SINGLE IN THE CITY: Speaking different (sexual) languages

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First Posted: 2/24/2014

While it’s true that men and women don’t literally speak different languages, their use of sexually-laced terms, how they discuss sex, and their motivations for using such terms are considerably varied.

In a study published in 2012, researchers explored the relationship between patterns of language use and its connection with relational outcomes, particularly concerning married couples. According to the study, sexual terms fell into three categories: clinical terms, slang, and Standard English. What’s more, it was revealed that men and women use language differently when discussing sex and sex-specific actions.

“Language is important not only as a vehicle for clearly expressing ideas, but also because the language used to describe an activity helps shape the meaning people associate with that event,” the authors of the study wrote. “It both describes events as people perceive them and also helps create the nature of the event.”

For example, relational terms such as “We made love” compared to action terms (“We screwed each other”) have different meanings, although they convey more or less the same event. Men, according to research, are more likely use the latter while women, who place more emphasis on emotional and relational terms, are more likely to use the former.

Facts about gender and language:

• Verbal communication about sex is associated with greater sexual and marital satisfaction.

• Men report using sexual language more frequently than women.

• Experts believe that married individuals are often less effective in their communication about sex.

• Women use the term “make love” more than men, and men use the term “f—k” more often than women.

• The English language has thousands of sex-related words.

Men, too, are also more likely to talk about their genitalia more often than women. In the sexual lexicon, men will use a variety of terms to describe their endowment, ranging from crude slang terms to clinical terms.

Interestingly, the type of terms used can, according to researchers, “enhance the pleasure of a sexual encounter, and in other cases partners may find more satisfaction in language expressing passion or intimate connection.”

“Using a greater variety of sexual terms may offer a person a better ability to tailor messages for a variety of [sexual] goals, which could be related to an association between sexual language use and satisfaction,” researchers wrote.

In the end, how men and women use language and their motivations for doing so matters. To quote Mark Twain: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

Source: “Verbal Communication about Sex in Marriage: Patterns of Language Use and Its Connection with Relational Outcomes,” Jon A. Hess and Tina A. Coffelt (2012).