Communication and Healthy Sexual Practices: Toward a Holistic Communicology of Sexuality
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This essay proposes a holistic communicology of sexuality inclusive of connections between sex, relationships, and health. Noting the rarity of research studies about sexuality in the communication discipline, two approaches to research that have gained traction are explored: medical and critical approaches. An argument is then made for the importance of a relational approach to researching sexual health. Links between existing research involving sex, relationships, and health are offered with a particular focus on interpersonal communication. Three original research studies are offered to extend this approach. The first explores multiadic interview data from families who enacted purity pledges. Results indicate that topics often avoided in parent-child talk about sex, including sexual pleasure, were present in purity pledge conversations. The second study explores data about sexting and reveals that adults use sexting as a way of reducing uncertainty about desired sexual activity. The final study explores interview data from couples who indicated that first sex was their first relational turning point. Discussion of data includes possibilities of reconsidering outliers from cultural narratives about sexuality and considering how those who do not follow those cultural narratives may have to reframe their relational histories. Implications for a constitutive communicology of sexuality are offered.
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