Deep in darkened bedrooms of America, behind locked doors, perhaps even elsewhere, when people play sexually, some like to talk dirty. Others are turned on by dirty-talking partners. What is this dirty talk and why do many people like it, while others do not? It can be controversial, the source of conflict between sexual partners. Some say, "Please! Say something dirty!" While the other replies, "No! That's disgusting!"
Dirty talk lives in the paradoxical sexual-world where what is good can be bad, what is bad can be good and what is dirty can be fun! But only for some. When it comes to sex play, partners do not always agree about what kind of sex is fun and what kind "crosses the line" into distaste and discomfort. For those partners, discomfort means being turned-off.
What is at work for those who get excited from hearing dirty words from the lips of their loved one? It is about the particulars of his or her eroticism. A universal aspect of eroticism is novelty. When something is new, it is exciting. This phenomenon is not unique to eroticism; this is why the car industry rolls out a new version of the old model every year to arouse consumer excitement yet again. What is new is exciting.
Long term committed relationships struggle to cope with the lack of novelty...the same partner, the same routines, the same bodies, etc. Dirty talk is one method of inspiring novelty; by encouraging by the partner to behave in new and uncharacteristic ways, especially when the kinds of dirty talk deviates from his or her normally held values.
Another feature of eroticism is sparked by the breaking of rules, limitations and boundaries. The most potent kick to excitement comes from violating societal rules and values. Dirty talk accomplishes this by asking the partner to express sentiments and ideas that touch on or break widely held moral and sexual values. One common example of this is when a male asks his female partner to talk like a slut. A different example is when a woman wants her male partner to talk and behave like a rapist. The requested scenarios may be shocking, but in reality, dirty talk can be intensely exciting and coincidentally safe, good clean fun.
Where dirty talk bumps into trouble is when sexual partners have different levels of comfort with this kind of activity or the specific subject matter. If a female partner has strongly held moral values, she might feel that she is betraying herself by stepping out of own character and filling the role of a slut. Women's newly possessed societal permission to own power may cause many women to be uncomfortable pretending to relinquish this hard-won power by adopting a subordinate role. A male partner, if not secure in his own goodness and power may feel uncomfortable filling a role in which his power is used destructively, even if it is just acting. The line of comfort/discomfort delineates where a partner will set a limit and say no to dirty talk.
Violating boundaries produces in many an erotic charge. Instilled from the teen years of sexual experimentation when sex play had to be hidden from parents' supervising eyes and thus for many was only able to occur covertly in the back seat of a car. Breaking rules, taking risks and being the "bad boy or bad girl," all may spur on excitement due to the freedom of entering into territory which is beyond conventionally accepted behaviors. Because sex challenges our boundaries, our discomfort is rendered a poor test for what to include or exclude from our sex lives. This article was first published in SoCo Magazine as part of the column, "Under the Sheets." Andrew Aaron, LICSW 508-997-6091 x106