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Cory Silverberg

What Makes Us Moan?

By July 8, 2008

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A recent item in the New York Times science section got me thinking about the sounds we make during sex. The piece opens with the claim that other primates sexual vocalizations are more complicated than humans. As it turns out, thatís not true. Or at least thereís no way for us to know if itís true or not, because practically no one has studied human sex sounds.

In the one relatively thorough review of the subject, Dr. Roy Levin, a biomedical scientist and sexologist suggests that researchers may have ignored human sex sounds because they believe them to be a by-product of the important action and unworthy of close study. Contrary to this, Levin argues that there may be many reasons we make the sounds we make, including:

  • Conveying information to our partner about our arousal levels, what we like, and what we donít
  • Increasing our sexual arousal levels and/or that of our partner(s)
  • Enhancing the experience of pleasure (referred to as ďhedonic amplificationĒ, which is also a great name for a band)
  • Facilitating other arousal systems

In one of the only other studies to include a discussion of human sex sounds (evocatively titled ďOn the Function of Groaning and Hyperventilation During Sexual Intercourse: Intensification of Sexual Experience by Altering Brain Metabolism through HypocapniaĒ) researchers hypothesize a relationship between the sounds we make and our breathing, and how the two may add to feelings of euphoria during sexual interactions.

Apparently Kinsey mentions sex sounds briefly in his volume on female sexuality but erroneously suggests that sounds during orgasm cannot be controlled (something disproven in a laboratory study where, knowing there were a team of grad students just behind the glass, female participants managed to make no noise during arousal and orgasm).

And thatís pretty much all we know. I tend to think that any of Levinís reasons might be true, but itís probably also likely that we make noises because weíre exerting ourselves. Itís hard not to think about sex sounds watching Wimbledon or even going to the gym some days. I do wonder though if there is a relationship between certain kinds of physical activity and the sounds we make. For example some people note the sounds of childbirth as being at times similar to those of sex.

Iíll leave the last word to you. Have a look at the poll beside this post and raise your voice by letting us know why you think you make the sounds you make (if you make them at all).

Read more Ė The Sounds of Sex

July 9, 2008 at 10:30 am
(1) Elaine says:

I spent my first few times having sex without making a sound. I couldn’t really feel anything. I thought I was frigid. Then one day, I decided to try to vocalise and a world of sensation opened up for me. I was highly sexual with sound. Even after decades now, if I try to stop making noises, it deadens all sensation for me.

July 9, 2008 at 12:59 pm
(2) Jack says:

As a guy, I consciously use the sound of my voice(I wouldn’t necessarily call it “moaning”, but it’s enough to acknowledge that ‘I’m really enjoying this‘) to turn them on a little more. I’ve been told that sounds are preferable to just being silent like some sort of robot. Women like it when we show them our feelings, and I wouldn’t exclude pleasure from that…

July 9, 2008 at 12:59 pm
(3) Jon says:

Excellent topic and one that deserves further treatment. This is a subject I’ve pondered many times. I live in a very, very quiet apartment building inhabited by young people. Obviously they have sex, but there is never any sound. (One exception, a former upstairs neighbor — the exception that proves that I should be hearing something now and then.) Why are people so silent? Shyness? Shame? Secretiveness?

In real-life pornography the majority of participants seem to be almost if not totally silent, as well. Why?

I get the feeling that a lot of people never experience what has memorably been called “The Joy of Sex.” And that is a shame.

I, for one, am noisy. And for all the reasons given in the poll accompanying this great article.

July 9, 2008 at 1:10 pm
(4) JJ says:

I find a woman that is very vociferous during lovemaking, a complete turn on, it stimulates me and makes me more passionate and inventive, it also helps me to last longer.

July 10, 2008 at 12:08 am
(5) Cory says:

@Jon: Yes you raise a whole other arena which is etiquette around making noise when you live in a place with thin walls. Also, of course, what happens if you end up spending time in a house with family members when you’re an adult. I once had a very unfortunate experience with a newly re-married relative who was in the room beside mine the night before a family funeral. It was way too much information.

July 10, 2008 at 8:51 pm
(6) Sue Willison says:

When I was married to my husband he would sex with me but it was always so rushed and so fast. There was never any foreplay whatsoever. He just got his erection, went as fast as he could and then he would have his orgasm. Immediately afterwards he’d take a shower and then go downstairs to watch TV for several hours. I told him I wanted to spend time with him cuddling and being together but he said that my facial stubble from my chin was a real turn off for him. He also said that I was too fat for him and he only had sex with me and called it a pity sex. I was hurt by him telling me that I was ugly and that no one else wanted me. It wasn’t until we got divorced and I had to masturbate that I started to moan. I found that moaning while masturbating was quite a nice thing. I just used a simple rubber dildo and KY jelly but I could have sex on my own terms and for as long and as often as I wanted to. I did meet a man named Tony who was a much better lover than my husband even though he didn’t do much foreplay either. At one time I thought that Tony had gotten me pregnant and I would have gotten an abortion if I actually were pregnant. But as it turned out I wasn’t pregnant and Tony dumped just as fast as he met me and had sex with me. So it was back to the dildo again and moaning while masturbating and making my orgasms much more satisfying than ever before. I have always wondered what it would be like to kiss another woman and if I liked it I was going to see what it would be like to have sex with a woman too. If I liked that well enough too I was going to get a rubber strap on dildo and allow her to have sex with me and see what it would have been like to moan while we were together. I figured if my orgasms were very satisfying by myself masturbating than they could probably be even better having a dildo inside my controlled by another person while I could just relax and take in all of that pleasure. Moaning while having sex really has taken on a new meaning and from my point of view and opinion it’s really the only way to experience sex with it be by myself or with another person.

November 25, 2010 at 8:12 pm
(7) somedude says:

TMI susie

April 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm
(8) Lala says:

Hahaha. FAR too much info Sue!!

March 19, 2012 at 7:58 pm
(9) cassidy says:

I have so much more fun when I vocalize, I just let out a soft moan when my boyfriend does something I like so he’ll keep doing it over and over til I’m screaming and crying in excitement, even if its not an orgasm. my boyfriend doesn’t vocalize as much but I brought it up to him and ever since then hes been having more fun because I know what feels good and what I should do for him. when were both silent we do the same thing over and over til one of us gets bored cuz we dont know what to do next

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