What Men Say (And Don’t Say) About Sex

I knew I had a bit of a challenge on my hands Thursday night when I asked this innocuous question of the couples at our SmartSexSalon:  “Who is nervous as hell to be here?”

A few tentative smiles, a couple of uncomfortable nods.  I quickly spotted the uneasy expressions among the herd of husbands who were leaning against the back wall.

I took a deep breath and plunged in.

When Teresa and I launched SmartSex in June we figured it would be for women & about women and sexuality.  What we’ve discovered is that lots of men are listening to the podcasts too.  What would happen, we wondered, if this SmartSexSalon was for couples?


I’d imagined that it would be like our first “No Boys Allowed ” Salon:  raucous, honest, funny and enlightening.  It wasn’t.  It was different.  But it was revealing too.

I’d forgotten how biology, evolution, societal norms and culture have created very different communication styles between men and women.  Linguistics professor John Locke asserts in his book, “Duels and Duets: Why Men and Women Talk So Differently” that women see conversation–especially about personal experience– as a kind of “duet.”  It’s an exchange of thoughts and feelings that deepen the sense of shared closeness.

Men, he believes, often communicate as rivals with a “dueling” kind of style.  “In it’s purest form,” he says, “it looks quite a lot like performance.”  And it often veers away from vulnerability.  And is there anything more vulnerable than talking honestly about sex?

All of that said, men eventually spoke up at our Salon about open conversations on needs and wants, about the quest to keep eroticism in a long relationship and about sexy underwear (theirs & ours!)


In the end, we found a space somewhere between duel and duet.

Special thanks for the warmth, compassion and great advice that therapists Bill Doherty of the University of Minnesota and Carise Rotach-Beard brought to the conversation.

See you at the next Salon!