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 (4,630 Responses)
  1. Jack Strong

    I would like to get paid to research this topic further.... Excuse me would you like to participate in some research?

    March 11, 2012 at 07:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • don

      you should have seen the size of the skid marks in her pantys. WOW

      March 11, 2012 at 17:17 | Report abuse |
    • Paolo

      @don EEeeeeewwww.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:03 | Report abuse |
    • Jason Bubba

      Experts wondered why females moan during sex? If they are truly "experts" shouldn't they "KNOW" not "WONDER"? I guess any idiot can call themselves an EXPERT now-a-days.

      March 12, 2012 at 17:46 | Report abuse |
  2. Start

    Well, as they teach on survival courses – if you are in pain – scream, it helps to relax.
    I believe same applies to orgasm – been vocal helps to relax and enjoy it further.

    March 11, 2012 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Really?

    Sounds like an article written by someone who has no idea what he is doing in bed. Really? THIS is news, CNN? Not everyone has the same bedroom behaviors. Maybe he should write on everyone's favorite color next...

    March 11, 2012 at 11:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris Synfield

      No, yellow!

      March 11, 2012 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • bobtbuilder

      What is it with the ret@rds who constantly critique the article selection of CNN? If it's so bad you must be an incredible loser to waste time reading it and then commenting about it.

      March 11, 2012 at 21:02 | Report abuse |
    • bob

      Men MOAN during sex especially when being orally stimulated!

      March 12, 2012 at 16:30 | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Another lame comment by another faux hipster. Move along, nothing to read here...

      March 12, 2012 at 20:56 | Report abuse |
    • Natural Cbd

      A lot of things to consider. I know top Facebook experts would agree with your posts. Seasoned LinkedIn experts would agree. All have used websites to raise awareness. I've never done this for myself but I've been told by friends that it can be really helpful.


      December 17, 2018 at 07:57 | Report abuse |
  4. Steve

    Men who are having sex with men, and who are "receiving" do just as much moaning. It has something to do with being invaded and experiencing extreme pleasure

    March 11, 2012 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KanneM

      An interesting observation. Perhaps, that's why I'm a generally quiet woman during sex. It never would occur to me that I'm being invaded. I'm quite convinced that it is he who is being surrounded.

      March 11, 2012 at 15:28 | Report abuse |
  5. angie

    @steve – i definitely agree to a certain point. however, take into consideration that the nerve endings in the female "V" are in different locations/numbers than the nerve endings in the female/male "A". i've only heard from male & female friends how wonderful or how painful it feels to go that route (pain is probably associated with novices?) – but i personally learned from an early age, through the media, that the constant vocals were "normal". i am also terribly nice, and i've always tried to be vocal in an effort to make the male feel good, even when it was all but mediocre.

    March 11, 2012 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. angie

    @Really? agreed. i'd be more interested in scientific research dealing with the psychological benefits of power exchanges in the bedroom (domination, submission.)

    March 11, 2012 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Really?

      I know, right? Give me something useful that I can work with.

      March 12, 2012 at 00:49 | Report abuse |
  7. Poodles

    I wet myself twice in the past 2 minutes. I also soiled my pants and ate it.

    March 11, 2012 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Quisha

      Not important

      March 12, 2012 at 11:21 | Report abuse |
    • hannah01

      Reading these posts, I never realized how many disgusting human beings there are out there...you being one of them.

      March 12, 2012 at 18:38 | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      That thing that whizzed over your planet? That was the point of this article, Poodles, and you missed it. Grow up, stay in school, don't do drugs.

      March 12, 2012 at 21:00 | Report abuse |
    • Cbd Edibles

      I can't stop myself from looking at your work. What is the secret formula for creating a happy life? I'm so glad I found your site. I try to visit this blog at least once a day or more so I can stay up to date with the latest news and trends.


      December 18, 2018 at 07:55 | Report abuse |
  8. ctguy591

    I once had a girlfriend that would get all the dogs in the neighborhood barking !!!

    March 11, 2012 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Michael

    I moan when my girlfriend massages my prostate, and I moan because it feels really good.

    March 11, 2012 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. ty

    My ex only moaned when i wanted seconds.

    March 11, 2012 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. twd

    For women that don't like sex much, I'm sure moaning gives them something to think about, and maybe it will speed things up. Of the women I've known–not a huge number, true–the most sexual ones actually tended to make the least show of noise-making.

    March 11, 2012 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chartreuxe

      It's just possible you could use more practice, Twd. Books can be helpful, too. Not trying to be insulting here, I'm just saying...

      March 12, 2012 at 21:03 | Report abuse |
  12. net&yoyo

    Women moan cuz the old meat whilstle feels pretty good!!! Women like to make sounds like a cat when the crank is churning up the spunk!!!

    March 11, 2012 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. net&yoyo

    incorrect spelling in my post above....that's meat WHISTLE!

    March 11, 2012 at 20:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • calmncool

      You shouldn't have bothered. Really.

      March 12, 2012 at 17:23 | Report abuse |
    • mel23

      Oh, calmncool, I'm so glad you bothered to respond. Your comment made me laugh so hard!

      March 12, 2012 at 20:01 | Report abuse |

    its all part of the grand human scheme theres no math needed

    March 11, 2012 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. DeMoana

    They only moan when I don't pay them.

    March 11, 2012 at 21:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. teepee

    same reason your toes curl when you bust a nut...

    March 11, 2012 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. JakeF

    It doesn't take a genius. The woman moans, which, in turns, stimulates the male more as to come to orgasm. More orgasms, greater choice of reproduction.

    March 11, 2012 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chartreuxe

      Oh, right, because that's all we care about, reproduction. That's all sex is for, semen. Oh, yeah, baby, give me that semen, that's all I want, to fall pregnant. <- sarcasm

      Sex is a basic human drive. This just in: Women like sex. Whether they admit it or not, women have sex drives just as men do, just as strong and women feel lust, too.

      March 12, 2012 at 21:10 | Report abuse |
  18. Watersisland

    Only women?
    I would imagine they make loud noises for the same reason that I do.Uncontrolable vocalization of pleasure. I have been known to absolutely shriek during climax. Once, when hospitalized for over a week.....my wife came to pleasure me ....and I shrieked so loud that the nurse came running into the room. She immediately did a one-eighty when she realized that the door was closed for a reason.
    Sad to think that so many guys and gals are so inhibited in their sexual relations that they don't get as much enjoyment out of sex as I have with partners.

    March 11, 2012 at 21:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Been There

    Moaning = faking it

    March 11, 2012 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Watersisland

      The deception probably begins the moment she agrees to have sex with YOU.

      March 11, 2012 at 22:32 | Report abuse |
  20. Mr. Zippy

    This article is way too complicated. I like to bang, moaning or no moaning. The end.

    March 11, 2012 at 23:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Watersisland

    WHAT!!! No Video? I was hoping for at least some audio of those shrieks and moans. I could play them back during a love making session.

    March 11, 2012 at 23:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. DAn Templeton

    Historie's most substantial miscommunication occured when the "virgin Mary" was in the middle of conceiving and was overheard screaming in the night, "oh god, oh god,oh god." Many people thought she was having sex with god. NO, just Joe.

    March 12, 2012 at 05:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Laureth

      I'm glad I wasn't drinking anything when I read your comment. I would've spit it out. That's the funniest one I've read so far.

      March 12, 2012 at 07:30 | Report abuse |
  23. Laureth

    We moan because we like it. It's not rocket science.

    March 12, 2012 at 07:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • L

      lol nailed it. Seems scientist overanalize things.

      March 12, 2012 at 08:42 | Report abuse |
    • mplaya

      EXACTLY! I'm past the age of procreation but if I'm enjoying what's going on, it's more of a "oh yeah, I'm relaxing now, bring it on" kind of thing – shouldn't have to delve too deeply into that response! And, it also seems that my hubby moans just as much as I do – unless the kids are out of the house or we're in a hotel – where it may get louder...lol

      March 12, 2012 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
    • Ted Sebern


      One of the really important things about having sex is that both parties. My ex wife, a lovely lady said she felt nothing, Which led me to believe that she needed help. Now she's on anti depressant drugs and I'm a happy man.

      March 12, 2012 at 20:28 | Report abuse |
    • Griddle

      @L : I see what you did there. 🙂

      March 13, 2012 at 14:17 | Report abuse |
  24. Jt_flyer

    Rick Santorum's going to put an end to all you evil-doers. What does moaning have to do with a lovely -god approved- union between and married man and women during the act of reproduction? God hates moaning.

    March 12, 2012 at 08:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Will

      Sadly I believe if he thought he could he would do just as you have said!! Can you imagine how sad sex must be for those right wing conservative wives!!

      March 12, 2012 at 10:04 | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      That's not what He told me.

      March 12, 2012 at 21:11 | Report abuse |
  25. rick

    i thought it was because it kept them from laughing

    March 12, 2012 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Joe Sixpack

    I don't need them to say anything. I'm just happy they showed up =)

    March 12, 2012 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. cnnlicksit@gmail.com

    I prefer no moans to fake moans personally.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Lisa

    I don't get it. I moan during sex because it feels really REALLY good and it's hard to silence the sounds of pleasure. I never thought of moaning to make my guy have an orgasm. Talking dirty...that's another story. But moaning I do simply because it feels wonderful. Or did. I am middle aged and frigid now, I think.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • john

      that what seems plausible. my girl moans when shes really in the mood. when shes doing it just for my sake – i dont hear much

      March 12, 2012 at 15:19 | Report abuse |
  29. The Man!

    If you have to ask, you are not doing right. I know why every woman I have been with moans!

    March 12, 2012 at 12:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Mal

    I personally moan because it feels good however, alot of women moan to try and make the guy feel like he's doing something great this can happen if your lover isn't "hitting that right spot" on the other hand if their good you have no control and may be very vocal whether you want to or not.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Zona

    *yawn* another article written by a middle class white male about heterosexual sex.

    March 12, 2012 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. ames

    I got mine, who cares if she moans!!!!!!!!! kidding, what ever makes both partners happy and pleased is great!

    March 12, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bean bag

      Might there be any well researched articles on the topic or any closely related topics? Is there anything else I could look at to learn more about this subject? I used to study this topic when I was in school. I got sucked into your article for the last hour.


      December 22, 2018 at 11:31 | Report abuse |
  33. clemdane

    They make it sound like all moaning is contrived and non-spontaneous. I thought they were going to give a scientific explanation of how the pleasure centers of the brain trigger vocalizations, but instead it's about women calculating their moans carefully to create an effect. Don't think I buy that.

    March 12, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Rick

    They moan because I'm great.

    Just kidding, who cares why they moan. I've been with moaners, I've been with talkers, I've been with silents.

    March 12, 2012 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DeeNYC

      have you ever notice the silent ones always look like they're face is going to explode.

      March 12, 2012 at 15:17 | Report abuse |
    • rick

      Me too. The texters are annoying

      March 12, 2012 at 16:40 | Report abuse |
  35. William

    Researchers found? They got paid for this?

    March 12, 2012 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. ajaznurse

    You're on her hair?

    March 12, 2012 at 15:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. DeeNYC

    I'm sure it was gov't grant money that paid for this study. So what's next? Why do we scream in pain when we get, say, shot with a bullet?

    March 12, 2012 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. wildchild

    i am a moaner during sex, and i must say that is not for my partner's enjoyment. i moan because i thoroughly enjoy it... and also because i climax very easily. so my partner and i are both "winning."

    March 12, 2012 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. joan

    I prefer to hum the Star Spangled Banner

    March 12, 2012 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rick

      i prefer the "where oh where are you tonight" song from hee haw

      March 12, 2012 at 16:41 | Report abuse |
  40. eroteme

    I believe most moaners moan to persuade their partner they are expressing enjoyment whether enjoyment is there or not.

    March 12, 2012 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Jake

    I thought women moaned just so they could be even more annoying than they usually are?!

    March 12, 2012 at 19:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chartreuxe

      No, that's YOU.

      March 12, 2012 at 21:14 | Report abuse |
  42. Wesley

    Having You Near (excerpt: Duet)

    Second Verse:
    When we’re making love. (Female)
    There’s a pounding in my heart.
    When you moan real low. (Male)
    Then you scream out in the dark.
    When the stars kiss the first light. (Together)
    Then finally disappear.
    There’s no one I’d rather have,
    Then having you near.

    Copyright © February 2009 Wesley McCants Jr.
    (Library of Congress)

    If moaning by many women is a fake, still... I say it's worth hearing.

    March 12, 2012 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. F-male

    I moan whenever there is ...acustic (rather empty or tall ceiling rooms). I like the vibration and my voice coming back at me, in a way I make love to myself!

    March 12, 2012 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. JacMac

    Women moan during sex?

    March 12, 2012 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. infinityshock

    Q: how can you tell when a woman is having an orgasm?

    A: who cares

    March 12, 2012 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Testing 1-2-3

    If you really want to find out she's faking, stick it in the other hole and compare the sounds.

    March 12, 2012 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Hamhammer

    It's pretty clear to me - from experience and various "viewing" activities - that a woman achieves her strongest orgasm on penetration...if, she is truly aroused and interested in the man.

    All the "sex studies" of the 1960s about going for hours is complete nonsense.

    If a woman is aroused, she'll let off a big sigh on penetration and maybe for a few seconds afterward.

    She basically has climaxed and then, reciprocally, let's her partner stay for while, or, as the article suggests, uses sound to help him along.

    Everything the Sex Doctors of the 70s said was complete garbage.

    March 12, 2012 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. ToddA

    Just because they can not stand to see their mate pleased for one minute,

    March 12, 2012 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Zim Chitwad

    Sandra Fluke screams Obamas name and pee's during sex I was told.

    March 12, 2012 at 22:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Baldheaded Guy

    Wow, another article intended to demean men's manhood. It turns out women just want to speed up our terrible effort and make us falsely feel good about ourselves. And they wonder why the male ego is fragile. The media would be resposible for quite a bit of that.

    March 12, 2012 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
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