Sex + Dating

Here's What People Really Sound Like When They Orgasm

what people sound like when they orgasm
Oren Aks/Thrillist

If we're honest with ourselves, most of us have no idea what sex actually sounds like outside our own bedrooms.

The closest thing we ever hear to real sex (aside from the muffled noises of our roommates or neighbors through too-thin walls) are the overzealous, often ludicrous yips and moans of porn. Sure, most of us realize it's unrealistic to expect a woman to bellow with such force while giving a blow job -- or seem to be on the edge of climax for 20 minutes without ever actually climaxing. Or, for a man to be almost completely silent for the duration of sex except for the occasional grunt.

But for as fake as we perceive porn to be, it's still set the bar for what we think good sex sounds like. But all that may be about to change since Spanish sex-toy company Bijoux Indiscrets has started compiling the Orgasm Library of Real Sounds. The research project allows real women to record their real climaxes for inclusion in an international database so all the world can swap the crappy porn soundtrack we're so accustomed to with the realistic, sexually superior sounds of fast breaths, deep moans, and subtle and hot climaxes.

Our ideas of sex and pleasure are fictional

In addition to making sex toys, the folks at Bijoux are always looking for ways to empower women while helping them explore their sexuality. Recently they conducted a study in Spain to learn more about common ideas and misconceptions about sex.

"The results were very interesting," said Donatello Cizza, Bijoux's sales exec. "But the initial conclusions show that men and women have fictional ideas of sex and pleasure, maybe due to what they see and read in media, and that both perspectives are different between them. What was very surprising to find out is that we felt ashamed of talking about sex and pleasure, and that leads to a lot of frustration."

One such discussion about pleasure has to do with what it should sound like. In a world where sex often becomes performance-based on free streaming porn videos, so too have the sounds we make during sex become exaggerated. So Bijoux asked people to anonymously submit audio recordings of their orgasms. More than 300 men, women, and couples from all over the world have submitted recordings. Listening to the audio, you begin to get a very different, real sense of the incredibly sexy diversity in sounds -- and also how truly erotic getting off can be.

Sexual sleight of hand has an evolutionary spine

Some research suggests that there may be an evolutionary, if not societal purpose for all the ruckus during sex.

A 2011 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior suggests women are most vocal not when experiencing orgasm, but during the act of sex itself -- as well as when their male partners are about to orgasm. The women in the study reported that the increased noise was used to encourage male partners to orgasm and therefore end the sexy time, make the male partners feel good about themselves… or both.

It's interesting that women found this sleight of hand necessary even in cases when they had already orgasmed (sometimes multiple times). Women still felt it was important to vocalize pleasure during penetration as a sort of high-pitched pat on the back for their male partners.  

This all suggests that while sometimes women's orgasm noises might not be genuine, they may be a type of communication when words fall short or seem undesirable. Those squeals and oh gawds may be women's way of simply saying, "Good job honey, now please finish so I can watch The Daily Show."

Of course, there's still the whole "faking it" issue. A 2009 study in the Journal of Sex Research reported that 67% of women had faked an orgasm during vaginal intercourse (along with 28% of men). Women most commonly reported they faked it because they weren't going to get off and didn't want to hurt a partner’s feelings.

And while women are faking it, men are busy trying to determine if all the oohs and aahs are genuine (spoiler alert: while there may be certain tells, there's no 100% sure way to know).

There are other sounds we still aren't hearing enough

The Orgasm Library of Real Sounds is the start of taking a more honest look at sex. It shows that women can be almost silent during sex, men can be vocal, vice versa, and everywhere in between. The project demonstrates that sex does not have to be a performance piece, but a quiet conversation between one or more people. Starting with changing how we hear sex, perhaps we can start to take a braver look at all the other beautiful, unexpected, and sometimes uncomfortable aspects of diversity in sex.

While it's wonderful to have a library of actual orgasm sounds, what we really need is a library of healthy sexual dialogues negotiating what both partners really want and need. Those should be the normal sounds heard in bedrooms all over the world -- questions like, "Do you like this? Does this feel good?" Or even more radical: "Could you do this instead?" And, of course, answers: "Yes, right there, that's perfect."

You know, along with the occasional "oooof" or "not there" or "oh God a cramp." These are realistic, imperfect sounds of sex that can make the whole experience so damn fun and funny.

Think you know what a real orgasm sounds like? Take a listen here.

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Niki Fritz is a writer of feministy and occasionally funny words, a drinker of coffee and whiskey, and a studier of pornography. (No legitimately! She’s a grad student in the Media School at Indiana University.)