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. dilberth

    There is a very special vocalization that women display when they have an orgasm. It is a spontaneous outpouring that is rarely masqueraded as a counterfeit orgasm. It comes from within with a deep, throaty exclamation point.

    March 12, 2012 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Renee


      March 12, 2012 at 22:28 | Report abuse |
    • jojo


      March 12, 2012 at 22:39 | Report abuse |
    • peabody3000

      totally true. eddie murphy did a whole routine about that exact sound, like 20 years ago and its absolutely true. pity the person who thinks its BS...

      March 12, 2012 at 22:55 | Report abuse |
    • alise

      Eddie Murphy probably never gave a woman an orgasm, so what does he know?

      March 13, 2012 at 01:55 | Report abuse |
    • Des

      Its true, I had to wait till I had a great husband that knew what he was doing, so yes, it wasn't till I was over 50, its a spontaneous, uncontrollable deep yell that lasts as long as the climax....I never knew,,and it sounds like a lot of women don't either, nor do the researchers!

      March 13, 2012 at 02:01 | Report abuse |
    • Goober

      I think there's some truth to that. I once had a girlfriend who was really bad at faking orgasms, which was nice in a way because it helped me know when she was having a real one.

      March 13, 2012 at 15:49 | Report abuse |
    • rick

      When they come up with a "yadda yadda yadda" thing, it is really discouraging

      March 13, 2012 at 16:08 | Report abuse |
    • jansey

      women are gross

      March 13, 2012 at 21:09 | Report abuse |
    • Jane

      Men, if a woman feels that she's being judged, she won't be able to have an actual orgasm. If you make comments about your partners weight, compare her appearance to that of other women etc, she'll fake it and you'll never know the difference.

      March 14, 2012 at 03:38 | Report abuse |
    • Terrils

      It's deeply amusing how many men are (a) sure they've given women real orgasms, so they're experts, and (b) think all women are exactly alike. So all women make ONE sound? Good luck with that theory in real life.

      March 15, 2012 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
    • howdouknow

      how do you know this? are you speaking from experience as being a man or women? or are one of those whatxhamacallits' who dont know what they are.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:07 | Report abuse |
  2. Marcque

    consider the responses here for your nexr article. This is where the rubber meets the road!

    March 12, 2012 at 22:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Vittu

      Let's hear it for "the road" ;D Hip hip hurray!

      March 13, 2012 at 15:13 | Report abuse |
  3. Scott

    How the heck-ramsey did staff at The University of Leeds and the University of Central Lancashire convince their superiors to take time and money to do a study like this? My own "research" has yielded somewhat different data, but then again, I don't think I've been sleeping with the kind of women who discuss their sexual moans (sorry, “copulatory vocalizations”) with university researchers.

    March 12, 2012 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michelle

      "copulatory vocalisations" Hilarious dude!!!

      March 21, 2012 at 10:46 | Report abuse |
  4. whatever

    Can't believe this is even a news story. Laaaame.

    March 12, 2012 at 23:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Who Cares

    We have an economy in crisis people and so many of you are getting drunk, smoking pot, playing games while rome burns to the ground. Idiots.

    March 12, 2012 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Real Tranquil

      Cool story bro!

      March 13, 2012 at 00:19 | Report abuse |
    • SenorPlaid

      I'm sorry, dude, that you have no personal experience with the phenomenon of female copulatory vocalization, but that's no reason to take it out on those of us who do.

      March 13, 2012 at 12:41 | Report abuse |
    • And this is news worthy because?

      Actually, Who Cares is right. As for the noises of copulating women...I tend to find those wildebeest calls they seem to think they need to make distracting. Nothing kills my sex drive faster than someone who sounds like their being penetrated by something wrapped in barbed wire.

      March 14, 2012 at 03:41 | Report abuse |
  6. CaptainDave

    IMHO...it depends on the woman. I find Asian women (who often don't speak English) are more spontaneous with their vocalization. Western women seem to be more focused on cheering on their partner. Of course my research is only personal experience with around 2,000 subjects over the past 4 decades.

    This is NOT a news story...it is entertainment 🙂

    Sea ya...Captain Dave

    March 12, 2012 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mark

      Dave, that "asian vocalization" you're so familiar with is easily translated as "now give me my money!"

      March 13, 2012 at 09:05 | Report abuse |
    • D Minnich

      ...or "help, police!"

      March 13, 2012 at 14:52 | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      BS: middlw fingle raised up for U.

      March 20, 2012 at 06:14 | Report abuse |
    • Ellie

      You're disgusting.

      March 20, 2012 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
    • Tasha

      I am an asian woman and I feel deeply offended by your comment (Oh sorry, I mean, what do I know, maybe I don`t speak English and didn't get it right, my bad /sarcasm). Talk about stereotypes. I hope you live in Asia: that would explain your comment. Anyway, call me an idealist but basically, you're sleeping with women with whom you cannot even communicate with. So. Yeah. Whatever. It's guys like you that give my husband (who's caucasian) a bad name. Try to find REAL asian women who can speak with you instead of bowing their head when you talk to her and just moaning when you're having sex with her. Then maybe you can write again. And even then, women are women. When guys start categorizing women from different races and saying X race is best, it just sounds like some sort of weird fetish. Grow up.

      March 22, 2012 at 18:23 | Report abuse |
  7. M. Bright

    The cat behind my house moans when she's having sex too. Does that mean she's trying to boost her partner's self esteem?

    March 13, 2012 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Big Al.

      No, the male cat's penis is barbed and she's not happy about it.

      March 13, 2012 at 06:50 | Report abuse |
  8. Therealhellkitty

    For all of you bright lights worried about your tax dollars being wasted on this research, the University of Leeds is in the UK (or England for the less informed). Perhaps, gentlemen, there are cultural differences that account for the response of "urging him to hurry up".
    For myself, never faked an O. Never had to. I have been fortunate in that regard. Hearing my partner make I'm all into this noise is just as good for me too. A deep voice saying mmmmmmmmmmmmmm is very encouraging and "audibles" are even more fun from both sides.

    March 13, 2012 at 00:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. julia ghoolia

    What a bunch of tripe! Why can't we ever just enjoy ourselves? It's always some "news" story about how everything women do is for men, written by a man, for some other man. Let me tell you, when they're real, they're spectacular. When they're fake, it's with men like you, you squinty face moron.

    March 13, 2012 at 01:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D Minnich

      Moaning, baloaning – squealing is the real seal of approval

      March 13, 2012 at 16:40 | Report abuse |
    • D Minnich

      Sorry, that was meant as a general comment, not a reply. Oops!

      March 13, 2012 at 16:41 | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      One of the two researchers who conducted the study was a man, the other was a woman. Nothing in the article indicated the research showed or implies that "everything women do is for men."

      And how does understanding the science behind something diminish it's enjoyment–if anything, it should increase it.

      March 16, 2012 at 17:50 | Report abuse |
  10. perli gates

    I make that sound when my husband rubs my feet.

    March 13, 2012 at 02:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Kevin Jenkins

    My wife doesn't moan...she makes her shopping list.

    March 13, 2012 at 02:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rick

      i like it. my girlfriend texts

      March 13, 2012 at 06:00 | Report abuse |
  12. dick

    Bill Moyers moans when he sees conservative women (tight butt 's ) –no way hose –find your own /liberal / loose .open butt's .-another joke / a dumb comedian .

    March 13, 2012 at 02:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Big Al.

      What is this I don't even

      March 13, 2012 at 06:52 | Report abuse |
  13. here we go again

    What about when a woman is wet and I can't really feel much anymore until I switch. I would put 4 play at about 10 to 25mins depends and when I first start penetration. It is amazing but then after a 5mins and I hold it. I really don't feel to much anymore unless I put her knees on my shoulders then I just feel like I am hitting a wall or I switch up. She as in my wife makes me feel like she wants it all the time but I can't do it all the time. Movies make me feel like less of a man and I have to do it every day but I can’t I am tired or not in the mood to do it. Been married 8yrs in the beginning almost every day but now it is like 2 or 3 days later. Not her fault it is mine. To the article she makes sounds, bathroom brakes, of course closeness after, Thank you(all the time don’t really get that), and feels like she wants more/wakes me up at 3 am to for a 2nd go around. I know this form is about woman but come on. I have to sleep

    March 13, 2012 at 03:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mad Jack

      You are blessed.

      March 14, 2012 at 22:11 | Report abuse |
    • Timi

      Very blessed indeed!!!

      March 20, 2012 at 04:48 | Report abuse |
  14. Cameron

    No, women moan because they don't know how to stfu. Always talking and making noise

    March 13, 2012 at 05:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Zue

      I guess you have never been with a REAL woman, since you are displaying what you think they should be.

      March 18, 2012 at 05:06 | Report abuse |
  15. 1taz

    Iron my shirt!

    No seriously, there are plenty of people that should not be "making some noise." So please, help out and don't encourage those that either simply end up on the Darwin Awards list, or those that have Darwin Awards list babies. Neither are doing us any good. I think they already make up about half of our politicians, so please, let's try to cut back. Many thanks.

    March 13, 2012 at 06:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Vlad

    "Why women moan during sex".

    They are supposed to moan?

    *sob* :,(

    March 13, 2012 at 10:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Ronnie Dobbs

    Ya'll got a purty redhead on yer assignment desk who knows a lot about this all....I loved to see that Moan-a Lisa smile

    March 13, 2012 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Rick

    Must be talking about American women,.....fakers.

    March 13, 2012 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Cy Leon

    All this discussion over something a little ductape or a ballgag would fix up just fine ^-_-^

    March 13, 2012 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. scott

    who cares..it's all about me anyway.....though the fake talking can be insulting to my intelligence......some times they come up with the most unusual things to say...."did you just say to stick my finger up your mudcutter? That's weird, you never talk like that before...oh well. what about when they say "don't! Stop!" so confusing...which one is it honey...

    March 13, 2012 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. D Minnich

    How to tell a woman's faking it? The lower body flush. A faker will not have this blush, the real deal will. It's involuntary, so nothing a faker can do to make it happen (thanks, MANswers). Of course, rather than worrying about fake vs real, men should get educated and learn what makes their woman's day.

    March 13, 2012 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hale

      My exwife had an orgasm once, How do I know, she dropped her nail file and put her mother on hold.

      March 13, 2012 at 15:05 | Report abuse |
  22. AmIReallyTheFirst?

    This is ridiculous – have no other lesbians commented on this thread??? If you think that women only moan for the man's benefit, why don't you see what happens when you take a man out of the equation?

    Answer – moaning can be used to encourage, manipulate, cajole, or reinforce... sure. But real moaning happens when two people know each other's bodies intimately and are invested in both giving and receiving pleasure.

    Source: me + my girlfriend at 8:45 this morning.

    March 13, 2012 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BisexualAndProud

      you. you win for that! I am honestly surprised that you were the first to say that. I've never had sex before [pervirgin and proud~] but I can tell you that I have moaned when my cousin [female] accidentally stimuated the back of my neck, hear my hairline. We do it to signal pleasure, people, not just to speed you up.

      March 13, 2012 at 15:29 | Report abuse |
  23. citizen

    Scream and moan until the cows come home....it's all gooooood!

    I hope the neighbors aren't home....yikes!

    March 13, 2012 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Dr. B. Good...

    What does it indicate, when she screams, "Oh my f___ing God!"?

    March 13, 2012 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. xexon

    Women moan during sex. Men moan when they don't have sex. Funny when you think about it.


    March 13, 2012 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Patrick ONeill

    Gay male "bottoms" moan too – where do you think the term "pillow-biter" comes from.
    I don't buy it.

    March 13, 2012 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Drilla

    Interesting article until they threw in the freakin' monkeys. Isn't there anything that humans do that not compared to stupid hair ball apes.

    Get over it....we're not the same. LOL

    March 13, 2012 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tony

      have you been to the South?

      March 14, 2012 at 04:06 | Report abuse |
    • Johnny Reb

      I assume you are speaking of South Brooklyn

      March 15, 2012 at 17:33 | Report abuse |
    • Black and Proud

      Wow Tony, we don't just live in the South .. and comparing us to apes is a bit .. shall I say .. out-of-fashion?

      March 15, 2012 at 17:35 | Report abuse |
  28. Jim

    My girlfriend groans/moans during orgasm and it has absolutely nothing to do with "encouraging" me. She'll groan whether I'm masturbating her or she's riding the pole. She's in her own world for a brief moment. She's not faking it. Most of this article is BS.

    March 14, 2012 at 01:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Terrils

      "She's not faking it. "

      Of course she isn't. You just keep tellin' yourself that, Jim.

      March 15, 2012 at 17:14 | Report abuse |
  29. tony

    No way women always moan with me because I bring them bliss! 🙂

    March 14, 2012 at 03:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. tony

    man kill our ego why don't you! 🙂

    March 14, 2012 at 04:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. sam

    Great research project. Not sure findings are complete or definitive at this point but what an interesting subject to study. After all, good sex is one of the great joys of life and I see every reason to learn more about it in a scientific way rather than just through raunchy anecdotes.

    March 14, 2012 at 07:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. rbockman

    If they would just shutup

    March 14, 2012 at 09:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Stan

    I've had both; 'fakers' that told me they were faking it and 'non-fakers' that went into orgasmic fits that you just could not fake!
    Case Closed!

    March 14, 2012 at 10:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Tara

    CNN sex columnist Ian Kerner talks to Sarah McNamara of Miracle Skin Transformer about ways to reinvigorate your sex life. Listen live Wed. at 11 am PST or download the free podcast. http://www.faceforwardradio.com

    March 14, 2012 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Chris

    Birth control pills are a nightmare for sexual fun. Without birth control pills, women have a 4 or 5 day hormonal shift every month in which they crave all that is masculine, the more manly and rugged the better. The birth control pill takes away that shift. So, now women are attracted to "soft" things (babies, effeminate men, etc..) all month long. It is what it is and I think access to birth control pills is great for women. But, like with everything else good, there's a price to be paid.

    March 14, 2012 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ashley

      I'll take that over condoms or babies any day.

      March 18, 2012 at 20:40 | Report abuse |
  36. nursie

    My man says I "coo" like a dove when I'm enjoying myself. I was embarrassed the first time he pointed it out during sex because I honestly didn't realize I was doing it...cuz I was too busy enjoying myself!!

    March 14, 2012 at 18:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Michelle

    If men weren't so sensitive about their sexual prowless then we wouldn' t have to. I find the majority of mans self esteem comes from their view of their sexual prowless. If you don't they will bug you all night....did you have a orgasm.....am I big enough???? Guys we enjoy sex very much but not as much as you. It is more of bonding experience for us. Also, please note in the article. Women mostlly orgasm during foreplay not sex. Heads up guys.....Foreplay is just important as the act itself. So take your time and we may moan due to a real orgasm.

    I was once with a man who I had to beg to actually penetrate me because I got so hot. When he did.......it was the best sex......EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! For both him and I. We got married and are very happy.

    March 14, 2012 at 22:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. blessedgeek

    Three men sitting in a bar: an English, a French and an israeli.

    English boasted – my wife screams for 10 minutes afterwards.

    French rolled his eyes – that's nothin – me ... she yells for an hour afterwards.

    The two turned to the israeli – hmm ..,,

    The Israeli sheepishly – my wife is still yelling. It's been six months since.
    Hoping to learn some israeli secret, they inquired persistently... how
    I had wiped with the curtains afterwards.

    March 15, 2012 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. ryder_ted

    Get your lady a Hitachi Magic Wand and you'll know if she likes moaning or not. Why a man's penis doesn't simply vibrate is beyond me.

    March 16, 2012 at 01:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James Kaye

      True that. I know women who prefer their shower massager over men..there's just no way I can move my tongue that fast.

      March 21, 2012 at 18:37 | Report abuse |
  40. Brittany

    I feel stupider for having read this article. I wish I could unclick the link.

    March 16, 2012 at 08:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. david

    Moaning? That's usually before or after. She usually stiffens, bites or digs in her nails.

    March 16, 2012 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. JLM

    I don't know why men are the majority commenting on this, but I will just say that when I am about to O with my husband, it is hard to be quiet and is much more enjoyable for me to let loose. And it is not usually with foreplay for me, and definitely not just to cheer him on (although he certainly deserves the cheering 😉

    March 16, 2012 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. N

    This is total bs! It made me so mad, that i was actually yelling about it to my husband, who had sent it to me.Not only do I scream and moan, but sometimes I have a very guttural noise that I make. He knows II can't possibly be faking, because of the contractions inside me!

    March 17, 2012 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. John

    I think a woman moaning in pleasure would make a great ringtone, fake or real who cares?

    March 17, 2012 at 22:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Bede

    There was no doubt what was happening when Sandy started panting. Awesome!

    March 18, 2012 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. James

    You guys don't know nothing. My girl crows.. She does not moan.

    March 20, 2012 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. James Kaye

    My first wife never made a sound, even when she shook during orgasms. Then I dated a profanity screamer who would give orders as well, and was a squirter to boot! She was a blast. Also dated another high pitched screamer who had a continuous orgasm while boinking, and a low moaner who shuddered at every one of her 12 to 15 orgasms during sex.

    I am a pretty loud moaner myself.

    The point is, everyone is different.

    March 21, 2012 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Cris

    I REALLY DON'T CARE WHY..........I would just like to hear a woman moaning right now....It-oh-so-reminds me of a happy place.

    March 22, 2012 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. stevarino

    Why do women fake an orgasm because they think we care.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Deb

    I find that moaning during orgasam creates a "bearing down" sensation in the pelvic area and the louder the moaning, the more intense the orgasam.

    March 22, 2012 at 20:20 | Report abuse | Reply
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