An Examination of the Nature of Erotic Talk
Peter K. Jonason
•Gabrielle L. Betteridge
•Ian I. Kneebone
Received: 12 February 2015 / Revised: 12 June 2015 / Accepted: 18 June 2015
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media New York 2015
Abstract Using a mixed-methods study, we provided the
ﬁrst systematic documentation and exploration of erotic talk.
In Study 1 (N=95), participants provided 569 erotic talk
statements in an anonymous online survey, which we classiﬁed,
using a modiﬁed thematic analysis, as being representative of
eight themes. In Study 2 (N=238), we quantiﬁed individual
differences in these themes, subjected them to factor analysis,
and examined the nomological network surrounding them with
measures of relationship and sexual satisfaction, sociosexuality,
and personality. The eight initial categories represented two
higher order factors, which we call individualist talk and mutu-
alistic talk. These factors were orthogonal in factor analysis and
distinct in their nomological network. While the majority of people
reported using erotic talk, we found few sex differences in its use.
Keywords Communication Sexuality Satisfaction
Erotolalia Sociosexuality Profanity
In order to get insight into human sexual behaviors and desires,
researchers often focus on behaviors people have committed,
are interested/willing to commit, and attitudes about behaviors
(Joyal, Cossette, & Lapierre, 2015; Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, &
Gebhard, 1953; Schmitt, 2005). One aspect of human sexuality
appears to have been neglected; erotic talk (aka sex talk, pillow
talk, or dirty talk) or communication in the context of sexual
encounters. So long as one accepts the premise that what people
say (i.e., vocalizations or utterances) are meaningful observa-
tional units of analysis (Hamilton & Hunter, 1985;Potter&
Wetherall, 1987), one could better understand sexual behav-
iors, fantasies, and motivations by examining what people say
in the context of sexual episodes.
While previously deemed unimportant (Levin, 2006), a
recent, large-scale sex survey suggests 62 % of respondents
enjoyed talking during sex (Redhotpie, 2014). In addition,
erotic talk appears to play a role in relationship and sexual
satisfaction (Babin, 2013; Brogan, Fiore, & Wrench, 2009;
Byers, 2001; Crawford, Kippax, & Waldby, 1994; Sanchez,
Phelan, Moss-Racusin, & Good, 2012) and facilitates orgasm
(Muehlenhard & Shippee, 2010; Roberts, Kippax, Waldby, &
Crawford, 1995). Interestingly, vocalizations (i.e., nonverbal
erotic talk) in nonhuman primates facilitate orgasm and pair-
bonding in various nonhuman primates as well (Engelhardt,
Fischer, Neumann, Pfeifer, & Heistermann, 2012; Hamilton
& Arrowood, 1978; Pfefferle, Brauch, Heistermann, Hodges,
& Fischer, 2008). So long as ones accepts evolutionary theory
and humans being part of the primate order, what is‘‘said’’during
sex might be biologically meaningful. Despite these points,
erotic talk has received limited attention because it may contain
verbal and sexual taboos (e.g., cursing; Jay, 1992,1999,2009;
MacDougald, 1961; Murnen, 2000; Patrick, 1901; Sanders,
1969). Taken together, this suggests erotic talk is worthy of more
detailed study. In this study, we provide the ﬁrst (that we know
of) documentation of erotic talk themes along with how the
individual differences of participant’s sex, sociosexuality, and
relationship satisfaction account for the use and enjoyment of
&Peter K. Jonason
School of Social Sciences and Psychology, University of
Western Sydney, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia
Graduate School of Health, Discipline of Clinical Psychology,
University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway,
NSW 2007, Australia
Arch Sex Behav
Content of Men and Women’s Erotic Talk
Different goals or sexual motivations may underlie different
themes in erotic talk. When erotic talk is geared towards rela-
tionship building, we expect it to involve voluntary and invol-
untary (reﬂexive) feedback that is verbal and nonverbal, expres-
sions of intimacy, and instructional statements (Brogan et al.,
2009;Byers,2011;Kinseyetal.,1953;Levin,2006). All of these
(and maybe more) have the implicit, if not explicit, goal of trying
to improve the quality of sexual activity for both members of the
relationship. As both people beneﬁt from an improved rela-
tionship,such themes might be considered mutualistic themes.
However, people are not always overtly motivated by rela-
tionship enhancement or group needs (Jonason, Strosser, Kroll,
Duineveld, & Barufﬁ, 2015) and, may, instead, be more concerned
with their own sexual arousal/enhancement.
In this aspect of
erotic talk, individuals may adopt a more aggressive posture,
tone, and content. To get some insight into this form of erotic talk,
we might look to sexual deviance (Williams, Cooper, Howell,
Yuille, & Paulhus, 2009). Sexually deviant behaviors tend to place
the sexual arousal of one partner as paramount and the fact that the
partner also gets aroused (maybe) is seconda ry (e.g., sexual
asphyxiation). Sexual bondage and other domination manifesta-
tions of sexual behavior suggest some people are aroused by being
dominant or submissive, leading us to expect such themes in erotic
talk as well. This desire for power may even go a step further in the
form of sexual ownership in erotic talk (e.g.,‘‘whose pussy is this?’’).
Alternatively, vocalizing one’s sexual fantasies may better facili-
tate arousal and climax by creating a self-arousing stimuli, and
therefore, we expect this to be another theme in erotic talk.
However, there might be some reason to expect the sexes to differ
in some ways. While the sexes are more alike than they are dif-
ferent, sexual behavior and attitudes remain one context in which
they continue to differ in meaningful degrees (Oliver & Hyde,
1993; Petersen & Hyde, 2010). Women may be more motivated
to bond and commune than men are (Buhrke & Fuqua, 1987;
Jonason, Webster, & Lindsey, 2008) and, therefore, may be more
interested in erotic talk centered around intimacy and bonding.
Indeed, women may be more partner-focus in the bedroom
(Bensman, 2011), which may explain why they sometimes fake
orgasm (Muehlenhard & Shippee, 2010; Roberts et al., 1995).
Men, in contrast, may have a greater need for power and control
than women do, leading them to be more interested in messages
that make them feel that way.
Structure of Erotic Talk
While we expect some clear themes to emerge in erotic talk, we
expect they will likely reduce down to two fundamental, higher
order constructs that have been well researched in personality
psychology. The distinction between selﬁsh/individualistic traits
and prosocial/mutualistic (i.e., agency and communion) traits is
particularly important in personality psychology (Allport, 1924;
Trapnell & Paulhus, 2012). We expect individual differences
in talk designedto improve the quality of the relationship (e.g.,
feedback)to fall under a higher order distinction of mutualistic
talk. In contrast, we expect erotic talk of a more overtly sexual
nature (e.g., sexual ownership) to fall under a higher order dis-
tinction of individualistic talk.
One way to understand the nature of different aspects (at
different levels) of erotic talk is to assess its nomological net-
work. A nomological network is composed of the correlations
that surround a given construct in theoretical space. Primarily,
we are interestedin three aspects of sexualitythat may allow us
to distinguish the types and themes oferotic talk.Sociosexual-
ity is a personality trait that taps attitudes, behaviors, and desires
related to promiscuity or a casual sex approach to mating (Simpson
& Gangestad, 1991). Given the overtly sexual nature of this trait,
we expectit to correlate morewith individualistic talk than mu-
tualistic talk. That is, we expect those who are sociosexually
liberal to engage in more individualistic talk than mutualistic
talk. In contrast, relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfac-
tion may be facilitated by open communication and expres-
sions of affection (Byers, 2001; Montesi, Fauber, Gordon, &
Heimberg, 2011; Pascoal, Narciso, & Pereira, 2014). As such,
we expect it to be correlated with the use of mutualistic talk but
not individualistic talk. As each higher order dimension of talk
comes from different psychological space, we expect what it is
related to differ, further revealing the relative orthogonality of
these types of erotic talk.
Secondarily, we examine, in a descriptive fashion, how the
Big Five personality traits
may allow us to distinguish these
two major dimensions of erotic talk. We expect two general
patterns. First, extraversion describes a person’s tendency to
engage with the social world. As much of erotic talk requires
communication, we expect extraversion to provide some dis-
criminatory value in understanding aspects of erotic talk. Sec-
ond, we have expectations that agreeableness will also be valuable.
Agreeableness is an individual difference that describes how
much people try to get along with others and are generally nice.
As this trait has major implications for relationship stability
(Botwin, Buss, & Shackelford, 1997; Buss & Shackelford, 1997),
we expect it to also be associated with mutualistic talk. And last, if
erotic talk is a manifestation of some psychological dysfunction,
it should be correlated with neuroticism. As we do not feel it is an
Indeed, as individuals can have sex outside of a formal relationship,
sex talk might not occur within a relationship and, therefore, there is little
reason to try to build relationship satisfaction and commitment.
Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Openness, and Conscienti-
Arch Sex Behav
expression of dysfunction, we expect no correlations with neu-
In an act-nomination/frequency study (Buss & Craik, 1983;
Jonason & Buss, 2012), we document major themes in erotic talk
and try to understand the factor structure of erotic talk. We adopt
such a method to minimize experimenter bias. We collect
statements from one sample and then quantify individual dif-
ferences in those statements in another sample. We provide an
exploration and documentation of individual differences in
erotic talk in order to get a clearer picture of people’s sexual
motives and behavior.
Study 1: The Content of Erotic Talk
Study 1 was an act-nomination study (Buss & Craik, 1983)
designed to identify the types of statements that individuals say
duringsexualactivity, and grouptheseinto qualitativelysimilar
messages. This method is useful for basing research on content
provided by participants, not researchers. The process was gui-
ded by the question: What is the content of people’s erotic talk,
and are there recurrent themes across the statements that can
be categorized? To do so, we collected open-ended responses
from a group of participants and then subjected them to a sorting
procedure to detect major themes.
Participants and Procedure
Ninety-ﬁve participants (52 % female), aged between 18 and
69 years old (M=40.70, SD =12.22) were recruited via
social media in a snowball fashion. As per the act-nomination
methodology, participants were asked, in open question format,
to provide a list of the things that they and their partner say during
sex including, but not limited to, for excitement and expressions
of emotions. In order to collect as many erotic statements as
possible to better represent a wide range of speech, participants
were free to provide statements men and women use. Partici-
pants who indicated that they did not use erotic talk (13 %) were
asked to supply statements that they knew or believed other men
Only participants from unique IP
addresses were included. Ethics approval was granted by the
University of Western Sydney.
A total of 569 erotic statements were collected, with content
ranging from sweet talk (e.g., ‘‘Darling’’) to what would be con-
sidered in a broader context to be offensive (e.g.,‘‘Shut up bitch’’).
Men and women did not differ in the number of statements they
provided. Typographical errors were corrected and a modiﬁed
thematic analysis was conducted. Two research assistants, who
were blind to the hypotheses and expected themes, independe-
ntly analyzed the statements, and discrepancies among re-
searchers were discussed. This procedure mirrored prior analysis
with act-nomination data (Jonason & Buss, 2012) and acts to
reduce some of the noise present in act-nomination data. It does
not, however, strictly follow thematic analysis procedures of
creating coding schemes.
This process produced a total of eight message themes. The
eight themes were (1) sexual dominanc e (e.g.,‘‘Take it!,’’‘‘Who’s
my fucktoy?,’’‘‘Are you a slaveboy?’’); (2) sexual submission
(e.g.,‘‘Fuck me good,’’‘‘Let me be your dirty slut,’’‘‘Do with it as
you please’’); (3) instructive statements (e.g.,‘‘Go faster/harder,’’
‘‘Bend over,’’ ‘‘Put your cock in me’’); (4) positive feedback/
reinforcement (e.g.,‘‘You are so good at that,’’‘‘Ilove it when you
slow down,’’ ‘‘You taste so good’’); (5) intimacy/emotional
bonding (e.g.,‘‘I love you,’’‘‘Darling,’’‘‘You’re beautiful’’); (6)
sexual ownership (e.g.,‘‘Whose pussy is this?,’’‘‘You’re mine
now,’’‘‘Are you my girl?’’); (7) speaking fantasies (e.g., ‘‘I’m
imagining people are watching us fuck,’’‘‘Tell me what you
would do with that guy’’); and (8) reﬂexive calls (e.g., ‘‘Yes/
yeah!,’’ ‘‘Fuck!,’’ ‘‘Oh God!’’). Categories sometimes over-
lapped,for example, messagesof sexual dominanceand sexual
submission were sometimes also instructive, and if so, were
coded underboth. However,sexual dominance wasonly coded
if the statement clearly contained a degrading-the-other or
controlling message (e.g.,‘‘You’ll come when I tell you to come’’),
and sexual submission only coded if a statement contained a self-
degrading or yielding message (e.g., ‘‘Please use me to please
you’’). However, by examining the themes in Study 2, we reduce
The open question format proved valuable in providing cur-
rent and relevant data on the content of erotic talk that avoided
any preordained vocabulary or categories being imposed, as with
many previous studies. In stark contrast to previous ﬁndings that
contend there is a high usage of euphemisms (e.g., making love)
and formal terminology (e.g., vagina, penis)usedtoreferto
sexual terms (e.g., Sanders & Robinson, 1979;Walsh&
Leonard,1974; Wells, 1990), only one statement contained a
euphemism (i.e., ‘‘I love the way you make love’’), and one
statementcontained a formal term (i.e.,‘‘I love how smooth the
head of yourpenis is’’). Slang was by farthe most preferred gra-
mmar for sexual anatomy (e.g., cock, dick, pussy, ass/arse,tits,
and balls) and for sexual intercourse (mostly, fuck). There was
While allowing people to report on statements that others say and not
them, we may have introduced some learned content from pornographic
movies, but as we (1) will not examine particular statements and (2) feel
men and women can still accurately report statements offered by menand
women even from pornographic ﬁlms, we feel this is a minor concern.
Moreover, as most pornographic consumption in the age of Redtube (and
other website devoted to pornographic clips) revolves around limited
scripts and budgets, this seems like a quite minor concern.
The full list of statements is available from the ﬁrst author, upon request.
Arch Sex Behav
one exceptionto this rule—the word cuntwas only used by two
participants, both male. This is not surprising given that the
word is considered the most taboo of all sexual terms, partic-
ularly by women (Braun & Kitzinger, 2001;Murnen,2000;
Sanders & Robinson, 1979;Wells,1990) and we relied on an
American sample where such a term may be less common than
in countries that speak the Queen’s English (e.g., Australia).
Study 2: Individual Differences in Erotic Talk
Now that we have a list of erotic statements that are relatively
devoid of researcher bias, we need to quantify individual dif-
ferences in the use of erotic talk using the act-frequency method
(Buss & Craik, 1983). In Study 2, we provide participants with
quantitative questions asking about their use/enjoyment of each
of the eight themes. We then subject these responses to factor
analysis and an assessment of the nomological network sur-
roundingthe individual differences in the use oferotic talk. We
again assess sex differences because those analyses in Study 1
were more tests about the number of statements each sex offered
than any test of differences in erotic talk usage in men and women.
Participants and Procedure
Two hundred and thirty-eight participants (52 % female)
aged between 19 and 68 years old (M=35.43, SD =10.09),
from the USA,completed the anonymous online surveyposted
on Mechanical Turk in exchange for US$1. Ninety-two percent
of participants indicated that they use erotic talk, 72 % were in a
committed relationship (18 % single),
88 % were heterosexual,
4 % homosexual, and 7 % bisexual.
Only participants from
unique IP addresses were included. Ethics approval was granted
by the University of Western Sydney.
To measure individual differences in erotic talk, participants
were asked to rate their use of each of the eight categories of
erotic talk from Study 1 (i.e., sexual dominance, sexual submis-
sion, instructive statements, positive feedback/reinforcement,
intimacy/emotional bonding, sexual ownership, speaking fan-
tasies, and reﬂexive calls). Sample items of each were presented
to avoid any confusion or objections to the terms used to rep-
resent each category. Threemeasures of usage were taken, which
were, how much the individual used such statements (1 =never;
5=all the time), how exciting it was to hear, and to say during sex
(1 =not at all;5=extremely, for both dimensions). These three
question types were averaged and found to have good-to-ex-
cellent internal consistency (see Table 2),andsotoeliminate
redundancy and reduce Type I error inﬂation, the 24 (eight themes
by three question types) items were reduced to eight measures of
erotic talk usage (use/pleasure) by averaging responses across
three items for each theme.
Participants were asked to respond to
these questions in relation to their current or most recent
Sexual satisfaction was assessed using the New Sexual
Satisfaction Scale-Short (S
ˇtulhofer & Bus
ˇko, 2010), a 7-item
measure with a conceptual framework derived from the sex
therapy literature. The items were averaged to create a single
index of sexual satisfaction (a=.94). Participants were asked
to respond to these questions in relation to the last relationship
where they used erotic talk.
Regardless of relationship status at the time of surveying,
each participant completed the 7-item Relationship Assess-
ment Scale (Hendrick, 1988). The items were averaged to
create a single index of relationshipsatisfaction (a=.91). Par-
ticipants were asked to respondto these questions with respect
to the last relationship where they used erotic talk.
To measure individual differences in sociosexuality, par-
ticipants completed the Revised Sociosexual Orientation Inven-
tory (Penke & Asendorpf, 2008), a 9-item measure of willingness
to engage in uncommitted sexual relationships. The items were
averaged to create a single index of sociosexual orientation
Personality was measured using a 20-item short form of
the 50-item International Personality Item Pool-Five-Factor
Model measure, the Mini-IPIP (Donnellan, Oswald, Baird, &
Lucas, 2006). The scales contain four items per Big Five trait
(i.e., extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuro-
ticism, and intellect/imagination). Items were averaged to create
indexes of each dimension, allof which returned good internal
consistency (as=.74 to .89).
Age was correlated with less use of the submissive themed erotic talk
(r(218) =-.14, p\.05).
The results were generally robust to this distinction. Indeed, the only
effects suggested that those who were in committed relationships used
mutualistic talk more than single participant (t(218) =2.24, p\.05)
which was driven by differences in intimate talk (t(218) =2.15, p\.05)
and reﬂexive talk (t(218) =1.97, p\.05). As these are exploratory
analyses and weak effects, we urge caution in their over-interpretation.
Because of the small size of the latter two groups, and initial analyses
showing no effect for sexual orientation, this variable was omitted from
Data on the original three dimensions are available from the ﬁrst
author upon request.
An examination of the three dimensions of this scale proved reasonably
fruitless. As our interest was to investigate sociosexuality in general as
opposed to any one aspect of it, we feel this is the best approach theoretically
Arch Sex Behav
Factor Structure of Erotic Talk
We sought to understand the factor structure of erotic talk. To
begin, we correlated individual differences on all eight themes
(Table 1). There was sufﬁcient overlap and the sample size was
adequate (Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin =.80) to run factor analyses.
Using Principal Components Analysis (for data reduction pur-
poses) with an Oblimin rotation, thereweretwofactors(Table2)
accounting for 56 % of the variance. Factor 1 contained items
related to more self-focused sexual activity, and when averaged
had good internal consistency (a=.75). Factor 2 contained items
that represented shared experience and communicating pleasure
to one’s sexual partner, and when averaged had adequate internal
consistency (a=.68). These two factorsbecame new study va-
riables, individualistic talk and mutualistic talk, respectively. In-
dividualistic talk and mutualistic talk were correlated (r(223) =
.47, p\.001).I n a Conﬁrmatory Factor Analysis, we veriﬁed that
a two-dimensional model (Fig. 1) ﬁt the data moderately well
(19) =46.33, p\.01, v
/df =2.44, CFI =.94, RMSEA =.08
(90 % CI .05–.11), p-closeness\.06) and better (Dv
p\.01) than a one-dimensional model (v
(20) =84.11, p\.01,
/df =4.21, CFI =.85, RMSEA =.12 (90 % CI .09–.14), p-
Sex Differences in Erotic Talk
Next, we examined the role of participant’s sex
in the use of
these two dimensions. A 2 92 repeated measures ANOVA,
with sex of the participant as the between-subjects factor and the
types of erotic talk as the within-subjects factor, showed that
men and women did not differ on their preference for the two
types of erotic talk. Both sexes had a higher (F(1, 218) =334.66,
=.61) use/enjoyment of mutualistic talk (M=3.33,
SD =0.65) than individualistic talk (M=2.45, SD =0.76). We
did not conduct similar analyses for the eight themes or the
particular questions we used to assess individual differences in
erotic talk as they made little theoretical sense. Instead, we turn
our attention to sex differences.
Generally, we found few sex differences. The sexes differed
in only one theme intimacy/emotional bonding (t(217) =-2.77,
p\.05, Cohen’s d=-0.38), where women reported more use/
enjoyment than men did. It appears that for women, sex is an
opportunity to strengthen the dyadic relationship, but for men, it
has a different purpose. To offset concerns that examining fre-
quency, pleasure in hearing, and pleasure in saying independe-
ntly may be essential, we examined sex differences in the par-
ticular items (despite an inﬂated Type I error). Women were
more likely to say submissive messages (t(217) =-3.28, p\.01,
d=-0.45) and to enjoy hearing intimate messages (t(217) =
-4.04, p\.01, d=-0.55) than men were, and men reported
more excitement when hearing messages of submission than
women did (t(217) =4.33, p\.01, d=0.59).
Nomological Network of Erotic Talk
To follow the factor analysis, we sought to examine the nomo-
logical network surrounding each of these two dimensions
and the eight themes (Table 3). Individualistic talk was cor-
related with sociosexuality, sexual satisfaction, and extraversion.
Mutualistic talk was associated with relationship satisfaction,
sexual satisfaction, extraversion, and agreeableness. The cor-
relations between the higher order themes and sexual satisfac-
tion differed (Steiger’s z=1.90, p\.05), suggesting it really is
mutualistic talk that is associated with sexual satisfaction, not so
much individualistic talk. Use/enjoyment of the sexual domi-
nance theme was associated with extraversion and sociosexu-
ality. Use/enjoyment of the sexual submission theme was
associated with extraversion and sexual satisfaction. Use/
enjoyment of the intimacy theme was associated with relation-
ship and sexual satisfaction along with extraversion and agree-
ableness. Use/enjoyment of the positive feedback theme was
associated with more sexual satisfaction and extraversion and
agreeableness. Use/enjoyment of the instructive statements was
associated with agreeableness. And last, use/enjoyment of the
reﬂexive calls theme was associated with openness and agree-
ableness. While some apparent moderation was present, when
we adjusted alpha for Type I error inﬂation, none passed that
Next, we correlated the three question types with indivi-
dual difference measures. Generalized frequency of use of
any kind of erotic talk was correlated with sexual satisfaction
(r(223) =.21, p\.01), extraversion (r(220) =.19, p\.01),
and agreeableness (r(220) =.18, p\.01). Generalized enjoy-
ment of saying any kind of erotic talk was correlated with sexual
satisfaction (r(223) =.28, p\.01), extraversion (r(220) =.21,
p\.01), and agreeableness (r(220) =.18, p\.01). Generalized
enjoyment of hearing erotic talk had no correlates. Again, an
adjusted alpha (p\.001) revealed no moderation by sex of the
Last, we correlated the individual themes within each ques-
tion type and the individual differences measures (Table 4).
However, given the large number of correlations, we only will
mention the larger ones and obvious patterns. We include this to
provide the fullest account of individual differences in erotic talk
as possible. Being sociosexually unrestricted was correlated with
the frequency of use and the excitement in saying and hearing
messages of sexual dominance. Agreeableness was associated
with nearly every case of use and enjoyment of the aspects of
mutualistic talk. The frequency of use, enjoyment in hearing, and
enjoyment in saying intimacy messages was negatively corre-
lated with being sociosexually unrestricted but positively correlated
The interaction of sex and use/nonuse of erotic talk was not tested
given the unequal cell sizes.
Arch Sex Behav
with both relationship and sexual satisfaction. Again, there was
little evidence for moderation by participant’s sex (p\.001).
We have provided an advance in the measurement and under-
standing of a topic that appears important in relationship and
sexual satisfaction in humans and nonhuman primates alike
(Byers, 2001; Pfefferle et al., 2008; Roberts et al., 1995). We
have argued that much can be revealed about the nature of
people based on what they say (Potter & Wetherall, 1987), and
thus, studying erotic talk may complement what is already
known about their sexual behavior (Jonason, 2013;Kinsey
et al., 1953). We examined individual differences and themes
in erotic talk using classic test theory and the act-nomination/
There appear to be two primary dimensions that resemble the
agency-communion distinction found in personality psychology
(Allport, 1924; Trapnell & Paulhus, 2012). The dimensions were
tested in two ways. First, in factor analysis, it is clear there are
two, somewhat correlated dimensions we called mutualistic and
individualistic talk, both of which are composed of four themes of
erotic talk. Second, in assessing the nomological network sur-
rounding aspects of erotic talk, each was correlated with different
outcomes. Sociosexuality was associated with the individualistic
theme through sexual dominance, but it was negatively corre-
lated with the intimacy theme. Extraversion was associated with
the individualistic theme through messages of sexual dominance
and sexual submission. Extraversion was associated with mutu-
alistic talk through intimacy and positive feedback. Agreeable-
ness was only associated with mutualistic talk and its themes. This
suggests each dimension has its own unique correlates to provide
sufﬁcient cause to consider them distinct here and in the future.
In terms of the content of erotic talk, each may reveal unique
aspects of sexual motivations that have been highlighted in
recent work on sexual fantasies (Joyal et al.,2015). Erotic talk,
Table 1 Descriptive statistics, Cronbach’s alphas, and zero-order correlations among erotic talk themes
aMean (SD) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Speaking fantasies .91 1.80 (0.99) –
2. Sexual dominance .97 2.81 (0.90) .32** –
3. Sexual ownership .84 2.30 (1.07) .39** .44** –
4. Sexual submission .75 2.90 (0.98) .35** .63** .49** –
5. Intimacy/bonding .82 3.10 (1.01) .03 .15* .25** .22** –
6. Positive feedback .78 3.23 (0.83) .21** .30** .26** .36** .40** –
7. Instructive statements .76 3.25 (0.91) .21** .38** .24** .31** .45** .49** –
8. Reﬂexive calls .76 3.70 (0.86) .20* .41** .20* .35** .17* .42** .36** –
*p\.05, ** p\.01
Table 2 Component loadings for the factor structure (oblimin rotation) of erotic talk themes
Erotic talk themes Components
1. Speaking fantasies .79 – .55
2. Sexual dominance .74 – .64
3. Sexual ownership .69 – .50
4. Sexual submission .68 – .65
5. Intimacy/bonding – .80 .57
6. Positive feedback – .76 .63
7. Instructive statements – .63 .55
8. Reﬂexive calls – .48 .40
Eigen values 3.32 1.17
% Variance 41.46 14.66
Component loadings less than .30 have been suppressed
Speciﬁc details regarding moderation tests can beobtained by contacting
the ﬁrst author.
Arch Sex Behav
like sexual motivations, may have mutualistic and individual-
istic shades. The former appear to be other-focused motivations
that may improve the quality of sex and the relationship. For
instance, message of bonding and intimacy may serve to further
cement the commitment individuals have towards one another
(Byers, 2001; Montesi et al., 2011; Pascoal et al., 2014). The
latter may place the enjoyment of the individual at the forefront.
For instance, verbalizing ones sexual fantasies may facilitate the
speaker’s pleasure and any arousal created in one’s partner is
incidental. Nevertheless, while this divide is consistent with
work in personality psychology (Allport, 1924;Trapnell&Paul-
hus, 2012), it is possible that all of these serve functions across
relationships. There is likely no clear and clean division despite
the compelling indications from the factor analyses, as suggested
by the association between the two higher order factors. What
may be more reasonable is that each theme plays a role in
χ2(19) = 46.33, p < .01, χ2/df = 2.44, NFI = .90, CFI = .94,
RMSEA = .08 (90%CI .05, .11), p-closeness < .06
Fig. 1 Conﬁrmatory factor
analysis of the structure of erotic
Table 3 Nomological network correlations (r) of various aspects of erotic talk
SOI RS SS O C E A N
1. Speaking fantasies .11 -.05 .06 .13 -.04 .06 -.01 .00
2. Sexual dominance .24** .05 .12 .08 .04 .18** .06 -.08
3. Sexual ownership .03 .00 .12 .01 -.08 .11 -.01 -.03
4. Sexual submission .12 -.01 .13* .07 -.04 .15* .05 .03
5. Intimacy/bonding -.27 .23** .27** -.05 .11 .15* .18** -.06
6. Positive feedback -.06 .10 .24** .07 .06 .17** .21** -.03
7. Instructive statements -.06 .01 .13 .09 .04 .03 .18** -.05
8. Reﬂexive calls .07 .03 .11 .13* -.02 .11 .20** .03
9. Individualistic talk .16* .01 .14* .09 -.04 .16* .03 -.03
10. Mutualistic talk -.12 .17* .27** .08 .07 .16* .27** -.04
Italicized items reﬂect higher order dimensions of erotic talk
SOI sociosexuality, RS relationship satisfaction, SS sexual satisfaction, Oopenness, Cconscientiousness, Eextraversion, Aagreeableness, N
*p\.05, ** p\.01
Arch Sex Behav
different relationships to various degrees. Indeed, what might
be worth pursuing in the future is an examination of the erotic
talk in long-term and short-term relationship contexts (Buss
& Schmitt, 1993; Trivers, 1972).
There was scant evidence for sex differences in erotic talk.
It is possible that men and women have learned to say what the
other sex likes and derives pleasure from pleasing their partners.
As we did not account for source of pleasure or pornography
consumption, we cannot say much about this. Individuals might
just be parroting what they hear men and women say in pornog-
raphy. However, given that our results were largely consistent
when we examined use and enjoyment saying, and hearing, this
seems like a minor concern. This problem will have been reduced
by looking for themes as we did in Study 1 and following them
up with Study 2. In addition, the nature of our questions was
about what men and women say in general. If individuals were
heavy consumers of pornography, they should still be able to
differentiate between what men and women say in the videos
they have seen.
Nevertheless, the lack of sex differences is not all that
surprising in that the sexes are more alike than they are dif-
ferent (Oliver & Hyde, 1993; Petersen & Hyde, 2010). We did
ﬁnd some sex differences as predicted. Women preferred
messages of intimacy, whereas men preferred messages of power.
Such results are consistent with social script (Lawrance, Taylor, &
Byers, 1996; Simon & Gagnon, 1986; Wiederman, 2005)and
Table 4 Correlations between the frequency of use, enjoyment in saying, and enjoyment in hearing erotic talk and individual difference measure
SOI RS SS O C E A N
Frequency of use .19** .09 .04 .11 .02 .17** .04 -.06
Excitement in saying .18** .17* .07 .11 .01 .16* .06 -.08
Excitement in hearing .24** .04 .00 .03 .05 .10 .04 -.06
Frequency of use .12 .12 -.01 .07 -.06 .10 -.00 .07
Excitement in saying .02 .12 -.04 .04 -.01 .15* .18** .09
Excitement in hearing .17** .07 .02 .10 -.06 .09 -.06 -.06
Frequency of use .02 .13 .01 .06 -.08 .12 .03 -.06
Excitement in saying -.00 .20** .10 .02 -.09 .09 -.05 -.08
Excitement in hearing .07 .00 -.10 -.05 -.07 .07 -.00 .05
Frequency of use .13 .04 -.04 .13 -.04 .06 .04 .03
Excitement in saying .06 .08 .00 .11 -.05 .05 -.04 -.03
Excitement in hearing .14* .03 -.02 .13 -.04 .05 -.03 .03
Frequency of use -.01 .11 .05 .13* -.05 .05 .16* .01
Excitement in saying -.07 .11 .11 .10 .05 .08 .24** -.07
Excitement in hearing -.05 .08 .08 .01 .08 -.05 .05 -.06
Frequency of use .00 .25** .08 .12 .08 .14* .25** -.03
Excitement in saying -.12 .25** .14* .06 .07 .20** .15* -.10
Excitement in hearing -.03 .11 .03 .02 .01 .10 .14* .05
Frequency of use -.15* .21** .24** -.05 .05 .10 .16* -.15*
Excitement in saying -.25** .29** .23** -.04 .13* .17* .16* -.06
Excitement in hearing -.27** .19** .12 -.03 .09 .10 .14* .06
Frequency of use .22** .03 -.01 .12 -.09 .10 .17* .05
Excitement in saying -.05 .18** .09 .04 .02 .13* .22** -.00
Excitement in hearing .03 .05 -.01 .20** -.00 .02 .10 .03
SOI sociosexuality, RS relationship satisfaction, SS sexual satisfaction, Oopenness, Cconscientiousness, Eextraversion, Aagreeableness, N
*p\.05, ** p\.01
Arch Sex Behav
evolutionary models (Buss, Shackelford, Choe, Buunk, & Dijk-
stra, 2000). Unfortunately, our data do not say anything about
which model is better in accounting for individual differences in
erotic talk; it was not designed to do so. It is likely that both
provide complimentary and overlapping information about
erotic talk. The evolutionary approach creates a parsimonious
model with the work on sexual vocalizations in nonhuman
primates (e.g., Hamilton & Arrowood, 1978) and offers a priori
reasons to expect sex differences and even particular content. A
sociocultural/social script model takes those evolved tendencies
and preferences and reinforces or punishes them, providing
context-speciﬁc variance in the content of erotic talk and potential
sex differences in the use and enjoyment of erotic talk.
Limitations, Future Directions, and Conclusions
Although this study was a major advance in the documenta-
tion and measurement of individual differences in erotic talk,
it was, nonetheless, characterized by a number of limitations.
First, although our samples were meaningfully older than the
standard college student samples of sex and relationship research,
our samples could still be described as W.E.I.R.D. (i.e., Western,
educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic; Henrich, Heine, &
Norenzayan, 2010). This might be exacerbated in online samples
although we feel the anonymity and sample size provided by such
methods are important tools in sex research. Moreover, the reli-
ance on an older sample provides for a greater and more varied
sexual history than college students are likely to have; something
that may be essential in understanding erotic talk. It is likely that
young, relatively inexperienced undergrads may not have the
sexual range or conﬁdence to use erotic talk as those who are a bit
older. Nevertheless, the possibility remains that erotic talk could
differ in content and structure from society to society; however,
how and why those differences would exist is unclear to us.
Second, the degrees of freedom varied by about 20 in places
because of some confusion in participants regarding how to
complete the measures of erotic talk. Nevertheless, as our anal-
yses relied on maximum likelihood estimation, there were few
missing data points, and there is every expectation that they were
missing at random, we feel conﬁdent in our conclusions. This
problem, however, reinforces the utility of large samples when
examining sensitive and provocative topics (see Jonason, Li, &
Cason, 2009). By the law of averages alone, having a large sample
will offset and minimize problems with missing data. Never-
theless, why people refused to answer a given question is an
important, albeit tangential psychometric question for sex
researchers, but beyond the scope of this project.
Third, as we transitioned from higher order analyses to more
speciﬁc item analyses, we did reveal some asymmetries sug-
gesting that while the factor analyses are both theoretically and
psychometrically justiﬁable, there maybe nuancesfuture research
should attend to as we have (e.g., the distinction between saying
and hearing). For instance, more detail may be offered if future
research were to disentangle some contextual effects. Erotic talk
content might differ when compared in one-night standsas com-
pared to committed relationships. Two possibilities exist. The
range of erotic talk content might be greater in long-term rela-
tionships than short-term relationships as people have devel-
oped enough intimacy to explore their sexuality (Jonason, Li,
&Richardson,2010). Alternatively, individualistic talk might
be more used in the short-term than long-term domain. As
short-term relationships have sexual gratiﬁcation at their core
(Jonason, 2013), such erotic talk might be used to enhance par-
ticipant’s sexual pleasure.
Fourth, in some cases we may have had an inﬂated alpha
but we (1) feel this is tolerable given the novelty of our study
and (2) that we conceptually did omnibus tests in our higher
order analyses. Subsequent analyses acted as de facto simple
effects tests. Doing so allowed us to squeeze every ounce of
information possible out of the data. There are surely many
more questions to follow about this understudied topic. We
hope to have provided both depth and breadth of insight into
erotic talk for future research to follow up on.
Fifth, as Study 2 relied on responses from Study 1, Study 2
could be criticized as limited in that we must trust the statements
provided by that sample. To offset this, we did not rely on the
actual responses for Study 2, but, instead, assessed individual
differences in the themes allowing us to, ad hoc, ignore apparent
noise created by such qualitative designs (Jonason & Buss,
2012). Future research might compliment this approach by doing
a content analysis of what men and women say in pornographic
ﬁlms and daily diary studies that ask people to report on what
they said in their last sexual episode to triangulate on more
Collectively, our studies provide exciting new material to
drive further research. We have, in effect, created a multiva-
riate, multilevel, multicontent measure of individual differ-
ences in erotic talk. This measure will provide insights into
erotic talk from various levels of analysis, and we encourage
future researchers to treat erotic talk as we have. Future work
may reveal more sex differences by examining context speci-
ﬁcity in what people in say in short-term and long-term rela-
tionships (Buss & Schmitt, 1993). Alternatively, future research
might examine how sexual orientation and participants’ sex
interact to predict preferred erotic talk themes.
In conclusion, it makes the most sense to us to think of erotic
talk as being composed of themes that individuals orient towards
differently while retaining strong theoretical currents running
underneath. Indeed, we have shown there are two main types of
erotic talk that are composed of eight different themes that have a
reasonably orthogonal structure and nomological network. For
the ﬁrst time, the science of sex research can claim to have fully
documented what people say in the bedroom.
Arch Sex Behav
Acknowledgments Part of the results reported represented the Mas-
ter’s thesis in Clinical Psychology for the second author. We thank Adiba
Icho, Katie Ireland, Laura Mansﬁeld, and Milica Medojevic for their
work as Research Assistants.
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