When you think of moaning during sex, you might envision Meg Ryan’s iconic fake orgasm in When Harry Met Sally. Maybe your mind immediately starts replaying your favourite scenes from Bridgerton (you know exactly which ones I’m talking about). Or maybe you think of the other night when you heard a certain high-pitched noise of bliss coming from your roommate’s side of the wall and thought, “Wow. She’s clearly having a good time.”
Whether it’s intentional or not, moaning during sex can be quite the power move. Even the slightest breathless moan or involuntary grunt can communicate (to you, your partner(s), and any eavesdropping roommates) that things are going great between the sheets. As an added bonus, letting out those oohs and aahs can even enhance the sexual experience, according to a 2012 study published by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
However, fully unleashing those sounds of pleasure may be a little intimidating, especially if you’re overthinking the way you “should” sound. Sure, you want to embrace your sex noises and reap all the benefits of making some noise in bed, but not at the expense of sounding like you’re, well, faking it over pastrami sandwiches at Katz’s Deli.
Whether you’re a naturally enthusiastic moaner who wants more guidance on how to use sex noises to maximize your sexual communication skills, or you’re a more ~reserved~ lover in need of tips on how to let loose and turn up the volume, we’ve asked some sexperts to weigh in on all your moaning-related questions.
Why do people moan during sex?
Odds are, you’re moaning because you’re enjoying yourself, says Gigi Engle, LifeStyles brand ambassador, certified sex coach, and author of All the F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life. “It’s a natural, animalistic response on the most basic of levels,” she says.
“When we’re feeling pleasure, we start to lose control over our bodies. The somatic nervous system takes a back seat and we can’t control the sounds that come out as a result.”
It’s pretty much like we’re all cats in heat, screeching our sexual desires out, explains Kenneth Play, an international sex educator and creator of the Sex Hacker Pro course.
On the flip side though, you might be moaning in an attempt to fake it. “There are times when people moan during sex to be performative as well,” Engle continues. “Sometimes we over-exaggerate our noises in an attempt to sate the ego of a partner.”
What exactly does moaning mean in sexual situations?
Audio cues are both an erotic and useful form of sexual communication, says sexologist Jennifer Litner, PhD., founder of Embrace Sexual Wellness.“Making sexual sounds can be a way to connect to the experience. For example, if a person is moaning while saying ‘Mmm I like that,’ this directs their attention to their own experience of enjoyment, while also being a cue for their partner.”
More often than not, moaning should serve as a green light. “Moaning [usually] signifies that what your partner is doing feels good,” says Engle. “If something feels good, make some noise to let them know they should keep doing that thing! Moaning is a good indicator that something is working and silence is a good indicator that it’s not.”
Now, here’s where it gets tricky: Not everyone is super comfortable letting out sounds that aren’t familiar to them, so communication is key. Always check in with your partner to make sure that what you’re doing feels good to them (whether they’re moaning or not).
And don’t assume that you have to wait until sex actually happens to start communicating.“To best understand one another, I recommend partners ask about sexual sounds in advance,” Litner adds. She suggests asking something like, “How will I know if you’re enjoying sex? What sounds will you make?” Then your partner can let you know what to expect, maybe giving you a little preview of their sex-noise symphony or letting you know what kinds of words or sounds they usually use to convey pleasure.
How do I use moaning to make sex better?
There are a number of ways moaning can be used to make sex better. You could use it as an indicator to see what your partner does/doesn’t like, which will make you a better lover pretty much instantly.
“Try to develop the skill to detect when your partner is faking [moaning] and when they are making authentic sounds of pleasure,” suggests Play. Not only will this guide you when it comes to pleasing them, but it can also help your partner feel comfy opening up and letting their walls down.
Moaning is one of those primal responses that happen when you let go of your inhibitions and simply experience the moment. That, in itself, will make sex better for you which in turn, will probably turn your partner on even more.
“Moaning is super sexy and it shows that it’s a positive experience,” says Engle. “People want to feel like they’re doing a good job in bed. It’s highly erotic to hear confirmation.” (Shout out to all my words of affirmation peeps out there who could basically orgasm just from hearing someone else’s pleasure.)
Does moaning help you orgasm?
Okay, so in addition to moaning being a natural response to pleasure for some folks, it can actually help you—and your partner—reach climax. “Allowing your sounds to emanate freely can facilitate your body’s overall response,” explains ASTROGLIDE resident sexologist, Jess O’Reilly, PhD. “When you muffle your sounds, you often stifle your breath. [And] breath aids in circulation, arousal, and orgasm,” she says.
Again, moaning isn’t for everyone, but if you’re actively stifling your moans, Dr Jess says it’s a good idea to evaluate why that is: “Do you feel deserving of pleasure? Have you trained yourself to adjust your sounds to suit your partner’s (or sociocultural) expectations related to your identity? Do you want to challenge these norms/expectations?”
If you realize you’re holding your moans in, spend some time reflecting on the reason(s) behind it.
How do I become comfortable moaning?
Getting into moaning is as simple as just deciding to do it. “If you want to moan, but it’s not your thing—just consciously moan when something feels good,” says Engle. If you’re feeling kinda weird about just jumping into a moaning, Play has a fun suggestion to make the experience easier:
“Play a little game of primal play,” he says. “Get on all fours and pretend you are an animal (of your choice). Moan and grunt and roll over each other like lions in the Savannah.” Sure it sounds kinda goofy, but it reactivates your primal instincts, gets your heart rate going, and acts as some fun foreplay.
That being said, Engle makes it clear that moaning is by no means necessary. “There’s nothing wrong with making other noises,” Engle says. Just communicate with your partner about when something feels good, and when something doesn’t.
How can I tell if my partner’s moans are good or bad?
Pay attention to your partner’s body language while they’re moaning because different kinds of moans mean different things, explains Sofiya Alexandra, co-founder and co-host of the Private Parts Unknown podcast. “Was the moan sharp and surprised? That could be pain or discomfort. Are the moans getting higher pitched and closer together? They might be close to coming,” says Alexandra.
That being said, just straight-up asking your partner how they’re feeling is your best bet when it comes to deciphering their noises (or lack thereof).
“Keep in mind that different people make different sounds. Something may sound like a bad moan, but that’s just the way that person expresses pleasure,” Engle notes. “If you’re ever confused about a good moan or a bad moan, take a beat to ask if what you’re doing feels good. You should never keep doing something that your partner isn’t enjoying.”
Communication is everything and the more familiar you become with your partner and their moans, the better you’ll get at pleasuring them.
How do I show my partner the difference between my moans?
Again, Engle says the key is communication. “Don’t just say ‘ouch’ if something doesn’t feel right,” she says. “Tell your partner to do something else. For instance, ‘Baby, can you move your mouth a little higher?’ or ‘Can you slow down a little bit? I like it slower.’” Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. In some cases, if you don’t ask, you might not receive it.
Additionally, Alexandra adds that the first step might be simply paying attention to your own moans as well as your partner’s. Maybe you think you’re obviously communicating pleasure, but after giving a listen, you might come to find your moans aren’t as cut-and-dried. The next time you go at it, listen to what you’re doing to see if it makes translating each other’s noises a lil easier.
Does the volume of moans really matter?
“Moan as loudly or as softly as you want,” says Engle. “If someone is rude to you about how loud you are, don’t have sex with them. There are plenty of people out there who will appreciate it.” There’s no right or wrong way to sound, mmkay?
And if you want to up the volume of your moans without feeling like you’re auditioning for the local theatre, Alexandra suggests “leaning in” to your breath with sound. “Essentially, allow a little more sound to accompany each breath until it feels natural to make more and more noise with increased sensation,” she explains.
But again: You don’t have to moan so loud your neighbours need noise-cancelling headphones if that’s not your thing.
What if I don’t like moaning or don’t feel comfortable moaning during sex?
It’s simple: Don’t do it then. “Moaning is not a requirement for good sex, so if you are not feeling it, skip it,” says erotic educator and founder of Organic Loven, Taylor Sparks. If, however, your partner is a moaner and you’re not a fan or it turns you off, it’s a bit more complicated.
If this is the case, Alexandra suggests blasting some music or even considering some sensory play where you wear headphones or your partner uses a gag. Covering someone’s mouth can be v hot during sex, so if your moaning other half is game to give it a try, this might be one of those sexy solutions that work for everyone.