Today is National Orgasm Day. Which means that there’ll be plenty of articles doing the rounds online about reaching climax – specifically how to have amazing, bed shaking, screaming orgasms. With emphasis on the screaming part.
Somewhere along the line we all absorbed the message that being loud during sex was A Good Thing. Take this year’s most sex positive Love Island contestant, who yesterday announced that the only reason she didn’t have sex in the villa was that she would have been ‘too loud’. Whether it’s mainstream cinema or straight up porn, the universal expression of a woman enjoying herself during sex is a lot of very loud noise.
But for some of us, being loud in bed feels like an obligation, not an expression of enjoyment.
When I first started having sex, I was almost silent, focussed on what was going on. The guy in question seemed concerned about this, asking if I was okay. So, when I next had sex, I made noises. Not because I particularly wanted to, but because it seemed like the right thing to do. Lo and behold, the man in question was delighted, reassured by the confidence my performance was giving him.
From then on, any man I slept with had a front row seat to the Orgasm Opera. High notes, low notes, expressions of ‘Oh my God’ and ‘Oh wow’, I had it all. But it came at a cost. Concentrating on putting on such a comprehensive show meant that I wasn’t able to focus on my own enjoyment and as such, was much less likely to come.
According to the Archive of Sexual Behaviour, who quizzed women about the noises they make during sex, 66% of the women said they were loud to spur on their partner to climax. 87% added that their motivation was to boost their partner's self-esteem. So for the majority for women asked, noises during sex were not about their own enjoyment, but someone else's.
We all know that the orgasm gap exists, many women struggle to reach orgasm for a variety of reasons, one of which is feeling self-conscious or being unable to relax. Trying to reach climax while also keeping up a constant reassuring stream of sex-patter that doesn’t come naturally to you is a contributing factor.
Like many of the problems in modern sex, the expectation of sex noise comes at least in part from porn. Men who are currently in their twenties have grown up with easy access to porn, where women are always loud. They’ve also often absorbed the message that a woman making noises means that she is having an orgasm. ‘You came like eight times!’ a one-night stand at university told me. I had, in fact, made eight individual noises.
There are women for whom lots of very loud noise is a natural part of sex, and or course they shouldn’t be shamed for that. No doubt that comes with its own issues, especially if your natural sex noises aren’t the high pitched, delicate ones we hear in porn.
Women should feel free to make as much or as little noise as they want to.
There are also plenty of women for whom silence or near silence is normal during sex, and for whom these encouraging noises are just another form of emotional labour, designed make someone else feel good at the direct cost of their own pleasure.
I’ve made my peace with being quiet during sex by telling my partners (well, these days it’s partner singular, I’m not that much fun) not to expect a lot of noise, and that I’m enjoying myself the most when I’m absolutely silent.
In doing so I’ve taken the pressure off myself to put on an Oscar winning show for the person in my bed, and ended up enjoying myself a whole lot more.
Sexual pleasure comes in all shapes and sizes, and the sooner we realise that good sex doesn’t always (in fact very rarely) looks like what we see in porn, the better. Loud, silent, humming a German opera – there’s no wrong way to make noise in the bedroom.