We're probably all familiar with what moaning during sex sounds like—whether from an overly dramatic performance in porn or a film, or actual real life. But there are so many questions when it comes to moaning: why do we do it (or not), why do some people fake them, and why does it just sound so damn sexy (for some)? We asked the experts to explain.
WHY IS MOANING DURING SEX A TURN ON—OR A TURN OFF?
For a lot of people, moaning during sex—either doing it or hearing your partner do it—can be a huge turn on. But what's going on deep down in our psyche that makes moaning so sexy?
Well, it's partly because moaning acts as an aural "sexual stimulus or trigger," says Dr. Lori Brotto, a psychologist specialising in sexuality and professor at the University of British Columbia.
"Triggers are essential for eliciting sexual arousal in the other person [you're with]," she explains. "However, triggers are so individual. To one person an erotic image is a sexual trigger and a turn on, and to another person it might be repulsive," she adds, which explains why some people cringe at the sound of moaning, or might not do it themselves.
Meanwhile, moaning is also part of the verbal and non-verbal cues that we're seeking from our partner during sex, and that we give out ourselves too.
"Hearing noises and moans is just one really important cue that we are pleasuring our partner or that we ourselves are experiencing pleasure," explains psychosexual and relationship therapist Catriona Boffard, which is what can make them even more of a turn on.
However, if we're struggling to get in the zone, Catriona adds that hearing moans and noises during sex can be distracting for some people, which can make them a turn off for some too. Essentially, there's no right or wrong way to be turned on or off by moaning; it's all down to your own sexual preferences.
SO WHY DO WE ACTUALLY MOAN DURING SEX?
While moaning can be a turn on or a turn off for different people, there are a number of different reasons as to why we actually do it. Is it genuine, or are we faking it (sometimes without really realizing)?
Catriona says that it's a mixture of the two. "For some people, they are more naturally vocal during sex, but unfortunately too many people are informed about sex through porn, and so think that it's normal to make noise during sex—even if that means they have to fake it!"
However, don't feel that you have to be overly dramatic with noises during sex if it isn't coming naturally, just because you've seen it in porn. "Porn is a very unrealistic portrayal of sex overall," says Catriona. "So, if someone’s sex education has been through porn, then they may believe that that is what their partner wants and how they 'should' be behaving during sex - even if it feels completely unnatural to them," she continues. So don't feel pressure to do something that doesn't feel right!
WHY MIGHT WE FAKE MOANING?
Dr. Brotto explains that we can fake moans when we're "hyperfocused" on our performance or feel it's the only way to communicate to our partner that the sex is pleasurable. But if you don't want to fake a moan just for the sake of it, Dr. Brotto suggests using words to explain to your partner what you're enjoying instead (or as well). Communication is key!
Dr. Brotto adds, "unfortunately many people do fake moans, just like they fake orgasms, simply to make a partner feel good or to shorten the sexual encounter if it is painful," with these reasons often among those people give for faking orgasms. Instead, try talking to your partner if there's something you're not enjoying.
CAN MOANING MAKE SEX MORE PLEASURABLE?
As well as indicating that you're, ya know, having a good time, moaning itself can actually make sex more pleasurable—or rather, stifling any noise can make sex less pleasurable, says Catriona. "It's a natural release," she explains.
"For people for whom sounds are a trigger (probably the same people who like dirty talk), then moaning can heighten sexual arousal. It can also probably make a person more attentive to and tune in more to their body’s sensations, which also amplifies arousal," adds Dr. Brotto, which all makes sex more pleasurable.
WHAT ABOUT BEING SILENT DURING SEX?
While moaning can make sex more enjoyable for some, this can also mean that some people find it to be a turn off when their partner is totally silent—but there are a bunch of different reasons for this. "Being completely silent might indicate that both partners are holding themselves back," says Catriona. "But it could also simply be because they are both less vocal about their pleasure and could be showing it in other ways."
Meanwhile, being silent during sex might mean that someone is embarrassed to make or hear sex sounds, adds Dr. Brotto. "It might also mean that they grew up with messages that sex sounds are dirty or inappropriate, or can relate to anxiety over making a partner feel bad," she explains.
HOW CAN YOU GET BETTER AT MOANING?
Of course, there's no right or wrong way to moan, but there are ways of helping yourself to relax and let go more during sex—noises included.
"Sex is all about letting go. And if letting go and moaning loudly heightens your pleasure and means you have a better experience… go for it!" says Catriona.
And if you don't feel ready yet to go full volume with a partner, you can always practise by yourself. "You might try letting go when you are masturbating," Catriona adds, "but don’t force moaning if it’s not natural or comfortable for you. Sex is not a performance! It’s about pleasure—and if not moaning is more pleasurable for you then that’s what you should do."
Dr. Brotto suggests to "experiment with letting your guard down and settling into vulnerability,"—so try taking this in stages, at a pace you feel comfortable with, rather than diving in the deep end straight away.
Catriona Boffard is a COSRT-accredited psychosexual and relationships therapist.
Dr. Lori Brotto is a professor at the University of British Columbia and author of Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.