Sex advice with Suzi Godson: He wants me to make more noise in bed

My husband wants me to be a bit more vocal during sex. I’ve tried a couple of times but this is simply not my style. While I want my lovely husband to be happy, groaning and moaning during sex just don’t come naturally to me.

I think you need to clarify what he means by “a bit more vocal”. Does he mean “dirty talk”, or is he just hoping to hear the odd involuntary moan and a few words of encouragement? As you rightly point out, good sex is about being true to yourself, not switching on a different, X-rated identity to ramp things up for your husband. There is, however, a world of difference between hedonic amplification — the use of words and sounds to facilitate arousal — and the ordinary conversations that take place between two people who are having sex.

If your husband equates volume with pleasure, he is misguided. Evidence suggests that the most vocally expressive women are not necessarily having the most fun. A study conducted by Gayle Brewer, professor of psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, and the psychologist Colin Hendrie, of the University of Leeds, found that nearly two-thirds of the women studied used “copulatory vocalisation” as a way of hastening their partner’s ejaculation.

While there is nothing wrong with being quiet in bed, communication in the bedroom is a reciprocal exchange, so a completely mute partner is as unsettling as an overly vocal one. It is possible to use words in a way that doesn’t feel fake.

In their 2003 book Language and Sexuality, Deborah Cameron and Don Kulick describe an experiment that took place in a progressive liberal arts college in the 1990s, when a policy of consent was introduced across the campus. ‘Consent’ was defined as the presence of ‘yes’ not the absence of ‘no’ and the policy stipulated: “If you want to take her blouse off, you have to ask. If you want to touch her breast, you have to ask. If you want to move your hand down to her genitals, you have to ask.”

At the time, the policy was ridiculed. However, it was very well received by the students as it had such a positive impact on their enjoyment of sex, simply because it meant that they were communicating more openly with their partners. According to the students, describing individual sex acts led to “better, more exciting, more varied, and more pleasurable sex”. They explained that it had impelled them to develop a language for representing their desires and that talking more explicitly about specific acts enhanced sex for both partners.

This illustrates the tension that exists between our understanding of “romantic sex” as an instinctive, wordless connection between two people, and our understanding of the kind of sex that we see in porn, which is often so over the top in how noisy it is. Somewhere between those two narratives is a space where couples can actually talk openly about what they enjoy, without feeling awkward or stupid.

It is worth giving talking during sex a try.

First, you might be surprised at how sexually liberating it is to say what you want.

Second, it will show him that you have listened and are finding your own way to accommodate his request.

Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com

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