The Psychology Behind Dirty Talk, According To Science

by Ginny Hogan

I didn't think I'd be into dirty talk before I tried it. I'm a huge fan of precision, and I wouldn't call someone my "daddy" unless they actually were. However, the first time a man did the unthinkable and started saying words to me during sex (hot words, not "hey can you scooch over" or my typical fanfare), I found myself oddly turned on. I wondered about the psychology behind dirty talk and why it turns people on to say things in the bedroom (or car or bathroom or wherever you like to have sex) they wouldn't say otherwise.

One reason people may enjoy dirty talk is because sex is a destresser, so they may be less self-conscious about saying what they're actually doing and feeling. According to a 2005 study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, having an orgasm releases oxytocin, which is a chemical that reduces your stress levels. Lowering your stress levels means you're likely less inhibited and more likely to say exactly what you want or think, even if you normally wouldn't in your everyday lives. Maybe you have something really dirty to say about your partner's body, but you'd be self-conscious saying that for any variety of reasons, and yet, it slips out right at the climax. If you have something very dirty on the tip of your tongue, it may be more likely to come out as you're achieving orgasm.

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Dirty talk activates our brains, which is actually where a lot of the stimulation from sex comes from. You may have heard the term "thinking with your lower head" (spoiler alert: They mean penis), but actually, your upper head is doing a lot of the work. It's not just genitals that are responsible for sexual stimulation, although your sexual organs are important as well. The role the brains play in sexual pleasure could explain why you might not be in the mood for sex if you're unhappy or stressed out for other reasons, according to a study in Hormone Research in 2005, two parts of the hypothalamus — the preoptic area and the suprachiasmatic nucleus — are responsible for sexual pleasure. Dirty talk stimulates both of them, which gets people ready to go sexually. According to Cosmopolitan, moaning or whispering during sex releasing a neurochemical reaction that turns both parties on. So if you're turned on by words during sex, there could be a good reason why.

Some people enjoy the submissiveness of dirty talk, particularly if they have powerful roles in their day-to-day lives. According to Medical Daily, dirty talk stimulates the amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain and controls excitement and pleasure. The same sensations that make people enjoy responsibility also lead people to feel aroused by submission, according to American Dating Society. Similarly, dirty talk makes the dirty-talker appear confident, so it can be a role reversal if one person is more confident in their everyday lives. Not everyone is turned on by dirty talk that makes them feel like a submissive, though, so make sure to talk to your partner before trying it.

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Dirty talk can actually improve your sex life even if you use it outside the bedroom. According to a 2011 Psychology Today report, inserting small, sexy phrases into your conversation with your partner during the day can lead to better sex. It can be as simple as whispering "I want to take a bite out of that juicy tomato" while holding a tomato (which is actually a commonly uttered phrase for me in any company). If the idea of saying something dirty outside the bedroom makes you self-conscious, you're definitely not alone, and you can still get turned on by dirty talk in the bedroom. You never know where you're going to be overheard, but that can be part of the fun. So, if you find the idea of talking dirty outside the bedroom sexy, give it a try (and taste the tomato, it's delicious). If you want to try it but you're nervous, consider bringing it up with your partner beforehand to make sure they'll be receptive — their encourage could help you build confidence to say something edgier in public.

There are many psychological and neurological reasons why we enjoy dirty talk. I didn't open my mouth during sex until I was about 23 (and yes, I mean that exactly how it sounds), but once I did, I realized I really liked it. Now I understand why — my brain has been wired to seek pleasure. There are all sorts of chemical reactions going on in my brain during sex, and dirty talk can improve upon many of them. Plus, I love talking — who doesn't?