclosures after sexual activity, it was
important to understand the different types of sexual activity individuals would be
referring to. In response to the open-ended question asking participants the nature
of the sexual activity they would be focusing on in the survey, 85% of the sample
reported that their sexual activity involved penile-vaginal intercourse (n ¼ 163). Part-
icipants also focused on communication after several other types of sexual activity.
Three percent (n ¼ 6) gave oral sex to their partners, 5% (n ¼ 10) received oral sex
from their partners, 5% (n ¼ 9) both gave and received oral sex, and 1% (n ¼ 1)
had anal sex with their partner. For women participants specifically, 84% percent
of the sample reported that their sexual activity involved penile-vaginal intercourse
(n ¼ 123). Four percent (n ¼ 6) of women gave oral sex to their partners, 4%
(n ¼ 6) received oral sex from their partners, and 6% (n ¼ 9) both gave and received
oral sex. In sum, most of the sample focused on communication after penile-vaginal
intercourse (though other forms of sexual activity may have also occurred during the
interaction) and several other participants focused on communication after oral sex
only.
Disclosures after sexual activity
Participants were then asked to explain what they said after the sexual activity. They
were also asked what they did after the sexual activity (for examplecuddled, held
hands, engaged in prolonged eye contact). Participants were also instructed to write
out the conversation that took place with their partner in dialogue form. These
open-ended questions were used in a separate analysis.
A positive and negative disclosures scale was also created to assess communication
after sexual activity. The scale consists of five items (e.g., ‘‘I expressed some positive
feelings for my partner to him=her’’; ‘‘I told my partner some negative thoughts I’ve
been having about him=her’’). A 5-point Likert scale was used (with 1 being strongly
disagree and 5 being strongly agree). The Cronbach’s alpha for the negative disclo-
sures subscale was .97 and for the positive disclosures subscale was .83.
Relationship satisfaction
To assess relationship satisfaction, an adapted version of the Marital Opinion
Questionnaire (Huston, McHale, & Crouter, 1986) was used. The scale consists of
10 items using a 5-point semantic differential scale (e.g., ‘‘miserable-enjoyable,’’
‘‘lonely-friendly,’’ ‘‘useless-worthwhile’’). An additional global satisfaction item asked
participants how satisfied they are with their relationship in general. The Cronbach’s
alpha for the relationship satisfaction scale was .91.
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Relationship commitment and love
Next, individuals completed Lund’s (1985) scale assessing relationship commitment
and love. A 5-point Likert scale was used (with 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being
strongly agree). The commitment scale consists of nine items asking participants how
committed they feel to their relational partner (e.g., ‘‘How likely is it that your
relationship will be permanent?’’; ‘‘How attracted are you to other potential partners
or a single life style?’’). Participants also completed Lund’s love scale, which consists
of nine items asking how emotionally involved individuals feel with their partners
(e.g., ‘‘I feel I can confide in my partner about virtually everything’’; ‘‘I would do
almost anything for my partner’’). The Cronbach’s alpha was .89 for both the
commitment scale and the love scale.
Trust
Participants then completed a 15-item modified trust scale (Couch, Adams, & Jones,
1996). A 5-point Likert scale was used (with 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being
strongly agree). Participants were asked to respond to statements regarding their feel-
ings of security with their partners (e.g., ‘‘I am afraid my partner will betray me’’; ‘‘I
generally believe what my partner tells me’’). The Cronbach’s alpha for the trust scale
was .90.
Closeness
The Inclusion of Other in Self (Aron, Aron, & Smollan, 1992) was used to rate close-
ness between partners. Participants were asked to choose which set of overlapping
circles best represents the relationship between themselves and their partners.
Regret
Lastly, participants were asked to respond to four items assessing how much they
regret disclosing to their partners (e.g., ‘‘I wish I never expressed my feelings to
my partner after our sexual activity’’; ‘‘I am glad I told my partner how I feel’’). A
5-point Likert scale was used (with 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly
agree). The Cronbach’s alpha for the regret scale was .83.
Results
Outcomes and Sex Differences in Positive Relational Disclosures
Hypothesis 1 predicted that the more individuals engage in positive relational disclo-
sures after sexual activity, the more they will report (a) trust, (b) relationship satis-
faction, and (c) closeness with their partners. Results showed that positive relational
disclosures after sexual activity are significantly and positively correlated with trust,
r ¼ .54, p < .01, relationship satisfaction, r ¼ .55, p < .01, and closeness, r ¼ .53,
p < .01. Hypothesis 1 was supported. To test hypothesis 2, that women who
orgasmed would engage in more positive relational disclosures after sexual activity
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than men, a t-test was conducted. A t-test revealed a statistically reliable difference
between the mean amount of positive disclosures for women who orgasmed
(M ¼ 4.29, SD ¼ .83) and men (M ¼ 3.89, SD ¼ .91), t (126) ¼ 2.50, p < .01, a ¼ .05.
Hypothesis 2 was supported. Interestingly, the same pattern did not emerge when
comparing all women (those who both did and did not orgasm) to men
(t(187) ¼ 1.41, p ¼ .21, a ¼ .05) or when comparing women who did not orgasm
to men (t(96) ¼ .485, p ¼ .63, a ¼ .05). Only women who orgasmed disclosed signifi-
cantly more than men (all of whom orgasmed). In sum, hypothesis 1 and hypothesis
2 were both supported. The greater the amount of positive relational disclosures after
sexual activity, the greater individuals’ reports of trust, relationship satisfaction, and
closeness. Additionally, women who orgasmed engaged in significantly more positive
relational disclosures than men.
Women, Orgasm, and Positive Relational Disclosures
Hypothesis 3 (a) predicted that women who experienced orgasm from the sexual
activity would have greater positive relational disclosures than women who did not
orgasm. A t-test revealed a statistically reliable difference between the mean amount
of positive relational disclosures for those who did not orgasm (M ¼ 3.78, SD ¼ .79)
and those who did orgasm (M ¼ 4.29, SD ¼ .83), t(135) ¼ 3.52, p < .001, a ¼ .05.
Women who orgasmed had significantly more positive disclosures after sexual
activity than those who did not orgasm. Similarly, a separate t-test revealed a statisti-
cally reliable difference between the mean amount of negative disclosures for those
who did not orgasm (M ¼ 1.75, SD ¼ .88) and those who did orgasm (M ¼ 1.44,
SD ¼ .71), t(136) ¼ 2.22, p ¼ .03, a ¼ .05, such that women who orgasmed engaged
in significantly less negative disclosures after sexual activity than women who did
not orgasm. Hypothesis 3 (a) was supported.
To test hypothesis 3 (b), women who orgasmed from penile-vaginal intercourse
were compared to women who orgasmed from receiving oral sex from their part-
ners. A t-test failed to reveal a statistically reliable difference between the mean
amount of positive disclosures for women who orgasmed from penile-vaginal inter-
course (M ¼ 4.33, SD ¼ .77) and women who orgasmed from receiving oral sex
(M ¼ 3.75, SD ¼ 1.41), t(82) ¼ 1.66, p ¼ .10, a ¼ .05. While not supported, hypoth-
esis 3(b) was approaching significance. Similarly, an additional t-test failed to reveal
a statistically reliable difference between the mean amount of negative disclosures
for women who orgasmed from penile-vaginal intercourse (M ¼ 1.41, SD ¼ .64)
and women who orgasmed from receiving oral sex (M ¼ 1.89, SD ¼ 1.39),
t(82) ¼ 1.60, p ¼ .11, a ¼ .05. Hypothesis 3(b) was not supported. In sum, not only
do women who orgasm engage in more positive relational disclosures after sexual
activity than women who do not, but women who do not orgasm engage in more
negative relational disclosures after sexual activity than women who do orgasm.
However, this same relationship was not found when comparing women who
orgasm from penile-vaginal intercourse to women who orgasm from receiving
oral sex.
Western Journal of Communication 101
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Commitment and Positive Relational Disclosures
Hypothesis 4 predicted that individuals in monogamous=committed relationships
would engage in more positive relational disclosures after sexual activity than those
who were in casual=open relationships. A t-test revealed a statistically reliable differ-
ence between the mean amount of positive disclosures for those who identified as in a
relationship (M ¼ 4.23, SD ¼ .81) and those who identified as not in a relationship
(M ¼ 3.55, SD ¼ .76), t(178) ¼ 34.96, p < .001, a ¼ .05. An additional t-test also
revealed a statistically reliable difference between the mean amount of positive disclo-
sures for those who identified as being in a monogamous or committed relationship
(M ¼ 4.30, SD ¼ .80) and those who identified as being in a casual or open
relationship (M ¼ 3.78, SD ¼ .74), t(145) ¼ 3.74, p < .001, a ¼ .05. Hypothesis 4
was supported. Individuals in relationships engaged in significantly more positive
relational disclosures after sexual activity than those who were not in relationships.
Additionally, individuals who identified as being in monogamous or committed rela-
tionships engaged in significantly more positive relational disclosures after sexual
activity than those who identified as being in open or casual relationships.
Regret and Postsexual Activity Disclosures
Hypothesis 5 predicted that individuals in monogamous=committed relationships
would experience fewer feelings of regret and greater relationship satisfaction follow-
ing postsexual activity disclosures than individuals in open=casual relationships. A
t-test revealed a statistically reliable difference between the mean amount of regret
for those who identified as being in a monogamous or committed relationship
(M ¼ 1.61, SD ¼ .64) and those who identified as being in an open or casual relation-
ship (M ¼ 2.10, SD ¼ .58), t(125) ¼ 4.00, p < .001, a ¼ .05. A separate t-test also
revealed a statistically reliable difference between the mean amount of satisfaction
for those who identified as being in a monogamous or committed relationship
(M ¼ 4.19, SD ¼ .67) and those who identified as being in an open or casual relation-
ship (M ¼ 3.63, SD ¼ .76), t(132) ¼ 4.27, p < .001, a ¼ .05. Hypothesis 5 was suppor-
ted. Individuals in monogamous=committed relationships regretted their disclosures
after sexual activity less than those in open=casual relationships and reported higher
levels of relationship satisfaction.
Though women who experienced orgasm from penile-vaginal intercourse did not
report that they engaged in more positive relational disclosures after sexual activity than
women who orgasmed from other stimulation, all other predicted relationships were
supported. Positive relational disclosures after sexual activity were positively correlated
with trust, relationship satisfaction, and closeness. Additionally, women who orgasmed
engaged in more positive relational disclosures than both men who orgasmed and
women who did not orgasm. Lastly, results indicate that individuals in monogamous=
committed relationships engage in more positive relational disclosures than those in
open=casual relationships and have less feelings of regret and more relationship satis-
faction after their positive relational disclosures following sexual activity.
102 A. Denes
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Discussion
This study has helped to illuminate some of the characteristics of individuals who
engage in pillow talk and the relationship between communication after sexual
activity and various relational outcomes. Drawing on physiological research has
proved a valuable resource for communication scholars in understanding how com-
munication can be influenced by bodily responses. The present study adds to this
literature by finding support for several predictions made from research on the
hormone oxytocin. While oxytocin has been found to decrease aggressive behavior,
increase approach behaviors, and increase social recognition abilities (Domes et al.,
2007; Lim & Young, 2006), no previous studies have specifically looked at the effects
of oxytocin on communication in natural settings (one study has looked at couples’
communication when given synthetic oxytocin and another at individuals’ oxytocin
responses when exposed to stressors in a laboratory setting; see Ditzen et al., 2009;
and Floyd, Pauley, & Hesse, 2010). The findings presented above provide preliminary
evidence that physiological changes resulting from intimacy may be influencing
relational partners’ disclosure patterns after sexual activity.
While a limitation of this study is that physiological measures were not collected,
several links have been established between the physiological literature and work on
disclosure patterns. Drawing on research on oxytocin and suggestions about its inter-
personal influences, several hypotheses were presented to test whether a link exists
between oxytocin’s known effects and various communication behaviors. Many
models of disclosure use a risk–benefit approach to understand why individuals
may or may not disclose information to their partners (e.g., Afifi & Steuber, 2009;
Omarzu, 2000). Related, research on oxytocin has found that the hormone decreases
perceptions of risk and social threat (Kirsch et al., 2005). Thus, a natural conclusion
is that increases in oxytocin should result in increases in disclosure by lowering risk
assessments. Since oxytocin is released significantly more in women’s bodies when
orgasm is reached, finding that women who orgasmed disclosed more than women
who did not provides initial evidence for the link between oxytocin and disclosure.
Additionally, the effects of oxytocin are known to be more pronounced in women
than in men, as men’s testosterone diminishes the effects of oxytocin while women’s
estrogen increases its effects (Taylor et al., 2002). This study found that women who
orgasmed engaged in more positive relational disclosures than men (it is also impor-
tant to note that these analyses only included men who reported experiencing
orgasm). However, this same pattern did not emerge when comparing men to the
entire sample of women nor to women who did not orgasm. This finding lends
further support to the link between oxytocin and positive relational disclosures, as
orgasm (and thus the release of oxytocin) appears to be the most important indicator
of whether or not women engage in positive relational disclosures.
While orgasm may be an important factor in pillow talk, the type of sexual activity
that leads to orgasm was not found to affect the amount of positive relational disclo-
sures after sexual activity. No difference was found in the amount of such disclosures
for women who orgasmed from penile-vaginal intercourse compared to women who
Western Journal of Communication 103
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orgasmed from receiving oral sex. Previous research has suggested that different
nerves are stimulated by different types of sexual activity (Peters, Kristal, &
Komisaruk, 1987; Whipple & Komisaruk, 2002), and this may thus influence the
amount of oxytocin released. However, this study found no evidence that type of
orgasm (i.e., from penile-vaginal intercourse or oral sex) influences communication
outcomes. This finding may suggest that it is the release of oxytocin in general,
rather than the way it is released or the amount that is released, that influences
communication.
Additionally, this study found that pillow talk is related to positive relationship
behaviors. Specifically, the more individuals engaged in positive relational disclosures
after sexual activity, the higher their ratings of trust, relationship satisfaction, and
closeness with their partners. Research has generally indicated that disclosure helps
to develop and maintain relationships (e.g., Altman & Taylor, 1973). This same pat-
tern seems to exist for disclosures after sexual activity. Pillow talk may allow indivi-
duals to be open and vulnerable with their partners, disclosing feelings that may be
difficult to express in less intimate contexts. This openness and positivity may imply
that pillow talk functions as a relational maintenance strategy for some individuals
(Canary & Stafford, 1992; Stafford & Canary, 1991). While causal paths cannot be
established from the present data, the relationship between positive relational disclo-
sures after sexual activity and positive relational outcomes suggests that pillow talk
plays an important role in couples’ communication.
Such benefits, however, may be limited to individuals in more committed relation-
ships. This study found that individuals in relationships engaged in more positive
relational disclosures than those not in relationships. More specifically, individuals
in committed and monogamous relationships engaged in more positive relational
disclosures than individuals in casual and open relationships. This lends support
to the idea that it is the relationship between the couple engaging in the sexual
activity, rather than the sexual activity itself, that promotes positive postsexual
activity communication. Individuals in less committed relationships may be more
focused on the physical act rather than relational outcomes, and this focus may mean
that the goal of disclosing as a means of developing the relationship no longer exists.
Rather, individuals may communicate to maintain the sexual relationship, rather
than share intimate feelings as a way of developing the relationship further. Another
possibility is that individuals in less committed relationships assess more risk to
engaging in pillow talk. Thus, while oxytocin may decrease perceptions of some of
the risks of disclosing, it may not be enough for individuals in casual relationships
to disclose feelings for their partners.
This fear seems apparent in the finding that individuals in casual relationships
regretted their positive relational disclosures after sexual activity more than indivi-
duals in committed relationships. While pillow talk may benefit individuals who have
already committed to working on a relationship together, it may push apart indivi-
duals whose relationship status is less solidified. This may be because individuals get
‘‘caught up’’ in the intimate moment, and say things that are either not appropriate
for the current stage of the relationship or that they may not truly feel. Another
104 A. Denes
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possibility is that one individual reveals his or her feelings, engaging in pillow talk,
while his or her partner does not, creating an imbalance in the relationship. Future
research would benefit from exploring such patterns and whether there are long-term
consequences of pillow talk on casual relationships. How might reciprocity or a lack
of reciprocity during pillow talk influence relational outcomes? Additionally, is there
a dark side of pillow talk? Research on pillow talk would also benefit from further
exploring the differences between pillow talk that focuses on the expression of posi-
tive feelings for one’s partner versus pillow talk focused on more negative sentiments.
Conclusion
This study has added to our understanding of how individuals communicate after
sexual activity and provided a link between physiological research on the hormone
oxytocin and disclosure of positive feelings for one’s partner. Specifically, this study
found that positive relational disclosures after sexual activity were related to increased
trust, relationship satisfaction, and closeness with one’s partner, indicating that
engaging in pillow talk may aid in maintaining a healthy relationship. Additionally,
women’s positive relationship disclosures after sexual activity were found to be
influenced by orgasm, such that women who orgasmed engaged in more positive
relational disclosures than both men who orgasmed and women who did not orgasm.
Lastly, this study found that positive relational disclosures after sexual activity
occurred more often in monogamous=committed relationships than in open=casual
relationships. Additionally, individuals in monogamous=committed relationships
were less regretful of the disclosures and more satisfied in their relationships than
individuals in open=casual relationships. These findings provide initial evidence of
the link between oxytocin and communication after sexual activity and make clear
the importance of further understanding how pillow talk may be influencing
romantic relationships.
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... PRDs involve "the disclosure of positive aspects of the relationship between the two partners such as declarations of love, affection, and intimacy" (Denes, 2012, p. 95). Prior research on PRDs focused on the post sex context, revealing a positive association between PRDs and relationship satisfaction (Denes, 2012). PRDs are also predicted by orgasm, such that individuals who orgasm report engaging in more PRDs after sexual activity compared to those who do not orgasm (Denes, 2012;Denes & Afifi, 2014). ...
... Prior research on PRDs focused on the post sex context, revealing a positive association between PRDs and relationship satisfaction (Denes, 2012). PRDs are also predicted by orgasm, such that individuals who orgasm report engaging in more PRDs after sexual activity compared to those who do not orgasm (Denes, 2012;Denes & Afifi, 2014). Although little is known about the association between self-disclosure during sex and orgasm, it is likely that sharing positive thoughts and feelings, such as encouragement, expressions of enjoyment, and positive emotions, might promote intimacy and connection and contribute to individuals' pleasure during the specific sexual encounter. ...
... Women and men also differ in their recall of sexual episodes, such that women are more likely to recall aspects related to love and emotional bonding, whereas men are more likely to recall more erotic and explicit details of sexual episodes (McCall, Rellini, Seal, & Meston, 2007). Differences also arise when looking at the frequency and probability of reaching orgasm when engaging in sexual activity, with women being less likely to report reaching orgasm and doing so less frequently (Denes, 2012;Von Sydow, 2002;Waterman & Chiauzzi, 1982). Related, women who orgasm report engaging in PRDs after sexual activity more than men who orgasm (Denes, 2012). ...
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The present study investigated young adults' self‐reported communication during sexual activity and its link to sexual and relational outcomes. The associations between two forms of communication during sexual activity (i.e., positive relational disclosures and erotic talk) and orgasm and relationship satisfaction were explored. Additionally, the study tested whether orgasm mediated the association between communication during sexual activity and relationship satisfaction. Three‐hundred and nineteen young adults (237 women, 82 men) ranging in age from 18–32 years (M = 19) completed a survey within 2 hours of a recent sexual episode addressing their communication during sexual activity. Results revealed that positive relational disclosures, but not erotic talk, predicted the likelihood of orgasm, controlling for participants' biological sex. More specifically, individuals who disclosed more positive feelings during sexual activity were more likely to orgasm. Additionally, the more individuals disclosed positive thoughts and feelings for their partners during sexual activity or the more they engaged in mutualistic erotic talk that included intimacy and bonding, the higher their reported relationship satisfaction after sexual activity. The implications of these findings for research on sexual satisfaction, relational health, and the post sex disclosures model are discussed.
... PRDs involve "the disclosure of positive aspects of the relationship between the two partners such as declarations of love, affection, and intimacy" (Denes, 2012, p. 95). Prior research on PRDs focused on the post sex context, revealing a positive association between PRDs and relationship satisfaction (Denes, 2012). PRDs are also predicted by orgasm, such that individuals who orgasm report engaging in more PRDs after sexual activity compared to those who do not orgasm (Denes, 2012;Denes & Afifi, 2014). ...
... Prior research on PRDs focused on the post sex context, revealing a positive association between PRDs and relationship satisfaction (Denes, 2012). PRDs are also predicted by orgasm, such that individuals who orgasm report engaging in more PRDs after sexual activity compared to those who do not orgasm (Denes, 2012;Denes & Afifi, 2014). Although little is known about the association between self-disclosure during sex and orgasm, it is likely that sharing positive thoughts and feelings, such as encouragement, expressions of enjoyment, and positive emotions, might promote intimacy and connection and contribute to individuals' pleasure during the specific sexual encounter. ...
... Women and men also differ in their recall of sexual episodes, such that women are more likely to recall aspects related to love and emotional bonding, whereas men are more likely to recall more erotic and explicit details of sexual episodes (McCall, Rellini, Seal, & Meston, 2007). Differences also arise when looking at the frequency and probability of reaching orgasm when engaging in sexual activity, with women being less likely to report reaching orgasm and doing so less frequently (Denes, 2012;Von Sydow, 2002;Waterman & Chiauzzi, 1982). Related, women who orgasm report engaging in PRDs after sexual activity more than men who orgasm (Denes, 2012). ...
... Chory and colleagues noted that third-party organizational members protect themselves from the potentially harmful impact of workplace romance partners' "pillow talk" by self-disclosing less honestly with workplace romance partners (Chory & Gillen Hoke, 2020;Horan & Chory, 2009;Malachowski et al., 2012). Denes (2012) observed that individuals in casual relationships reported more post-disclosure regret compared to participants in committed relationships-a finding particularly important given that not all sex between organizational members occurs in committed relationships. Therefore, future research is necessary to better understand pillow talk-that is, examining topic avoidance, deception, and regretted disclosure during pillow talk between employees who have sex, both within and outside of a committed exclusive relationship. ...
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Full-text available
Given the vast amount of time people spend communicating at work, relationships naturally develop. In addition, friends or romantic partners sometimes become coworkers. These interpersonal relationships involve work and life dimensions. We refer to them as personal workplace relationships: voluntary, informal, mutual, and consensual relationships between two members of the same organization that are marked by a strong emotional component and the partners’ knowing and communicating with each other as whole, unique persons. In this review, we summarize research examining these relationships. Specifically, studies of workplace peers, workplace friendships, and workplace romances are reviewed. In doing so, we highlight key research and theoretical perspectives from various disciplines. The review concludes with a discussion and recommendations for future research.
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While oculesic behaviors may appear at first glance to have a limited capacity for social signaling, this is perhaps due to perceptions of a seemingly restricted range of movement. In fact, the use of one’s eyes is an important tool in indicating attraction, interest, and connection to loved ones. Although the impact of oculesic behaviors varies greatly within loving dyads—depending in part upon the nature of the relationship type (e.g., potential romantic relationships, committed partnerships, or family relationships)—these social signals can easily encode both prosocial and antisocial nonverbal messages ranging from approach to avoidance to almost anything in between. This chapter looks at the nonverbal signals of love characterized by eye contact, eye movement, gaze-related behaviors, and the structural and functional aspects of these oculesic behaviors. Indeed, both intentional and unintentional messaging sent through the nonverbal oculesic channels are worth greater scrutiny and appreciation in the context of loving interpersonal relationships.
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This study sought to explore whether relationship satisfaction moderated the relationship between affection and individual health (i.e., depression and stress) and affection and relational well-being (i.e., trust and closeness). The sample (N = 631) was comprised of predominantly female non-married Southwestern college students. Relationship satisfaction did not interact with the relationship between affection and trust, affection and closeness, and affection and depression. However, relationship satisfaction moderated the relationship between affection and stress such that affection was significantly and negative related to stress only for highly satisfied relationships. Dissatisfied participants were affectionately deprived, and their frequency of affectionate behaviors varied. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.
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This study explored the role of the hormone oxytocin in 49 emerging adult couples’ communication after sexual activity. Guided by the post sex disclosures model, the findings indicated that post sex oxytocin levels, but not increases in pre to post sex oxytocin, were associated with men's general assessments of the benefits and risks of disclosing after sexual activity (measured separately from the sexual episode). Additionally, women's and men's benefit assessments were positively associated, and their risk assessments were negatively associated, with positive disclosures after sex. The findings offer the first known test of couples’ oxytocin levels during a naturally occurring sexual episode in the home environment and have implications for researchers interested in the links between oxytocin and human behavior.
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This article features a review of communication scholarship about sex from the past two decades (2000-2020). A typographic analysis of relevant research reveals 11 primary topic areas related to how interpersonal sexual communication is commonly researched in communication studies. Six of these topic areas are relationship-oriented in nature: flirting and initiation; pleasure and desire; sexual expectations; relational and sexual satisfaction; communication after sex; and negative aspects of sex and sexuality. Three of the topics are health-oriented in nature: sex education, especially in consideration of how parent-child talk happens in families; negotiation of safe sex practices; and sexual dysfunction. Finally, two of the topics are cultural in nature: social factors and influences; and media influences and representations. Scholarship is also reviewed in terms of theoretical commitments, with most research following sociopsychological or critical traditions but with a noteworthy number also embracing sociocultural or biological paradigms. Based on these observations, five directions are offered for future research: supporting programs of interpersonal sex research; advancing and/or creating methods related to communication sex research; eliminating heteronormativity; considering the practical aspects of sex research; and, perhaps most importantly, theorizing sex as communication.
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The chapter starts by describing what communication is, how it differs from sexual communication, and how sexual communication affects marital relations. It ends with suggestions to improve sexual communication in order to enhance a couple’s bonding.
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Introduction There is little systematized research on the postsex phase of the sexual cycle, due in part to the absence of literature on the period immediately following sexual activity. Aim The paper describes the development and validation of the Postsex Experience Scale (P-SES), an instrument designed to measure the psychological dimensions of the postsex period of the human sexual response cycle. Methods Scale development involved (a) item construction, selection, and subsequent validation through item analysis, and (b) a factor analysis of the item intercorrelations of the P-SES and the establishment of its factorial validity, based upon an online survey of 4,217 respondents. Results In the exploratory factor analysis of the psychometric structure of the scale, structures for males and females differed. 3 factors emerged, which captured the male postsex experience. These factors were labeled Sense of Sexual Alienation, Positive Connection with Self, and Feeling Connected with Partner. 4 factors best captured the female postsex experience and were labeled Self-Loathing, Positive Connection with Self, Sense of Being Emotionally Overwhelmed, and Feeling Connected with Partner. Clinical Implications There is strong evidence for acknowledging a wide variation in postsex experience in both men and women across sexual orientations. Strengths & Limitations Strengths include a large heterogeneous sample leading to the provision of a metric to investigate novel aspects of human sexuality. Limitations include the potential underreporting of experiences due to the structure of the scale and its reference to “general experiences” and presentation bias. Conclusions The P-SES provides a framework for assessing the postsex experience in women and men, providing opportunities to gain a better understanding of the variations in postsex experience. RD Schweitzer, G du Plessis, J Maczkowiack, et al. Development and Validation of the Post Sex Experience (P-SES) Scale. Sex Med 2020; XX:XXX–XXX.
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The present investigation tested the effects of a gene x environment interaction on sexual communication and relational well-being. It was hypothesized that the interaction of variation in oxytocin receptor gene OXTR rs53576 and orgasm would predict post sex communication and subsequent relationship satisfaction. The results revealed that for women in the sample, orgasm was positively associated with disclosing positive thoughts and feelings for one’s partner after sexual activity, which in turn predicted greater relationship satisfaction, regardless of their genotype. The same model was supported for men with the GG genotype for OXTR rs53576, but not for those with the AA or AG genotypes, though the findings should be interpreted with caution due to the small percentage of men who did not orgasm. The findings and their implications for the post sex disclosures model and research on sexual communication are discussed.
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Early theories of stress obscured differences in how men and women respond to threat. The tend-and-befriend model attempted to partially redress that oversight by identifying biological and behavioral patterns of stress responses distinctive to females, responses that are markedly social. Although men's behavior under stress may also be social, at least under certain circumstances, extending the tend-and-befriend model to men is premature and potentially flawed, from the vantage points of the underlying biology and the behavioral stress responses it may help to foster.
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Two studies were conducted to assess the relationship between expectancy fulfillment for the partner's use of relational maintenance activities and one's own satisfaction with the relationship. In Study 1, 478 people in romantic relationships completed questionnaires assessing their experience of their partner's use of maintenance activities relative to their expectations for the frequency with which maintenance should be performed. As interdependence theory predicts, the more one's experience with maintenance activities exceeded expectations, the more relational satisfaction was reported. The strongest predictors of satisfaction were the extent to which the partner's use of assurances and positivity exceeded one's expectations for these activities. In Study 2, 283 people in romantic relationships provided reports of their expectations for their partner's use of maintenance activities, as well as their perceptions of the frequency with which their partners actually engaged in maintenance behaviors. Results indicated that individuals had higher expectations for their partner's use of sharing tasks and assurances than for other maintenance behaviors. However, the perceived use of maintenance strategies was stronger in predicting relational satisfaction than were the discrepancy scores between expected and perceived use of such behaviors. Implications for an interdependence theory approach to relational maintenance are discussed.
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The relationship between gender and self-disclosure is a topic of research for which some of the clearest predictions have been made, yet some of the most puzzling results have been obtained. In this chapter we review strategies that we and others have used in efforts to solve the puzzle. Our goal is to explore issues that have been addressed in the past and to identify issues that need to be addressed in the future.
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The present study tested the prediction that affectionate communication is positively associated with the release of oxytocin in response to stressors. One hundred participants completed questionnaire measures about their personal relationships prior to participation in a laboratory session that included a series of standard laboratory stressors. Both state and trait affectionate communication predicted increases in oxytocin during exposure to stressors, an effect that was not moderated by sex. The results demonstrate the stress-buffering effect of affectionate interaction.
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This study examines the manner in which perceptions of relational maintenance strategies used in romantic dyads vary according to relationship type (married, engaged, seriously dating and dating) and gender. Additionally, this study investigates how perceptions of partners' maintenance behaviors differentially affect the relational characteristics of control mutuality, commitment, liking and satisfaction. Research assumptions were cast within a developmental framework. Five maintenance strategies were derived through factor analyses: positivity, assurances, openness, sharing tasks and social networks. Results indicate that relationship type moderately affected perceptions of partner maintenance strategies and gender weakly affected perceptions of maintenance behaviors. The findings also reveal that positivity, assurances and sharing tasks were consistent and strong predictors of control mutuality, commitment, liking and satisfaction.
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A longitudinal study of 129 graduating university students tested whether relationship continuity could best be predicted by a positive pull model, consisting of love and rewards, or a newly proposed barrier model, consisting of investments and commitment. The barrier model proved to be the best discriminator of whether relationships continued past graduation. Validity of the barrier model was further supported by conceptual distinctions found between Love and Commitment scales and by evidence for the importance of investments to the development of commitment. The combination strategy of scale development and examination of relationships over time produced new scales of Investments and Commitment.