Let’s hear it for the boy

A fascinating study just published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour looked at the link between women’s vocalisations during sex and the timing of orgasm during heterosexual encounters, finding that there was little connection with female climax but a strong link with male ejaculation.

The researchers draw the ego-denting conclusion that women’s moans and sighs are not an involuntary reaction to male sexual prowess, but a way of exerting influence over their partner’s sexual response.

In the study, many of the women also explicitly reported what the researchers coyly labelled a ‘tactical use of copulatory vocalizations’ as a specific sexual strategy.

This manoeuvring of male behavior not only ensures the delivery of his ejaculate [be still my beating heart!], but may also serve to end male copulatory effort under circumstances when the female is, for example, suffering discomfort or pain, boredom, fatigue, or simply does not have enough time for the encounter to last longer. Females appear to be fully conscious of the positive effects that their copulatory vocalizations have on male self-esteem and a very high percentage reported using them for this purpose.

Further advantages of the female being able to manipulate the presence/absence/timing of the male orgasm may include the reduction of her risk of incurring physical damage from roughness, abrasion, and ensuing infection. One of the effects of female copulatory vocalizations may be to promote male self-esteem, which may strengthen the pair bond, decreases the risk of emotional infidelity and abandonment, resulting in continued access to resources and protection.

These data were remarkably consistent with findings reported in non-human primates, where, for example, in Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) the likelihood of male ejaculation is related to the intensity and speed of female vocalizations during copulation…

These data were consistent with the proposal that male ejaculation is influenced by female copulatory vocalizations rather than vice versa and points towards the evolutionary origin of human female vocalizations in the context in our polygynandrous “past” rather than our pseudo-monogamous present.

Thankfully the researchers ended the paper with that throwaway evolutionary explanation which gives me a good excuse the ignore the hard data and pretend it never happened.

Link to study summary and DOI entry. Sadly locked.
Link to PubMed entry for study.

26 thoughts on “Let’s hear it for the boy”

  1. Anecdotal, I know(and perhaps too much information seeing as we just met), but IME this works both ways – male vocalisations can influence female sexual response, too, and this can be quite a conscious choice.

  2. Using “manipulation” to describe the results of this study seems a little strong. It seems like the data suggests the following conclusions:

    1. More women orgasm via clitoral stimulation than from vaginal intercourse (something we already knew).

    2. Women often make vocalizations even if they don’t think they’re going to orgasm (not necessarily surprising, or indicative of a lack of pleasure in non-orgasmic sex).

    3. Many women realize that men are aroused by vocalizations (strikes me as obvious).

    4. Vocalizations are often not 100% involuntary (also strikes me as obvious – I have little doubt that men or women CAN suppress vocalizations during sex, but that doesn’t mean they WANT to).

    5. Sometimes women pretend to enjoy vaginal intercourse when they don’t. Again, we already knew this. The interesting question is how often this is the case, but the study doesn’t answer that question: it merely quantifies the number of women who realize that vocalizations produce arousal and then implies that all of these women use vocalizations as some sort of cynical manipulative technique.

    It’s possible I’ve misread the study – and certainly my powers of cognitive dissonance don’t want to accept its conclusion as described here – but this honestly seems pretty like shoddy interpretation of data on their part.

  3. To generalize from the self-reports of 71 Lancashire women to all humans in the whiole world since stone age seems a bit…well…

  4. I don’t get it; ok I hear the evolutionary explanation and that may be just fine. I also believe we have the ability to suppress behaviour to promote things which make us feel better and have greater enjoyment.

    If you’re “manoeuvring of male behavior” to avoid “suffering discomfort or pain, boredom, fatigue… reduction of her risk of incurring physical damage from roughness, abrasion, and ensuing infection”.

    Especially if you then either joke about it, or complain about it to anyone but the involved. Seem to me to be very odd, self defeating, behaviour.

    Maybe you should consider some thoughtfully phrased guidance, either before, during or after depending on how comfortable you are together.

    If you’re afraid that this won’t “promote male self-esteem, which may strengthen the pair bond, decreases the risk of emotional infidelity and abandonment”, how about finding a partner who isn’t a dick?

    Just my humble un-educated opinion on it.

  5. I wonder if there was any comment on the effect produced by voluntary vocalisations on the female herself, too?

  6. The document can be viewed here:

  7. I understand why men might interpret conscious female vocalizations as negative. But if a woman’s favorite part of the sexual experience is seeing her partner orgasm, is it really so bad for her to encourage him? While my personal preference is merely anecdotal, I think other women might back me up on this.

  8. As other commenters have suggested, I think there’s a lot of gray area between conscious and unconscious [a woman may feel like vocalizing and consciously give in — is that conscious or unconscious?], and a pretty complex interplay between the pleasure levels of two people having sex. Both of those factors raise questions about how “tactical” this behavior really is.

  9. Vocalizations work – in fact I use them myself to encourage involuntary vaginal spasm.

    Mutual involuntariness (a word?) – supremissima

  10. I would have thought this was obvious to all. Men tend to see sex as a referendum on the relationship. If the woman doesn’t orgasm or seem close to it most of the time, men think the woman doesn’t love them. For women, the relationship is about much more than sex (esp since orgasm during coitus is not the norm). So…something must be done to accommodate the man’s hyper-focus on the act hence the sound effects.

  11. I would have thought this was obvious to all. Men tend to see sex as a referendum on the relationship.

    I thought this was obvious too. I am aware of it and don’t mind.

    But I don’t think it’s fair to say only men “see sex as a referendum on the relationship.” Women do too; a simple occurrence of ED can be taken as “not attracted to me”, “doesn’t really love me”, or “deep in the closet”. Let’s please not pretend that women can’t be superficial and that men can’t be deep.

  12. This study is 100% idiotic, as far as I’m concerned. Why is it a foregone conclusion that all women consciously manipulate their sexual partners? Women are people who exhibit behavior for their own idiosyncratic reasons. I don’t think there’s any underlying structure to it. This, combined with the Capt. Obvious point that men (or other women — wouldn’t it be instructive to repeat this study with lesbians?) get excited with their partner appears excited, and the Lt. Readily Apparent point #2 that people climax for different reasons at different times — and the importance of clitoral stimulation comes in here, of course — means this paper tells us approximately nothing about human nature. Good call, researchers!

  13. One word: duh.

    Like, seriously… we needed a study to tell us this? Was it some kind of secret?

    And who among us is surprised? I submit their sexual experience is probably minimal. (And that’s ok… 🙂

  14. Over many year’s reading countless reports from all sorts of points of view,and experts as well, finds on, Sexual Activity is changing all the time.
    I mean,for a start there is no two females built or made the same, inside nor outside. Nor a male either. Certain things might match up,but over all, each is certainly different.
    Not just the Sexual and physical part, but the hole way or ways of thinking about sex. Each to there very own. Thats why when two people get it on, or at least chat, it can be pretty dam difficult, which ever way one might view the situation or situations. From my point of view, you don’t need to have Sexual Intercourse to work out or have an idea at the very least who one may or may not be talking to on a friendly base’s. A lot for me, come’s from how a Female carry’s her self, speaks, IE, the over all view from the First Meet and Greet.
    Now we get onto the Sex Part of this Topical Chat: Well its even tuff’er and tuff it can be actually yes, indeed, indeed, indeed. Not for the fact of the Act, but for Example, what might go on in Intercourse.
    For me, its like now or never, so to speak. Or at the very least has felt like that several time’s before. When one is put on the spot, and has no real idea of what,IE She is about, then its going to be Pretty difficult to make sure from a Males point of view, the Experience, has been a Joy Full One, and above all else, a Full Filling one as well.Both sides should be thinking like this.
    Luck of the draw weather a Males COMES or not. Many Females have said that to me. And the luck is not on a Males side Either for a Female to COME as well.
    Its Pure Perfection and or Perfecting the Act of making both sides get the full effects out of Sexual Experiences, thats for shore. Male Point of View again: Its how you come across to her as well, and more Importantly, how she come’s across to you.
    Males, remember one thing, if not anything else,You are wanting and trying to get to her weaknesses. You get to those area’s a loan,
    inside and outside, The results will happen. But very very different on each and every Female. The same for Male’s. I would say, and yet again talking to Females,Follow the same Principals.
    I need a Top Up of Wine Now.
    Tad Har.
    James Aukland.

  15. It must be why I stick my face in the pillow to smother the noises. I wouldn’t want the ‘involuntary reaction’ to speed things up… As it is, half a minute isn’t all that!
    Great research…. 70 Lancaster women. Sigh…

  16. Ummm . . . during intercourse, I do things with my hands, vagina, and body that excite my fiance and ultimately make him orgasm. Why is it controversial if I do things with my voice as well?

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