A new study titled “Why do people make noises in bed?” The study, conducted at the Department of Cognitive Science at Lund University in Sweden, provides the first in-depth analysis of authentic human sexual vocalizations. The study analyzed over 30 hours of audio recordings of people vocalizing during sex and masturbation. The audio recordings were obtained from a website called orgasmsoundlibrary.com, an existing online repository where people publicly share recordings of their own sexual vocalizations and orgasms. The authors downloaded over 3,500 files from this website, filtered out unsuitable files based on criteria such as length and noise level, and retained 2,239 recordings totaling approximately 34 hours of audio for analysis.
Here are some key takeaways from the paper:
- Both men and women make noises during sex, contrary to the stereotype that women are louder. Men made almost as many noises during orgasm as women.
- Vocalizations become longer, louder, higher-pitched, and more irregular as arousal increases, likely indicating orgasm. This pattern held true for both genders.
- Although some speaking occurs early on, vocalizations during orgasm itself consist primarily of nonverbal moans and outbursts. This suggests a loss of cortical control over vocalizations at peak arousal.
- Women make more noises during sex than men, who mostly make noises during orgasm. This may suggest that women’s moans serve additional purposes beyond the spontaneous expression of pleasure.
- Vocalizing that is too loud/long is perceived by listeners as less authentic. More variable pitches and volumes sound more authentic.
- The results suggest that human sexual vocalizations include both voluntary/strategic moans and involuntary moans of pleasure, particularly during orgasm. They share features with sounds that indicate pleasure in other contexts.
From the paper:
Putting all of these observations together, a picture emerges of two distinct vocal behaviors: strategically used, controlled moaning when arousal is low, and spontaneous vocal outbursts when arousal exceeds a certain threshold. Men usually sigh and grunt until the arousal level becomes very high; Females either have a lower inhibition threshold for vocalization (producing phonated moans) or may be accustomed to exaggerating their expressive behavior. It is noteworthy that the common interpretation that women only moan to stimulate their (male) partners is not true, as there is often no partner in this corpus. It’s impossible to analyze this quantitatively, but listening to the recordings and examining the file names suggests that a large portion of it is masturbation. Of course, it would be unlikely that recordings without any vocalizations would even be uploaded, and the few that there were had to be excluded because there was nothing to analyze. Still, the solitary pleasure is often surprisingly loud, contradicting one’s self-reported experience of little to no moaning when masturbating.