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What the Hell Is a ‘Good’ Sex Noise, Anyway?

Maybe the world doesn’t go out with a whimper or a bang — maybe it goes out with a whimper while we bang

We’ve discussed at length the reasons men stay eerily quiet during sex (they’re embarrassed and/or deeply repressed) and the reasons why women sound eerily loud during sex (to make you cum faster and/or because they’re taught to be pornily performative). What’s less discussed is why some people sound flat-out weird during sex, especially if it’s so funny or creepy it gives you a hard-off. We’re talking squeals. Stalker panting. Operatic screams. Strange moans. Like a chihuahua with hiccups. Or, as an advice-seeker wrote recently to Stoya at her Slate column, like injured wildlife.

“He just kind of whimpers as things start to get hot, particularly if I kiss him on the neck or elsewhere on his body, and he legitimately sounds like a small animal in pain,” explains Injured, the seeker of advice. “The strange thing is, he seems to realize these noises are unusual and off-putting — he constantly apologizes for making them, even midsex, but says he can’t help it; that’s just how he sounds when he feels good.”

Yikes. Maybe T.S. Eliot was wrong. Maybe the world doesn’t go out with a whimper or a bang — maybe it goes out with a whimper while we bang.

There’s No Hard-and-Fast Rule for Sex Noises

It should be noted that all sex noises (when taken out of context, at least) sound utterly absurd, which explains most of the weirdness. Sex removed from actual horniness is a bizarre limb-flailing pokey dance of the tribal animal within us all. The humping, sweating and grunting aren’t only hilarious when considered in an antiseptic nonsexual glare, but even sort of frightening. Imagine what it looks like to a child unlucky enough to stumble in on Daddy “tickling” Mommy. Or what it looks to a dog.

That said, no one “should” make any certain sound while boning simply because they’re “supposed to,” whether it’s performance art or humorously announcing “WE HAVE LIFTOFF.” If your sex sounds happen to be bizarre and the other person just can’t get with them, you can try to change them, but this seems like a huge challenge.

Besides, how does any one person’s sex sounds manifest, anyway? Not to mention, why does one person need to call you daddy, and the next person needs to call you a beast? Similarly, why does one person grunt and another person moan? And most of all, where do sex sounds come from (other than your voice box/mouth obviously)? 

The Sex Noises We Really Want

Last year, a survey of around 5,000 people who fuck found that there’s at least something of a consensus on what sounds are “good”: mainly, moaning and dirty talk. Both men and women roughly preferred the two equally. It’s worth noting, though, that there’s potential for bad even within that good — i.e., moaning can sound like the aforementioned injured wildlife, and dirty talk can be super creepy depending upon what’s said.

But back to their positive qualities: Moaning at its most base level indicates feeling pleasure, and that’s a good thing (motion definitely helps, too). People want responsiveness, and moaning indicates the action taking place is indeed wanted and approved of. For its part, talking, even minimally, when accompanied by moaning, can be as simple as saying it feels good to do whatever is causing the moaning. 

Twists on each — breathing, screaming and swearing — net out differently between men and women, but if sex sounds are a menu, you could consider them the optional side items. (Admittedly, though, some people just love a “holy fuck” uttered at the right time.)

What’s your favorite noise that a woman makes in bed? from AskMen

Let’s Ask the Orgasm Sound Library

So while it’s impossible to tell anyone what sounds they should make, perhaps it’s best to remind ourselves why it even matters in the first place and go from there. “The sound of cries, moans and panting constitutes one of the most common sexual behaviors for expressing approval and satisfaction with sexual practices,” write the researchers at the Orgasm Sound Library, a project started to compile authentic orgasm sounds to help dispel differences between fiction and reality when it comes to authentic sex noises.

For part of their research, they asked people to listen to audio of (allegedly) women orgasming, then they showed the accompanying video that produced the sounds:

Even though both videos are completely fake, some 60 percent of the men and women believed that the sounds they were hearing were authentic cries of pleasure. Further, they discovered that around 45 percent of women want their sexual experience to be like a romantic movie, whereas about 40 percent of men want it to be like porn. (As a complement to their research, the Orgasm Sound Library reseachers also host a gallery of real sex sounds from anonymous actual humans that anyone can upload online.)

It’s All About Reading the (Bed)room

While all of this is informative, it does little to tell us how we should sound to not alienate our partners. As with most things, though, you can never go wrong with authenticity. Same for correctly reading the (bed)room. That is, if your partner seems good with it, go with it. If they seem less responsive, it might be time to tweak, dial back or have a conversation, preferably with a sense of humor.

In her response to Injured, Stoya suggests playing music to dampen the sound or to help get used to it over time. That seems like a bit of a bummer, like willing yourself to like someone’s natural stank. 

Given what’s at stake here — sexual pleasure for the duration of the union — for my money, it might be worth actually bringing it up as sensitively as possible that the sounds take one out of the reverie. After all, the auditory secret to the best sex ever is — you guessed it — talking. 

But not too much. That would be a turn-off.