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Whose Orgasms Are We Moaning About Anyway?

Sounds during sex can range from “ohhhs” and “ahhhs” to words of encouragement (“don’t stop,” “that’s it!,” “YES!”) to sexual expletives to screams that wake the neighbors. But who is all this noise really for?

A new study reveals that the sounds women make during sex aren’t just about their own orgasms but also serve to help their partners’ orgasms. In a study of 71 heterosexual women, women’s “copulatory vocalizations” (or the moans and groans they made during sex) peaked just before or during her male partner’s ejaculation.1 In other words, these sexual sounds were more often timed around the man’s climax than the women’s own orgasms. Over 80% of the women reported that at times they made noises during sex when they were not going to orgasm. So why would they do this?

It was not necessarily to fake or pretend their own orgasm, but instead to help their partner have an orgasm. Men are turned on by the sounds women make during sex (although Billy Crystal was embarrassed by Meg Ryan’s “performance” in When Harry Met Sally, he was probably a little aroused too). These sounds can be a sign of a partner’s pleasure and can excite a man to orgasm.2 In fact, 2 out of 3 women report that they make noises during sex to assist with their partner’s orgasm and 87% say they do this to make their partners feel good.1

Noisy sex is not just good for humans; non-human primates are vocal ‘in the bedroom’ as well. For example, the male Barbary macaques also responds well to a female’s sexual sounds– when the female hoots and hollers during sex the male ejaculates 59% of the time (compared to 2% when she is quiet).3

In short, men are turned on by women’s noises during sex. Women know it.

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1Brewer, G. & Hendrie, C. A. (2011). Evidence to suggest that copulatory vocalizations in women are not a reflective consequences of orgasm. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 559-564.

2Levin, R. J., (2006). Vocalised sounds and human sex. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 21, 99-107.

3Pfefferle, D., Braunch, K., Heistermann, M., Hodges, J. K., & Fischer, J. (2008). Female Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) copulation calls do not reveal the fertile phase but influence mating outcome.  Proceedings of Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 275, 571-578.

Dr. Amy Muise - Sex MusingsScience of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Muise’s research focuses on sexuality, including the role of sexual motives in maintaining sexual desire in long-term relationships, and sexual well-being. She also studies the relational effects of new media, such as how technology influences dating scripts and the experience of jealousy.

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Reader Comments (3)

The study is interesting, but I find their reasoning to be specious. They say they woman vocalizes more just before/during the male's orgasm as some form of conscious or subconscious encouragement for him? I say there is an easier and more logical explanation.

As a man, I know I pump harder and faster just before/during my orgasm.

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMcGravin

Good point. It is of course possible that a man's thrusts might indicate to the woman that he is close to orgasm and she may vocalize more, as well as a woman's vocalizations leading a man closer to orgasm (and as such, harder thrusts). However, in research with the Barbary macaque (a non-human primate), they found that the intensity of the female's vocalizations were independent of the man's copulatory efforts, and it was her vocalizations that helped to speed up the orgasm/ejaculation.

September 7, 2011 | Registered CommenterDr. Amy Muise

I think that this is really interesting and a behavior I've noticed but never thought about. I wonder, though, if men's orgasms are "triggered" or connected specifically with the sounds a woman makes but the overall perceived sexual enthusiasm. I wonder if behavior like increases touching/scratching/etc... would yield the same results.

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSaraDoesScience
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