Why do we make noise during sex?

The 'socially acceptable' tendency to make noise during sex is a source of debate. Read on to find the answers to any questions you might have about it!

Couple in bed
© Unsplash
Couple in bed

To scream or not to scream? That is the question. Regardless of whether we do it out of pleasure, 'because everyone else does it,' or to satisfy our partners, making noise during sex says a lot about how we relate to our sexuality and common representations of sex.

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In our society, it's easy to associate copulatory vocalizations with sexual pleasure. We also tend to think that men are less expressive than women during sex and that their pleasure is more internalized. Yet it isn't, as sexologist Philippe Arlin explains:

Men can make a lot of noise, it's just that they have to learn to let go. This resistance that makes men stay silent sometimes prevents them from experiencing more intense pleasure.

So, this preconceived notion is really just the result of a social construct that dictates that men should hide their feelings.

Conversely, we tend to say that women express their pleasure more easily during sex, but no biological or scientific study to date has proved that women are naturally noisier during sex. Most importantly, there's no scientific proof that screaming is a manifestation of pleasure.

In 2011, a study conducted by Gayle Brewer and Colin A. Hendrie revealed that the noises women make are not 'a natural consequence of orgasm.' While orgasm often took place during foreplay, vocalizations actually occurred before or around ejaculation.

If there's no causality between vocalizations and pleasure, what's the story behind this social construct? Why do we make noise?

Why do we make noise?

  • Because (we think) everyone else does it: we were all imprinted by a sex scene from a movie, series, or even porn, where we heard the woman screaming and moaning during sex. When you're initiated to what sex is 'supposed' to be like by those kinds of scenes, it's hard not for people to think that there must be something wrong with them if they don't do the same.
  • To boost our partner's ego: a British study published in 2011 reveals that 92% of heterosexual female respondents make more noise to make their partners feel better about their performance. Moaning or making a little noise has become a way of communicating to your partner that you're having a good time.
  • To increase arousal: Making noise can cause erotic stimulation, so there's an ulterior motive behind all the screaming or moaning. According to a study by Bijoux Indiscrets, 60% of women and 51.9% of men use sound effects to arouse their partners.

So it's not that common, and definitely not instinctive, to make noise for yourself, which points to the fact that there's some self-judgment, or judgment of others, behind it.

Making noise just to make noise is essentially lying to yourself and to others. As good as your intentions may be, it's actually counterproductive: your exaggerations put your focus on fitting into the mold and pull you out of the present moment.

To each their own

So we've made it clear that there's no rule regarding whether you should or shouldn't make noise. Sure, we all receive our fair share of conditioning, but we're free to do whatever we want with it.

To summarize our findings, the 'loudness' of a person's vocalizations is not proportional to the amount of pleasure they're experiencing, and many sexologists have backed this, so it's time for us to release this assumption and let go of control over what comes out—or doesn't come out—of our mouths during sex.

Let’s not forget that you can also verbally express pleasure and that not making a sound is also a valid way of experiencing sex. As Maïa Mazaurette says:

Silence doesn't signify lack. On the contrary, it signals the inexplicability of our emotions.
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