November 30, 2009

Love Pollution: How Loud Is Too Loud?

Freedom, News 4 Comments


Time for a horrifying, overshar-y confession. When I was in college, my ex and I moved into a house together. Because we had the extra space, we didn’t hesitate to let some mutual friends move in with us.

It was a happy house, with most all of us being geeks and spending hours silently in front of our computers in the Hush room (where, literally, we had a “do not speak; if you need something, send an IM,” rule). Well, one of us wasn’t a geek, but snorting copious amounts of cocaine off the kitchen counter doesn’t make that much of a racket. Not that I knew anything about this at the time or condone this behavior.

Anyway. One day, I was walking to the kitchen when I overheard a conversation between my ex and a male roommate go down as follows:

ROOMMIE: what the hell do you do to AV, man? You sound like you’re killing her every night. It’s horrible.
EX: yeah? At least you’re in the next room. Imagine having that in your ear.

I can’t tell you the complex I got over it. Even long after we were over, I thought about this.

I do think about the aesthetics of sex–I’m a visual person and I like mirrors, so coordination has become a involuntary thing. But to think about what noises I’m making on top of it? Is there any room left over for actually, oh, I don’t know, enjoying the moment?

It’s a crowded world, and while I’ve moved away from having roommates and keeping lovers who don’t appreciate my, um, emphatic verbal appreciation, many still deal with the issue of noise pollution.

A most recent example is a UK couple were actually handed a noise abatement notice for boinking so loudly they disturbed their neighbors and people on the street. The Telegraph reports: “Caroline and Steve Cartwright’s love making was described as ‘murder’ and ‘unnatural’ and drowned out their neighbours’ televisions.”

The city went as far as to install a decibel-meter in their home to get an idea of the sort of noise they were making. According to the device, the couple reached 47 decibels at the highest (which, Anna North at Jezebel is quick to point out is below the level of normal conversation).

For this disturbance, the Cartwrights received an order to refrain from “shouting, screaming or vocalisation at such a level as to be a statutory nuisance.” When they failed to cease and desist, the couple were convicted of violating the ban. Now, Caroline Cartwright is taking the judgment head on, calling it a breach of human rights.

Now, I believe in common courtesy and feel for their neighbors, but the idea of a city telling me how loud I can scream during sex makes my libertarian leanings growl and hiss.

Exploring Cartwright’s appeal to the conviction that she cannot help making these noises, Jezebel’s Anna North, does some research:

Well, folks, I Googled “women’s sex vocalization” so you don’t have to (though if you’d like to know what a) rats, b) mice and c) brunettes sound like while engaged in intercourse, by all means go ahead), and I came up with a book called The Male Sexual Machine, by Kenneth Purvis. The book’s overview makes the specious claim that “the practice of gynecology has brought millions of women to a greater understanding of their own sexual health, its male counterpart, andrology, remains largely an unexplored field” (sounds a little like a certain Onion article), but it does offer some semi-intriguing evolutionary explanations for women’s sex sounds. Apparently a woman’s moans speed a man’s ejaculation, possibly improving the odds of simultaneous orgasm and thus of conception. And somewhat more upsettingly, female moaning may have evolved to attract more male partners to the area, back in monkey-times when most sex was group sex. All of Purvis’s arguments seem like they deserve a pretty big grain of salt, but it is possible that women’s sex noises have a biological basis. And while most of us can keep them in check when we’re, say, staying at our parents’ houses, there’s an element of the involuntary in the sex moan, and it’s not hard to believe that some people might have trouble stifling it.

I’m with North–moaning is not only not “unnatural,” it’s also better than other things–like people fighting.

In fact, I’ve been known to turn down my music to take in the sounds of a couple truly enjoying themselves.

But what do I know, I’m a sex blogger and confessed howler.

Either way, the News section of this site just got a Freedom subsection.

Image by Tambako the Jaguar. Information from The Telegraph, via Jezebel.

AV Flox

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  • Sylvanus

    let’s agree that there is a noise level acheivable by human lungs that is ”too loud.” people exposed to noises that are too loud should wear ear protection.

    Kidding aside…I think that loud fucking, while psychically disruptive, should be addressed AFTER car alarms, exhausts, and subwoofers. I understand the irritation, especially, if your own sex life isn’t shaking the paint off the walls. But having married a true screamer, I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I would hate to disrupt such an incredibly happy couple.

    And your ex, I hope, was just bantering with the guys. I think inflicting some howls is good for the ego, and I love leaving Mina with a sore throat.

  • AV Flox

    That last part about the sore throat? Nothing like sore thighs and a sore throat. That’s hot.

  • Pingback: Loud Sex? Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 | Sex and the 405


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