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How hormones affect your post-sex pillow talk

By Sarah Moses Friday, April 15, 2016 - 01:00
Are you into pillow talk? Or does the idea of sharing thoughts and feelings after sex terrify you? Your answer could have to do with the hormone testosterone, a recent US study found.

You’ve just had sex with a new partner…. and oh dear, it wasn’t great, exactly. Awkward! Do you talk to him or her about what went wrong? Or do you keep mum and hope it’ll be better the next time around?

Talking about sex, after sex, can be pretty difficult. But the thing is, it’s also pretty important. Sharing your intimate thoughts and feelings make a big difference when it comes to having a healthy sex life and a close and satisfying relationship.

Though post-sex pillow talk can make just about anyone feel vulnerable, some people seem to find it easier than others. Why are they able to share their most intimate thoughts while other people struggle to share what’s on their mind?

The bedroom hormones

There are, of course, many possible reasons. Things like personality and the kind of relationship between partners make a difference. And when people have an orgasm they are more likely to open up and talk after sex, research has shown.

It turns out that hormones can also affect pillow talk. There are two that are particularly important in the bedroom:

  • Oxytocin: Sometimes described as the ‘love hormone, oxytocin boosts post-sex feelings of trust, closeness, and bonding. That makes it easier to share intimate thoughts.
  • Testosterone: In both men and women, testosterone boosts sexual desire and arousal. And it also influences how partners communicate – though until this study, just what kind of effect testosterone has on post-sex chitchat remained mostly a mystery.

The testosterone effect

In the study, researchers found just over 250 university students willing to share intimate details about their sex lives. Before they did, the researchers took the students’ saliva samples to measure their testosterone levels.

Then, for two weeks, every time the students got it on with their partner – that included anything ‘below the belt’, from hand jobs to intercourse – they filled in an online diary so the researchers could read the juicy details.

The researchers also asked if the students were comfortable opening up or if expressing their feelings felt dangerous. They were also asked how much they agreed with statements like “I didn’t mean to say the things I said to my partner,” or “I told my partner some negative thoughts I’ve been having about him/her.”

Then the researchers matched all this up with the results of the test for testosterone levels. And what did they find?

The people with higher testosterone levels were…

  • less positive when it came to what they shared with their partners after sex – and sometimes downright negative if they didn’t have an orgasm!
  • more likely to blurt things out during pillow talk instead of choosing their words sensitively
  • less likely to see the benefits of pillow talk.
  • more likely to feel that opening up to their partners after sex was risky

Hormone showdown

So why would testosterone have all these effects on pillow talk? One possible explanation is that the hormone makes it harder for oxytocin to do its job. People with high testosterone levels might not experience as much of the post-sex lovey-dovey feelings linked to oxytocin. As a result, they don’t feel like they can open up to a partner.

What can we conclude? Well, if all the conversation you get out of your partner after sex is a few grumpy grunts, remember, that could be the testosterone talking. And if you’re the one who wishes your chatty partner would just shut up and leave you in peace after a romp under the sheets, think carefully before you say something you might regret. Try to respect each other’s feelings, and make pillow talk like sex: a matter of give and take.

Source: Physiology and pillow talk: Relations between testosterone and communication post sex, (2016) Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

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