Sex Advice

I Never Felt Comfortable With My Sex Moaning Until I Embraced Audio Erotica

Gabrielle Kassel

Photo: Getty Images/Kritsada Seekham EyeEm
If you haven’t seen that scene in the 1989 rom-com When Harry Met Sally, you surely at least know about it. For a refresher, it shows protagonist Sally Albright (Meg Ryan), casually performing an “orgasm” in a crowded deli. And it really is a performance; she theatrically demonstrates “in through your nose, out through your mouth” breaths followed by a string of increasingly over-the-top “Yes, Yes, YES!” exclamations, all in the name of proving to Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) how easy it is to fake an orgasm. But in the process, she also unwittingly proves that many woman subscribe to the exact same soundtrack when it comes to what constitutes the impression of pleasure-filled bedroom escapades.

More than three decades since the scene first aired, the sex moaning sound is still widely associated with how pleasure is supposed to sound. But, in reality there are no supposed-tos when it comes to sex, intimacy, and relationships in general. That means there are no wrong preferences, kinks, or—you guessed it!—noises. So then why is it that for as long as I’ve been having sex, I’ve been incredibly self-conscious that my noises don’t sound more like Meg Ryan’s?

I’m loud, but in a way that sounds like a gaggle of hyenas undergoing simultaneous exorcisms. And post-coitus, I often find myself apologizing for the snorts, chortles, and snarls I’ve just emitted. Or at least, I did until recently when I began incorporating audio erotica into both my solo and partnered sex life, which has helped me embrace my own sex moaning sound patterns.

Where anxiety about sex moaning sound originates

As it turns out, the origin point of anxiety about sex and moaning sound doesn’t have as much to do with sex as at it does the mere sound of one’s voice. According to Gina Gutierrez, co-founder and CEO of audio erotica and storytelling app Dipsea, women and assigned female at birth (AFAB) folks are conditioned to be self-conscious about their sounds—sexual and otherwise—long before they enter sexual relationships. “We have been told we sound unintelligent, or that our vocal fry is unpleasant, or that we are too loud,” she says, adding that this can give way to generalized anxiety about how one sounds that inevitably carries over to the bedroom.

“In an ideal world, the sounds we make during sex would come from an instinctual, subconscious place.” —Casey Tanner, certified sex therapist

Further, as Meg Ryan’s performance suggests, we’ve been socialized to consciously perform pleasure to, as certified sex therapist Casey Tanner puts it, “reassure our partners that they are masterful.” This socialization, she adds, leaves many AFAB folks and women worrying during sex about being labeled as either “too loud” (in imitating what they see depicted in pop-culture) or “too quiet” (and saying nothing at all). “In an ideal world, the sounds we make during sex would come from an instinctual, subconscious place—an outward expression of the internal physical sensations of pleasure, enjoyment, and release,” Tanner says. But sadly, that is often not the case.

How audio erotica is destigmatizing sounds of sex

Since Dipsea launched in December 2018, audio erotica has only grown in popularity, with additional platforms, apps, and sites having popped up since, including Quinn, &Jane, Kampsite, and Ferly to name a few.

The erotic recordings fall into one of two main categories: recordings of real people across the gender spectrum having real sex, and recordings of actors narrating prewritten sex scenes. The former “gives the public access to what real sex noises sound like, thus showing and normalizing just how diverse the breathwork and sounds the human body can make during sex are,” says Tanner.

The latter, while performative, still offers value since most AFAB folks and women aren’t encouraged to actually explore what actually turns them on. Because of this, Tanner says, “it’s nearly impossible to authentically access the instinctual, guttural place where genuine sex sounds originate.”

Categorized by the themes that appear within the recordings (i.e. “BDSM,” “threesome,” and “pegging”), she adds that listening to a variety of clips can help people learn what types of positions, acts, and flavors they’re actually into and interested in trying. This is key because when you’re doing things you’re actually into in bed, you’re much more likely to make authentic noises.

What happened when I started listening to audio erotica

The first time I listened to audio erotica was pre-pandemic, in an Uber after a Tinder date that ended with a one-armed hug. I was bummed. Since I was caught up on all my go-to podcasts and stuck in traffic, it seemed like as good a time as any to give Dipsea a try.

“Planting one hand on each of my thighs, she leaned forward, as close as she could get without touching me,” the sultry voice narrated. “With her hands still planted on either side of mine, she rolled her hips and moved her body over mine, like a wave…I grabbed my hands harder against the bench, so she wouldn’t see me shudder.”

I was aroused, to say the least, but very aware of my surroundings, I turned off the recording and spent the rest of the ride trying to decide which vibrator I would use on myself when I got home. (For the record, The Le Wand Point and Dipsea combo is undefeated.)

The next time I tried audio erotica, I did so with my BFFWB (that’s BFF x FWB). We had talked about watching porn together in the past, but hadn’t yet done it. Listening to porn as a duo seemed like a good entry point, so we cued up Literotica and cycled through nearly 20 recordings from live sex sessions. Some featured screamers, some featured guttural moaners, some didn’t feature much sex sound at all. And some featured hyena-esque yelpers.

Getting to watch my lover’s face and body react to all the noises helped me realize how hot he and my future partners might actually find it for me to express myself vocally, and unapologetically. And the value in that is a clear win, if I’ve ever heard one.

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