At least once a month, Andris, a pseudonymous 30-year-old voice actor in Latvia, shoos his girlfriend and cat out of his apartment. Then, he sits down at his computer, takes a deep breath and moans as loudly — and as sexily — as he can into a mic for roughly half an hour.
“Uuuaaaahhhgghh,” he groans. “MmmMMMaauuhh.”
Once he’s captured the perfect moan, he doctors the sound, adds in some fake fapping noises and uploads it as an audio clip to his YouTube channel, a breathy corner of the internet where 2,300, mostly female subscribers tune in to hear his take on male pleasure. Andris started his male moaning channel to stoke the erotic desires of YouTube’s female populace, and so far, it seems his voice really does it for them; his videos rack up tons of blissed-out comments like, “Welp, that did it for me,” and he’s even received messages from women saying his moans are “like therapy” to them (apparently, one told him it helped “refresh her soul” and “heal from a broken past”).
With that in mind, it seems bizarre that various Men of the Internet are still clutching their pearls over whether it’s okay to moan during sex. Countless Reddit threads pose questions like, “I’m a guy, is it okay if I moan a lot, or is it off-putting?” and “Is male moaning during sex hot?” and yet, the answer, almost invariably, is that guys need to moan more. People who have sex with men are often disturbed by their silence, and the general consensus seems to be that the more vocally expressive they are in bed, the hotter it is all around. This explains why there’s an entire multiverse of male sex noise sounds on YouTube, why tube sites are filled with male moaning videos aimed at all sexualities and why Dipsea, a popular audio porn app, has fans who fall in love with characters based not only how they look, but the way they huff and puff in pleasure. That’s not a rare occurrence, either — according to Forbes, the app has seen an 84 percent increase in subscriber volume since quarantine began.
“When you hear someone moan, it’s a primal cue for a visceral emotion,” says Dipsea’s Head of Audio and resident moan director Kristina Loring. “When someone moans in pleasure, it signals deep satisfaction. It’s sexy in part because you’re witnessing someone in a vulnerable state of release. And if you or whatever you’re doing is the catalyst for the moan, what a satisfying exchange.”
Not all male moans are created equal, though, and not all of them mean the same thing. As Andris learned from experimenting with moan types on YouTube, different pitches, tones, frequencies and mouth shapes elicit different responses, and certain combinations are more pleasing to certain audiences than others. Likewise, he says, guys tend to have their own “moan personality,” a semi-predictable setlist of utterances they make when they masturbate or bone.
But, just what are these moans, and what do they mean? A little scientific classification might help, so after berating my boyfriend with a cacophony of masculine moans over our shared speaker system for days — and speaking with the men who unleash their guttural pleasures from the depths of within — I endeavored to assemble the ultimate taxonomy of male sex sounds and what they mean.
Behold them now, in order from least to most expressive.
Sharp Inhales and Exhales
Likely the most common breed of male moaning — strong warriors don’t make a sound — sharp inhales and exhales are the main fare of guys in the throes of pleasure and a requisite result of the heart rate increase that comes with pelvic thrusting and generalized meat-beating. But while they’re some dudes’ entire moan discography, they’re mostly used as a nasally sort of connective tissue between rounder, more larynx-based sounds like “oooOhh” and “yeaahh.”
Inhales are typically jagged-sounding and taken through the teeth like “tttttsssschhhhhh,” while exhales sound more like the puff-cheeked “poooooofffffhhh” or the simpler “hhhh.” In tandem, they can sound like Lamaze breaths, or as Andris says, a “grizzly bear running.” When they start to synchronize and sound more regular, it usually means he’s either trying not to cum, about to blow or practicing for an eventual birth.
One redditor says her favorite male sex sex sounds are of the breathy variety, writing on r/AskWomen that when her partner pants, gasps and catches his breath before letting lose a string of “oh fucks” and pre-cum warnings, she gets so wet she “stains the bed.”
Hhhh to that.
Expressiveness Rating: 1/5
Like the leggy freak-fish that flopped out of the primordial sea to progenerate life, the “mmm”-sound is the elemental building block of most male moans today. Delivered close-mouthed between vibrating lips, a shallow exhale and the honeyed baritone of a sexual didgeridoo, it’s understated yet primal — just expressive enough for men to convey enjoyment without giving away what’s really going inside their heads (which, I believe, is something along the lines of “Auuuughh holy fucking shit ohh whaaat?!”).
Fun fact: In those cherished moments where it’s not kosher to make a lot of noise, mmm-sounds can also be tiny whimpers.
Expressiveness Rating: 2/5
The “aah” family of male moans is a throatier, more open-mouthed varietal that usually conveys some sort of relief or release of tension. Being slightly more expressive than a “mmm” or a one-off grunt, it’s usually reserved for more singular moments like when Cylinder A enters Orifice B for the first time, a sphincter is successfully traversed or a series of spanks turns from pain to pleasure. Most akin to a sigh, there’s usually only one or two of it in a string of other moans.
It has several notable subspecies including the seal-like “Ah? Ah? Ah?” — which, being more stereotypically “feminine,” is much more common in gay porn — and “AaaaAAAHHHH!” which is a good indicator sex may just sent them to the ER. Get well soon!
Expressiveness Rating: 3/5
Occasionally pronounced “Nyyyeeaah” with a more solid n-sound up front, this slightly more spirited moan is one of the most recognizable sounds in both porn and IRL sex. Its affirmative definition — “yeah” means “yes” — tends to mean that you’ve hit some sort of physical, psychological or interdimensional spot — which is handy for when you’re sitting there like, “…how to penis?” — and it’s a good indication that you should keep going with whatever it is you’re doing. In fact, the only time you should switch things up after a “yeah” moan is if it sounds like “Yeeaarrgghh!” or “YEAEEEAAAAAH!” both of which are, somewhat upsettingly, the Howard Dean scream.
Often, repeating “yeahs” — or an “oh yeah” delivered as a low-toned growl — is a good indicator someone’s about to cum.
Expressiveness Rating: 3/5
Did you just hit a spot from a new angle? Keep sucking after he cums? Switch the direction of your knob slob? Congratulations, you might have made a little “ooh”-sound come out.
Decidedly fluttery and generally understood to convey “delightful surprise,” this moan is most often exhaled by people having some sort of eye-opening moment or sensation they weren’t expecting. The squirrlier the “ooh” sound, the more it tickles their taint — for example, “OoOoOh,” probably means you twisted a nipple counterclockwise and unlocked some sort of inner Rube Goldberg machine of pleasure. That, or they just like how your butt feels.
Edgar, a 28-year-old addiction counselor in L.A., says he tends to be pretty quiet in bed unless he feels a new sensation or is suddenly afflicted with a new fantasy. “One time,” he tells me, “I was masturbating, and an image of my coworker popped into my head. I’d never thought about her like that, but my brain pictured her giving me head and it felt crazy. I believe I shuddered and made a noise like, ‘Ooooohh,’ which stands out because my body never really did that before.”
Expressiveness Rating: 3/5
As is the case with anybody’s moans, they’re often combined with some sort of pointed curse that offers a satisfying sharpness to cut through all the round, drawn-out vowel sounds with. Expressive but not necessarily emotive, expletives are another way to say “WHOA, MY PENIS!” without actually saying it, a handy tactic if you’re trying to play it cool, but also kind of can’t.
A pointed “fuck” with a hard “k” can be especially pleasing. Like non-sexual swearing, something relatively intense or unbelievable has to happen to warrant its usage, which means anything you do that elicits a “fuck” probably means you’re doing something right. “Fuck yeah,” is another variation on expletives, as is “holy fucking shit,” “god damn” or “I love this friggin’ heckin’ fuckin’!”
Expressiveness Rating: 4/5
Squealing and Screaming
According to Andris, squealing and screaming are the “most extreme” versions of male moaning because they’re the biggest departure from the low, slow, stoic sounds of a stereotypical “man voice.” Typically higher-pitched and released more from the diaphragm than the throat or the pharynx, squeals and screams rarely emanate from penis stuff and are more commonly heard when you get up in that bussy.
Sounds like these can be thrilling, though. Randy, a 32-year-old art director in New York, says his “Tom of Finland-esque” fiancé “loves it” when he yips like a chihuahua when he’s receiving anal, and plenty of male moan aficionados say they love the raw emotion conveyed by a nice “Eiiieyeiiii.”
But, like any high-pitched noise, screams and squeals can be polarizing. When Andris experimented with a screamier version of moaning on YouTube, his audience called it “dumb” and told him they “hadn’t ever heard anything more stupid.”
Expressiveness Rating: 5/5