Lying in bed next to my lover, I tried to find the strength to move.
Endorphins flooded my body, and my legs felt like jelly.
It was the first time we’d slept together and it had been great. ‘Did you fake it?’ he asked, immediately ruining my post-orgasm high.
Of course I hadn’t. My noises during sex were all natural, and his question – which felt more like an accusation – left me feeling annoyed.
Sex is one of the few things that shuts down my anxious mind and allows me to simply be, with my brain taking a well-earned rest while my body runs the show.
It’s pure bliss.
I’ve never really given much thought to why I crank up the volume, it just comes naturally to me. I’ve got a pretty loud personality in general, and come from a family where you have to either speak up or struggle to get a word in edgeways during a discussion.
In my Armenian culture, being loud is something to celebrate, so I suppose this mindset has filtered its way into my sex life.
Barring a few sexual encounters when I was in my early twenties, I’ve never felt compelled to apologise for or justify the noises I make in the bedroom – no one should.
I believe that we (women in particular) should celebrate the moans, the screams, the panting.
But I’m human, so for a fleeting moment this man’s comment made me wonder if I should tone things down for his benefit – until I quickly pushed the thought aside.
I don’t hold back during sex and admittedly, I can be pretty enthusiastic. I think that’s a pretty amazing thing.
Dr Sarah Welsh, gynaecologist and founder of HANX condoms, said: ‘Being communicative and raising the volume in the bedroom (or anywhere else) is a great way to indicate to your partner that you’re enjoying proceedings.
‘Focusing on your breathing and getting audible can help you feel more present and engaged in your pleasure – and even more intense orgasms.’
That got me thinking about how other women feel about ‘vocalisation’ (a phrase scientists like to use to describe sounds made during sex).
Research, albeit extremely limited in this area, has brought up some concerning results. A study from 2011 showed that two-thirds of women moaned to speed up their partner’s orgasm, while a whopping 87% made sounds during sex to boost their male partner’s self-esteem.
There’s anecdotal advice too. A letter sent into The Guardian in 2019 saw one man describe how his girlfriend ‘makes a lot of noise during sex and it is a problem’.
The premise was fair – the couple lived with housemates and he felt embarrassed about the sounds – but he saw fit to add that he’d ‘never been with such a demonstrative, sexually aggressive woman before’.
I hope she dumped him.
Curious to get another man’s perspective, I asked a friend, let’s call him Ellis, if he’d ever encountered a situation where he felt uncomfortable by his lovers’ moans. He said it had only happened twice but was ‘less about the volume and more that it appeared exaggerated and sounded fake.’
A female friend told me that she moans louder and uses more expletive words when she’s bored or when she wants her partner to finish quicker. I asked why she doesn’t just tell him how she feels. ‘I’m a people pleaser,’ she said.
I wasn’t really all that surprised by her reply; most women I know have at one point in their lives adjusted their bedroom behaviour for someone else, letting their own pleasure take a backseat instead of saying: ‘actually, this isn’t working for me’.
I don’t blame them, any more than I blame the man who asked me if I was faking my climax. But we’re all doing each other a disservice.
It’s about time we stopped.
Vocalisation isn’t just about moaning, it’s about communication with words as well, and women are statistically less likely to speak up for what they want. There’s a reason there’s an ‘orgasm gender gap’ (in short, women climax less often than men).
Often, women hold back because they worry about what the other person will think.
While it’s one thing to be respectful to a sexual or romantic partner, it’s quite another to stifle moans purely because you’re worried about the reaction you’ll receive.
To play devil’s advocate for a moment, there are some valid exceptions that apply to all genders, like timing, location and proximity to others.
One of my earliest memories of sex involved a partner going down on me for the first time and I was so vocal that our neighbour left a note through the letterbox the next day, asking us to keep it down.
It was incredibly embarrassing and I apologised profusely, of course.
As an adult, I’ve learned to be more respectful in close quarters.
And while it may be awkward, if you have housemates, it’s worth asking if they can actually hear any ‘noise’ (translation: hot sex) through your walls – or if they care.
One friend who I used to live with wasn’t bothered about hearing me have sex with my boyfriend, so long as I didn’t complain about the sounds coming from his bedroom. We both ‘suffered’ the same fate.
I was quite happy with the set-up though there was one fateful night where we both got lucky at the same time but he got in there first (quite literally), which left me and my boyfriend in fits of laughter. It was a bit of a mood killer.
Everyone has different levels of sexual experience and ways of expressing their pleasure. If you’re sensing odd vibes from your lover, it’s always worth checking in with them.
I did so myself with the man who asked if I was ‘faking it’ and he ended up taking my enthusiasm as a huge compliment, with a beaming smile plastered across his face.
However, when I say I’m loud, I’m not just talking about the volume.
Rather, and this is for everyone but especially my fellow women, don’t mute yourself for someone else because you worry that letting loose or being yourself will scare them off.
Don’t be afraid to ask for pleasure in the way you like it.
Embrace what your body is making you feel and be as vocal – whether that be in a sexy whisper in their ear or yelling at the top of your lungs – as you want.
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