It's nearly midnight, you're getting (consensually) fucked, and the sound of your screams are muffled by the pillow covering your mouth. Maybe you'd like to yell something like "yes daddy," or "harder," as you paddle his muscular ass, but you're too embarrassed; instead, you just whisper "I love you," and, spinning his baseball cap backwards, deliver a quiet kiss to his lips.
But as it turns out, squelching loud sex moments might come at a cost to your personal, relational, and community's health. At least, that's what Gabriel Wikstrom, the health minister of Sweden, might say. When a citizen tweeted a complaint about his neighbors' loud coitus, Wikstrom responded like any sex-positive public figure should: "Sounds nice for them, I think. Good for their wellbeing and thus public health as well."
Whether or not you're loud or verbal during sex is something many women discuss with friends, but when's the last time you asked an expert about the phenomenon?
Dr. Ian Kerner is a licensed psychotherapist and sexuality counselor who specializes in sex therapy, and the author of the best-selling sex advice book She Comes First. "Couples who are able to communicate around sex are healthier and happier," Kerner said in an interview with Broadly, in which he explains that loud sex can be part of that communication—thus good for couples.
"Copulatory vocalization—making noise during sex—is an essential way of communicating with your partner, letting them know what feels good, what doesn't necessarily feel good," said Kerner, adding that making some noise can also be a cue to your partner that it's okay to come. "Many studies have shown that women who vocalize a lot during sex, that it's not often as much about their own pleasure [as] it is about signifying to their partner that it's okay for them to orgasm."
Of course, it can be a turn on to hear your partner making some hot sounds during sex. "Being able to vocalize, and feeling uninhibited around your partner, adds to the pleasure of sex," said Kerner. But that may be easier said than done: Resisting dirty talk could have something to do with the fact that our sexualities are deeply repressed. "We know our favorite positions. We know where our partners like to be touched, where we like to be touched," Kerner said. "But we don't necessarily share fantasies. We don't necessarily share feedback. We don't necessarily vocalize—that probably goes back to all the little developmental experiences that we have along the way that focus on hiding sex, or shame or embarrassment around sex."
According to Kerner, we're pretty prudish. "We live in a very sex negative, somewhat Victorian, shame-based society," Kerner said. "Not only do we not vocalize during sex, we don't even really communicate about sex, whether it's on the level of fantasy, or simply giving feedback to our partners." Forget about talking dirty. Kerner says that the model around sex has been centered on procreation for centuries. "You have sex to have children, and anything outside of that was considered either a sin or a disease." And it gets worse, you freakish sex pervert: "Two hundred years ago, masturbating was literally considered an organic disease that could be cured by surgery."
These are just some of the societal norms affect the way we have sex. "If you're not having attached, monogamous love making—if you're masturbating to porn, if you're engaging in non-monogamy, if you're engaging in kink—a lot of people in this country would pathologize that, and say something is wrong with you."
Though Kerner affirms the healthiness of loud sex, he also makes it clear that loudness isn't a requisite to high quality love making, nor does it necessarily indicate whether sex is good or bad. For instance, one of his clients is quiet during sex because that's how they really get into the act. "There's all kinds of ways to have sex, and loud sex does not automatically have to equal good sex," Kerner explained, adding that sometimes loudness can be inauthentic. Kerner recalls another client of his, who faked orgasms during loud sex: Her male partner was "stunned" by this, Kerner said, because his girlfriend was so auditory during intercourse. "For her, that was part of the performance of sex," Kerner explained. "We do have to distinguish between real sex, the sounds we make during real sex, and the sounds we make when we perform."
But no matter how (or how loudly) you're having sex, it's a part of being human: "Sex is a healthy part of life, and part of the sounds of life," Kerner said. "We hear our neighbors walking above us, we hear our neighbors arguing and shouting. We hear our neighbors' kids screaming and crying. Hearing our neighbors fuck and make love is just another one of the sounds that we need to tolerate in our urban squall."
Broadly contacted the Swedish health minister himself, who affirmed his original tweets, and said that this topic extends beyond one style of sex. "This is not really about loud sex, it is about public well-being," Wikstrom wrote in an email to Broadly. "According to surveys, there has been a 24 percent drop in the number of times couples have sex per month in less than 20 years." Of course, if this were simply the people's choice, Wikstrom would take no issue with the decline. But, he says, the drop "is often linked to pressure, stress, and people feeling they don't live up to a certain body ideal. That is a problem. We're humans, and we need intimacy."
Kerner intuited that WIkstrom's statements were less about the specific act and more about the cultural implications. "I think what the Swedish minister was trying to say is that it's better to live in a society where people are having sex and troubling their neighbors with the noise, than live in a society where people are not having sex."