Study Addresses the Meaning of Women's Moans During Sex

LOS ANGELES—Results of a just-released study on why women moan during sex suggest that the moaning is less about physiology than psychology, and that rather than being a vocal expression of what the woman is experiencing in the moment, the moans are meant to either speed up a partner’s climax (66 percent of respondents) or boost his self-esteem (87 percent).

"While female orgasms were most commonly experienced during foreplay," wrote the researchers, "copulatory vocalizations were reported to be made most often before and simultaneously with male ejaculation."

Not only that, reported CNN Health, but "women also reported making noise to relieve boredom, fatigue and pain/discomfort during sex." Everything, it seems, but what they are experiencing.

The study's authors, Gayle Brewer and Colin A. Hendrie, offer a clear if prosaic explanation behind the behavior in play. "More detailed examination of responses during intercourse revealed that, while female orgasms were most commonly experienced during foreplay, copulatory vocalizations were reported to be made most often before and simultaneously with male ejaculation. These data together clearly demonstrate a dissociation of the timing of women experiencing orgasm and making copulatory vocalizations and indicate that there is at least an element of these responses that are under conscious control, providing women with an opportunity to manipulate male behavior to their advantage."

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive," the bard wrote, as if commenting on this study. According to sex researcher Ian Kerner, however, everyone wins in such mendacious situations.

"Performances and primatologists aside," he wrote, "vocalizing during sex can actually be a great tool to help women get what they want in bed. ... It isn’t always easy to translate sexual thought into action, so a little strategic moaning can definitely help get the point across."

That makes a lot of sense, of course, as does the claim by sex educator Patty Brisben that many women actually get something more direct out of the vocalizing than simply better guttural communication with their partner. “I think there are many women who need to be vocal to help themselves achieve orgasm," she said. "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.”

The truly crazy thing about all of this is that most people have to believe that even if they fake it now and again, the totality of their actions in bed are authentic and unique to them. That the research suggests otherwise is not something our primate (or is it lizard?) brains, as advanced as they may be, want to hear. This is equally true for males as it is for females.

But if there is one area where we remain as dumb as stumps in evolutionary terms, it is sex. Even in the area of copulatory vocalizing, which one would think would have been the subject of numerous studies, it turns out there is not a lot of research to explain what the timing and type of our sexual mutterings mean. Like dreams, we want them to remain the stuff of mystery.

And so, it will probably remain the case that in our real lives the moans of women remain in that netherworld where we want them to be something they are not, and likewise, in our supposed fantasy porn lives, they will remain equally and exaggeratedly symbolic of what we believe—indeed, what we demand—that a woman's orgasm should sound like.

That the actual orgasm is usually grounded in the sounds of silence is apparently neither here nor there, but it does reinforce the idea that porn is a reflection of our already established ideas about sexuality and not, as its detractors would claim, a nefarious plot by evil pornographers to manufacture generations of porn addicts and uncontrollable moaners.