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It started like most Varsity hookups:
Laura saw Ray at a res party. He was quick to compliment her smile – and her butt. A few hours later, she was back at his place, clothes flying off. And that’s when things got weird. The fun, talkative guy from the party clammed up.
“He was completely silent,” Laura said. “I could hear everything but him.” The effect was deeply unnerving. Like most women, Laura needed something – a moan, a grunt, a “Hmmm, that’s it.” “I like to hear a man groaning, whispering my name, something to let me know he’s about to climax,” she says.
Laura is not alone – but then neither is Ray. An overwhelming number of guys become suddenly tongue-tied when they’re getting busy. In fact, in a recent survey, 94% of women admit to being louder than their partner in the bedroom.
Okay, the survey was by Lovehoney, a UK-based sex shop, but bona fide scientists agree. They even have a name for those sounds – female copulatory vocalisation. It’s part of how women are conditioned: “Women are more comfortable being vulnerable and letting a guy know what they’re feeling,” says Professor Jim Pfaus, a psychologist at Concordia University.
And there’s incentive to join in. “Arousal is about engaging different senses and auditory sensations – all things that may intensify the experience,” says Professor Kristen Mark, director of the sexual health promotion lab at the University of Kentucky.
Hear that, men? Maybe a refresher course would help. Take this quiz, check the survey results, listen to the professors, and don’t be afraid to speak up.
1. Deep Down She Finds Dirty Talk Embarrassing
Erica still remembers the SMS she received from her friend Dave one night: “I always thought you’d be the best lay of my life.” It was exactly what Erica needed to hear. “I’ll let you do whatever you want,” she fired back. The texts escalated for a few days until the two met up at a bar.
“I want to fuck you,” he growled as he slammed her back against a wall. Back at his place, the floodgates opened: “I love going down on you,” he said. Erica couldn’t get enough. “I was so turned on,” she says. “I’m very type A and have problems giving up control. Having someone tell me what to do was hot.”
These days, everywhere you look – and listen – you notice a change: Jason Derulo’s single “Talk Dirty” topped the R&B/Hip-Hop chart. The TV series Girls depicts sex in all its messy, awkward, and often loud realness. Long-distance iChats are best with some dialogue, no matter what’s happening on the screen.
It’s an interesting cultural shift, says Valerie Peterson, a professor of communication studies at Grand Valley State University. “Sound and talk have always been a big part of sex, but we’ve been taught not to use ‘dirty’ words, and we’ve grown up with a certain amount of prudery,” Peterson says. Connection requires trust – and, she says, “there’s an element of trust in being able to speak freely during sex.” It’s time to find your voice, and hers.
The right words, delivered at the right volume, can bust down walls between partners. And when that happens, you might be surprised by how much stronger your bond becomes.
Take Olivia and Patrick. Most of the time, Olivia liked that Patrick was polite, but in bed she wanted something else. One night after drinks, “out of nowhere, he was saying things like, ‘You love this dick. You only want this dick,’ ” she says. “At first it seemed out of character. But the way he was taking control – I loved it.”
We tend to negotiate our vulnerabilities, says Peterson. “We try not to show our cards and give someone the upper hand. So when you say exactly what you want in bed, or vocalise in other ways, it can be startling, but it’s also a sign that you’re opening up.”
Dirty talk is deeply personal; one person’s turn-on is another’s mood killer. That’s why revealing these things isn’t without some degree of risk. But once you find the courage to speak up, it won’t just cement your bond – it could also lower her inhibitions in the bedroom. “Driving her arousal could help fuel her orgasm by distracting her from her anxieties,” Pfaus says.
Your homework: try a little dirty talk in the bedroom. “It might feel clinical or weird at first,” Peterson says. That’ll fade. Sari Cooper, a certified sex therapist based in New York City, suggests practising dirty talk while masturbating, or watching porn together and mimicking what the actors say – even if it’s in a silly, self-conscious way. Become comfortable with it.
Whatever you do, ditch the Fifty Shades stuff and give her honest, graphic compliments. “Tell her specifically what you find most beautiful about her,” Peterson says. “After all, what woman wouldn’t want to hear that?”
2. Couples Who Scream Together Stay Together
Here’s a useful bit of advice: never compare a woman to a great ape. Now, that said, all that noise they’re making? It’s wild monkey love, baby.
In the jungle, researchers have found, female primates make a variety of copulatory calls. Among bonobos and chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary relatives, the females make these sounds while mating to incite male competition. Males, in turn, are more likely to ejaculate when a female makes noise, says Profesor Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn.
But let’s not get carried away: women aren’t screaming in bed because they want the neighbours to know they’re ovulating. They raise hell in the sack mostly because it makes sex better. A 2012 study from Cleveland State University found that nonverbal communication of pleasure during the act predicted sexual satisfaction.
How’s that work? “Moaning might be a less intimidating, more comfortable way for people to express pleasure than verbally directing their partner,” says study author Professor Elizabeth Babin.
Mary, 29, knows what gets her going, and it’s never what a guy screams when he’s about to climax. “It’s just that little moan,” she says. “That heavy breathing – when you change positions or move in a certain way. It’s reassuring.” “We’re asking at some level, without language, ‘Do we have chemistry?’ ” says Greg Bryant, an associate professor of communication studies at UCLA.
If your verbal cues sync up, that’s great, says Jennifer Sellers, an associate professor of psychology at Green Mountain College. “Couples who match each other’s communication styles usually have the greatest intimacy,” she says. Quietly mimicking her sounds “shows you care enough about your partner to step outside your comfort zone to make her feel more at ease.”
There are limits. “I was once in bed with a guy,” says Mary, “and instead of moaning, he squealed like a little girl on the playground. I was shocked. Clearly, that was a one-time experience.”
3. Women Want Men To Be Louder In The Sack
Remember that hilarious scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall where Kristen Bell hears her ex-boyfriend and his date (Jason Segel and Mila Kunis) getting it on in the adjacent hotel room? An auditory battle ensues between the former partners to see who can have (or at least pretend to have) the loudest sex.
Unfortunately, that’s just the movies. No studies prove (yet) that turning up the volume leads to greater arousal or more intense orgasms. And yet that willingness to be loud may signal something powerful and deep: you and your partner have reached the ultimate comfort zone.
People express themselves through sex. Those cries of ecstasy are a private language shared within a couple. “They can take on a life of their own between two people,” Bryant says. “They create a feedback loop – the more expressive one partner is, the more turned on the other can become.”
Plus, the idea that someone might hear you is just a bonus. “There’s an element of danger – the fear of getting caught – that makes sex more exciting for some people,” says Professor Justin Lehmiller, a social psychologist at Harvard University. The less concerned you are with who might be listening, the better: “Acting uninhibited, especially with a partner you trust, is one of the great joys of sex,” he says. Holding back, on the other hand, keeps you from feeling present in the moment, which can lower your libido, says the University of Kentucky’s Mark.
This was a problem that Bianca and Carlos knew all too well. Because they have three young kids, they tend to keep things quiet in bed. But on a recent business trip, they finally booked a separate room for the kids. It wasn’t long before the people in the neighbouring room were pounding on the wall, trying to quiet them down. It wasn’t going to happen.
“The sex was better the louder we got,” Bianca says. “It just felt so good to lose control.”
By Sushma Subramanian