Does Being Loud in Bed Make it Better?
On some level, we all understand porn deceives us.
We know things like how big penises really are, how long sex should last and how often pizza delivery guys actually get to deliver to apartments full of giggly, naked 20-somethings ready to tip generously.
One area where many of us may feel we've been misled by porn is just how much moaning and groaning is okay. I mean, even us longtime porn connoisseurs can agree that sometimes the wild shrieks of performers are a bit much.
But does some level of vocalizing during sex make it better? And who are those moans and the screams for, anyway?
Is noisy sex natural?
Making some sort of sound during, let's face it, a pretty pleasurable act may seem completely natural. However, silent sex is often the norm for a surprising number of people—which may prove confusing for their partners. Approaching the subject gently and openly can sometimes help.
"I might ask first: What stops them from making noise?" said Rhoda Lipscomb, a licensed sex therapist with 30 years of practice in Denver. "Some people don't like making noise because they're so inhibited about being sexual at all and they're so afraid someone will overhear. I always tell people to experiment with it. Try making some vocalizations if you're not used to it, and notice if it seems to feel better or if it seems to give it some more pizzazz."
This tendency to repress sounds of pleasure during sex is it often affects the pleasure of your partner as well.
"The most awkward is obviously the no-noise person," said Jessica, an American filmmaker working in South America. "They just don't talk, they don't breathe, they just sit there. And you're like, dude, are you enjoying this?"
Squeaky beds and squeaky people
Of course, we all have different ways of expressing pleasure, in bed and out.
Donnie, an entrepreneur and world traveler from Ireland, tells the story of hooking up with a backpacker in what he thought was a squeaky bed in an Australian hostel.
"We're doing missionary, and I'm pounding away," he said. "And all of a sudden, I start to hear this noise going 'ee-ee-ee-ee,' and I tried to like, change my position and whatnot, but it just kept going. I even stopped for a second to peek under the bed and see what it was. It was kind of putting me off, really, 'ee-ee-ee-ee.' And I finally realized, it dawned on me that it was her making the noise."
Squeaky beds and squeaky people aside, there's peer-reviewed evidence that making noise during sex can enhance pleasure for everyone involved.
Women felt higher satisfaction in bed with a noisier partner because it was taken to be reassurance of their own good sexual performance.
According to a 2011 study from the University of Leeds in England published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, there's a direct correlation between vocal expressions of pleasure and sexual enjoyment.
Heterosexual women, in particular, reported their partners' vocalizations enhanced their enjoyment, prompting researchers to suggest that women felt higher satisfaction in bed with a noisier partner because it was taken to be reassurance of their own good sexual performance.
What's more, the women who were surveyed expressed the belief that their own vocalizations would also boost their partner's self-esteem.
However, there's some evidence that sounds of pleasure in the bedroom can sometimes be part of a strategy.
I'll have what she's having
The classic 1989 rom-com "When Harry Met Sally" famously took the joke of women making performative noise in bed to its extreme. The iconic image of Meg Ryan faking a mind-blowing orgasm in a crowded diner is etched on the retinas of millions—as is Billy Crystal's awkward embarrassment.
Aside from being a classic joke, it turns out, for some heterosexual women, making sounds of pleasure during sex is indeed a calculated behavior designed to get a reaction from men.
The same Leeds study cited above also showed that while many of the women reported being vocal in the sack, a whole lot of them said their sounds weren't always related to their own pleasure.
About 66 percent said they used sexual sounds like moaning to speed up their partner's orgasm, while a whopping 87 percent reported making sounds during sex in order to boost their partner's image of himself.
Another study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2013, came up with what researchers called the "Faking Orgasm Scale" to assess how and why women faked it. Reasons included "altruistic deceit" (faking it to spare the partner's feelings), fear and insecurity, attempting to elevate their own arousal and sexual adjournment—also known as faking an orgasm to get the sexual encounter over with already.
'It was a million times better'
Take heart, though, boys and girls—it's not all fake.
Researchers speculate it's the less-obvious nature of women's sexual pleasure—as opposed to men's very apparent evidence of sexual enjoyment—that naturally brings out exaggeration sometimes.
However, we need to remember that both research-based inquiries and anecdotal evidence demonstrate vocalizing in bed, for whatever reason, can be a real boon to your sexy-time activities.
Jessica described an encounter with a woman who was active throughout but mostly quiet—right up until the moment of truth.
'You build up all your energy into that orgasm...and whatever happens, happens, whatever comes out of your mouth, so be it.'
"When she actually orgasmed, she went crazy and let out this huge scream and just let herself go," Jessica said. "And I was like, 'Holy shit! That was intense as fuck!' I said, 'What was that?' and she said, 'I learned from someone that you build up all your energy into that orgasm, and then when you have it, you just let yourself go, you let yourself into the orgasm as much as possible. And whatever happens, happens, whatever comes out of your mouth, so be it.'"
"It changed sex for me," Jessica added. "It made it a million times better."
Letting ourselves go more during sex may not always make it a million times better, but maybe it's worth a try if it can improve our and our partner's enjoyment even a little.