Of all the unrealistic things I observed when first watching porn, the one that struck me most was how damn loud the women were during the deed. Call me an anomaly, but — throughout my many years of masturbation — I’d never once felt the urge to make a peep, much less howl at the top of my lungs while shouting obscenities. Regardless, by the time I became sexually active, I’d learned from pretty much every porn video and movie sex scene I’d ever laid eyes on that I’d better pipe up to show my enthusiasm.
Noisy sex certainly had its advantages. Moaning and groaning during particularly hot moments clued my partners in to what I liked, like a less pushy form of encouragement (not that anyone should ever feel embarrassed to ask for exactly what they want). Sometimes, my sounds would become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I’d actually get more into whatever was going on. Plus, intentionally being loud was another way to shed all inhibitions—crucial when it comes to maximizing fun in bed.
But contemplating what vocalizations to make also took me out of the moment on occasion. And while I only made noises when I really did feel good, it still felt disingenuous to force them—something I was doing, since I felt like I’d set a precedent.
Even more importantly, I didn’t like why I was making so much noise— namely, because I felt pressured to do it. I was scared I’d wound my partners’ egos if I didn’t appear to be enjoying myself, and I figured that, based on what I’d seen in the aforementioned porn, the other person was gaging my enjoyment based on my volume. Guys clearly found the noises sexy. Why should I deprive them of that?
While I’d always caved to this pressure, I was starting to get fired up about it. I never took issue with silent partners, so why should they expect me to be loud?
That’s why I decided that, for two weeks, I would be totally silent in bed. I could use words if I wanted to communicate something, but no extra sounds. I expected this to be easy, since my partner and I were spending two weeks at my parents’ house (where I didn’t have to worry about explaining my sudden silence). He didn’t know my quietness also had another motive.
And let me tell you, it was actually insanely difficult! Without the ability to make noise to show my enjoyment—however disingenuously I had been doing so in the past—my mind grasped for alternatives.
I felt tempted to breathe loudly or hum or do something else to indicate what was feeling good. After a while, my facial expressions became a sort of noise substitute: I consciously moved my mouth into a smile when my partner did something right in order to encourage him.
I did realize that noises serve a practical purpose. But words like “that feels good” and “keep doing that,” are even more useful. We often use moans as a substitute for communicating what we’re actually feeling, but we could get even more precise and have even better sex when we’re as specific about what we want as possible.
By removing the decision of what noises to make at what times, I freed up a large chunk of my brain to sit back, relax, and actually enjoy sex. Before I started, I was worried that if I didn’t verbally affirm my enjoyment, sex would become less fun. But it was actually better. Instead of trying to arouse or compliment my partner, I was focused on what I was feeling.
Despite no pressure coming from my partner, I had been making sex disproportionately about him. It feels like a symptom of a bigger double-standard in what we expect, sexually, from men and women. Even when women are the ones being pleased, we end up thinking about how to please men through our facial expressions and sounds.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with trying to turn on your partner. But this experiment made me realize that I should take note when I’m making noise purely for his enjoyment—especially if it means detracting from my own.
My partner and I are apart for the next few weeks, but I look forward to more silent sex when we meet up again—even though we’ll be in the privacy of his apartment this time. My new goal? I’m going to stop worrying about what I do with my face.
Wish me luck.