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Why women moan during sex
March 8th, 2012
11:40 AM ET

Why women moan during sex

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex weekly on The Chart. Read more from him on his website, GoodInBed.

All you have to do is watch nearly any depiction of female orgasm on screen to get an idea of how a woman is “supposed” to react during sex.

From "When Harry Met Sally" to "Sex and the City" to your basic porn film, women in the throes of passion aren’t just shouting their ecstasy from the rooftops - they’re moaning with pleasure. Loudly.

But is this just cinematic license, or is there really something to noisy sex?

Experts wondered the same thing. Last year, Gayle Brewer of the University of Central Lancashire and Colin Hendrie of the University of Leeds published their research on the topic - technically known as “copulatory vocalization” - in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. In the study, they asked 71 sexually active heterosexual women between ages 18 and 48 for more details about vocalization during sex.

The researchers found that many of the women did make noise, but not necessarily while they were having an orgasm. Instead, 66% said that they moaned to speed up their partner’s climax, and 87% stated that they vocalized during sex to boost his self-esteem.

Are female orgasms really just a 'bonus'?

“While female orgasms were most commonly experienced during foreplay, copulatory vocalizations were reported to be made most often before and simultaneously with male ejaculation,” write the researchers. Women also reported making noise to relieve boredom, fatigue and pain/discomfort during sex.

So is female vocalization during sex just a performance for a guy’s benefit? (After all, Meg Ryan’s over-the-top moans were meant to prove a point to “Harry” that men are easily duped by a fake orgasm.)

“There isn’t a lot of research in this area,” says Kristen Mark, a sexuality researcher at Indiana University, “but we’re bombarded with images through mainstream media that tell us moaning is associated with orgasm and sexual pleasure. So it would be a fairly wise faking strategy to moan since men already tend to associate moaning with orgasm.”

Of course, there’s nothing smart about faking it.

“If you’re faking an orgasm, you are signaling to your partner that he is doing everything right, when in fact he isn’t,” says sex educator and author Patty Brisben. “Use moaning as a way of signaling that you are excited and things really are feeling good, not as a way to hide that they aren’t.”

Fake or not, women aren’t the only primates who vocalize during sex. Research in the animal kingdom reveals that female baboons, for example, have a variety of copulation calls, which appear to relate to their fertility: The vocalizations tend to become more complex when the females are closer to ovulation, and also vary when a female is mating with a higher-ranked male baboon. And female macaque monkeys give a shout to help trigger their mates’ orgasm, too.

Performances and primatologists aside, vocalizing during sex can actually be a great tool to help women get what they want in bed. As I discussed in my column a couple of weeks ago on the topic of talking about sex, it isn’t always easy to translate sexual thought into action, so a little strategic moaning can definitely help get the point across.

“Women are learning to take responsibility for their own sexual needs and wants in the bedroom,” explains Brisben. “We need to take this one step further and give ourselves permission to become teachers. Use vocalization to teach your partner what feels good. It can help you say, 'stop, go, yes, more please' - without sounding like a traffic cop.”

And when it comes to noise, “partner benefit isn’t the only piece of the puzzle,” says Kristen Mark. “Perhaps making noise turns some women on and helps them experience pleasure.”

Brisben concurs: “I think there are many women who need to be vocal to help themselves achieve orgasm - it helps move them and their orgasm along. There are certainly phases. As a woman gets into it, she may become extremely vocal, and then move into a period of quiet as she is on the verge.”

So do what feels right to you. Any other benefits are just a great bonus. And when it comes to “copulatory vocalization,” perhaps men should take a lesson from the ladies.

“Women understand that moaning is a turn-on for guys, and many women ultimately enjoy it because they’ve made an effort to push a little beyond what comes naturally," says Logan Levkoff, a sex educator and author of a guide for men entitled "How To Get Your Wife to Have Sex With You."

"But sexual self-esteem is a two-way street, and, for their part during sex, guys should aim for more than a single grunt at the end. It’s not about faking or doing something you don’t want to, but more about being sexually present and in sync with each other.”

So let’s all make some noise.


soundoff (394 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    OMG...I thought that was me!

    March 8, 2012 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bannister

      I know! Why did they have to tell us that !

      March 9, 2012 at 11:45 | Report abuse |
    • Retired Army

      Uh-oh.....better tighten up your technique, Son!!!

      March 9, 2012 at 11:46 | Report abuse |
  2. JuneCleaversBeaver

    I normally just scream: "Oh Baby do me like my Daddy did!!!!!"

    March 8, 2012 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ATLien

      Ohhhhh Uncle Jimmy!!!

      March 9, 2012 at 10:18 | Report abuse |
    • dehsa

      Oh, that's bound to get him to finish fast- without an ejactulation.

      March 9, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse |
  3. Twistdwishes

    This article does not seem that well researched. If moaning is a way to communicate with your partner then why do women also moan when masturbating? I think if they would have done an actual sex study they would find that moaning is more than just a communication of pleasure but a more uncontrollable reflex that happens because of pleasure and the nerves that are being hit during intercourse.

    March 8, 2012 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sherri

      I DO moan (for real) when masturbating, simply because I always have an orgasm, but when with a man, a lot, if not most of the time, I moan to either get him more excited or to speed things up because I never have one with him. The article is actually right on the money.

      March 8, 2012 at 22:49 | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Why women moan also when masturbating ? Because the masturbation is nothing but cheating your body to believe you are in intercourse. Article did not say moaning is cold, calculating scheme of calculating women to entertain guys. If it is evolutionary product with the aim of pleasing guys there is no reason why it should not apply while masturbating. Your body does not know you are masturbating and not having sex !

      March 9, 2012 at 09:24 | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      I don't moan while masturbating. I do make sounds when I climax during masturbation. If I try to be silent it's difficult if not impossible.

      March 9, 2012 at 09:36 | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Right, Alex, we're just there to please men, everything we do is for all of you. [/sarcasm]

      March 9, 2012 at 09:37 | Report abuse |
    • VinoBianco

      moaning is for the guy's benefit, also maybe to trick yourself into thinking that intercourse feels good. ever try to be quiet intentionally? makes sex seem like the chore that it is.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:18 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Vino – WHAT??????????

      March 9, 2012 at 11:27 | Report abuse |
    • dehsa

      Yes, I would hope you're right. Another message to the "communication" could be an expressing that, "I'm enjoying this". Which is definitely a turn-on for me. (my user-name doesn't reveal this, but I"m a guy) It;s a little outcome orliented to just say women do that to get a guy to finish faster. There's surely a lot of guys out there, like me, who have yet to be convinced that virtuous women actually enjoy sex.

      March 9, 2012 at 14:42 | Report abuse |
    • melvinslizard

      Women moan to make their men finish faster? My wife HUMS... it seems like moaning would be tough, all things considered ;)

      March 9, 2012 at 15:51 | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Chartreuxe, reproduction is an animal-like activity based on instincts. Your genes want to make copies of themselves. And "everything you do" in bed has probably something to do with that goal. I think your sarcasm missed the target. In sex, both men and women are much like animals of programmed robots! If you find it offensive, it is at least offensive in completely gender neutral way.

      March 9, 2012 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
    • Lila

      No Alex women don't moan to please men, they are just enjoying themselves.

      March 9, 2012 at 16:45 | Report abuse |
  4. jone

    Wait a minute. So all women dont scream "Jon stop it, that does NOT feel good!!!"? I'm baffled. Guess I need to re-think my gameplan.

    March 8, 2012 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Coflyboy

      My wife always moans "put that thing away!" during sex. Oh wait– that's during foreplay.

      March 8, 2012 at 18:48 | Report abuse |
    • ryder_ted

      Awesome! You're my hero!

      March 16, 2012 at 01:34 | Report abuse |
  5. Pixie-Late-D

    I agree with Twistdwishes – I came (LOL!) to this article to read some biological news about why women (I R 1, BTW) might moan during sex.

    March 8, 2012 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Boey

    Women moan to stroke a Man's ego and because it's more exciting that silence. Men need to be a lot more vocal. Would you like if a woman just grunted when she fin

    March 8, 2012 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sounds are good

      No, I moan because it feels good and it does happen to let my partner know when he's doing a good job. I wish he gave me some kind of indication of his level of satisfaction instead of the constant silence I get. When I'm silent, I am NOT having a good time. He always gets off so what's his problem? Men are idiots in bed. I wish I was gay.

      March 8, 2012 at 18:27 | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      @sounds are good – I agree. She's totally right.

      March 9, 2012 at 15:31 | Report abuse |
  7. Boey

    Ished and other than that was silent?

    March 8, 2012 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. lisa

    @Twistedwishes- Sometimes I laugh at jokes that are really funny and sometimes I laugh at jokes just to make the person telling them feel better. You put 2 and 2 together.

    March 8, 2012 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Sporky08

    pfff. I think its more exciting to kiss and nibble during sex than to moan. Generally, if i'm making a noise, its an OW! or a "lets change position" or a helpful suggestion. Moaning just sounds odd and feels unnatural.

    March 8, 2012 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. rj

    Trust me, gay men do a lot more vocalizing than just a grunt at the end.

    March 8, 2012 at 20:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Don

    I admit that moaning might help build my fragile male ego. Usually the type of vocalization I hear is something like,
    "Oh, I forgot to tell you. Your Mother called today."

    March 9, 2012 at 01:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mullet

      Don,
      I almost laughed myself sick at your remark. Good one!

      March 9, 2012 at 11:18 | Report abuse |
    • Hawk in Texas

      I am a 73 year old male. my wife is 57. we have sex at least 2 times a week sometimes more. my wife is very vocal she can have more orgasams than any woman that i have been with. and i know that she is not facking it. our little love sessions usually last for 35 to 40 minutes. i think that if more married couples were like us the world would be a better place. and no i do not need vigiara.

      March 9, 2012 at 12:25 | Report abuse |
  12. larry5

    Where do you think the name hormone came from?

    March 9, 2012 at 04:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Butchie67

      larry5; do you know how to make a hormone? Don't pay her.

      March 9, 2012 at 15:12 | Report abuse |
  13. RandiRN

    I read this article with great interest. I know that when my b/f and I are being intimate I just naturally moan with pleasure. I have been doing this my entire adult life and I am almost 59. I know my b/f truly enjoys me being vocal because he seems to get more excited.

    March 9, 2012 at 08:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. 8wheelsor2

    Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire and Colin Hendrie of the University of Leeds. Isn't this in the small penis zone? Moan to speed things up and boost his ego? Sounds like the subjects are a bunch of up tight inhibited women that need to learn how to enjoy their bodies AND experience sex with men that have enough inches to work with. I moan because I love it and I have never in my life faked an orgasm. SMH

    March 9, 2012 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. James the elder

    I'm one guy who can honestly say that my wife has never faked it.
    And yes, I like making a little noise too.

    March 9, 2012 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anna

      Good for you. My husband of 34 years and I say "ditto". To me "faking" is just plain insincere and just so plain...well, fake!

      March 9, 2012 at 09:56 | Report abuse |
    • sugartaste81

      Nice! I hate when men are all quiet during sex..makes me think they're not enjoying it. My current bf is noisy too, and I love it!

      March 9, 2012 at 13:22 | Report abuse |
    • James the elder

      No one has ever gotten what I mean when I say that I know my wife has never faked.

      March 9, 2012 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
  16. NooYawkah

    Women moan because they're thinking of all the things they'd rather be doing.

    March 9, 2012 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chartreuxe

      ...and you know this how?

      March 12, 2012 at 21:16 | Report abuse |
  17. Pest

    What does it mean when they loose their bowels during intercourse?

    March 9, 2012 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paulo

      It means you are in the wrong spot.

      March 9, 2012 at 10:00 | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      You're doing it WRONG!

      March 12, 2012 at 21:17 | Report abuse |
  18. Paulo

    Yeah yeah moan. How about a sandwich, oh and turn on the ballgame as you're headed to the kitchen!

    March 9, 2012 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. BeerBrewerDan

    'Cause I'm doing it right, that's why they're moaning.

    March 9, 2012 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Dooon

    Interesting study. I don't really recall whether women moan or not. Perhaps that's because all the blood leaves my ears and heads south. I do always notice when their face turns red and they spasm uncontrollably.

    March 9, 2012 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ryder_ted

      You gotta lose some weight. You're crushing those poor ladies.

      March 16, 2012 at 01:38 | Report abuse |
  21. Jokesterer

    Human women are too complicated. The baboons seem more honest. They'd probably clog the drain when shaving their legs though.

    March 9, 2012 at 10:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Soph

    Makes me glad I'm celibate. Been there, done that, lost interest a long time ago.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NoNoiz

      Sweety? Is that you? I didn't know you posted on these forums...

      March 9, 2012 at 11:21 | Report abuse |
    • Hawk in Texas

      Which one of my prior 4 wives are you?

      March 9, 2012 at 12:32 | Report abuse |
  23. AE P

    Frankly Scarlett, I don't give a damn.....

    March 9, 2012 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. NoNoiz

    My girlfriend starts moaning before we even get our cloths off...
    "Nooooooooooo! Noooooooooo!"
    Wonderful menopause!

    March 9, 2012 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Dunlar

    I'm HUGE!

    March 9, 2012 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chartreuxe

      A huge creep. Yes.

      March 12, 2012 at 21:19 | Report abuse |
  26. Hikerstud

    I say honey do you want to have sex? She says I can take it or leave it. I say then roll over and take it!

    March 9, 2012 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. misstee

    Whatever. I'm quiet. If there's a bunch of sounds, change in movement, distractions...forget it – my O is lost. I'm quiet & I will remain so – however I DO make sounds to let my husband know he's on the right track. Encouragement sounds & orgasm sounds are totally seperate.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Hikerstud

    My wife talks alot. She says things like "hurry up" "No" "F u"

    March 9, 2012 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Hikerstud

    I got up early outta bed and went outside to go fishin and it was raining bad. Crawled back in and the wife had her back to me. I said man it's raining like crazy. She said ya can you believe my idiot husband is fishing in this?

    March 9, 2012 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Some guy overseas

      I genuinely laughed out loud when I read this comment – and my wife asked me from the other room "Why are you laughing?"

      March 9, 2012 at 17:47 | Report abuse |
  30. Hikerstud

    Me and the wife went to sign me up for social security. The clerk told me to unbutton my shirt to see the gray hair for my age. I got approved. We left my wife said should have dropped your pants you could have got disability!!

    March 9, 2012 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Kim

    "Women also reported making noise to relieve boredom, fatigue and pain/discomfort during sex." – So funny but so true. Women just moan to be moaning because they think they should be. Hilarious

    March 9, 2012 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Aaron

    In light of this article and the comments from people identifying themselves as women, I have concluded that it's simply impossible for men to have any faith in what women say. Yes, this is an overly broad and general statement. But a simple fact is that men do not fake pleasure. Perhaps men are morons in bed, but the flood of misinformation we get from women and the cryptic ways in which truth IS conveyed leaves us completely in the dark.

    And you wonder why we're only interested in OUR needs.... Well, quit faking anything from orgasms to interest and we'll have a starting point.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. FlyGuyinSJ

    Why do women moan during sex?

    Who cares? ;-)

    March 9, 2012 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. El Paul

    A little moaning is fine but I must be the only guy on here that think it gets distracting and sometimes sounds like women are being tortured rather than experiecing pleasure. Has anyone noticed that women make these same moans during childbirth? Is that pleasure too?

    March 9, 2012 at 12:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hikerstud

      Having sex with chuck norris is like having a baby cuz he's so manly.

      March 9, 2012 at 13:38 | Report abuse |
  35. Melanie

    This was the funniest Comment Section I ever read. Nice, for a change people wrote with humor, instead of hatred, or just plain ignorance.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lynn

      its all Bush's fault!!

      March 13, 2012 at 17:01 | Report abuse |
    • qo

      GEORGE: I don't know. Last time I got the tap.

      JERRY: You got the tap?

      GEORGE: You know, you're going along, you think everything's all right and all of a sudden you get that tap. (George taps his own shoulder). You know it's like pfffff, all right that's enough, you're through.

      JERRY: The tap is tough.

      March 13, 2012 at 23:22 | Report abuse |
  36. DW

    I feel so sorry for all of you posting about having a bad sex life. Then again, it is your own dumb fault for not putting forth the effort and/or not demanding the effort from your spouse. It really isn't that difficult,

    To men- if your wife doesn't orgasm nearly everytime, you are not doing it right. If you stop before she tells you to, you are lazy.
    To women- if you think just getting him off is enough, you are lazy and not doing it right.

    Bedtime is all about the Golden Rule, communication, effort and patience.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jen

      Fine, DW, but what about those of us that are single?

      March 9, 2012 at 15:37 | Report abuse |
    • DW

      @Jen: I dated (and had sex with) my spouse for 6 years before we got married, because we wanted to be very sure that we were doing the right thing. We've been married 17 years now. DO NOT tie the knot before you know that you and your partner can communicate freely and openly with one another, especially about MONEY and SEX. Of course there has to be attraction and a spark to get things going, but that is just the beginning... remember that attractiveness will fade over time. It is almost inevitable. In the long run, it is more important to be real friends, to be able to have fun and play and to be able to communicate about ANYTHING together. And I mean ANYTHING.
      It is better to be alone in reality than to be married to the wrong person and be alone in your heart!!!

      March 9, 2012 at 17:04 | Report abuse |
  37. Shipdit

    Dude...spoiler alert.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Voltairine

    "Why women moan during sex": ... really? O.O "Experts wondered the same thing": I think there are too many scientists with entirely too much time on their hands.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Muddywolf

    So what does it mean if she starts giggling uncontrollably or passes gas at the big moment? Boy, are we men clueless!

    March 9, 2012 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Shiela

    I have NEVER faked...never HAD to. I scream like a Banshee! My DH and I aren't putting on any show for eachother, just doing some good old honest lovemaking...and it's fabulous!

    March 9, 2012 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DW

      Probably because you are both honest with each other, love each other and go out of your way to please each other.
      Most of these people are too self-centered and distrustful of their partners to ever experience the real joy of sex. This blog had a post recently about the importance of talking about sex rather than just plodding along blindly, and I agree that communication is absolutely essential. I mean if you are too lazy or hung-up to talk about what you want, then you get what you deserve.

      March 9, 2012 at 13:14 | Report abuse |
  41. Beer Summit

    Say My Name!

    March 9, 2012 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Beer Summit

    Who's yer Daddy!?

    March 9, 2012 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Beer Summit

    Maybe these scientists should just try having sex.

    March 9, 2012 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. The final myth of Childhood shattered.

    As a man, I find this "news" disheartening. It appears that most women are not interested in having a sexual relationship with the men they marry or date, its just a tool to secure the "relationship". Now when I am with my girlfriend and she makes noise, you tell me "its just to make the man feel better or finish quickly" and if she is silent, its because I'm not satisfying her. One "lady" who replied earlier said women need a man with a big appendage to enjoy sex. But I have one in the upper range, and I've been around... The truth is that women will still get bored after a few years, and will just find another quality you lack to justify her own lack of interest in you. It seems to me that the concept of a secure, sexual relationship with a female is just another myth from my childhood, like Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. No wonder men who can get laid don't want to settle down, and men who want to settle down cant get laid...

    March 9, 2012 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DW

      These replies make me so thankful for my wife of 17 years. I feel sorry for you though. LOL

      March 9, 2012 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
  45. frank

    Note to woman : if you are trying to speed up a man, talking dirty is MUCH better than moaning.

    March 9, 2012 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Hikerstud

    I bought one of those "joint" massagers and her foreplay time is a now a micro second.

    March 9, 2012 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Brenda

    How nice that Ian Kerner would explore this subject. I myself have also watched a video of a woman being brought and maintained to orgasm for over 20 minutes "The Technique of Peaking and Extended Orgasm." from sex educators at http://www.welcomed.com and found the sounds of pleasure she made when brought on "peaks" of orgasm to be the most real that I have ever felt. I have used moaning as a way to communicate before where I wanted him to touch me, but since we watched this video together, he knows exactly where and how to touch me and it is easy to communicate to him what I like. Our sex life is now fantastic. Thank you Ian Kerner, I love all the articles you write, they always trigger new conversation for us.

    March 9, 2012 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. palintwit

    If Sarah Palin moans during sex it's because she's constipated.

    March 9, 2012 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tokencode

      Her husband has to compete with enormous stick causing the constipation

      March 11, 2012 at 17:27 | Report abuse |
  49. JCK

    Moaning? Secure relationship? What do women want? What are women's needs? How can I fulfill their every storybook need? My partner is a drunken be'atch. But I have kids and the courts here all favor mom. What do woman want? WHO CARES?

    March 9, 2012 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DW

      Seriously, this blog reads like a poster for why people should be more careful about who they marry. How the f- did so many of you end up with spouses that are no good for you??? Some of you multiple times! How can people not know that marriage is a really big, grown-up decision with very unfortunate consequences if you f- up and pick the wrong person? And don't give me that crap that they changed from Ms. Right to Mrs. Totally F'in Wrong right under your nose. That just means you went too fast and didn't properly test the waters. (Part of which I blame on medieval religious beliefs that sex before marriage and living together before marriage are wrong. Well, maybe they are, but not as damaging as suffering through a bad marriage and subjecting children to a poor family life... but I digress.)

      March 9, 2012 at 17:15 | Report abuse |
  50. JR

    "guys should aim for more than a single grunt at the end."

    That's why I aim for her face!

    March 9, 2012 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
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