Scientists try to prove that women manipulate men with noises during sexS

Why do women make sexy sounds during intercourse? According to a recently-published study, it's to manipulate men. How the heck do you study something like that scientifically? Allow me to explain.

Over at the superlative NCBI ROFL blog, we spotted this gem of a paper from Archives of Sexual Behavior, called Evidence to Suggest that Copulatory Vocalizations in Women Are Not a Reflexive Consequence of Orgasm. To translate, if you'll excuse my slang: Noises That Women Make While Fucking Are Not Uncontrollable Screams In Response To Having Orgasms.

OK, fine. So again, how is this a scientific study? Let's read the abstract for this paper, published last month:

The current studies were conducted in order to investigate the phenomenon of copulatory vocalizations and their relationship to orgasm in women. Data were collected from 71 sexually active heterosexual women (M age = 21.68 years +/- .52) recruited from the local community through opportunity sampling. The studies revealed that orgasm was most frequently reported by women following self-manipulation of the clitoris, manipulation by the partner, oral sex delivered to the woman by a man, and least frequently during vaginal penetration. 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.

Allow me to translate once again, with slang.

A bunch of scientists conducted a series of studies on the noises that women make while having sex, trying to figure out if these noises were caused by orgasm. They studied 71 heterosexual women whose average age was about 21, recruited from the area around the researchers' lab. In the study, our researchers discovered that most women have orgasms from touching their own clitoris, or from oral sex. Most women do not have orgasms during intercourse - usually they have it beforehand, during "foreplay." During intercourse, women made the most noise before and during the time when their male partner had an orgasm. As a result, it was clear to our intrepid researchers that women were making noises during sex EVEN WHEN THEY WEREN'T HAVING ORGASMS. Which the scientists decided must mean that women are making those noises because they CHOOSE to make them, not because they are torn from their throats by the power of orgasm alone. And therefore they determined, using the powers of science, that this means women can "manipulate male behavior to their advantage."

OK, so let me get this straight, my science-loving friends. Somehow the fact that women make noises of pleasure when they aren't having orgasms is manipulative? Apparently it did not occur to these scientists that noises of pleasure can be caused by things other than your own personal orgasm, such as the orgasm of your partner - or eating a yummy piece of chocolate.

Also, I love the way that these researchers assume noises made during orgasm are somehow involuntary and therefore implicitly non-manipulative. Which suggests two things: One, any noise not caused by orgasm is voluntary; and Two, you cannot control the noises you make during orgasm (which means that every time you wank in the bathroom, you're screaming just as loudly as you do with a partner, right?). Basically, the idea is that the only non-manipulative sex noises are caused by orgasm. Any other noise issued from the female is potentially an effort to "manipulate male behavior to their advantage."

I ask you, not entirely sarcastically: What advantage? To make the man have his orgasm faster? To deafen him? To make him want to buy his lady friend a giant, soundproof house where he can have sex without the neighbors hearing anything? Yeah, that must be it. It's a giant female conspiracy to make men soundproof their homes. In fact, all the women in this study turned out to work for a soundproofing company.

To be serious for a moment, here is what the researchers say:

With regard to the reasons females gave for making copulatory vocalization, 66% reported using these to speed up their partner's ejaculation. This was done to relieve discomfort/ pain, boredom, and fatigue in equal proportion, as well as because of time limitations. Importantly, 92% of participants felt very strongly that these vocalizations boosted their partner's self-esteem and 87% 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 pairbond, 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.

And to translate: These scientists think that female humans choose to make noise during sex for the same reason female monkeys do: To make men orgasm faster, to prevent themselves from being injured during sex, and to get "continued access to resources and protection." Again, the best part about this bit of the article is that the authors first report what the women actually say (they want to boost their partner's self-esteem), and then put their own gloss on it, which is that this means the women want the men to give them things (resources and protection). Quite a leap from "making a partner feel good" to "manipulating men into giving things to you."

To paraphrase a great philosopher: "Science. It works, bitches." Except when it doesn't.

Photo by Istvan Csak