Let's be real: Moaning during sex can be really hot — there's a reason that actors in big feature films usually do it while getting down to business. Moaning is an action that's associated with sexual pleasure, but when you really think about it — moaning can be quite curious. What do I mean by this? This nonverbal reaction isn't necessarily something we're instructed to do, and while some may find that it comes naturally when they experience something that feels good, you may actually be wondering: Why do people moan during sex? The reason is pretty intriguing and more multi-faceted than you might expect.
"Moaning a natural response to exertion," sex and relationship expert Jessica O'Reilly, PhD., host of the Drive Him Wild Video Course, tells Elite Daily. "The lungs respond to arousal, which causes a contraction of the muscles of the voice box. We also moan to communicate what feels good. Moaning represents shorthand to let our partners know what we enjoy and what we want. A simple 'mmm' can indicate that they've found the spot and we don't want them to stop."
Moaning and other nonverbal responses, like grunts, can be the body's response to physical exertion, including sex or, for example, weight lifting. If your body is experiencing something intense, like picking up something heavy or engaging in stimulating sexual activity, a nonverbal moan or grunt can escape your lips as a reaction, or form of release. Due to the intensity of the action, you aren't explicitly trying to communicate a thought, or stringing words into full sentences in the moment.
"Other times, we make noise because we feel we're supposed to based on what we've seen in porn," " says Dr. O'Reilly. "Research suggests that women moan during sex for many reasons: pleasure, to turn their partner on, to stroke their partner's ego and to expedite the experience (i.e., help their partner reach orgasm)." Perhaps you're confused about moaning because of how you've seen other people have sex on screen. If you don't experience the same type of performative moaning, remember that it's always important to do what feels good and right to — whether that means moaning or staying silent.
Additionally, Dr. O'Reilly shares that making noise can be a turn-on during sex, because it can signify that their partner is enjoying the sexual encounter. However, being quiet during sex isn't something to be ashamed of. "In the absence of comprehensive sex education that addresses pleasure and sex along a continuum, most people learn about sex from porn," says Dr. O'Reilly. "But the sounds in porn may not resonate with your lived experience, so you might become self-conscious and avoid making any noise at all. It's common for people to train themselves to stifle their sexual sounds from a young age."
It's all about navigating that balance of doing what feels good for you, and understanding that you may involuntarily make sounds, and that's 100% OK. "Sex sounds vary from person to person and from experience to experience — whether you feel like moaning at the top of your lungs or simply breathing deeply, you're perfectly normal," she says.
For those who want to feel more comfortable moaning during sex, Dr. O'Reilly recommends moaning into a pillow or playing loud music, so that you can allow your sounds to emanate without inhibition, without becoming distracted by them. "Practice while you masturbate," she says. "Let your sounds flow freely and even exaggerate them as you breathe. Self-pleasure is one of the best ways to retrain your body to enjoy sex in whatever way comes naturally, as you're less likely to experience performance pressure during solo play."
Moaning during sex can happen for a variety of different reasons, but if you're curious about your sex sounds like, consider taking Dr. O'Reilly's advice next time you're having sexy time with yourself, and see what happens. Who knows? You might enjoy hearing yourself center stage, belting out loud.