My boyfriend makes quite a lot of noise in bed.
It’s not the volume that I mind, it’s the type of noise that he makes that I find unappealing.
I mentioned it to him and he wasn’t even aware that he makes any noise, he just gets carried away.
Do I just have to learn to live with it?
You might be less irritated by the sounds your boyfriend makes during sex if you had a better understanding of why they happen.
The connection between physical exertion and noise production is well understood, and has been demonstrated in the world of professional tennis.
Top players such as Monica Seles and Jimmy Connors were heavily criticised for the noises they made when hitting the ball, but tennis coaches know that big exhalations help to stabilise players’ strokes.
The unfortunate by-product of the forceful expulsion of air is involuntary grunting, groaning and gasping.
Effortful sex has the same effect.
A simple way to demonstrate this is to switch to sexual positions where your boyfriend doesn’t have to do all the work.
In the missionary position, for example, the male is using all the muscles in his upper body to support his weight.
It is a demanding sexual position, and therefore more likely to lead to grunting and groaning.
If you really want to avoid the noise, you’d have to switch to sexual positions where your boyfriend does less work and you will probably find that he is significantly quieter, but there may be a price.
The missionary position is the most reliable for stimulating women.
In fact, if you try going on top while he lies on his back in a relaxed position, you may find that the added exertion also makes you more vocal than you might be during less strenuous sex.
Women tend to be noisier than men during sex, but the noises they make are often voluntary.
Research carried out by the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Leeds found that 80% of women who reported “copulatory vocalisations” knew that they were not going to orgasm.
Instead, they used their vocalisations to boost their partner’s self-esteem and hasten their ejaculation.
There are, unfortunately, no comparable studies into the noises that men make during sex.
However, in 2003 Dr Torsten Passie at the Hanover Medical School in Germany published an interesting paper about sex noises in the journal Medical Hypotheses.
Passie proposed that groaning and grunting are involuntary responses to the deeper, faster breathing that typically occurs during vigorous sexual activity.
Excessive breathing causes hyperventilation, and during sex the combination of intense physical exertion and central nervous system excitation — as well as the deepening and/or forcing of breathing — leads to involuntary groaning.
Hyperventilation has some upsides, though — it causes the brain’s blood vessels to constrict, resulting in reduced blood flow to the brain and feelings of light-headedness, dizziness, and sensations of tingling.
These sensations are of course also common with the onset of sexual climax and that is the core of Passie’s hypothesis.
He proposes that loss of cortical control in the brain intensifies the experience of sexual excitement and triggers a sort of trance before orgasm.
Many people naturally hold their breath when they are having sex, or masturbating, because over the years they learn that it heightens the sensation of orgasm.
When the air is eventually exhaled it is invariably accompanied by a gasp or a groan.
If you watch how your boyfriend breathes the next time you have sex, you should be able to work out if he is over-breathing, or holding his breath.
If he is, ask him to try altering his breathing patterns.
It is unlikely to have any impact on his sexual performance, but it will almost certainly get rid of the noises that annoy you.
It might take him a while to adjust, but once he becomes conscious of the problem and understands that the noises are a turn-off for you, he will, I’m sure, do everything he can to address the issue.
* Send your queries to email@example.com