Online Program

Tell them or show them? Verbal and non-verbal communication use during sexual activity

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 9:00 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.

Heather D. Blunt, PhD, MPH, CPH, CHES, Community Health Promotion, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
The literature shows that communication between sex partners is important for numerous health outcomes (e.g., contraceptive use, relationship and sexual satisfaction). Research has typically relied on measures of general and sex-specific verbal communication, however much communication between human individuals occurs non-verbally. Therefore, sexual partners’ non-verbal communication may also be associated with sexual health outcomes.

The purpose of this study was to 1) determine primary communication styles (self and partner, verbal and non-verbal) in committed and casual sexual partnerships, and 2) explore sexual health outcomes associated with verbal and non-verbal communication about sexual satisfaction with sex partners.

Individuals ages 18+ years completed an online survey about their communication styles and sexual health outcomes with their most recent sex partner. Bivariate correlations, t-tests, and chi-square tests were performed to examine associations between partner type, communication styles, and health outcomes including sexual and relationship satisfaction. Data collection is ongoing.

Preliminary results (N=84) suggest that casual sex partners are more likely to report differences between their and their partner’s use of non-verbal communication about sexual satisfaction. Own verbal communication was negatively associated with having a casual sex partner and with sexual satisfaction.

Verbal and non-verbal communication may play unique roles in communication about sexual activity and satisfaction, and use of these communication types appear to differ across committed and casual sexual partnerships. Next steps include expanding the study to additional sexual orientations. Further research is needed to explore the antecedents and outcomes of verbal and non-verbal communication between various types of sex partners.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe the difference between verbal and non-verbal communication as it pertains to sexual satisfaction Explain the influence of verbal and non-verbal communication on sexual satisfaction in committed and casual sexual partnerships

Keyword(s): Communication, Sexuality

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the principal investigator of this and several other studies assessing communication and sexuality. My scientific interests include exploring the role of communication in healthy sexuality and promoting communication as a key piece in sexual health education.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.