Sex Sounds: How Loud Is Too Loud?

Illustration for article titled Sex Sounds: How Loud Is Too Loud?

A UK couple were given a "noise abatement notice" for having sex so loudly that they disturbed not only neighbors but people passing on the street. But the woman argues that she deserves ''respect for her private and family life."


It's hard to read the details of Caroline and Steve Cartwright's case, reported in the Telegraph, without giggling a little bit. Their sex noises apparently drowned out neighbors' televisions, and aural witnesses described them as "unnatural" and ''murder." The sounds were apparently so disruptive that the city installed a decibel-meter in the Cartwrights' home, which found that the couple reached 47 decibels (a suggestion that neighbors may be overreacting: 47 decibels is actually below the level of normal conversation, according to several charts). Cartwright and her husband were banned from "shouting, screaming or vocalisation at such a level as to be a statutory nuisance." They were convicted of violating the ban, and now Caroline Cartwright is appealing — she says that her sex life deserves respect, and that a sexual psychologist will testify that she can't help making noise. So is she right?

Well, folks, I Googled "women's sex vocalization" so you don't have to (though if you'd like to know what a) rats, b) mice and c) brunettes sound like while engaged in intercourse, by all means go ahead), and I came up with a book called The Male Sexual Machine, by Kenneth Purvis. The book's overview makes the specious claim that "the practice of gynecology has brought millions of women to a greater understanding of their own sexual health, its male counterpart, andrology, remains largely an unexplored field" (sounds a little like a certain Onion article), but it does offer some semi-intriguing evolutionary explanations for women's sex sounds. Apparently a woman's moans speed a man's ejaculation, possibly improving the odds of simultaneous orgasm and thus of conception. And somewhat more upsettingly, female moaning may have evolved to attract more male partners to the area, back in monkey-times when most sex was group sex. All of Purvis's arguments seem like they deserve a pretty big grain of salt, but it is possible that women's sex noises have a biological basis. And while most of us can keep them in check when we're, say, staying at our parents' houses, there's an element of the involuntary in the sex moan, and it's not hard to believe that some people might have trouble stifling it.

So should they be obligated to try? For my part, I've never really been all that bothered by loud sex. I lived for a while in a part of a co-op affectionately known as the Sex Hallway, and later shared an apartment with a woman who had a really distinctive — and frequent — keening fuck-moan. In both cases I at first found it a little hard to look people in the eye after I'd just heard them boning, but I got over that pretty quickly and generally found their vocal antics harmless. My years of communal living have taught me that I'd much rather hear people fucking than fighting. That said, I get why one might not want to live near people whose sex-sounds carried across the street — not everyone wants to imagine their neighbors going at it. The question is, do we have the right to demand a sex-free airspace? Or does Caroline Cartwright deserve to moan her heart out, since her cries are, after all, far from "unnatural?"

Image via Telegraph.

Woman Claims Order Banning Her From Noisy Sex Is Breach Of Human Rights [Telegraph]



When anyone besides the two of you can hear it, it's too loud.

If you like to use bullhorns during sexytime, but you live 20 miles from the nearest neighbor, that's not too loud. If you moan softly but live in an apartment with paper walls through which your neighbors can hear it, it's too loud.

It's a matter of respect for one's fellow human beings. We shouldn't get to do everything we want, whenever we want it, everyone else be damned.